coolpix950.jpg (13370 bytes)Nikon Coolpix 950
Review
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long term update now available!

Photo Copyright 1999 Nikon Inc.

I shopped and waited and waited and shopped, chief principle being that a good 2-megapixel camera with 3x optical zoom was the least acceptable level of digicam for my anal-retentive demands.  It had to retail under $1000, be at least vaguely pocketable and travel well.  April of this year (1999), Nikon and Olympus both came through.  I read spec sheets, countless reviews and looked at dozens of sample pictures, and when I was done I did it all over again.  Three times.   Finally, with a deep breath, I clicked the [OK] button on a $770 Coolpix 950 order from Egghead.com.  And then I waited almost three months to get my camera!  I wondered the whole time if I should have gone for an Olympus.  But such a deal I got!

After having used the camera for a couple of weeks and a few hundred pictures, I find the Nikon Coolpix 950 to be a fine camera with a fistful of mostly minor faults.  Although the review may seem very negative, bear in mind that it is written from the perspective of a film photographer.  I had a very tough time choosing between the Coolpix and another 2-megapixel camera, the Olympus C2000Z.  After going so far as composing a spreadsheet for comparison, I chose the Nikon for the following reasons:

nikoncam.gif (955 bytes)  Nikon E950 Selling Points...

  • Unmatched macro capability, without requiring accessory lenses.
  • Articulating lens.  LCD images "flips" when lens points backward.
  • Larger and sharper 2" LCD (120,000 pixels, much more usable in thumbnail mode).
  • Additional manual white balance setting (use a white card to set).
  • TTL matrix metering, 256 zone.
  • Finer (ten-step) manual focus control.
  • User-upgradeable firmware (be careful though!).
  • Ability to shoot full-res SHQ pictures in continuous mode.
  • Substantially better low-light sensitivity.
  • Powerful internal flash (30' range!).

The Nikon also uses CompactFlash memory, which is available in significantly larger and therefore more useful sizes (in my opinion) than SmartMedia.

The decision was tough, with the C2000Z winning BIG points with an infrared remote, a seemingly better lens, smaller and lighter body, PC flash socket, more accurate viewfinder, a cooler software package (includes QuickStitch), and a memory access door that doesn't get in the way of a tripod (and doesn't open by itself).   And while there were plenty of reasons compelling me to buy the Nikon, it is not without faults.

nikoncam.gif (955 bytes)  Nikon E950 Gripes...

  • The chintzy rubber CompactFlash memory door keeps popping open.
  • The lens defaults to full-zoom every time the camera turns on or wakes up.
  • The command dial needs to be a little bigger and thicker and the detents need a better feel (or maybe I'm too used to my Canon EOS).
  • The trashcan button too often fails to register during the instant-review.
  • No option to rotate images in-camera.  Doing so in software obliterates the EXIF info.
  • In manual (M-REC) mode with the monitor defaulting to "off", it would make terrific sense if the MENU button would automatically turn on the MONITOR.
  • (Again perhaps being used to the Canon EOS) I really miss not being able to quickly and easily control metering modes and white balance without resorting to the menus in power-gobbling MONITOR mode.  Two more buttons, please.
  • The un-recessed optical viewfinder is forever getting fingerprint and eyebrow oil smudges.
  • The zoom control buttons (W and T) could be a little more ergonomic, to match the angle of thumb movement (very minor quibble).
  • The LCD viewfinder has no focus or flash-ready indicators - you have to glance at the LEDs by the optical viewfinder.  This is downright annoying.
  • The flash can be a bit unpredictable, sometimes wildly overwhelming.
  • You can't reach the CF memory door with a tripod mounted.
  • No standard PC flash socket provided.  Not a big deal if you already have Nikon Speedlites but HEY I'm a Canon guy!.  Nikon do not offer a simple adapter.
  • Mediocre software package.  No stitching or panorama software, or Photoshop plug-ins.
  • The LCD viewfinder tends to darken or lighten when you focus-lock.  (OK, Nikon say they're fixing this in firmware version 1.1 about to be released).
  • No automatic lens cover.
  • Ships with only a measly 8Mb CompactFlash card.
  • Ships without an AC adapter or rechargeable batteries.

A note about EQUIPMENT:  It seems slightly insane to ship a 2-megapixel camera with a mere 8Mb CF card (which holds 8 or 9 hi-res JPG photos or one TIFF), and it seems equally insane to ship these battery-gobbling devils without a set of rechargeable Li-Ion or NiMH batteries and a discount coupon for a charger.

A note about USEABILITY:  This camera, like most digitals in the sub-$1000 range need more speed.   The delay between pressing the shutter button and getting a picture can be the difference between a prize-winning shot and a missed opportunity, and the time to commit pictures to the flash memory and return the user interface has to improve too.  It's absurd to have to endure a $10,000 price jump to get better response.

nikoncam.gif (955 bytes)  What You Get...

The lack of TWAIN support is not missed at all, with the NikonView software cleanly integrating with the Windows desktop.  An $8 PCMCIA adapter (one came with the 64Mb Lexar CF card I bought for $150) lets me pull the CF files onto a laptop, and a $55 SanDisk ImageMate USB CF reader gets the files into Windows 95/98 or any level of Windows 2000 (no USB support in NT 4.0).  The ImageMate is available in a parallel-port version too.

The camera comes with a very cheap case and a strap, a Nikon (SanDisk) 8Mb CF card, NTSC video cable, serial cable, Mac serial adapter, and a set of alkaline AA batteries that will last you just long enough to get familiar with the camera.  The manuals are supplied in both printed and CD form.  I hate reading on-line manuals so can't yet comment on the CD.  A very useful one-page "fast-track" guide helps get you going.  The printed manual attempts to explain the camera's functions in about 28 pages, and so neglects many fine points of operation, but is still relatively usable.  Frankly, an experienced techie type and/or photog probably won't learn anything from the manual that the fast-track guide doesn't point out.  A second included CD provides NikonView, HotShots and IPIX software.

The camera seems durable but a touch heavy, and the jointed body does not appear or feel fragile.  I've dropped the camera three times so far from waist level, once breaking the fall with my foot, and nothing has broken or bent.  The two-piece body feels solid enough, even though the magnesium bits do feel just like plastic.

nikoncam.gif (955 bytes)  Getting Going...

Along with the CF card and reader, I purchased an AC adapter for the camera which I've yet to use.  I installed NikonView right away but being a PhotoShop user, did not bother with HotShots or IPIX.  The software is simple and installs without any fuss.   NikonView caught me off-guard at first - it doesn't put anything in your Programs list.  I looked and looked and looked.  Instead, a camera icon called "Nikon View" appears in "My Computer".  From there, you can view files on the camera via the serial link, or files on the CF card in an attached reader, or files anywhere on your hard drive.   And if it seems pointless to you to use NikonView when those JPG's on your CF or hard drive are viewable just as easily via Explorer or PhotoShop or whatever, there's still one great reason to use NikonView - it displays much of the EXIF header information embedded in the JPG and TIFF files!

I bought a small padded Tamrac camera case to replace the crappy vinyl thing that came with the camera.  The new case fits the camera nicely and has an outside pocket with enough room for one or two spare sets of batteries, a CF card or two, a filter or two (not that I have any), the lens cap (which I don't bother with), and even my Palm-V.

The camera usually stays set to "fine" mode, which is 1600x1200 "SHQ", for the highest quality full resolution JPG images.  If I'm feeling "professional", I can quickly adjust the quality to TIFF mode, but since that generates 8Mb files I do that sparingly.  That's a mode best left for pictures with subtle color graduations, to avoid JPG posterization.  Left in "fine" mode, a 64Mb CF card seems to hold around 75-85 photos, but Nikon of course promises only a conservative 64.  Exactly how many depends on the content of the photograph and the camera's ability to compress the image data.  In TIFF mode, the 64Mb card holds only 8 photos.  If you set the camera to "VGA BASIC" (640x480 and highest compression), the 64Mb card can hold around 1600 (!) photos.

The M-REC mode is now configured to leave the display off except for a quick post- shutter release review.  I like this for conserving battery power, and also because the continuous autofocus is actually designed very poorly.   Specifically, when the display is on and continuous autofocus is activated, pressing the shutter release halts the continuous autofocus and if you're not focused right then and there, you CAN'T take the picture.  Amazingly, a half-press of the shutter release halts the continuous autofocus!  On the other hand, if the display is turned off along with continous autofocus, pressing the shutter release halfway makes the camera focus, and the green light lets you take the photograph.

The digital zoom "feature" on the camera has been disabled as well.  It doesn't do anything you can't do by cropping the picture by hand and that's how I prefer to work.  Were that to be enabled, you could have 2.5x more "zoom" than what's provided optically.  This works by simply using less pixels on the CCD and up-sampling the picture in software.  There is an argument for using the digital zoom, which is that the metering on the intended subject may be more accurate.  Hopefully the resulting up-sampling doesn't disturb you.

nikoncam.gif (955 bytes)  In Use...

If you're going to shoot action photography, forget it.   Manual focus is tedious to control, and the autofocus can't gracefully handle moving subjects.  Poor lighting on the other hand seems to be the Nikon's strong point, delivering amazing photographs without even hinting at a need for a tripod.   The Coopix 950 does absolutely amazing macro work (see the eyeball and the shirt button, below), and the user interface is relatively intuitive and easy to get used to.  The LCD gets washed out in daylight, more so than some others I've seen, but the optical viewfinder is bright and usable when it's not greasy.   Far-focused shots can be a bit blurry at times.  Color rendition is very good, but an occasional blue-ish highlight can be seen on the edges of certain picture elements.  There is substantial pincushion distortion noticeable when at the shortest end of the available focal length.

The automatic white balance seems less than infallible.   So if you're about to do some serious work it's worth the effort of using one of the white balance presets, or in the case of peculiar indoor lighting, taking advantage of the manual white balance.  Flash photos are often best done at a distance, since the powerful built-in flash does not always limit itself appropriately.  White balance options include auto, manual preset, sunny, incandescent, flourescent, cloudy, and flash.   You must use the LCD to set the mode.

The Nikon offers some in-camera image adjustments (contrast, brightness) without affecting the EXIF information attached to the picture.  The adjustments work remakably well and are very useful for making up for metering mode mistakes or the flash getting out of hand.  Sadly, the adjustments do not include "rotate" for portrait format pictures, so slide shows can get a bit confusing.   Once the portrait photos are on your PC, the Internet comes to the rescue with freeware programs that can do lossless JPG rotation (lossless except for losing the valuable EXIF header, that is).

Recording options include a single-shot mode, continuous, and two interesting modes called 16-shot and VGA sequence.  16-shot collects a thumbnail of each image and creates a collage.  VGA sequence mode is Nikon's way of telling you that even though you can shoot continuous in 1600x1200 fine mode, the camera can only buffer two shots at less than 1.5fps that way.  VGA sequence gets closer to 2fps and permits shooting as long as your finger doesn't get tired.  Either way, be prepared for a lengthy hourglass when you finally release the shutter button.  Any of the continuous modes require disabling the internal flash - it can't recycle that fast.

Also provided is a "Best Shot Select" feature.   You set this mode and keep the shutter pressed and it keeps taking shots (up to ten, but see the paragraph above).  When it's all done, the camera decides which image is "best", and saves only that one to the CF card.

Photos can be organized into folders directly on the CF card.   The default folder is "NIKON100" but Nikon's documentation says "NIKON".  You can add, delete, and rename folders, but you cannot actually move files among folders while the CF is in the camera.  You may only specify from the menu what folder is to be used for storing or playing back subsquent photos.  You can do certain things in batches.  Printing, hiding, protecting, and deleting photos all have an available sub-menu that allows you to intuitively select from thumbail view the files that you wish to apply the operation to.  Since the CF is a DOS device, hiding and protecting uses the ordinary DOS file attributes "hidden" and "readonly".  Hide is most useful for avoiding display in slide shows.   Printing can be performed to DPOF -compatible printers.

Once or twice the sequential numbering scheme for the photos seemed to have gotten temporarily confused.  This may be due to erasing the photos from Explorer rather than using NikonView or the camera's erase function, or switching among cards.   Nikon appears to be aware of the problem and the new (v1.1) firmware doesn't seem to help either.  Be careful not to over-write important photos.  Just as you keep each roll of developed film, I'm now in the habit of keeping each card of pictures in a separate folder, and I change the name of the files right away to something descriptive.

Pictures can be viewed satisfyingly on the LCD, and clicking the MONITOR button gets rid of the superimposed picture data.  Pressing the MONITOR button again shuts off the LCD, and once more gets you back to your picture with the superimposed information.  On the other hand, when you're viewing the picture with the info, the command dial selects which of three categories of information can be superimposed.  I'd prefer the MONITOR button simply turn the LCD on and off and let the command dial select whether or not to superimpose the info as well as what info to display.

nikoncam.gif (955 bytes)  Moving the Pictures to a PC...

Sadly Nikon, like most current camera manufacturers, do not yet take USB seriously.  So your options for transferring the photos are a serial link (supports up to a claimed 112Kbps, but buyer beware), or some method of reading the CF card.  The serial link is without a doubt your slowest option.  A single 1600x1200 "fine" picture tends to be around 700 to 900 Kb!

The Lexar 64Mb CF card came with a coupon for a free PCMCIA adapter.  You slip the CF card into the Type-II card gadget and slip the happily married couple into a PCMCIA slot in a laptop.  Windows95 and Windows98 both went through a plug-and-play routine the first time around, and being that CF is an "ATA" device Windows decided the CF card was a removable hard drive (!).  Odd as it seems, it works fine that way and doesn't care if you pull the card back out without warning.  If you have a laptop this is surely the easiest and quickest way to transfer files.  The card is in fact a DOS formatted device, and so can be reformatted and have directories, etc.

The odd looking SanDisk ImageMate USB CF reader was plug-and-play, sort of, with Windows 98.  All in all, Windows 98 wanted to pull driver files off the ImageMate CD three or four times and parts of the dialogue left me wondering if the files were actually located and installed properly.  It worked fine after all that (more or less), but the procedure didn't leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling.  But the problem I have now surely has nothing to do with the USB reader - apparently both the USB bus and my WinTV card want IRQ9.  IRQ9 is not the greatest interrupt to share to begin with, and Hauppauge's WinTV-PCI doesn't necessarily share interrupts as peacefully as a PCI card should, either.  The CF reader is the first USB device I've ever had, so until now I never had the occasional "hangs" or conflicts with the WinTV video capture device that I experience now.  I expect a little PCI slot shuffling (Intel SE440BX2 motherboard) will cure my ills.

nikoncam.gif (955 bytes)  Pushing the Envelope...

I thought, what a neat thing if I could keep a "photo album" on a CF card.   I wrote a few 640x480 JPG files onto the CF from my PC, and tried reading the pictures in the camera.  That's when I found out the hard way about EXIF headers, which are additional headers built into the JPG files that the camera writes.  If you don't have a compatible EXIF header in the JPG file, the camera won't read it.

The EXIF header is really the cool part for digicams, because that's where a camera like the Nikon will store info about when the pic was taken, what shutter and aperture, flash mode, white balance setting, ISO level, metering mode, focal length and focus mode.   It even records the camera type and firmware version.  John Schroedl is working on a program to create compatible JPG's for use in uploading to Nikon cameras, but the software is still beta.  If he takes much longer, I make take a crack at this myself.

I went so far as to modify an ASP page (Microsoft Active Server web page) that I use for displaying the GIF and JPG photos on this web site, to be able to show the EXIF header information and even utilize the embedded thumbnail image for the low-res image representation.  I'm still working on decoding a few undocumented details a la Nikon, but as you can see by clicking on the thumbnails below, it's coming along quite fine.  Along with that I've built ASP pages that can display an image catalog using thumbnails (generated dynamically) and respective links to the full-size images, and yet another separate page (used by the catalog) that can be used in an HTML <IMG SRC> tag to extract the thumbnail from an EXIF JPG (not used below, because the Photoshop -produced thumbnails look much sharper).

Unlike the Olympus, the Coolpix does not come with QuickStitch.  But you can actually find some Freeware and Shareware tools that can do a pretty good job of putting together panoramic pictures.  See the link below.  Meanwhile, QuickStitch just announced a new and improved version of their software, and it's only $49.

The Olympus has a handy infrared remote control and a timer, but the Nikon has only a timer and not even a remote release cable.  The Nikon can be controlled via serial link by software such as PhotoPC (primarily made for Epson cameras, see link below).  While this may not be a terrific help in the field, I suspect that some creative hardware hacker can come up with a little remote assembly that sends the necessary shutter release codes down the serial link.  We'll have to wait and see.  Being a 3Com Palm-V user, I can envision a Palm application that would do camera control.  Just think, PhotoPC is open-source!

nikoncam.gif (955 bytes)  Hype vs Hope...

The Lexar CF media is considered to be premium, and comes at a corresponding cost.  A smart shopper can find bigger SanDisk cards for as much money, but the Lexar is hyped as being faster and better.  From what I can tell, there's no discernable difference when the memory is used in the Nikon E950.  The Lexar is also hyped as requiring less power.  I cannot confirm or deny that, but the power draw of the LCD is so immense that the memory's power draw becomes insignificant by comparison.

Do you really need 1600x1200 resolution?  It won't display on most computers without dithering down to nearly half those dimensions.   But...  it translates perfectly to a crisp 4"x6" color print at 300dpi, and if you're not close enough to the subject or can't zoom in enough, you can crop the picture however you want without "losing" detail on screen.  Many digicam users would probably be perfectly happy with 1024x768 (XGA mode), but it's great to have the extra when you want it.  Changing modes only takes a second or two.

At what price is the move to digital?  For Nikon, the price may be durability.  After one month of nearly daily but gentle usage, the camera began making a grinding noise when turned on, followed by a "system error" indication on the LCD.  You could clearly hear something rattling around in the lens assembly.  Considering that I carry similarly a Canon EOS Elan IIe (with a supposedly fragile SLR mirror mechanism) and a Sony Mini-DV DCR-TRV8 (with fragile everything), and considering the Canon has taken a LOT of knocking about over two years and has been dropped four times from waist height without a case and still works fine, I'm a bit concerned about the suitability of the Nikon for field use.

Meanwhile, a couple of days after shipping out the camera I got an acknowledgement of receipt in the mail indicating that the repair category was "B2" (moderate repair - major parts [to be] replaced), and that it would be convered under warranty.  Two weeks after Nikon received the camera I tried calling Nikon for the status on my repair.  I tried calling five times throughout the day but each time was told "our computers are down but they'll be back in about an hour".  Without their computers they were helpless, so I called back the next day.  At that point I was told that my camera had been repaired and is in the Quality Control area, and should be shipped any day now.  I Hoped they were updating the firmware and double- checking the focus.

The camera finally arrived 13 "business" days later (that's close to three weeks to someone with a heartbeat) via UPS overnight service, with the same old v1.0 firmware and a cryptic receipt showing the work done to be "ADJ LENS UNIT, GENERAL CHECK & CLEAN, CLN LCD DISPLAY, CLN LENS UNIT".  No mention of exactly what was replaced, or even that anything was replaced.   It seemed to work well enough however, until a little over one week later when the grinding noise and the "system error" re-appeared following a bump against a door jamb (in the relative safety of a padded case, no less) on the way into my apartment.

I dropped off the camera personally at Nikon's Long Island facility and received it via overnight mail one week later.  The new repair order looked exactly like the first, save for the different date and order number.  It seems to work OK again, but my confidence in the camera has been irrepairably harmed.   And the man at Nikon's repair counter was of little solace.  He left me with the impression that I should not expect this camera to take the kind of treatment that doesn't seem to bother all my other equipment.  If I have to carry the 950 around in bubble packing then it's just not worth the bother.

nikoncam.gif (955 bytes)  Long Term Usage...

...or, the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.  Update as of March 2002:

The camera is back from its fourth visit to the Nikon's Service Center  in the two and a half years that I've owned it.  The mode switch on top of the camera had reliability problems by design, and a Coca-Cola spill didn't help it much.  The battery door's little plastic tabs like to break off when you do something silly like drop the camera, and for whatever reason the adhesive that fastens the rubber grip to the case has been reduced to the bond strength of a Post-It.  Some dirt managed to find its way behind the lens, and the straw that broke the camel's back was when perfectly good batteries were no longer enough to keep the camera powered up.  The low battery indicator would appear right away and the camera would shut itself down.

This time the repair order indicated "COMPLETE OVERHAUL" with a $203 price tag.  That's a high enough repair cost to make me think twice or thrice about giving the go-ahead, but even on eBay a Coolpix 950 in decent shape sells for well over $300 and the fact is, half the problems were my fault.  At least the damn lens assembly hasn't broken again!  And all previous visits to the Service Center were handled under warranty.  Even the battery door replacement on the third time in was taken care of at no cost.

The camera stayed in Nikon's shop for 8 days after I issued this repair approval.  It seems to have been given thorough attention and the mode switch actually works better than the last time it was repaired.  They even included a fresh set of Energizer "e2" Lithium batteries.  How nice!

There's been plenty to like about the Nikon.  The articulating body has been a great advantage in shooting over crowds and the joint has remained mechanically sound in spite of much hard use.  The camera's macro ability has made it a fine tool for amazing close-up photography and for things like eBay photographs of everything from computer equipment to fine jewelry.  The viewfinder is pretty decent as compact digicam viewfinders go, and using the camera with the LCD turned off makes the camera focus-lock much more quickly.  The LCD is higher resolution than most so it's a delight when scanning through pictures on the CompactFlash card.  The camera also offers outstanding low-light performance with very little noise.

I picked up a 64Mb CF card right away, so the obscured memory slot (the tripod mount interferes) hasn't been an issue in day to day use.  Nonetheless it can be annoying when you're using a tripod without a serial connection and need to see the results right away.

I've picked up a Tamrac case whose size seems almost a custom fit for the camera.  It has enough padding on the bottom, back and sides to soften most falls and knocks but lacks padding at the top of the case.  It's also not water proof.  Or Coca-Cola proof.  It has an additional zippered compartment that holds a couple of sets of batteries, spare CF cards, a lens cloth and some aspirin.

The other absolute necessity was rechargeable batteries and a charger.  Almost immediately after buying the camera I picked up the highly regarded Maha C204F charger and a few sets of NiMH AA batteries from Thomas Distributing, and they're still serving me well.  The economy is outstanding.  The same batteries also work very nicely in my Canon's 380EX flash when I choose to carry the heavy armament.

As much as I like this Coolpix 950, there's plenty to wrinkle my brow too.

The sluggish performance between button-push and the picture being taken, so typical of consumer digicams, has become an incredible irritant.  The automatic white balance is hit or miss so I tend to use the M mode and keep a white card handy to set the balance myself or use a preset.  Failing that, there's always Adobe Photoshop's "auto-levels" and "variations" features to compensate in post-production.

Flash control is poor and red-eye is omnipresent.  Supposedly both situations improve if you add an external flash unit like the Nikon SB-28.  Unfortunately this also requires a bracket with an adapter, making the whole thing rather expensive and unwieldy.  Since I believe a "compact digital camera" should be pocketable and all that hardware certainly precludes any pocket I've ever seen, I never tried that setup. 

The lack of a remote shutter release cable has been frustrating, particularly when trying to photograph macro subjects with small apertures and correspondingly long shutter times to attain the desired depth of field.  Using the self timer is a cheesy substitute if timing is not critical.  If you look around you can find web pages that describe dozens of Rube Goldberg -type mechanical shutter release contraptions.  You can make one of these or you can buy a more sophisticated electronic shutter release.  None are particularly cheap.  The rather snazzy Harbortronics DigiSnap is one example and goes for about $120.  The camera can also be controlled by a PC or laptop using an unsupported freeware program called PhotoPC.  In either case, the serial port is used to control the camera.

Using the serial cable to view and transfer photographs is way too time-consuming, particularly since I shoot everything in the highest quality, highest resolution JPG mode, so I picked up an inexpensive Sandisk USB reader.  Beware of the IDE readers that fit neatly into a diskette drive bay, but require a reboot just to change CF cards!

The other problem endemic to digicams in general is that of file names.  "DSCN1057.JPG" is obviously not the most descriptive filename and managing hundreds or thousands of files like this can be a nightmare, so I created a Windows program called EXIFRename (see elsewhere on this web site) that helps give the files more descriptive names.

I have very mixed feelings about the frequency with which the Coolpix 950 has required service.  It does take a beating.  Then again, so does my Canon EOS.  I can't help but think that a digicam should be less fragile than an SLR and yet the Canon has never required service, nor have Canon's lenses, flash, etc. ever required anything but an occasional wipe with a moist cleaning cloth.

The next time the Nikon requires service, it will be probably be sold on eBay "as-is" or simply thrown into the garbage.

UPDATE OCTOBER 2002

Apparently my complaint about "perfectly good batteries" no longer being sufficient to operate the camera was wrong.  I discovered that my Maha C204F battery charger was acting up.  Thomas Distributing replaced this unit for the cost of shipping even though it was out of warranty, and I took advantage of the opportunity to order up Maha's new C401FS charger and some alleged 2000mAH NiMH batteries.

UPDATE JANUARY 2003

Oh, the dreaded lens clicking and obligatory "system error" is back, less than a year after the camera's major (and rather expensive) overhaul.  Interestingly, the clicking is much louder than the first couple of times this happened.  Must be a result of a more robust mechanism?  Just the same, not quite robust enough and once again, one knock too many has taken the camera out of service.

Amazingly, Nikon acknowledged my humble pleadings and agreed to repair the camera at no cost, even though the service warranty is just 90 days.  I must say I'm impressed with Nikon's willingness to cover this frustrating problem and save the camera from the ugly fate of my "eight story apartment window drop-kick test!"  This time the camera was in the shop for over two weeks, but it was worth every single day.  Not only did Nikon replace the lens assembly, they ALSO took it upon themselves to replace the battery box and cover (which had been loose but functional since the last visit, but that was the least of my concerns), the main switch and a couple of other bits and pieces too.  Basically I got a complete overhaul plus repair.

Just in case I'm not perfectly clear here - Nikon has really gone out of their way to support this product and keep me happy, and I can't possibly say enough good things about how I've been treated.  While obviously the recurring issues involving the camera design don't delight me, Nikon stood by me 300% and never made me feel like I didn't deserve every bit of it.

UPDATE 2004

One of the recurring bugaboos about the Coopix 950 has been the mode switch, which tends to get finicky after a while.  Stan Richard, the webmaster of NightSkyEvents.com and experienced electronics technician, has prepared a guide on cleaning and repairing the Coolpix 950 mode switch, with detailed explanations and photographs.  Click here to check it out.

nikoncam.gif (955 bytes)  Digital Photo Examples...

Warning... these thumbnails link to large (~400-800Kb) files!!!

Eyeball This is what happens when you don't clean your contact lenses often enough!  This is also what happens when you have an articulating lens and too much time on your hands.  If you look carefully in the reflection you'll see the trees in the back yard, the camera, and my hand.
ShirtButton Notice the fine detail in the fibers of the threads holding the shirt button...
Nostril I call this "NoseScape."   Or "Tunnel of Doom."  What's amazing is how well the skin texture and tiny epidermal hairs are revealed.
BirthdayCake No, it wasn't my birthday.   But feel free to send gifts anyway!
ChinaTown Average day on Mott Street in New York City's Chinatown.   Decent handling of difficult light but focus seems soft.  Notice the barrel distortion.
TrueColors Yours Truly in the office.  Flourescent light didn't hurt color balance much because flash obliterates it.  Walls have greenish cast anyway.  Note the terrible red-eye.

nikoncam.gif (955 bytes)  Useful Links...

  


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