Nikon D90 Review


Yeah, yeah I know… it’s what you’ve all been waiting for.  My full review of the Nikon D90.  The world’s first digital SLR camera body that is capable of capturing 720p HD video.  In my review I’m going to give you all of my likes and dislikes rather than all the features you can read about on Nikon’s website.  Besides, this is the information that I, as a photographer, would want to know.

What I Like:
The D90 is a REALLY great camera and for so many reasons.  It gives the user the ability to shoot both high-quality stills as well as HD video at 24 fps.  Now, on to the good stuff.

  • Image quality.  The image quality that you get from the D90 is astounding.  This comes from the 12.3 MP DX sensor that’s in the D300.  Combine that with the EXPEED image processing and you have one heck of a camera.  The colors come out very true and saturated, but not over the top.  My images are clear, crisp, and have very little noise.  The D90 is better at handling noise than the D300 too.  At higher ISOs the D90 does an outstanding job of preserving the details of the image all the while keeping noise down.
  • Ergonomics.  The D90 is a little smaller and lighter than the D300, which makes it very convenient to carry around.  Since it’s a motor-driven camera, it’s not as small as the D40 or D60 but it’s still not a burden to bring with me.  It’s frame is not going to be as rugged as the D300, but it by no means feels fragile.  The menus are a joy to browse.  Everything seems to be organized and arranged in a logical manner.  It also features a Recent Settings menu to re-visit settings that you frequently use.  The multi-function button on the back of the camera was probably derived from the D40.  It’s the same, with the ok button right in the middle.  D40/D60 users will love this because they are used to it.  It’s very convenient to have the ‘Ok’ button right there too.  You don’t need to use your left hand to do anything on this camera while going through the menus.  The D300 has a mushy multi-function control on the back which is smaller and a little less user-friendly.  With the optional MB-D80 battery grip, you get more stability out of the camera body and it really becomes a joy to shoot in portrait orientation.  If you plan on doing a lot of portrait work with this camera, I highly recommend that battery grip.
  • Fairly fast continuous shooting.  At 4.5 fps, the D90 can keep up with most anything that you can.  I got this shot while shooting at 3 fps on my D40.  The extra 1.5 fps will certainly be nice while shooting sports or any other type of action.
  • Fast, accurate autofocus.  The 11-point autofocus is great.  I mainly use the center point and then recompose, so I’m not really sure that 51 points would help me all that much.  The Face Recognition System works VERY well and is right on.  It can even track up to 3 faces in one frame.  Pretty good, eh?
  • Active D-Lighting.  Wow, what a feature.  With Active D-Lighting I get better control over lighting in my high-contrast shots without having to do more work in post.  It automatically brings up your shadows and brings down your highlights.  You used to only be able to do this in the camera after you took the shot, like on my D40.  Now it does it for me.  Thanks Nikon!
  • Bye bye bad 420-pixel meter!  It seems that the horrible meter that plagued the D40/X, D60, and D80 is a thing of the past.  It’s still a 420-pixel meter, but I don’t have the same overexposure problem that I have with my D40.
  • VIDEO!  I love the fact that I can shoot HD video with my DSLR and I don’t have to go out and spend a TON of money just to shoot some short clips.  I will probably only use it to shoot tutorials and videos of my kids, but none the less it’s an amazing capability to have.  For you wedding photographers or photojournalists, this convergence could be big.  You have to manual focus and use LiveView while shooting video but I really don’t mind.  Manual focus gives me great control and forces me to pay closer attention.  I don’t mind the slight inconvenience.

What I Don’t Like:
There isn’t much about the D90 that turns me off, but there’s a couple things.

  • 1/200th Flash Sync speed.  I really dislike that I can’t go up to 1/250th on the Flash Sync.  However, I can still flash sync at 1/500th on my D40 and thanks to David Ziser I now know how to cheat my flash sync limits anyway!  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here.
  • Viewfinder coverage.  You only get to see 96% of the frame that you’re shooting.  I think Nikon could go ahead and give us that feature in the D90.  To see 100%, you have to go with the D300 or the D3.

Keep in mind that none of the above are deal breakers for me.  They are just my little gripes and complaints but they didn’t mean very much when I was deciding which new body I was going to buy.  I really didn’t even think about them that much.  But, an honest review wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t tell you how I felt.

The D90 is the best DSLR that Nikon has made to date.  The convergence of stills and video is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what’s to come.  Great images, great video, and ease of use made it easy to call the D90 my new primary body.  For the price, the D90 simply cannot be beat.


3 thoughts on “Nikon D90 Review

  1. Well, you’ve convinced me! This was a very helpful review.

    Just curious why you rate the D90 better than the D700. Is it the price thing?

    The main reasons I’m considering an upgrade from my beloved D40x are low-light shooting performance, the over-exposure issue, lack of commander mode for Nikon CLS and the limitation with auto focus. I am not one of those people who can do manual focus, unless I’m shooting still life and I have plenty of time to get the focus right.

    Thanks for the review and all the helpful info you provide on your blog!

  2. Marci,

    You are correct. The reason I said that the D90 is the best DSLR that Nikon has made to date is the price point. It’s really hard to spend $3,000.00 on a camera body when you aren’t making a full-time living with it.

    The D700 and D3 will give you better images because of the full-frame FX format sensor as opposed to the DX format sensor in the D90. But if you look at images taken in daylight by the D3 and D90 side by side, you’ll see that the quality is so close to being the same that it’s scary.

    The D3 and D700 will perform better in low light than the D90, but the D90 wins over the D300 in low light performance. The D90 does a much better job of preserving detail in images at higher ISOs. (If you’re a D300 owner I don’t mean to pour salt, but the D90 is a year newer so I would expect there to be some improvements.)

    Hopefully that answers your question. The reasons you listed above are the same reasons that most D40/X/D60 shooters are moving up to the D90.

    Thanks for the compliment and I’m glad that I can help!


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