In the field
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Using the Camera

Based on experiences on holiday and since, I've found that you tend to work in a slightly different way with a digital camera.  First, because of the problems I mention below, I lost some shots.  Then there is more of a delay between pressing the shutter and taking the picture than I'm used to.  I don't think this is fundamental to digital cameras, just part of the design of this one (and others)!  Also, when you first switch on, the camera will not make itself ready until the flash is charged, just in case.   It doesn't matter whether you want to use flash or not.  So this is another delay and might case you to miss photos.  A further problem is the timeout - if you haven't taken a photo in 30 seconds the camera turns itself off (battery preservation!), so the whole start up sequence might be required again when you press the shutter release.   In short, I can't recommend this camera for action photography, which is a pity.   There are  newer versions out now - the CoolPix 900S, 950 and 990 - which fix many of these problems.

When you become a little braver, or realise how rapidly your memory runs out, you are more likely to review the pictures in the camera just after taking them, particularly if you have taken several but only wish to keep one.  The LCD isn't ideal for this as it doesn't have the full quality of the CCD sensor, but obvious framing errors and people's expressions can be quickly judged, and the rejected picture deleted with one button.  People do enjoy seeing immediate replay of their portraits!

You need to be disciplined.  Unless you take a computer to download the pictures, you must carry with you all the digital film (i.e. memory) that you need for the whole trip.  You can't simply just buy another roll, at least not yet.  So it's a mater of noting your total memory, estimating the pictures, and hence finding an allowed number of pictures per day.  Of course, some days you may need more pictures, and other days you may end up taking less.  But you do need to keep a careful eye on the number of pictures you have left.  This, coupled with the slow picture taking, moves you slightly back towards considering every picture before you take it - perhaps not a bad thing!

Of course, if there are other photographers around, they too take an interest in the camera, and you end up having to tell them the sort of story I'm telling here.

Memory problems

A most annoying problem first manifested itself when I changed from the 4MB card supplied by Nikon to the 30MB card I'd bought in Edinburgh.  Of course, I had tested that card in the camera, and it had seemed to work correctly, but it seemed that once the card was about one third full, the camera was very sensitive to voltage (perhaps) and would frequently refuse to operate when switched on.  One cure for this was to take out the batteries (well, open the battery cover at least) for about five seconds before every shot - inconvenient to say the least!  On a number of occasions, even this wasn't enough and you had to remove batteries, remove memory card, replace batteries and finally replace the memory card before the camera would operate.

The camera has a clock and a few other settings which are supposed to be retained over battery changes (one of those large capacitors, I presume).  However, on at least two occasions when using the high capacity cards, even this level of information was lost, and the familiar flashing clock of the unset VCR display appeared.   This wasn't overnight when one might imagine a poorly connected battery might not charge the capacitor correctly, but during the day whilst taking photos, so I can't explain that.

Of course, as soon as I got home I complained about this behaviour to both Nikon and my dealer - there were discussions on Nikon's excellent USA technical support forum - the outcome of which was that Jessops exchanged the two 30MB cards (which they had recommended in the first place!) with three 20MB cards at no extra cost.  As far as I can tell, the SanDisk 20MB cards don't suffer from this problem.  I'm fairly sure there's nothing actually wrong with the SanDisk 30MB cards, simply some incompatibility that I suspect to be a combination of battery voltage droop at switch on and timing with the large number of pictures that these cards can hold in highest compression mode.  Subsequently, using just the 4MB and 20MB cards, there was no problem at all, nor using larger memory cards with later versions of the camera.

Battery problems

Digital cameras devour batteries - so either be prepared to buy a lot (and the Nikon takes standard AA cells) or get rechargeable cells instead.  As we didn't know if we would always have mains available, the Nikon's ability to use standard cells was a great advantage.  One effect that we saw was that batteries that had become exhausted one day would recover over the next day to provide more shots on the third day.   Perhaps the camera is excessively sensitive to battery voltage, or the batteries aren't really suitable?

AlkBatteries.jpg (6043 bytes)
Alkalines are easy to get everywhere but expensive

NiMHbatteries.jpg (4886 bytes)
NiMH batteries and their charger

Another problem was overheating with Lithium batteries - one morning when I first picked up the camera its pouch was quite warm, and parts of the camera were almost too hot to touch. I don't know if this was tied up with the memory problems - but the supplier, Jessops, replaced the camera when Nikon suggested that it should come back for servicing.  I think Jessops must be a little fed up with me now!
General opinion on the support forum is that NiMH rechargeable cells are the ones to go for (in the UK Argos stores sell these), and I've now tried out a set in the field.  With the LCD off, I got 120 pictures including a couple of flash ones, and the batteries were still going...

More comments on rechargeable batteries...

A good feature of the Nikon is that you can program it to turn off the LCD monitor by default.  As the LCD is one of the major consumers of power, switching it off helps battery consumption.  We worked without the LCD throughout, except where framing was critical as the optical finder isn't a perfect judge, even though it is coupled with the main lens zoom.

I intend to add links relating to digital photography and the Nikon CoolPix 900 as I discover them.

Please E-mail me if you know of any links I should add.

Copyright © David Taylor, Edinburgh   Last modified: 2015 Jan 18 at 09:32