This digital camera consists of two parts, the screen and controls unit and the lens unit. The control unit has a handgrip for holding the camera. The shutter button, two function keys, a setting dial and a small digital display are located on its top face. The lens unit is connected to the control unit with a swivel hinge. It consists of the lens, the viewfinder, a light sensor and a small built-in flash.

Nikon Coolpix 990 digital camera, 2001

Object of the month February 2021

This digital camera consists of two parts, the screen and controls unit and the lens unit. The control unit has a handgrip for holding the camera. The shutter button, two function keys, a setting dial and a small digital display are located on its top face. The lens unit is connected to the control unit with a swivel hinge. It consists of the lens, the viewfinder, a light sensor and a small built-in flash.
In 2001 the Nikon Coolpix cost just under 1,200 euros. The 3-megapixel camera came with a case, a charger and a separate 64-megabyte memory card with a reader for connecting it to a computer.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

"Buying a digital camera for internal museum work makes sense for several reasons. Tasks that had previously been done with Polaroid or single lens reflex cameras can be accomplished more quickly and easily with a digital camera.“

The February 2001 purchase requisition for the Deutsches Technikmuseum's first digital camera was based on this simple explanation. Twenty years later the use of digital photography has become a daily activity everywhere. People now constantly use their smartphones to take pictures of their surroundings, other people and themselves as a way to capture their experiences and share them with others.

In the field of museum collections, photographs are mainly used to share information. They are providing a general impression of the shape, color and condition of an object. Photos are thus an important element when cataloging museum objects. The straightforward design of the Nikon Coolpix 990 made it the right camera at that time for making the basic documentary images necessary for that work. It was much easier to use than its analog predecessors, particularly when it came to processing object photos. They could be uploaded directly to a computer and recorded, along with any other information, in a database. This was a vast improvement in the museum's work process, which a few years earlier involved dealing with card index boxes and sheets of paper – oftentimes without a picture at all. The advent of digital cameras made the photographing of objects not only faster and easier but standard practice as well. 

Today the digital switchover is in full swing at the Deutsches Technikmuseum. There are more and more objects from early digital times among the objects in its collection. The 2001 Nikon Coolpix itself joined the museum collection after ten years of active service. It now serves to enrich the small but steadily growing object group of digital cameras.  It was photographed by one of its likewise digital successors.