COOLPIX 950 Review,
by Allyn Fratkin, May, 1999

Background and Goals

The Nikon CoolPix 950 is our second digital camera. The first was an Olympus D-320L (see our specs/faq/samples pages for more information on this camera), which we bought in September, 1997. The D-320L was ground-breaking at the time: 1024x768 resolution, removable SmartMedia, attractive size and shape.

We decided to upgrade because the D-320L was lacking several features that we had started to yearn for in the year and a half that we had been using it: optical zoom, better image quality/higher resolution, and quicker shot-to-shot cycle time. For the most part we were satisfied with the D-320L's complete point-and-shoot for the dumb user attitude and lack of controls.

Teri's goal was to finally have a digital camera that could all but replace our analog film camera. The D-320L was a good snapshot camera to take to a restaurant to shoot photos of our friends, but we didn't feel the quality was high enough to take only the D-320L on vacation and leave the film camera at home. So we ended up traveling with both cameras, and that was a pain.

It seemed appropriate to wait for a camera with at least two megapixels of resolution because it was clear that the approximately 1.3 megapixel cameras still did not have enough resolution to replace film, and weren't a big enough upgrade from the 1024x768 we were used to anyway. In tests with Kodak PhotoCD scans (which admittedly will be better than similar resolution images from a digital camera), I noticed that 1.5 megapixels was virtually film quality when printed at 8"x10" on a Hewlett-Packard PhotoSmart printer.

Nikon CoolPix 900 and 950

We had been impressed with the image quality from a friend's Nikon CoolPix 900, but I wasn't that impressed by the split design. I was also severely disappointed by the speed of the 900, which was slow even compared to the D-320L, and the annoying 30 second sleep mode which always seemed to shut the camera off just before a picture could be taken.

When the CoolPix 950 was announced, it seemed to be the ideal camera for us with all of the features we were looking for: zoom, image quality, two megapixel resolution, and speed. Plus, I had always wanted a Nikon camera. :-)

I started closely watching the web sites for reviews and information on the CoolPix 950. I read every day to keep up on the news. I even preordered one on 3/25/99 from an internet mail order company (they weren't able to deliver quickly enough so we ended up buying at a local camera store on 4/23/99).

Compared to the D-320L, the CoolPix 950 is larger, but not as large as I expected. It still barely fits in my shirt pockets. It doesn't quite fit in the camera case we used to use for the D-320L.

Will the Nikon CoolPix 950 be our last digital camera? Almost certainly not. But I expect this one will last at least 2 years.

Update: After 14 months of 950 ownership, Teri went on an extended business trip and wanted a newer, smaller camera. She bought a Canon S20 (three megapixel, 2x zoom, compact flash type II). I'll continue to use the Nikon 950, even though I look longingly at my friends' Coolpix 990.

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