The Nikon 950 is one of Nikon’s earliest digital cameras and is interesting because of its novel design. The lens unit and the monitor unit are on different sides of the camera and are joined by a swivel joint which allows the monitor to be visible while the lens unit is positioned at any angle.
These pictures can also be viewed full sized here.
I paid only £5 for this camera because it has a mechanical fault which seems to be quite common with this model. The problem is with the battery compartment door which doesn’t properly latch because two tiny plastic pins which engage with two retainers inside the body have broken off. Although the door will shut without batteries in the camera, the pressure of the sprung loaded battery contacts means that the door isn’t properly held shut and so the camera can turn off at any time.
The most obvious fix for this is to just add a bit of sticky tape to hold the door shut, and that’s the approach I tried to take to test the camera and take some sample pictures but it doesn’t really work. The battery door still opens up as the tape creeps, so I need to find a permanent solution. One possible more permanent solution would be to drill small holes in the compartment lid and glue two tough pins in to take the place of the broken parts. It would be nice to find a replacement door, but I think it’s such a common fault that most doors would also need the fix.
As well as the door problem, I’ve noticed a couple of other issues which the eBay seller may not have noticed. A couple of elements of the top LCD are missing from the display. This means the P to indicate Program Mode is actually showing as F. This can probably be fixed by removing the LCD and cleaning the contacts, but I’m not sure I will bother with that. The other issue is the internal battery which is used to maintain the correct time and date is flat. This battery is charged from the main battery so it’s possible that the camera just needs to have batteries in for a while longer, but it’s more likely that it’s no longer taking charge. It is 17 years old after all!
Other than those problems, the camera seems to be working nicely. I’ve only taken a few pictures with it but it’s actually quite a full featured camera, although at 2Mp by today’s standards quite low resolution. Fortunately, there was a 512Mb Compact Flash card included with the camera because I don’t own any Type I cards and they are horrendously expensive to buy these days.
Nikon Coolpix 950 description
As I said in the introduction the most obvious stand-out feature of the Coolpix 950 is the ability to twist the body and position the lens to point in any direction whilst holding the LCD level to compose. Nikon weren’t the only manufacturer to do this – I also have a Ricoh model (RDC-4200) which has a similar set up, but the Nikon was the most popular and famous camera to feature this.
The camera is a small sensor unit with auto & manual focus, spot, matrix and averaged metering, Program, Aperture priority and Shutter priority auto exposure, macro focusing mode (which it is reputedly very good at) and in-build flash. There are two LCD panels – one on the back to use for composition and picture viewing and one on the top which shows exposure mode, number of frames remaining etc.
The compact flash memory card lives in the bottom of the camera under a pull open flap and next to the battery compartment. It’s not the ideal location because it’s next to the tripod bush which would make changing the card whilst tripod mounted rather tedious.
The body is made of magnesium alloy and is therefore quite solid and strong. Although the swivel design could be thought of as a weak point, on my unit it seems pretty strong and there doesn’t seem to be too much play in the joint.
Nearly all the camera’s controls are on the right hand side of the body (the side with the monitor on) – only the optical viewfinder diopter control and a flash sync terminal are on the lens unit. As well as the LCD monitor on the back of the camera body side, there is an optical viewfinder on the lens side which has two small LED’s next to it so they appear in the eye line. These are to indicate the AF has locked and if a flash is needed.
The monitor side of the body is shaped to fit the hand which holds the camera (you are right handed aren’t you?) with the zoom buttons falling under the thumb and shutter button under the first finger. The control dial sits just under the shutter button, at the top of the grip and again it’s easy to adjust. It’s a comfortable camera to use, with the grip being nicely padded.
The on/off switch is fitted around the shutter button, and has positions for Automatic exposure, Manual exposure and Playback. The Manual mode is not actually fully manual control – it just means the mode can be changed to P, A or S modes where some picture control is possible whereas the Automatic mode is completely automatic. Exposure mode changes are made with the control dial as the mode button is held down.
There is quite a comprehensive set of options in the menu which I won’t go into in detail because the manual (linked below) covers all the details, but this is where you need to go to alter the metering modes, white balance, drive mode etc. However, it is quite convenient to use as there is a single button to turn the menu on and the zoom buttons, command dial and shutter button then allow adjustment. There are also 3 user memories which can retain settings and be easily recalled, although recalling them also involves a trip to the menu.
The Coolpix 950 feels like a nice camera to use and to me seems a good way of allowing the lens to be placed in interesting positions whilst still keeping the monitor usable. The later Coolpix 4500 continued this idea and in many ways was a better camera, but the monitor on the 950 is bigger which I find more convenient. I’m hoping I can find a permanent solution to the battery door problem because at the moment the camera can turn off at any minute which makes it too unreliable to use, but I’m interested to see if the larger screen helps with composing pictures in the sunlight. Logic says that it won’t be brilliant, but the fact that you can tilt the screen may make a difference.
If I fix the battery door I will post explaining how I did it.
CoolPix 950 Specifications
- ‘Swivel design’ 2Mp digital camera
- Solid construction
- CCD sensor
- 1600 x 1200 maximum resolution
- Compact Flash memory card
- Auto focus and Manual focus options
- Aperture priority, Shutter priority and Program mode
- Fully automatic mode
- 7 to 21mm Zoom lens (38 to 115 equ in full frame)
- Aperture f/2.6-f/4 at brightest
- Shutter 8sec to 1/750sec
- ISO 80
- Single shot and 1.5 frames per second
- 3 & 10 sec self timer
- 256segment matris / spot / averaged metering
- +/- 2stops exposure compensation
- Add on Wide and Telephoto lenses available
- Back panel 130k pixel LCD for composition and top panel Data display
- Optical viewfinder
- 4 AA batteries
- Manual available here