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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix P90 Review


Nikon P90 Review

Review Date: Apr 13, 2009

Category: Beginner Amateur

Nikon Coolpix P90


The Nikon Coolpix P90 is a handsomely designed ultra zoom digital camera that looks very professional in its black body with white letterings and chrome accents. The body is solid plastic and feels very well-built. A deep handgrip has a rubberized coating and provides excellent handling.

Startup time is fast at about 1.5 sec., shot to shot times about 2.5 sec. (4 shots in 10 sec.), and there is no practical shutter lag in good lighting. Autofocus is fast and precise in good lighting, even at long focal lengths (with usual slight AF lag). In low-light, AF is about 1 sec. and success locking AF depends a lot on how contrasty your subject is.

At 12M Fine, you'll be able to save about 8 images in Internal memory and 170 images on a 1GB SD Memory Card. Shooting video 640x480 @ 30fps, you can record about 43s in Internal memory and up to 14m55s on a 1GB SD card. I recommend you use a 2GB SD Memory Card or a higher capacity one, depending on how many pictures and videos you usually take in one outing.

- Colors: black with white letterings and chrome accents.
- Looks: DSLR-type, very handsome design
- Good comfortable handgrip
- Controls are well positioned and spaced, easy to use
- Medium Compact: carry using shoulder/neck strap
- Dimensions: 114 x 83 x 99 mm /
4.5 x 3.3 x 3.9 in.
- Weight: 460 g (16.2 oz) without battery and SD Memory Card
- Takes 1 rechargeable Li-ion battery EN-EL5 3.7V 1100mAh (about 200 shots/charge)
- Startup with lens extending about 2.5 cm (0.8 in.) and LCD turning on and ready in about 1.5 sec.
- Shot to shot time 2.5 sec.
- No practical shutter lag in good lighting
- AF is fast and precise in good lighting, can hunt and miss in low light. At long focal lengths, there is the usual slight AF lag but it locks positively.

Included in the box is a rechargeable Li-ion battery that can take about 200 shots with LCD on (CIPA standard) on a fresh charge and a Battery Charger MH-61 that will recharge a depleted battery in approx. 120 min. The Battery Charger is of the type that plugs directly into a wall electrical socket.

Nikon Coolpix P90 Flash Up

The flash is powerful and can reach up to 8 m (26 ft) on ISO Auto. You need to manually pop it up before it can be used -- the type I prefer. When closed, you won't be surprised by the flash suddenly popping up and firing when you don't want it to. Press a small button and it pops up; you can then use the UP ARROW to select 5 flash options: Auto, Auto Red-eye reduction, Off, Fill Flash, Slow Sync and Slow-Curtain Sync. To turn the flash off, simply close it. There is no hot shoe for the attachment of an external flash.

Nikon Coolpix P90 Top View

The camera rests naturally in the palm of your left hand, with the fingers of that hand wrapped securely around the lens barrel which juts out from the body at about 56 mm (2.2 in.). When the camera is turned ON, the lens extends an extra 16 mm (0.6 in.) at Wide-angle and 60 mm (2.4 in.) at full Tele.

Under the lens barrel is a small "leg" to add further stability to the camera when it is placed on a flat surface. It's small details like this that gives you confidence that some careful thought went into the design of the camera.

The top of the camera has the Shutter Release Button with the Zoom Lever around the collar, the Power ON/OFF button, and the Mode Dial with AUTO, PASM modes, 2 User Settings (U1 and U2), Movie, Scene Auto Selector, Scene Modes, and Sport Continuous (with Pre-Shooting Cache that will start shooting as soon as the shutter release button is half-pressed and can save up to 10 frames before the shutter release button is fully pressed).

The Flash Pop-Up button is on the left side of the flash.

The camera comes standard with a lens cap and retaining string (so you don't lose the cap). The lens / lens barrel is not threaded. Because the lens cap has a spring-loaded clip that keeps it securely in place, it won't come out when the lens tries to extend. There is a safety feature where if you leave the lens cap on when you power up the camera, the lens extends, bumps into the lens cap, tries a couple of times, then displays a warning message on the LCD monitor.

It only takes a quick 2 sec. to zoom all the way from wide-angle to 24x telephoto. If you use a soft touch to the zoom lever, you can slow down the zooming time to about 4 sec. I counted about 17 intermediate steps; that's not a lot and it can be challenging to stop right where you want to.

You can use your thumb to rotate the Mode Dial. It clicks solidly in place and I've not had any problem where the setting on the Mode Dial is inadvertently changed.

Nikon P90 Vari-angle LCD
Mouseover image to see Vari-angle LCD in action

The LCD is extra large at 3.0 inch with 230K dots resolution. It is a Vari-angle design, which means that it can be conveniently pulled out and tilted 90 degrees upward and 45 degrees downward for easy viewing when taking pictures low to the ground or with the camera held above your head. I personally prefer this design to the one where the LCD swivels at all angles. I rarely use all those extra angles and much prefer to keep the line of sight straight from the LCD through the lens.

The electronic viewfinder is also 230K dots and there is a Diopter adjustment control on the left side. You press the Monitor button to switch between the viewfinder and LCD display. You can display a Framing Grid for easier composition. There is no Live Histogram, but you can view a Histogram in Playback.

There is a Command Dial that allows fast and convenient changing of shutter speed and aperture in the different shooting modes. Press and hold the Playback button for about 2 sec. and you can go directly into Playback without having to turn on the camera (and without having to extend the lens, remove the lens cap and waste precious battery).

There is a Cable Connector is on the right side of the camera (viewed from the back) with a hinged rubber cover that opens and conveniently rotates out of the way.

Press the DOWN ARROW on the Multi-Selector to invoke Macro. In fact, you get a choice of AF, Macro, Infinity and MF. Macro requires that you zoom in a little to enter the macro (10 cm / 4.0 in.) or super macro (1 cm / 0.4 in.) zone. Infinity allows you to shoot distant scenes through foreground objects such as windows. (Usually a camera's AF tends to focus on the foreground object, e.g. the window glass or wire screen, resulting in the distant scene being out of focus).

In MF mode, the central portion of the screen is enlarged (when you press OK) and you use the UP ARROW and DOWN ARROW to focus.

The Macro, Infinity and MF setting stays selected even when you turn the camera off and on again.

The Sensor-shift image stabilization is selected from the Menu (Shooting Menu - Set up - Vibration reduction - ON/OFF). Image stabilization is mechanical for stills and electronic for video.

FUNCTIONS ACCESSIBLE BY CONTROL BUTTONS (clockwise starting from the Flash Open button)
- The pop-up flash is manually opened and will not automatically pop up when needed. Advanced photographers will welcome this implementation; beginners must remember to lift up the flash if they want to use it.
- Viewfinder Diopter Adjustment Control on the left side of the EVF. The viewfinder itself juts out so it's easier to view (without squashing your nose too much against the LCD). The Diopter Adjustment Control works quite well.
- EVF/LCD button toggles between the EVF and LCD monitor.
- DISPLAY button. Press repeatedly to cycle thru Info, No Info, Info + Framing Grid..

Multi-selector. UP ARROW (Flash), RIGHT ARROW (Exposure Compensation), DOWN ARROW (Macro), LEFT ARROW (Self-timer).

OK button in the middle to select a choice.

- DELETE button deletes one image at a time. If you are in Shooting mode, press DELETE button to immediately go into Playback with last picture selected for deletion.
- MENU button calls up Menu/Setup.
- Exposure compensation is accessed with the RIGHT ARROW
- Once set, the Exposure Compensation Indicator conveniently stays displayed on screen until it is reset to "0"
- Range: -2 EV to +2 EV (13 steps in 1/3 EV increments)
- The screen brightness will increase or decrease to reflect the value you use
- Note: the exposure compensation value selected is retained even when the camera is turned off (so remember to reset to "0" after using it or the next time you turn the camera on, your shots may be over- or under-exposed.)
- Auto Bracket is selected in the Menu (Shooting Menu - Auto bracketing).
- PASM: 8 - 1/2,000 sec.

At the bottom of the camera, the tripod mount thread is metal and more or less smack in the middle of the body though not inline with the lens. There is a nice Battery/Memory Card door and the battery has a latch to keep it from accidentally falling. You won't be able to change battery or card when the camera is on a tripod. The Coolpix P90 uses the Secure Digital (SD/SDHC) memory card.

The Nikon Coolpix P90 is handsomely and solidly built for comfortable handling. Controls are well implemented for ease of operation. There are lots of practical features under the hood for the beginner photographer.

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