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May 2001:

Nikon CoolPix 880

Nikon has been making good digital cameras for a few years now. Wayne's been using a 990 for some years, with some great results, and had a few of these cameras for conferences.

So while I liked the quality of their cameras, they were just too darn big. Like carrying around a VHS tape. So when I saw the CoolPix 880, it looked ideal: small size, image quality, flexible media (Compact Flash Cards).

880 straight on In May 2001, I bought one at B&H Photo in New York, for around $550. I threw down for the rechargable battery and a carrying case and a 64 mb flash card (holds 81 24-bit 2048x1536 images. Whew!)

It was immediately great. My Thinkpad X21 has a slot that accepts the Compact Flash cards directly, so I could take pictures and immediately suck down the jpegs from my laptop - a superior road-based digital photography media production process.

What needs improvement:

If you see something great, you 'd better hope it'll be there in ten seconds, because that's how long it'll take the camera to power up, and the lens to unwind and everything to be ready for picture taking.
Form Factor
As small as the camera is, it would be nice if it was thinner. It's a bit thick, hanging off my belt in the carrying case - an inch or two thinner and I'd be more likely to take it out with me into the dark night.
The lens winding and unwinding, the auto-focusing - it's a bit loud. This isn't much of a bother unless you're in the Whitney Art Museum and the guards suspect you're trying to liberate images.
Battery Life
You can be sure to have a working battery on you at all times, if you remember to slot your rechargable in your recharger every other night on the road. If you're a heavy user, you might have to keep two rechargable batteries in rotation. This isn't a big deal, if you don't mind carrying a recharger with you and finding a place to plug it in. In other words, this camera might be difficult to manage in a place like Honduras, but then most electricity-sucking digital technology is difficult in places like that.
Some links:

Nikon CoolPix 880 Product Page

It was gratifying, a few days after I bought it I saw an article on CNN proclaiming this the best of 10 recent digital cameras. Still I suspect, with the rate of change in this industry, this won't be the best for very long. Still I expect the flexibility and power to serve me for some years, probably as long as I expect to use this laptop - they're quite a duo.

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