CP 950 Tips: (Last update August 9, 2000)


Video tape a slide show for Mom

Want to send your shots to someone for them to look at "easliy" without having to use a computer? Make a video tape! You can upload your unedited favorite shots to the camera, and then put the camera in slideshow mode and videotape the output. Obviously, you need a pretty big flash card to do this, or you can make your tape in two or more "takes". (just about) everyone has a VCR these days. Unfortunately, there is no good way to rotate your shots with this technique.

Try using "Continuous" mode all the time.

If you don't need the flash in a situation, such as outdoors in daylight, why not consider using the Continuous mode all the time? You can still take a single shot if you want to, or you can hold the release down and take shots until you fill up the buffer, then pick the best one. Great for sports shots; when your kid gets close to the ball, just hold the shutter down instead of trying for the perfect moment. Also, you might want to try "FAST REVIEW" mode; in that mode you can take pictures even while the hourglass is on, and can use the flash (although it can't charge fast enough for continous pictures. Also watch out for the FAST REVIEW lockup bug  with firmware 1.0 only. (see Mini-FAQ)).

Read your old CP900 shots on the CP950.

The CP950 will play back your old CP900 shots (how many people upgraded)? It will even read them out of the folder created by the CP900. This might also be useful if you want to upload pictures back to the camera.

"No images on card" does not mean...

... that there are no images on the card! Just that the current folder is empty. You can still have images on the card in other folders, so if you use other folders, don't go formatting your card just because the camera says that.

"Infinity" setting is only good for about a 50mm zoom level

On the CP900, the "mountains" infinity setting was really focus at 30M (about 100feet). There was a slight focus problem with objects that really were an "infinite" distance away (sample shot in CP900 section on this site). This was documented in the CP900 manual, but easy to forget about. On the CP950, I took test shots of a farm 1/3 mile away using Autofocus, Infinity setting, and Manual focus infinity setting. There was no visible difference in focus between these shots at about 50mm zoom. At full zoom, the camera focuses at about 10 feet using the infinity setting, so watch out! See the page about this item here.

The camera appears to only use vertical features for focus.

This is the way my old Sony camcorder was, there was even a section in the manual about it.

Try this experiment. You need a white wall at least 6 feet away, and an uncluttered scene (zoom in if you need to to exclude some of the objects around) You need a single linear object in the scene. I used a piece of moulding around the ceiling of my living room for this. If the camera is held so that your feature is horizontal in the frame it will not focus (green light keeps flashing) even in daylight (if it does, you need to simplify your scene for the experiment). Now turn the camera 90 degrees, so that your feature is vertical, and it will focus, or will be more likely to focus!

This isn't official, but it seems to work that way for me. Seeing as there are other devices that work that way,. I would not be too astounded. This might help you grab a focus in some situations.

The camera uses contrast detection to focus, so you need to have a contrasty edge in the center of the frame, especially in low light.

Spot Metering mode.

Spot metering means that the camera just uses a small area in the center for metering the exposure on your shot. My experiments show that the spot mode does not affect the focus; in other words the camera does not use just the spot area when determining focus, something that you should be aware of. Experiments also show that the rectangle shown on the LCD does correspond closely (perhaps exactly) to the size of the metered area. It looks like the metered area really is a rectangle, although I cannot rule out an ellipse that is contained by the square.

My measurements indicate that the spot metering area is approximately (in 1600 by 1200 mode) 320 pixels high by 220 pixels wide. Note that the spot area is longest in the shortest picture direction; I'm not sure why this was done, maybe it is more useful this way. Although it does not look that small, the spot contains only about 4 percent of the total pixels on the image.

The most common use of the spot is to properly expose a certain area that would otherwise be under or over exposed. A common use would be a subject with severe backlighting; put the spot on the subject. It is easy to mess up with spot metering, the usual problem is that you can forget that the camera is in spot mode, and put the spot on dark clothing or a shadow on a subject, and the rest of the shot will be overexposed. I would recommend only setting spot mode when you need it.

Just FYI, the center weight option is the central about 50% of the frame.


Selective Delete mode.

This is actually in the manual, but I for one had missed it.. Go to Play mode, pick delete, selective. use the Qual button to pick the pictures to delete. Lets you selectively delete more than one picture at once.



The infamous "dime shot". To get this close, you have to set the macro lens to the "sweet spot'. See the macro mode tips below. The dime was taken at an angle, so the entire dime is not in focus due to the small depth of field (see below).


Now that's a macro lens! At the 2 cm minimum distance, the depth of field is just a few mm.  (the ruler does not show 2cm because I had a skylight filter over the lens preventing it from getting closer.

General Macro mode tips.

The macro mode on the CP950 can focus much closer than the old CP900 could, and it is harder to use. Here are some suggestions.

1) The lens focuses closest in the telephoto "sweet spot", where the little macro icon changes color (is that yellow or green or what?). You have to set the telephoto manually to the sweet spot.

2) At the closest focus, the depth of field is REALLY SMALL; just a few mm (See sample shot of a ruler above). You should not have unreasonable expectations about taking a super closeup of some 3D object like a flower. Only a small portion of the item will be in focus.  Since the camera is auto-focus, it will probably not pick the spot that you would like to be in perfect focus. The closest macro focus works great on a flat object like a coin if you are perpendicular to it. Try forcing a higher f number by using aperture mode to increase the depth of field.

3) You should probably use spot metering. If you use matrix metering, the camera will maximize the focus on the largest portion of your picture that it can; probably the ground under your flower.

4) Consider using "manual" focus. Lock the focus by half pressing the release, then move the camera back and forth a little to do your actual focusing. After some practice, you can bracket the focus pretty closely.

5) Get all the light on your subject that you can. The faster your shutter speed, the less "shake". Try to arrange it so that you are not taking a shot in the camera's shadow. (hard to do at 2cm). Your small motions will translate into big blur with the macro settings.

6) Taking a macro shot might be a good time to use the Best Shot Selector. Take a bunch and let the camera pick.

7) If you can use a tripod, that will help a lot.

8) Macro mode focusing is better and faster in firmware version 1.1.

9) Macro mode is hard to focus! The camera uses contrast detection for focusing. In general the camera will lock on to the background on your subject because there is more of it, and because it has plenty of contrast. You almost have to trick the camera into focusing on what you want. I often put out my hand for the camera to focus on, then take it away for the shot.

Red eye lamp reflections in Macro mode.

This is a great tip sent to me by Denny Cannon.  He takes a lot of close up shots. He has been using the self timer when doing close work (but not in macro mode, the timer will not work there). When you use the self timer, the "red eye" light blinks during the count down. The problem is that the light is on when the picure is taken! While this isn't bright enough to overexposes close objects, you can see the reflection of the red-eye light on your subject if it is shiny. Denny suggests putting a piece of black electrical tape over the red eye light (not the flash!) when taking a close up. Don't cover the flash or the flash sensor. The red-eye lamp is the closest to the viewfinder.

Macro mode and the self timer.

You can't set macro mode when the self timer is on. You might want to use the self timer to minimize camera shake. What you CAN do on the 950 is switch to manual focus and set it for 0.33 feet. That gets you to 4 inches away; closer than the macro is anyway on most other cameras. There is another trick you can use too, at the manual setting of 0.33 feet, you will get the best coverage at FULL ZOOM not the normal macro sweet spot that is mentioned above. There, the field is about 1.3 inches across, not too bad! Use aperture priority and set a small aperture for better depth of field.

Using the flash.

You need to be aware of the properties of the flash. If you aren't the flash will wash out your shot, or give you some strange color balance. Here are my own "rules" that I follow when using the flash.

* Don't get too close. Too close can be as far away as 5 to 6 feet. Consider backing up to 6 feet and using the zoom instead. If you get too close, there is a chance that the flash will overexpose your shot.

* Keep in mind how the 950 meters the flash. The small sensor near the lens gathers light until it decides that the exposure would be correct if the light were averaged over the field of view.

Exposure wrong due to zoom: Your subject matter can fool the sensor. For example, if you zoom in, the sensor has no way of knowing this, and still meters for the only field of view that it has.

Exposure wrong due to bright background: Imagine a person standing against a white wall. Most of the light reflected to the sensor comes from the wall, so the wall will be perfectly exposed and the person will be underexposed.

Exposure wrong due to dark background: Imagine a person standing outside at night about 6 feet away, or in a large dim room. The small flash has no chance of lighting up the entire scene. The only light reflected to the sensor comes from the person, so the flash puts out enough light to have a good "average" exposure, but because it is all being reflected from the person the person is horribly overexposed.

You can try to change the aperture setting to force a smaller aperture in this last case to compensate for overexposure. This is very common in a "party" situation in a large room.

* If using the flash as "fill in", the 950 does not appear to compensate the exposure for your having forced the flash on. If you are close, the fill in flash will over expose your shot. Again, back up and zoom in. If the flash will have a significant contribution to the light on your subject, use a -EV setting to reduce the exposure. Only experience will allow you to set this right. try -2 EV for fill in in sunlight.

* Consider the light. Set the white balance manually if you need to. Set the white balance for the primary light source. For example, if it is dim light, and you are using the flash to fill in, set the white balance to flash. If it is sunlight, and you are just using a little flash to bring up the shadows, set the white balance to auto or sunny. The 950 does not set flash white balance automatically when you use the flash.

Flash shots too dark.

Sometimes the flash will seem to fire normally, and you are plenty close enough to the subject for the flash to be used, but the resulting picture is too dark. This happens more frequently in A-Rec mode. At first I was totally mystified when this would happen, but I later realized how this was occuring. What would happen was that I had my finger, or part of the camera strap or my clothing in front of the flash sensor on the camera. Depending on how you hold the camera, this could happen a lot. What was happening was that some of the light from the flash was being reflected by the blocking object right into the flash sensor, which caused the flash to "squelch" before really lighting up the scene. I also had this problem twice while taking shots through a chain link fence. The lens was in the clear, but part of the fence was close enough to reflect light into the flash and squelch it.

   There may also be a "flash does not fire at all" problem, but I have not seen it myself.

Action shots with the 950.

Don't try to use the LCD for action shots (sports). (unless there is no choice, as with an add-on lens!) The image shown on the LCD is delayed by about 1/10 second (I estimate). Try it! Put your hand in front of the camera and wave it around. See the delay? This, and the normal shutter delay on the camera, can make you miss your shot. If you must use the LCD, say if you have a lens on that blocks the viewfinder, then you will have to try to anticipate. Be sure to do the half press to pre-focus your shot, to get the shortest possible shutter time. Although it seems that you should use the shutter priority mode to force a short shutter speed, you might actually get better shutter speed by setting high ISO and using aperture priority to force a large lens opening instead, which will result in a shorter shutter speed. This is because you can't set higher ISOs in shutter priority mode.

The other big trick in action shots is to keep the shutter speed up as fast as you can. You have several things to work with.  Boost the ISO a little. The noise is notable at ISO 320, but pretty good at ISO160. Use shutter priority mode if you are not boosting the ISO. At high ISO, where the shutter priority is not available, use aperture priority to select the largest aperture you can. Also consider zooming out a little, This gives a larger f stop, and more light so a little faster shutter speed and a little smaller subjects which can help. If you have the TC-E2, that lens gathers a lot of light, and can be used short of fully zoomed in to get faster shutter speeds.

A tripod is essential for good action shots with a telephoto lens. You can also try the "track the moving subject with the camera" trick to try to capture really fast moving subjects; this can give a nice "sense of speed" to your shots..

In summary... 1) Pre-focus for speed 2) keep the shutter speed up any way you can 3) use a tripod.

CAME can adjust LCD brightness for sunlight use

The CAME program can adjust the LCD brightness on the CP950. Only the older versions of the program before 0.9 work, the author no longer supports the Nikon products due to the extreme hassle that he has received from Nikon. You can read all about the story elsewhere, do a search on deja-news. If you have one of the older versions, you will find that the LCD is set to brightness 4. You might want to try some of the higher brighnesses, at your own risk. This just appears to adjust the contrast on the display, not turn the LCD brightness up, so it should be harmless. But this does result in more light getting through, and it does help in sunlight, I have mine set at "5", and it does help in sunlight. It is my opinion that this is harmless, but do it at your own risk. (I can't distribute the CAME software, so don't ask. I have heard that it is availiable on the web). Using CAME is probably not approved by Nikon. If you have a MAC, check out the PhotoPC program, I hear that is is great and the source code is availiable.


In low light, try a higher! f number to help focus.

This tip contributed by Josh Carter. Josh notes that in low light, when the camera can't get a focus lock, you can sometimes (depending on the light) use the aperture priority mode to force a smaller aperture, thereby taking advantage of the larger depth of field to get good focus. You will have a longer exposure, or have to use the flash, of course. That is how those "focus free" cameras work; tiny lens with large depth of field.


CP950 index page