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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Nikon Coolpix P90


Nikon Coolpix P90 Review

Review Date: Apr 13, 2009

Category: Beginner Amateur

Nikon Coolpix P90


Wednesday, March 25, 2009 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • Coolpix P90
  • No Memory Card included, but 47MB of internal memory [Nikon sent me a SanDisk 1GB SD memory card for the review]
  • Neck Strap
  • Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL5 3.7V 1100mAh (with end cap)
  • Battery Charger MH-61 with power cord
  • Interface Cables: A/V; USB
  • English and French Manuals: Quick Start Guide; User's Manual
  • Software CDs: Nikon Software Suite (ArcSoft Panorama Maker 4, Nikon Transfer v1.3)

The Nikon Coolpix P90 has all the features beginnner photographers may be looking for in an ultra zoom. It is easy to use, produces good image quality at the low ISOs, has full exposure flexibility to permit learning, an incredible 24x wide-angle optical zoom and a Vari-angle LCD that makes it very convenient when shooting low to the ground or when using a tripod.

On paper, the features of the P90 are great. But there are tradeoffs.

The P90 is fine for casual shooting but serious amateur photographers will find that the image quality may not be quite up to their [often] exacting standards and the camera can do with further improvements in reducing purple fringing and controlling noise, even at the low ISOs.

When I first got the camera, I noticed that colors tended towards the yellow and I was simply not sure whether it was the Auto WB that was not calibrated properly on my test camera -- or if it was the fault of the crummy weather we've been having here in Toronto. Well, now that the weather has improved, I can say that AWB works well under sunny conditions but not as well under cloudy conditions.

I do some experimenting and set Optimize Image to Vivid -- et voilà: vibrant colors and sharpened images right out of the camera! (In the Nikon P90 Photo Gallery, the last 10 pictures were taken with Optimize Image = Vivid.)

Other areas that advanced photographers may object to: there is too much CA in everyday shots; there is no option to shoot in RAW; there is no Live Histogram.

Another area where the P90 can improve on is AF performance. AF is fast and precise in good lighting, but requires very contrasty subjects in low light situations. Using the same subject, at the same distance from the camera, using the same settings, at the same focal length, and under the same low light conditions, on a tripod, one moment AF snaps into focus and the next, it simply refuses to lock. I had a terrible time taking the low light ISO sample shots. If I use a pale background, the subject snaps into focus; when I substitute a black background, locking focus is a hit and miss proposition. Granted, we are here talking about a low contrast subject, but my point is: if a cheap P&S digital camera can consistently lock focus in the same situation [I had another ultra zoom and a P&S I was testing at the same time, and they both had no problem locking focus consistently on the same subject against the black background], so should the P90 be able to.

Macro (and Super macro) requires zooming into the appropriate zones. I find this a little more complicated than necessary and recommend that you read it up in the User's Manual for a better explanation.

My experience with Infinity (whether shooting through a window or simply a landscape) is that it does not work as expected: instead of simply setting the lens at the hyper-focal distance for a particular focal length, the camera attempts to auto focus and I get blurred images of the subjects at infinity.

Even though the LCD sports 230K dots, it is surprisingly grainy (shimmering colored dots) probably due to a low refresh rate and it is difficult to judge the sharpness of a picture. Forget about using Manual Focus. I am looking at another ultra zoom with the same LCD specifications and the difference is like night and day.

Nikon Transfer
Nikon Transfer

Use Nikon Transfer to transfer your pictures from the P90 to your PC. Use ViewNX (it is not included on the disk but it is downloaded online) to view your pictures. You can rotate, tag, add info and show the focus point(s). To edit your picture, you will need to purchase the optional Capture NX.

The User's Manual is very well written and illustrated. It even includes a pretty complete Index that makes finding a particular feature extremely quick and easy.

The Nikon Coolpix P90 strikes a good balance between ease of use and richness of features: it is point-and-shoot easy to use and also packed-full of practical features the beginner amateur photographers will want to have as they learn about digital photography.

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