Nikon did an incredible thing when they put the same Expeed image processing technology into the D90. It’s the same technology that makes the D3 and D700 cameras the leader in high ISO performance. The D90 shoots very usable images up to ISO 3200, with a max ISO of 6400.
With tough economic times in front of us, it’s hard for most of us to spend money on gear unless we are making a living with it. Everyone is chasing fast glass with constant f2.8 or lower apertures. While there’s nothing wrong with that, if you’re shooting a D90 you may not need it for most situations. If you’re shooting dance, sports, or other subjects where you need to be able to stop motion with shutter speed then you will need those really fast lenses.
I shot the image above this weekend at my daughter’s birthday party with her friends. I wanted to get the candlelight on her face so I shut off the flash and cranked the ISO up. I shot this in Manual mode, f5.6, 1/40th, ISO 1600 with a Nikon 16-85mm VR lens.
I didn’t apply any noise reduction to this shot in post because I wanted you to see exactly how well the D90 performs at high ISOs. In print, you probably won’t notice the noise unless you were going to blow it up to 24×36 and even then it wouldn’t be all that bad. If you view the image digitally at 100% you will see the noise, but it gives a nice grainy feel just like film. I kind of like it actually.
So if you’re shooting one of these new cameras from Nikon like the D90, D300, D700, or D3/D3x you probably don’t need that super fast glass to get you by. (If you’ve got a D700 or D3/D3x then money probably isn’t an issue.) If you shoot Canon, you’re simply out of luck because Canon’s technology isn’t close to where Nikon’s is at when it comes to high ISO performance.