Digital Aerochromes and Channel Swapping with two unusual Nikons, 23 November 2023

Digital Aerochromes and Channel Swapping with two unusual Nikons, 23 November 2023

Starting in the late 1990s, as digital cameras entered the consumer market, camera manufacturers started exploring the look of cameras beyond the traditional box with a lens on the front. Unusual camera design was nothing new, for example look at the Canon Dial half-frame camera from the 1960s, or the Minolta Zoom 110 SLR from the 70s, but digital cameras gave camera designers a chance to flex their skills. 

And so, as the nineties faded into the new millennium, Nikon launched its 900 series, a line of cameras with a unique rotating head. I came across these by accident when I found a YouTube video of a review of the Nikon Coolpix 900, a beautiful silver brick of a camera with a camera lens that could rotate so far that you could take a selfie. It was beautiful and I wanted one.

Unfortunately, I have never yet found one, but on a trip to Porto a year ago I came across two, the Nikon Coolpix 990 and the Nikon Coolpix 4500 in my favourite camera store, Cano Amerelo. Sadly, although the 990 worked fine, the 4500 was faulty and had to be returned. I also couldn't get the small CompactFlash card working properly, so the camera was relegated to the shelf.

Later, on the Kamerastore website there was a Coolpix 4500 listed, so of course I snapped it up, even though my CompactFlash card collection was still meagre. Recently, however, I came across some CompactFlash cards on the CEX website that were the perfect for the Coolpix cameras and for a few Euros I picked them up.

I've had these cameras on the shelf for so long I had completely forgotten how the menus worked an even if I could switch them to monochrome mode (I had set the 990 to monochrome once before, but now could not remember how and the manual was little help) so instead I just left them on colour mode, used colour filters and later desaturated the colour images in GNUIMP, which seemed to work perfectly well. (Since completing this post I have found the menu setting for both cameras and changed the settings to monochrome mode. The menu options were completely not in the place I expected to find them.)

The Nikon Coolpix 990, released in January 2000, is a hefty beast weighing in at about 400g including four AA batteries. It has a 3.34MP CCD sensor and stores images on Type 1 CompactFlash cards. The camera is packed with features (apparently) but I found the menus quite difficult to navigate — or perhaps I'm just lazy. 

Launched two years later, in 2002, the Nikon Coolpix 4500 is a 4MP camera with a smaller form factor than the 990 but weighing in at 370g, the same weight as the 990 without batteries. It stores images on Type 1 or Type 2 CompactFlash cards and like the 990 I found it quite difficult to navigate the menus and find the options I wanted.

Now I had two working Nikons, I had to try some digital aerochromes and fortunately, after the best part of a miserable month weather-wise the sky cleared and the sun came out. I took my usual walk 'around the block' late on an autumn afternoon hoping to try the cameras out along with infrared and colour filters. The cameras were easy to use, and the swivelling head was great to position the camera. As usual I held the filters over the lens, which worked quite well most of the time. Because I was using colour mode, photographs with the infrared came out a lovely false colour with the 990, but were monochrome looking with the 4500.

With the digital aerochromes the results from both cameras were variable depending on the intensity of the sun and the position of the subject. Digital aerochromes with the 990 were a little insipid, they were definitely missing the bright punchy red in the vegetation that I am used to, but where the camera did excel was with the infrared filter, the deep reds and purple perfectly suiting some red/blue channel swapping. 

The result from the Coolpix 4500 were similar to those of the 990, although to my mind the digital aerochromes were better than with the 990. Strangely, although the profile of the camera was set to colour, when using the 720nm Infrared filter the images looked like they were monochrome. Unlike the colour infrared images from the 990, the infrared photographs from the 4500 weren't really suitable for channel swapping.

On the whole, though, I was really pleased with the results from the Nikon Coolpix 990 and 4500. They're old digicams compared to some, and precede the boring silver digicams that dominated the noughties and beyond, but they're lovely little cameras and turn heads much like the rotating lens.

#Infrared, #Nikon, #Coolpix, #Aerochrome, #Tree, #Landscape, #Nature, #Monochrome, #720nm,