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You are hereHome > Best Digital Cameras > Nikon D90 DSLR

Nikon Digital Cameras

   

Nikon D90 DSLR Review

Review Date: Mar 16, 2009

Category: Serious to Advanced Amateur

Nikon D90

Photoxels Editor's Choice Award - Serious Enthusiast DSLR
Photoxels Editor's Choice Award - Serious Enthusiast DSLR

HANDLING & FEEL

The Nikon D90 DSLR replaces the popular D80 and remains the ideal DSLR for the serious enthusiast photographer. With a body size that is not as large and heavy as the Nikon D300, the D90 is perfect in size, weight and handling the moment you pick it up in your hands. The body is rugged high impact plastic draped over a solid metal chassis, with the unmistakable feel of quality that permeates all Nikon digital SLRs. The large and deep grip is rubber coated and allows you to hold the camera with all fingers solidly on the grip.

The lens mount system used in the Nikon D90 is the Nikon "F" mount (with AF coupling and AF contacts) which means that almost the complete range of Nikkor F lenses can be used. Due to the APS sized image sensor, there is a 1.5x field of view (FOV) crop. The 18-105mm optically image stabilized kit lens therefore translates to a 27-157.5mm (5.8x optical zoom) equivalent field of view, providing a useful wide-angle as well as medium telephoto focal lengths.

The Nikon D90 uses the Secure Digital (SD & SDHC) Card.

Here's how the top DSLRs measure up against one another as far as dimensions are concerned, without lens attached and without battery and card:

Camera W
(mm)
H
(mm)
D
(mm)
Weight
(g)
Sony A-900 156.3 116.9 81.9 850
Canon 5D Mark II 152 113.5 75 810
Nikon D300 147 113 74 825
Canon 50D 145.5 107.8 73.5 730
Pentax K20D 141.5 101 70 715
Nikon D90 132 103 77 620
Nikon D80 132 103 77 585
Sony A-350 130.8 98.5 74.7 582
Pentax K200D 133.5 95 74 630
Canon XSi/450D 128.8 97.5 61.9 475
Olympus E-620 130 94 60 475
Nikon D60 126 94 64 495
Panasonic G1 124 83.6 45.2 385

The D90 is the same size as the D80 it replaces but about 45g heavier.

The AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-105mm (5.8x) f/3.5-5.6G ED VR Lens has dimensions of 76mm x 89mm long (3.0 in. x 3.5 in.) and adds in a further 420g (14.8 oz.). Filter/Attachment Size is 67mm. Minimum Focus Distance is 0.45m (1.48 ft).

STYLE
- Colors: black body with white and silver letterings, and chrome accents; kit lens has silver and gold letterings, and chrome accents
- Looks: very professional
   
FEEL
- Ergonomic and high quality
- Controls & menu are precise and easy to use
   
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
- Nice heft
- Dimensions: 132 x 103 x 77mm (5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in.)
- Weight: approx. 620g (1lb. 6oz.) without battery, memory card, body cap, or monitor cover
- Takes 1 rechargeable Li-ion battery EN-EL3e 7.4V 1500mAh, giving up to 850 images per battery charge (CIPA)
   

SPEED OF OPERATION

(using SHQ)

- Startup is quasi instant
- Shot to shot time in good lighting is as fast as you can press the shutter. In low light, camera will not fire until focus is achieved first.
-

Burst High: approx. 4.3fps for 100 frames (100 frames in 23 sec.)

I used a 4GB SanDisk Extreme III (30 MB/s) SDHC Card and the camera was set to full Manual mode.

- No practical shutter lag
- Overall, superb performance
   

Included in the box is a rechargeable Li-ion battery EN-EL3e and a Battery Charger MH-18a (with power cord) that will recharge a new battery in about 2.15 hrs. An optional MB-D80 Multi-Power Battery Pack uses two EN-EL3e or six AA-sized alkaline, lithium or nickel-manganese batteries (optional Battery Holder MS-D200 required).

Nikon D90 Top View (without lens)

The control buttons on top of the camera are placed in a clean layout. The D90 has a nice handgrip and your index finger falls naturally on the shutter-release button. The Power Switch is around the Shutter-release button with 3 settings: OFF, ON and backlighting for the information LCD. Behind it are the Metering and Exposure Compensation buttons. To the right of the LCD Control panel are the Drive and AF mode buttons. The Mode Dial (on the left side) allows you to select AUTO, Auto Flash OFF, PSAM, as well as 5 Scene Modes (Portrait, Landscape, Close up, Sports, Night Portrait).

As you'll notice, the viewfinder is quite close to the camera body. Pressing your eye to the viewfinder squishes your nose against the LCD, which pretty much results in what I term the "oily nose syndrome" -- an LCD smeared with oil at the upper left corner. Fortunately, the D90 comes standard with a clear plastic monitor cover to protect the LCD when the camera is not in use -- and which I guess most people would probably leave in place even when they are taking pictures. It would have been good if the viewfinder extruded out from the camera body just a bit more.

The large rectangle is the LCD Control panel that displays the important exposure settings.

Just in front of -- and a little under -- the shutter-release button is the Sub-command dial. This Sub-command dial is operated with your index finger.

You can lock the mirror up but it's only for sensor cleaning purposes (MENU - SETUP - Lock mirror up for cleaning). You cannot lock the mirror in the up position for picture taking (for long exposures and to minimize camera shake).

Nikon D90 Back View

The D90 has a large 3.0-in. very high resolution LCD monitor with wide-angle viewing and the 920K dots are put to the best use with beautifully legible text and graphics. There is Live View using Contrast-detect AF (Face priority AF, wide area AF, normal area AF). The viewfinder is bright and large with approx. 96% frame coverage and 0.94x magnification. Phase detection AF uses 11 focus points and is lighting fast: half-press the Shutter-release button and your subject snaps into focus. Contrast-detect AF, as expected, is slower and can take up to about 3 sec. to lock focus especially in low light conditions. I have had no problem getting a positive focus lock using Contrast-detect AF even in low light.

There are many control buttons on the D90 so there is not much need to resort to the Menu. Falling under your thumb is the Main command dial.

You use the Main command dial and Sub-command dial to quickly set your exposure values.

In Manual mode, the Main command dial and Sub-command dial allow you to control the shutter speed and aperture, respectively (you can switch this in Custom Setting Menu - f Controls - f5 Customize command dials - Change main/sub - On).

In Shutter-Priority mode, use the Main command dial to change shutter speed.

In Aperture-priority mode, use the Sub-command dial to change aperture.

In Programmed Auto [P] mode, rotating the Main command dial switches you into Flexible Program [P*] mode (i.e. Program Shift) and allows you to select different combinations of shutter speed and aperture while keeping the same exposure.

If you select Easy Exposure Compensation (Custom Setting Menu - b Metering/exposure - b2 Easy exposure compensation - On), you do not need to press the [+/-] button down and rotate Main command dial to dial in an Exposure Compensation. In P and S modes, simply rotate the Sub-command dial; in A mode, rotate the Main Command dial. The "0" exposure compensation mark blinks continuously, which I find unnecessarily irritating. Neither the viewfinder nor the Control Panel displays the actual value dialed in but tiny bars display along a bar to give an indication of the value. In addition, the [+/-] graphic is also displayed to indicate an exposure compensation has been dialed in. You'll have to press the [+/-] button to see the actual value. Which kind of defeats the whole purpose of not having to press that button in the first place. Improvement suggestion is to display the actual exp. comp. value.

Note that even with Easy Exposure Compensation ON, you can still press the [+/-] button and rotate the Main command dial to set an exposure compensation.

In Phase detection AF mode, you can use the Multi selector (UP, DOWN, LEFT, RIGHT) to specify one of 11 AF areas you want the camera to focus on (as long as you've set the Focus Selector Lock to dot). In Contrast-detect AF mode, you can pretty much move the AF frame to anywhere on the screen.

There are 4 AF Area Modes to choose from: Single point, Dynamic area, Auto-area and 3D-tracking. The Framing grid and the focus brackets are fine black lines which blink red (an irritating color) when you half-press the Shutter-release button.

Nikon D90 Left View (with 18-135mm lens)

Underneath the camera, as expected, the metal tripod mount is located in line with the center of the lens and the imaging focal plane. You should be able to change the battery with the camera mounted on a tripod.

As you would expect, there are tons of customizable settings to choose from, more than we can reproduce here (unless we reproduce the whole manual).

SHOOTING MENU 1 of 2

- Set Picture Control
- Manage Picture Control
- Image quality
- Image size
- White balance
- ISO sensitivity settings
- Active D-Lighting
- Color space

SHOOTING MENU 2 of 2

- Long exposure NR
- High ISO NR
- Active folder
- Multiple exposure
- Movie settings

SET PICTURE CONTROL

- SD* Standard*
- NL* Neutral*
- VI* Vivid*
- MC Monochrome
- PT* Portrait*
- LS Landscape

MANAGE PICTURE CONTROL

- Save/edit
- Rename
- Delete
- Load/save

IMAGE QUALITY

- NEF (RAW) + JPEG fine
- NEF (RAW) + JPEG normal
- NEF (RAW) + JPEG basic
- NEF (RAW)
- JPEG fine
- JPEG normal
- JPEG basic

IMAGE SIZE

- Large (4288x2848; 12.2 M)
- Medium (3216x2136; 6.9 M)
- Small (2144x1424; 3.1M)

WHITE BALANCE 1 of 2

- Auto
- Incandescent
- Fluorescent
- Direct sunlight
- Flash
- Cloudy
- Shade
- Choose color temperature

WHITE BALANCE 2 of 2

- Preset manual

ISO SENSITIVITY SETTINGS

- ISO sensitivity
- ISO sensitivity auto control
- Maximum sensitivity
- Minimum shutter speed

ISO SENSITIVITY 1 of 3

- Auto
- Lo 1
- Lo 0.7
- Lo 0.3
- 200
- 250
- 320

ISO SENSITIVITY 2 of 3

- 400
- 500
- 640
- 800
- 1000
- 1250
- 1600

ISO SENSITIVITY 3 of 3

- 2000
- 2500
- 3200
- Hi 0.3
- Hi 0.7
- Hi 1

ISO SENSITIVITY AUTO CONTROL

- On
- Off

- Leave as Off if you want to control ISO

ISO - MAXIMUM SENSITIVITY

- 400
- 800
- 1600
- 3200
- Hi 1

ISO - MINIMUM SHUTTER SPEED 1 of 4

- 1/2000 s
- 1/1600 s
- 1/1250 s
- 1/1000 s
- 1/800 s
- 1/640 s
- 1/500 s

ISO - MINIMUM SHUTTER SPEED 2 of 4

- 1/400 s
- 1/320 s
- 1/250 s
- 1/200 s
- 1/160 s
- 1/125 s
- 1/100 s

ISO - MINIMUM SHUTTER SPEED 3 of 4

- 1/80 s
- 1/60 s
- 1/50 s
- 1/40 s
- 1/30 s
- 1/15 s
- 1/8 s

ISO - MINIMUM SHUTTER SPEED 4 of 4

 

ACTIVE D-LIGHTING

- Auto
- H* Extra high
- H High
_ N Normal
- L Low
- Off

COLOR SPACE

- sRGB
- Adobe RGB

HIGH ISO NR

- High
- Normal
- Low
- Off

ACTIVE FOLDER

- Select folder
- New
- Rename

MULTIPLE EXPOSURE 1 of 2

- Done
- Number of shots
- Auto gain

MULTIPLE EXPOSURE 2 of 2

- Number of shots

MOVIE SETTINGS

- Quality
- Sound

MOVIE SETTINGS - QUALITY

- 1280x720 (16:9)
- 640x424 (3:2)
- 320x216 (3:2)

 

CUSTOM SETTING MENU 1 of 7

- Reset custom settings
- a Autofocus
- b Metering/exposure
- c Timers/AE lock
- d Shooting/display
- e Bracketing/flash
- f Controls

CUSTOM SETTING MENU 2 of 7

- a1 AF-area mode
- a2 Center focus point
- a3 Built-in AF-assist illuminator
- a4 AF point illumination
- a5 Focus point illumination
- a6 AE-L/AF-L for MB-D80
- a7 Live view autofocus
- b1 EV steps for exposure control

CUSTOM SETTING MENU 3 of 7

- b2 Easy exposure compensation
- b3 Center-weighted area
- b4 Fine tune optimal exposure
- c1 Shutter-release button AE-L
- c2 Auto meter-off delay
- c3 Self-timer
- c4 Monitor off delay
- c5 Remote on duration

CUSTOM SETTING MENU 4 of 7

- d1 Beep
- d2 Viewfinder grid display
- d3 ISO display and adjustment
- d4 Viewfinder warning display
- d5 Screen tips
- d6 CL mode shootin speed
- d7 File number sequence
- d8 Shooting info display

CUSTOM SETTING MENU 5 of 7

- d9 LCD illumination
- d10 Exposure delay mode
- d11 Flash warning
- d12 MB-D80 battery type
- e1 Flash shutter speed
- e2 Self-timer
- e3 Modeling flash
- e4 Auto bracketing set

CUSTOM SETTING MENU 6 of 7

- e5 Auto FP
- e6 Bracketing order
- f1 Backlight switch
- f2 OK button (shooting mode)
- f3 Assign FUNC button
- f4 Assign AE-L/AF-L button
- f5 Customize command dials
- f6 No memory card?

CUSTOM SETTING MENU 7 of 7

- f7 Reverse indicators

d3 ISO DISPLAY AND ADJUSTMENT

- Show ISO sensitivity
- Show ISO/Easy ISO
- Show frame count

d6 CL MODE SHOOTING SPEED

- 4 fps
- 3 fps
- 2 fps
- 1 fps

d7 FILE NUMBER SEQUENCE

- On
- Off
- Reset

d8 SHOOTING INFO DISPLAY

- Auto
- Manual

d12 MB-D80 BATTERY TYPE

- LR6 (AA Alkaline)
- HR6 (AA Ni-MH)
- FR6 (AA lithium)
- ZR6 (AA Ni-Mn)

e1 FLASH SHUTTER SPEED 1 of 2

- 1/60 s
- 1/30 s
- 1/15 s
- 1/8 s
- 1/4 s
- 1/2 s
- 1 s
- 2 s

e1 FLASH SHUTTER SPEED 2 of 2

- 4 s
- 8 s
- 15 s
- 30 s

e2 FLASH CONTROL FOR BUILT-IN FLASH

- TTL
- Manual
- Repeating flash
- Commander mode

e4 AUTO BRACKETING SET

- AE & flash
- AE only
- Flash only
- WB bracketing
- ADL bracketing

e6 BRACKETING ORDER

- MTR > under > over
- Under > MTR > over

f1 BACKLIGHT SWITCH

- LCD backlight
- Both

f2 OK BUTTON (SHOOTING MODE)

- Select center focus point
- Highlight active focus point
- Not used

f3 ASSIGN FUNCTION BUTTON 1 of 2

- Framing grid
- AF-area mode
- Center focus point
- FV lock
- Flash off
- Matrix metering
- Center-weighted metering
- Spot metering

f3 ASSIGN FUNCTION BUTTON 2 of 2

- Access top item in MY MENU
- + NEF (RAW)

f4 ASSIGN AE-L/AF-L BUTTON

- AE/AF lock
- AE lock only
- AF lock only
- AE lock (hold)
- AF-ON
- FV lock

f5 CUSTOMIZE COMMAND DIALS

- Reverse rotation
- Change main/sub
- Menus and playback

f6 NO MEMORY CARD?

- Release locked
- Enable release

f7 REVERSE INDICATORS

- +EV 0EV -EV
- -EV 0EV +EV

 

SETUP MENU 1 of 2

- Format memory card
- LCD brightness
- Clean image sensor
- Lock mirror up for cleaning
- Video mode
- HDMI
- World time
- Language

SETUP MENU 2 of 2

- Image comment
- Auto image rotation
- Image Dust Off reference photo
- Battery info
- GPS
- Firmware version

LCD BRIGHTNESS

- -3 to +3

CLEAN IMAGE SENSOR

- Clean now
- Clean at startup/shutdown

LOCK MIRROR UP FOR CLEANING 1 of 2

- Start

LOCK MIRROR UP FOR CLEANING 2 of 2

- When sutter button is pressed, the mirror lifts and shutter opens. To lower mirror, turn camera off.

VIDEO MODE

- NTSC
- PAL

HDMI

- Auto
- 480p (progressive)
- 576p (progressive)
- 720p (progressive)
- 1080i (interlaced)

WORLD TIME

- Time zone
- Date and time
- Date format
- Daylight saving time

TIME ZONE

 

DATE AND TIME

 

DATE FORMAT

- Y/M/D
- M/D/Y
- D/M/Y

LANGUAGE 1 of 3

 

LANGUAGE 2 of 3

 

LANGUAGE 3 of 3

 

IMAGE DUST OFF REFERENCE PHOTO

- Start
- Clean sensor and then start

BATTERY INFO

- Battery meter
- Picture meter
- Battery age

GPS

- Auto meter off
- Position

FIRMWARE VERSION

 

 

PLAYBACK MENU 1 of 2

- Delete
- Playback folder
- Hide image
- Display mode
- Image review
- Rotate all
- Pictmotion
- Slide show

PLAYBACK MENU 2 of 2

- Print set (DPOF)

DELETE

- Selected
- Select date
- All

DETAILED PHOTO INFO

- Done
- Highlights
- RGB histogram
- Data

DISPLAY MODE - HELP SCREEN EXAMPLE 1 of 2

 

DISPLAY MODE - HELP SCREEN EXAMPLE 2 of 2

 

PICTMOTION

- Start
- Select pictures
- Background music
- Effects

SLIDE SHOW

- Start
- Frame interval

 

RETOUCH MENU 1 of 2

- D-Lighting
- Red-eye correction
- Trim
- Monochrome
- Filter effects
- Color balance
- Small picture
- Image overlay

RETOUCH MENU 2 of 2

- NEF (RAW) processing
- Quick retouch
- Straighten
- Distortion control
- Fisheye

D-LIGHTING

 

FILTER EFFECTS

- Skylight
- Warm filter
- Red intensifier
- Green intensifier
- Blue intensifier
- Cross screen

COLOR BALANCE

 

SMALL PICTURE

- Select image
- Choose size

SMALL PICTURE - CHOOSE SIZE

- 640x480
- 320x240
- 160x120

The Nikon D90 is definitely the camera you want to "move up" to if you are using a family DSLR with some "missing" features. I really like the exceptional ergonomics of the Nikon D90 as well as the extensive features provided. A thorough read of the D90 User Manual is necessary to make the most of all the features on this versatile camera.

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