Articles, Insights, and Tutorials
Nikon CoolPix 950
Evolution of the
Sample Photos -
Click on the thumbnail pictures below for full screen viewing
Notes - All sample photos taken in the camera's "fine" quality and full sized resolution (1600X1200), then resized to 1024X768 pixels for faster loading to your screen.
The file sizes of the pictures are shown below the thumbnails in approximate kilobytes (bytes x 1000) to give you an idea of download time.
Pay Per View
Eye of the Gator
Madagascar Tomato Frog
Green Tree Snake
A Worthy Successor
The new CoolPix 950 has proven itself to be a worthy successor to the most popular digital camera ever built, the Nikon CoolPix 900. The enhancements in picture quality, features, and construction make the 950 even better than its excellent predecessor. It's hard to believe the camera has all these 'bells & whistles', and I can still slip it into my pocket!
The first thing I noticed when I turned the camera on was the actual (real time) f-stop and shutter speed values displayed in the lower left hand corner of the LCD screen, much like what you'd see through the viewfinder of a high quality 35mm SLR camera... Yes!!!
The camera starts up fast, switches modes fast, and processes fast - all characteristics you need when time is of the essence for grabbing a candid shot opportunity.
The pictures are a bit sharper and the colors a bit more saturated than the CoolPix 900. Color tones appear to be "right on". Basically, nothing was lost in the already excellent picture quality with the new model, and significant gains were made in areas that often required some "tweaking" with the original CoolPix 900.
And for low light shooting, the easily adjustable ISO puts the shutter and aperture balance into a comfortable range.
My first day with the camera... was at night.
The U.P.S. delivery truck didn't come until the end of the day, and by the time I got home to unpack the box, it was already dark. Hm-m-m-m... "seize the opportunity", I thought. The Moon was full, and the skies were crystal clear. So I mounted the new CoolPix 950 on my CKC Power Phoenix Spotting Scope Kit and went outside to give it a try. This would be a good comparison with my CoolPix 900 - a proven winner when mounted on the powerful spotting scope. The results were dramatic. And the 950 seemed like it had the edge on the 900 in its very first outing.
Here's the picture... The spotting scope was set at approximately 20x. The camera was set on 3x optical zoom, auto exposure, tripod mounted, and with the self-timer to eliminate "camera shake".
Besides being an excellent 'snapshot' digital camera for everyday use, the CoolPix 950 has some special attributes that give it great versatility and flexibility...
Macro Photography -
In the tradition of the original CoolPix 900 & 900s, the 950 takes superb Macro pictures. No extra accessories, special lenses, or wierd tricks necessary.
Available Light Photography* using the new adjustable ISO feature -
(*Also known as "natural light", "existing light", or other similar descriptions of flash-free low light photography.)
The adjustable sensitivity of the CoolPix 950 is a simple and straightforward way to achieve faster shutter speeds, by increasing the ISO (film speed equivalent) of the camera as necessary.
The 950 has easily settable ISO option speeds of '80' (default), '100', '160' (called +1 by the camera), and '320' (called +2 by the camera). In the menu under the "M Record" (Manual) position, these settings are found under "Sensitivity". They are only available in the "M Record" mode... In the "A Record" (Automatic) mode, the ISO is fixed at the default 80 setting, and is not adjustable.
Changing the camera's sensitivity to a higher ISO setting will lessen the quantity of light necessary to take a picture. Shutter speed will be faster, and at a direct mathematical ratio. As an example, with the aperture (lens opening size) constant, if the camera required 1/2 of a second to expose a picture at ISO 80, it would only require 1/4 of a second at ISO 160, or 1/8 of a second at ISO 320. Double the sensitivity (ISO number), half the quantity of light required. And faster shutter speeds lower the risk of blurred pictures. Thus, by merely increasing the ISO sensitivity settings, the risk of blurred pictures in low light conditions can be reduced.
Here's an available light ISO 320 picture I took while trying out some advanced features... The increased sensitivity of ISO 320 allowed a hand held blur-free shutter speed of 1/60th of a second in very dim light as the baby chicks were hopping around.
With the default ISO 80 setting, the shutter speed showed to be 1/15th of a second, which most likely would have resulted in a blurred picture.
Click on the preview at left for an 800x600,
117 KB view.
Creative Photography Using Exposure Options -
- Exposure Priority
- Manual Exposure
- Exposure Compensation
Exposure Priority (Shutter or Aperture Priority)
- Shutter priority speeds on the 950 range from 1 / 500 sec. to 8 sec. After selecting the desired shutter speed, the camera automatically calculates the aperture required for a proper exposure. Note that high shutter speeds result in larger apertures, and slow shutter speeds result in smaller apertures. If the selected shutter speed will cause an over or under exposure, the shutter setting will 'blink' on the LCD screen with the shutter button pressed 1/2 way. (Choose another shutter speed or go back to the automatic mode.) The shutter speed will be shown in the control panel and LCD monitor. In the control panel, fractions of a second are shown without a numerator, with the result that a speed of 1 / 2 sec. is shown as 2, a speed of 1 / 4 sec. as 4, etc.
- Allows you to choose an aperture setting from three predetermined f-values. F-values range from f2.6 to f11.4. The 2.6 value is only available at near wide angle lens position or wider, the 11.4 value is only available at near full zoom position or greater. After selecting the desired aperture, the camera automatically calculates the shutter speed required for a proper exposure. The chosen f-number will be shown in the control panel and LCD monitor. Note that in addition to increasing focus depth, small apertures (high f-numbers) produce lower shutter speeds. Larger apertures (low f-numbers) can be used to blur background details, increase shutter speeds (up to 1/750 sec.), and increase the effective range of the flash. If the selected aperture will cause an over or under exposure, the aperture setting will 'blink' on the LCD screen with the shutter button pressed 1/2 way. (Choose another aperture setting or go back to the automatic mode.)
* Additional information on using shutter and aperture control is very nicely covered in Chapter One of Dennis Curtin's "A Short Course in Creative Digital Photography"
Sorry, the CoolPix 950 does not have a fully manual mode. You cannot select both a specific shutter speed and aperture size at the same time. However, you can "almost" be in complete manual control, by using the CoolPix 950's Exposure Compensation...
Exposure Compensation -
The automatic exposure calculations can be modified in any exposure mode by using the 'EV +/-' option. (EV stands for Exposure Value.)
* Note: A well written explanation of EV (Exposure Values) is located at Toomas Taam's Photo Website - Exposure Values .
In 1/3 steps, up to EV + or - 2.0, the exposure values will be increased or decreased. This is done by increasing or decreasing shutter speed and aperture from the standard calculated values. As such, you can "bracket" exposures on a subject to ensure the desired results... take a group of pictures above and below the standard calculated exposure and you're likely to get it "just right". Or, in a given situation, if you "know" from your experience that a picture will turn out too dark or too light, you can compensate accordingly. A general indicator of the expected results can be seen in the LCD screen before the picture is taken. (And of course reviewed in the LCD screen afterwards, also.)
Matrix, Center-Weighted, or Spot Metering -
- 3D-Matrix Metering - This is the default metering method, and probably the best for general use. Here the camera measures the brightness and contrast of the field of view in 256 areas, and adjusts exposure to a level that captures both bright and shaded portions of the image, also taking into account the distance to the focal point. Exposure is calculated by comparing measurements from the measured areas of the field of view with a preprogrammed reference library of typical compositions, producing the best possible setting for the photo.
- Center-Weighted - The camera measures light in the entire field of view, but assigns the greatest weight in its calculations to the center portion. Good for conditions where very dark or very bright areas in the background are of relatively minor importance in the overall picture, but could cause an over or under exposure if calculated in the overall scene.
- Spot Metering - The camera measures light only in a small area at the center of the frame. The LCD screen clearly shows a boxed outline of the metered area. (Very useful.) The exposure is fixed and locked when the shutter release button is half pressed, so that the camera can be moved to a different point of view if desired, and still retain the original metering set point. The main intent of spot metering is to ensure that the primary subject will be correctly exposed even if the background is very bright or very dark. The secondary benefit of spot metering (because of the exposure lock) is that the primary subject can be repositioned in the field of view, yet still be correctly exposed.
Internal Image Enhancements -
In the "Manual Record" menu, there is an option to select one of the following four internal processing enhancements. The enhancements (slight) are done in the camera after the picture is taken.
- Brightness + (Useful while taking indoors pictures to lighten up the overall scene, without changing the exposure values.)
- Brightness - (Rarely used.)
- Contrast + (Sometimes makes the pictures look more 'film like', as well as slightly clearer looking.)
- Contrast - (Rarely used.)
Telephoto Opportunities -
The 28mm threaded lens opening is well suited for add-on lenses and filters. Nikon has its own 2x optical teleconverter with 28mm threads (Part Number TC-E2), which simply screws into place on the camera's lens. It doubles the focal length range of the camera without loss of resolution, to a maximum of 230mm (six times greater than the normal 38mm wide angle view without the lens).
Aftermarket lenses, spotting scopes, or monoculars may also be used with special adapters, called "stepup rings". Some users have successfully adapted full sized astronomical telescopes with dramatic results.
More Nikon 950 "Favorite Features" -
- I'll mention this one again - the 'live' LCD screen readout of the shutter speeds and aperture settings. (Wow.) Extremely useful.
- In the review mode, by turning the 'selector wheel' below the shutter button, all the image capture data is displayed (shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and other adjustments). Great for " Gee this is a great picture... how did I do it?"
- Built-in memory buffer for rapid, continuous shooting.
- Fast on, fast mode change, fast review.
- The 'instant delete' button for the pictures you knew you blew as soon as you took them.
- Automatic sequential file numbers for the pictures. Never worry about accidentally overwriting a file when you're moving the pictures to your computer. Also acts like an odometer of sorts - keeps track of the total number of pictures the camera has taken "from day one".
Could have been better?
- The LCD screen. Wonderfully crystal clear and sharp in low light or darkness, but nearly impossible to see in bright sunlight. For those users who struggle with this and want more than the existing (small) optical viewfinder, I've come up with a reasonable solution. (See below.)
- The CompactFlash access door on the bottom of the camera. A little too flimsy & floppy for long term durability.
- The tripod mount on the bottom of the camera completely blocks the CompactFlash memory compartment while a tripod is mounted.
- The self-timer should work in all camera modes... but you can't use it in the macro mode (!).
Peter iNova's "Mastering Nikon Compact Digital Cameras" is primarily written for owners of the popular CoolPix 950 & 990 series cameras, and carries a wealth of extremely useful, accurate & interesting knowledge applicable to all kinds of digital photography.
Special Adobe PhotoShop techniques & filters will please (and surprise) even the most seasoned digital veteran. There are 245+ filter settings included with the book, preformatted as Adobe PhotoShop Actions for your use in a wide range of color correcting or special effect situations.
Example? A simple "Contrast Filter" to help clarify a hazy looking picture... Try these numbers for yourself in Adobe PhotoShop: Unsharp Mask 20%, Radius 65, Threshold 0. Seems like a very odd combination, but it sure works!
No matter what kind of digital camera you have, this book's a winner.
And if you have a CoolPix 950 or 990 it's a must!
1/2 inch high density CCD, Total number of pixels: 2.11 million
Choice of 3 pixel sizes: 1) 1,600 x 1,200 pixels (UXGA), 2) 1,024 x 768 pixels (XGA), 3) 640 x 480 (VGA)
3x Zoom-Nikkor lens; multicoated, 9 elements in 7 groups, aspherical glass lens; f = 7 mm to 21 mm with macro (35mm format equivalent: 38 mm to 115 mm); F 2.6 ~ 4; fisheye, wide-angle and telephoto adapter can be attached (optional)
4-step digital zoom: 1.25x / 1.6x / 2x / 2.5x
Contrast-detect TTL autofocus; 4,746 step autofocus control
Selectable by menu on LCD : 1) Continuous AF mode, 2) Single AF mode, 3) Manual Focus (10 steps from approx. 4 inch (0.1m) to infinity)
12 inch to infinity, 0.8 inch to infinity in macro mode
3 mode TTL metering, 256-element Matrix, Spot and Center-Weighted
Mechanical and charge-coupled electronic shutter 1/750 to 8 sec.
Electromagnetic drive rounded diaphragm opening; 3 steps at F2.6/F4/F7 (Wide end), F11.4 minimum (Tele end)
Programmed Auto Exposure (AE), Shutter-priority Auto, Aperture- priority Auto, Manual exposure compensation (±2EV in 1/3 EV steps)
EV-2~15.5 (W), EV-0.8~16.7 (T), ISO 100 equivalent
Approx. ISO 80 equivalent; Gain increase available: 1) Default (approx. 80), 2)100 (approx. 100), 3) +1 (1EV equivalent gain up from default), 4) +2 (2EV equivalent gain up)
Automatic TTL homing system, can be set manually for 1) sunny, 2) cloudy, 3) incandescent, 4) fluorescent, and 5) flash conditions. Preset white balance available, which allows users to set white balance using a white subject, such as a white card or sheet of white paper, prior to actual shooting
Tone curve selection
5 User selectable image tone curve settings; 1) Standard, 2) Contrast+, 3) Contrast-, 4) Brightness+, 5) Brightness-
Selectable 10-second or 3-second duration
Real image optical zoom viewfinder; Magnification: 0.44x to 1.2x; Frame coverage 80 ~ 85%; Diopter adjustment: -2 to +1 dpt.; LED indication for Speedlight Ready and Focus Ready
2-inch, 130,000-dot, low-temp. polysilicon TFT LCD; Adjustable back light; Update rate: 30 frames/sec.; Frame coverage: approx. 97%
Auto power save
Factory default 30 seconds auto shut off; can be changed to 1, 5 or 30 min.
Image recording File Formats
TIFF RGB (Uncompressed) or JPEG (Exif 2.1); 24 bit RGB color
Multiple folders supported - Folders except for the default folder can be renamed
Mode - Hi = Uncompressed RGB TIFF, Fine = 1:4 JPEG, Normal = 1:8 JPEG, Basic = 1:16 JPEG (Approx.)
Removable CompactFlash card
Capacity* - Hi = 1 img., Fine = 8 imgs., Normal = 16 imgs., Basic = 32 imgs. (8MB)
* Number of images may vary depending on the image captured and the resolution selected.
Fully automatic mode (A-REC); Programmable manual mode (M-REC); allows 3 custom groups of settings chosen from shooting menu options
1) Metering, 2) Capture mode, 3) Sensitivity, 4) White balance, 5) Tone compensation, 6) Best-shot selector, 7) Monochrome, 8) Digital zoom, 9) Converters (for adapter lenses), 10) Auto file numbering
Camera takes 5 shots automatically (within approx. 1.5 fps) and records the most detailed image of the 5 shots using anti-jitter logic, which is effective for telephoto shooting and macro shooting. Not available when the Speedlight is on
1) Single, 2) Continuous, 3) High speed continuous, 4) Multiple continuous
1) Single mode: Approx. 1 fps for full size or smaller size images. Users need to release the shutter button after every shot. 2) Continuous mode: Approx. 1.5 fps for full size or smaller size images up to 10 images. Camera captures 1 frame every 0.8 sec. when the shutter button is depressed. 3) High speed continuous mode: Approx 2 fps for VGA size images up to 60 images. Camera captures 1 VGA size image every 0.5 sec. when the shutter button is depressed. Image size is fixed in VGA in this mode. 4) Multiple continuous: Approx. 2 fps. Camera captures 16 continuous images and puts all 16 into 1 full size image frame.
Guide number - 30 feet (at ISO 100)
Flash modes - 1) Auto-flash, 2) Flash-off, 3) Force fill flash, 4) Slow-sync and 5) Red-eye reduction (Flashes for 0.8 sec. before main flash) External Speedlight Multi-flash sync terminal connects to external Nikon Speedlight SB-28, SB-26, SB-25, SB-24, SB-22s through the Multi-flash Bracket Unit (SK-E900). Built-in Speedlight can be disabled when external Speedlight is used
1) 1 Frame, 2) Thumbnails, 3) Slide show, 4) 2x or 3x zoom playback with panning capability, Hide and protect attributes can be set for each image
Deletes all frames or selected frames
Windows95 or later, NT4.0 or later, Macintosh OS 7.5.1 or later
Serial interface (Windows: 115 kbps, Macintosh: 230 kbps)
NTSC video signal output for image display on standard TV set
Power input, video output, Serial port, Sync terminal for external Speedlight(s)
4 x Alkaline, 1.2V NiCd, 1.5 NiMH or 1.5V FR-6 Lithium AA batteries, AC adapter (optional)
Approx. 60 min. with LCD monitor on using alkaline batteries at room temperature. Approx. 90 min. in playback mode
(W x H x D) 5.6 x 3.0 x 1.4 in.
Approx. 12.3 oz. without batteries
Soft case, Strap, Video Cable; 8MB CompactFlash Card , Serial Cable (Windows), Mac adapter; NikonView Version 2 CD ROM, Lens cap; 4 AA batteries, "Open me first" envelope; Registration / Warranty card, Fast Track Guide, Hardware & Software Manuals
NikonView Version 2, Hotshots (PictureWorks), IPIX (Interactive Pictures)
Wide angle adapter
Model Number: WC-E24
Number of lenses: Two elements in two groups,
Combined focal length: 24mm - 72mm (35 mm equivalent)
Combined F number: 2.4 at maximum angle
Angle: 88° at maximum angle
Minimum distance: Approximately 2 inch from the lens
Dimension: 1.95 inch diameter x 0.98 inch length
Weight: 2.04 oz.
Model Number: FC-E8
Number of lenses: Five elements in four groups
Combined focal length: 8 mm (35 mm equivalent)
Combined F number: 2.4
Tele converter lens
Model Number: TC-E2
Number of lenses: Four elements in three groups
Combined maximum optical focal length: 230 mm (35 mm equivalent), up to 575 mm (35 mm equivalent) when combined with the maximum setting of x2.5 digital telephoto.
Combined F number: F4 (E950), F3.6 (E900)
Dimension: 1.77 inch diameter x 2.56 inch length
Weight: Approximately 5.29 oz.
Other Nikon Brand Accessories:
AC adapter EH-30
CompactFlash cards EC-4CF, EC-10CF, EC-15CF, EC-30CF, EC-48CF, EC-64CF
PC card adapter: EC-AD1
CompactFlash Card Reader: MDCF (Parallel interface for PC computer)