Nikon D90

Nikon D90 Review

dp_spring09-d90_slup_front

by Tony Gomez

Published Spring ’09

A Big Improvement Over The D80

hen Nikon announced the D90 DX-format (non full frame) D-SLR a few months back, they trumpeted the fact that it was the first D-SLR capable of recording High Definition video (720P). Since then many other D-SLR manufacturers have also added this HD recording feature to their equipment (see my Digital Insider column for more information). But HD recording isn’t the only big improvement in the D90 from its predecessor, the D80, to make it a standout camera.

Improvements Over The D80

The D90 has a larger, 12-megapixel CMOS sensor (4288×2848), which is an improvement over the D80’s 10MP CCD sensor. And more resolution means better captured detail, especially when making large sized prints. You can also capture stills at two lower resolutions—7MP (3216×2136) and 3MP (2144×1424) if you are short on memory. The D90 also has a larger and brighter 3-inch LCD screen, up from 2.5-inches in the D80, as well as a faster Auto Focus system, a faster continuous shooting mode, Automatic Sensor cleaning, and the previously mentioned HD Video Capture—720P at 24 frames per second.

Live View Monitoring

As if these big improvements weren’t enough to excite you, the larger LCD screen also incorporates the latest Live View monitor technology, which has been one of the most discussed features in D-SLRs for the past two years. This is the technology that lets you preview your scene before you actually shoot it. Pioneered by Olympus a few years ago, it’s all but commonplace in most of the leading D-SLRs today. Many professional photographers scoff at it, preferring to use their viewfinders instead, but if you are coming from a point-and-shoot camera, Live View is what you’ve been used to all the time. So Live View monitoring should make you feel right at home with the new D90.

Ergonomics

The D90’s all black body exudes an air of professionalism. The body only weighs in at about 1lb 6oz., but when you include the optional 18-105mm zoom that I tested it with, it’s about 2.5 lbs overall. That combined weight, while much lighter than the more professional Nikon D-SLRs, should be tolerable for the hand-held shooter, although, the D90 is definitely a two-handed camera. The optional 18mm – 105mm VR (Vibration Reduction) zoom lens provides a very good degree of image stabilization when the D90 is hand held. However, some enthusiasts might want to use a monopod or tripod.

The menu controls and mechanical buttons on the D90 are laid out very logically. The Menu button opens up a variety of sub menus, displayed in large letters on the large LCD screen, including ISO, Image Quality and Size, Movie Quality and many more. All menu adjustments are made with the easy to use 4-way controller. The Live View button is conveniently located just to the right of the LCD screen. The Info button shows the various conditions the camera uses for image or video capture, and it also displays a convenient cross-hatch pattern to help you keep horizons or objects straight. A manual exposure compensation button allows images to be under or over exposed depending on user needs. These compensation effects are visually displayed on the Live View monitor.

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