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Nikon COOLPIX 900 retro review

The COOLPIX 900, launched in 1998 at a price of $900 or 759 pounds, was Nikon’s third digital camera, but I’d argue their first aimed at photographers. Unlike the more business-oriented COOLPIX 100 and 300 from the previous year, the 900 could not be mistaken for a computer peripheral – this was the first Nikon digital camera that would truly appeal to their existing film shooters. 1.2 Megapixels, a 3x optical zoom, white balance presets and a cunning split-body, the 900 had it all!

23 years after it first went on sale, I took the 900 to the streets of Brighton to see how well it works today. Find out in the video below, or keep scrolling for more written details!

Nikon opted for a rectangular body, split roughly in the middle with the lens, optical viewfinder and flash built into the left half, leaving the screen, controls, batteries and grip in the right. In use, you could twist the left half through 270 degrees, allowing you to shoot comfortably at high or low angles or even face backwards for selfies. It looks unique today, but was fairly common in the late Nineties, with Minolta, Ricoh, Casio and Sony also selling similar split body designs.

The 1.3 Megapixel 1/ 2.7in CCD sensor with fixed 64 ISO sensitivity captured images with 1280×960 pixels and stored them on removable Compact Flash cards; best quality JPEGs measured about 500kb each and the camera could handle cards up to 48MB. Meanwhile the 38-115mm equivalent zoom provided useful coverage and very respectable close-up capabilities in its macro mode.

The COOLPIX 900 was powered by four AA batteries and was one of the first digital cameras to offer white balance presets, along with several metering and flash options. All the settings were displayed on a useful top screen, although there wasn’t direct control over the shutter and aperture.

The 900 was subsequently followed by the successful 950, 990 and 995, all sharing a similar body shape, then later the 4500, S4 and finally the S10 in 2006, before Nikon retired split-body cameras from its lineup. I really enjoyed shooting with the COOLPIX 900 again, and was reminded of just how much Nikon got right on its third digital camera and why it deserves a position in the classic camera hall of fame.

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