I had a Nikon D90 earlier this year but never got around to writing my mini review for the camera when I had it, so here it is now!
The Nikon D90 is Nikon’s “Enthusiast” model which fits in between the D5000 high end entry level model and the Semi pro D300 and would be the equivalent to Canon’s XXD series. The D90 was also the first d/SLR to feature video. The Nikon D90 features a 12.3 megapixel 1.5x crop sensor, and ISO range from 100-6400.
The Nikon D90, like it’s predecessors has a plastic (polycarbonate) body with a metal chassis. The build quality was very good though! Probably the best plastic bodied camera I’ve owned, and very well built. Nikon covers most of the plastic up with rubber, so it doesn’t feel plasticky, and the camera feels very solid. The D90 is also light weight compared to a similar sized body made from metal such as the Canon EOS 50D or the Pentax K20D.
The buttons and switches are well layed out, and there are allot of external controls which means you don’t have to go into the menu system as much as the lower end Nikon bodies. You can also customise allot of the buttons and assign functions to suit your shooting style and personal preferences.
The Nikon D90 has a built in AF motor, which means that Nikon’s screw driven AF lenses will autofocus on the D90 unlike the lower end bodies which don’t feature a built in AF motor and will only autofocus with the Nikon AF-S lenses with the built in autofocus motor, or the 3rd party lenses which feature a lens based AF motor. The D90 will also work with the AF-S lenses too.
The D90 features a self cleaning sensor which is designed to reduce dust build up on the sensor (you might still get some dust build up though).
The built in flash can also be used as a flash trigger for the Nikon creative lighting system (CLS) so you can use compatible Nikon external flashes off the camera body.
The Nikon D90 features a pentaprism viewfinder which is bigger and brighter then the lower end Nikon bodies, and is the same type found on most mid – high end d/SLR’s. The Nikon D90’s viewfinder covers 96% of the frame. The viewfinder is a good size too, and looking through it doesn’t give you that “Tunnel vision” feel that you get with the lower end models and is similar the the viewfinder on a Canon 40D/50D.
There is allot of information displayed in the viewfinder which is great to see, and means you don’t need to look at one of the LCD screens as much when you need to look at camera settings.
The Nikon D90 features a 11 point autofocus system which covers a nice range across the viewfinder which makes composing off centre objects easier. Low light autofocus performance is good with very little hunting and the camera being able to lock focus quite easily. Unfortunately the D90 only has 1 cross type AF point (the centre AF point) compared to the Canon 40D/50D which offers all 9 of it’s AF points with the cross type points, but the D90 still performed well.
The tracking focus worked well too, the camera locked focus and performed well when shooting fast moving objects and did very well considering it doesn’t have the added advantage of having the cross type AF points.
There is also the option to use contrast detect autofocus when shooting in live view mode, but it’s very slow and Nikon recommends that you use a tripod when shooting in this mode. I tried it once, but it was much to slow to be of any use.
Shutter and drive mode
The shutter on the D90 was not to loud which means you won’t be attracting to much attention every time you take a photo.
The Nikon D90 offers 3 drive modes which are, Single shot, Low speed continuous shooting (1-4 frames per second) and a high speed continuous shooting mode (4.5 frames per second). There is also a self timer mode.
The Mode Wheel
The D90 offers a similar mode wheel to most mid range d/SLR’s which offers the full range of manual settings, as well as a “Basic Zone” for beginners.
The Nikon D90 features the same high resolution 920,000 dot pixel LCD screen featured on the D300, D700, D3 and D3x models and is allot better then the low resolution 230,000 dot pixel screens on the D5000 and D3000. The screen is big, bright and clear, and is useful for reviewing photos, and is useful for manual focusing when shooting in live view mode.
The Nikon D90 also offers a top LCD screen which displays all your camera settings. Nikon also put in a custom function which allows you to keep the backlit LCD light to stay on permanently while the custom function is enabled, which makes working in the dark easier since you don’t need to keep pressing the top LCD light switch.
Nikon also offers all the camera information that is viewable on the top LCD screen on the back of the camera which is useful when shooting at night so you can easily see all your camera settings.
Nikon also provides a plastic LCD cover with the D90 to protect the rear LCD from scratches and smudges etc.
The Nikon D90 offers HD video recording, but it’s only in 720p and not full 1080p HD video which is currently only offered on Canon d/SLR’s. The video quality is still good and is great for shooting video clips while out taking photos.
There are allot of limitations though, you will need to manually focus your lenses (The contrast detect mode is erratic and very slow) Nikon doesn’t offer much in the way of manual controls either, and the only adjustments that can be made are just exposure compensation. There have been some rumours that Nikon is working on a firmware update which will give D90 users manual video controls, but I don’t think manual video controls will be offered until the D90 replacement.
The audio quality is ok, but the D90 only records in mono, and the built in microphone picks up allot of stray sound such as the lenses AF (If your trying to use contrast detect focusing) the sound of the VR motor (when using VR lenses) and the sound of your hands if your trying to manually focus the lens when shooting video. Nikon doesn’t offer a external microphone input port on the D90.
The Nikon D90 uses the same 12.3 megapixel sensor as the D300, and picture quality is about the same. The sensor offers nice colours and a good dynamic range and the ability to produce decent sized prints.
The D90 has a ISO range of 200-3200 and offers ISO 100 and ISO 6400 with ISO expansion. There is also a auto ISO mode which works well if you prefer the camera to choose the ISO settings for you.
The D90 performs well up to around ISO 3200 with a bit of noise reduction, and ISO 6400 is still usable for web or small prints with noise reduction applied.
Nikon D90 vs Nikon D300
The Nikon D90 offers allot of the features from the D300 in a more user friendly body and a more affordable package. The D90 would suit someone who is either just starting out, or moving up from a lower end d/SLR and doesn’t want or need all the features that the D300 offers.
The D300 has a better built body, being made of metal and offering some weather sealing. The D300 also has a 100% viewfinder and also offers 51 AF points vs the 11 points on the D90. The D300 also has a higher frame rate, and a bigger buffer which is useful for those that shoot allot of action in high speed drive mode.
Picture quality wise, the D90 is pretty much identical to the D300. The D90 offers video, the D300 doesn’t (But the new D300s does).
If you shoot allot of action, sports, birds etc, the D300 would be the better choice, if your just looking for a all round camera and don’t do allot of high speed photography then the D90 would be a great choice.
Nikon D90 vs Canon EOS 500D
I get asked this question allot!
The Nikon D90 is a higher end model over the Canon 500D. The Nikon D90 offers more features and customisation over the 500D, and also a better build quality and better viewfinder.
The 500D is smaller then the D90, and is also lighter, the 500D also offers 1080p Full HD video recording capabilities, but just like the D90, video recording capabilities are limited.
Picture quality from both cameras are good, The 500D offers ISO 12,800 which is one stop more then the D90. The 500D also offers 3 more mega pixels which is great if you want to make large prints, and also offers the ability to crop your photos down a bit more.
Both cameras are great and I would recommend that you look into the lenses and accessories that are offered from Canon and Nikon and look at what type of photography you do, and what you might expect to do in the future to determine which camera system you want to invest into.
Nikon D90 vs Canon EOS 50D
The D90 competes well up against the 50D, offering similar features at a cheaper price then the 50D.
The Nikon D90 offers better picture quality, especially at ISO’s above ISO 800 where the 50D gets noisy. The D90 offers more customisation then the 50D and also has Video recording capabilities which the 50D lacks.
The 50D has a slightly better build quality being made of metal vs the plastic body on the D90. The 50D also has some “Weather sealing” but it’s nothing more then a couple foam strips around the memory card and battery doors.
The 50D uses compact flash cards (CF), the D90 uses Secure digital cards (SD). Some prefer one or the other, if your upgrading from a compact camera you might already have invested in SD cards which you could use on the D90, but would mean you would have to invest in some CF cards if you choose the 50D and don’t already have some.
Which would I choose?
I would choose the D90 over the 50D. The D90 was a much nicer camera to use, the picture quality was much better then the 50D, and it’s cheaper then the 50D! If you want a Canon get the 500D instead.
But as I said when comparing the D90 with the 500D, I would recommend you look into both camera systems before making your final decision.
The Nikon D90 is a very good value camera and offers enough features to keep most photographers busy. Picture quality is good, the build quality is also very good, and the amount of features offered should be enough for most casual shooters and is definitely worth adding to the list for those looking at buying their first d/SLR, or upgrading from one of the lower end Nikon d/SLR’s.