Nikon D90 Review

Camera Reviews Nikon

Camera Experience
The D90 is comfortable and well-balanced with the AF-S 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G VR DX kit lens. And while the kit lens sports a large, textured zoom ring, I found the manual focus ring was too small (about ¼” wide) and too close to the body to use comfortably. Further, with my larger hands it was difficult to keep a comfortable grip when using heavier pro lenses and Speedlight hot shoe flashes. Granted, photographers with smaller hands may actually have an easier time holding the D90 than larger bodied DSLRs. But in my case Nikon’s MB-D80 vertical grip would make using the camera more comfortable.

Nikon D90 - Kate HavnevikThe D90′s wonderful low-light/high-ISO performance was immediately apparent when I began shooting in dimly lit situations. I was able to produce magazine quality images at ISO 1600 that required little, if any, post-production noise reduction. Historically, I only pushed my D200 beyond ISO 400 in the most critical of circumstances and even then not without moderate noise reduction applied in post processing. Coupled with fast (large aperture) lenses, the D90 can produce striking results in dimly lit interiors without using flash.

With regards to video recording there are some turn-offs I hope Nikon will address in future cameras – or better yet – firmware updates for the D90. One major problem is no auto focus during video capture. Even with careful planning (i.e. pre-focusing and using a small aperture) it can be difficult to keep active subjects (sports, wildlife or following toddlers around) in focus, especially if you’re also trying to use the zoom ring. However, the D90 is no different from other video-enabled digital SLRs in this respect – so far, none of them have auto focus during video capture. Also, once video is recording settings like aperture, ISO or white balance cannot be changed. However, you can adjust exposure compensation (in P, S, A and M modes) and the D90 does do well automatically adjusting exposure as the scene changes. It should also be noted that video recording is limited to 2 GB or 5 minutes of recording, the former being a result of limits in file system structures and the latter reportedly being the result of political/legal issues. For more on that, read Luminous Landscape’s Nikon D90 review.

Finally, it’s widely reported that under certain conditions, like panning side-to-side, there’s noticeable wobbling of the video that people say looks like Jell-O. This is due to the CMOS sensor’s rolling shutter, which captures images by exposing sections of the sensor at different points in time (a more in-depth discussion). This makes the D90 unlikely as a good action video camera. See our sample video to see the rolling shutter effect.

Example of the rolling shutter “Jell-O” effect when panning
Watch the Hike to travertine ponds and other Nikon D90 videos from calanan on Vimeo for more examples.

On the plus side, despite all the time I spent reviewing images, using LV and capturing video I found the D90 did a much better job with battery conservation than my D200.

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  • Starriderrick says:

    Well done with the review calanan. Very informative.

    I’ll echo your remarks here…” I can admit my love for the Nikon D90. That’s right – I love it.” :O)


  • Very nice review Calanan, I have seen some video examples from the D90 and was really impressed with the quality of the video. Personally I am waiting for Nikon to come out with a full frame D700 version with HD video which I will buy in a heartbeat but I was tempted to pick up the D90 in the interim. I started out with the D70 and moved up the ladder (D80 after and currently I shoot with a pair of D300s) but that D90 definitely looks like a nice piece of equipment.

    Thanks for the review of this and congrats on that shot..its a great one!

  • Miss Kitty says:

    Quite an informative and thorough review, Calanan. It’s not what I’d use as I’m an amateur but I could see professionals interested in the D90. Out of my price range, too.

    Appreciate the nice shots. Especially of that young lady leaping on opening page! Good work.

  • carwax says:

    that is one amazing capture, calanan!

    very nice review. i wasn’t aware the D90 included some D300 features

  • Dana C says:

    Very nice! Look forward to more reviews and images!

  • Tondra says:

    After reading this review to my daughter, she purchased this camera over the weekend. It is very informative and certainly had an impact on her decision to purchase.
    I love the your opening shot. It looks like your subject is leaping from island to island across a vast ocean.
    Thank you again and please keep us up to date and informed on other products.
    I am looking forward to more Calanan reviews.

  • LaMarcas says:

    Great shots! Your review is very technical for us amateurs, but the information is understandable – both pros and cons give us something to sink our teeth into before we add to our Nikon collection. Thanks for a well written and thoughtful article. I enjoy your photos; very diverse and always interesting.

  • Alain C. says:

    I own a D90 and yes, I love it. I’m not a pro, by any stretch of the imagination, but I develloped a love for photography and a need to go beyond point-and-shoot cameras.

    I own Nikkon’s 50mm F1.8 (A VERY AFFORDABLE MUST!!!), a sigma 70-300mm (I’ll spare you the specifics) and the kit 18-55mm VR (had I known more, I would have bought the 18-105mm bundle :( ). That with a tripod, a few polarizing filters and the infra-red remote and I think I have a nice (serious enthousiast) starter kit.

    I honestly didn’t buy this camera for it’s video capabilities, nor should anybody. Local stores sell affordable vid-cams that’ll do it on standard memory cards and won’t be limited to 5 minutes.

    The article states that the camera dos not make the photographer. That’s right, but it help!!! ;) I can miss my composition, but the pic will still look good.

    I’m sure that I won’t regret my purchase, except that it’s creating more need$… LOL

    Good day all.


  • Larry Dickman says:

    Very pleased with my D90 except for the lack of auto focus on videos.

  • Thanks – I will now go out & buy a D90

  • Photo-John says:

    Ha ha! Thanks for the comment, Kirk. Good decision. I hope the camera serves you well. Please come back and write a user review for us after you’ve gotten to know the camera. Your reviews make our world go round :-)

  • Cliff Brewer says:

    Thanks for a great review.
    I bought the D90 in Dec 2008 and have loved it myself. Not a professional either just an enthusiast that figures I can take just as nice family portraits and save the money for my toys, not to mention I’ve become the default photographer for many functions. My other passion is reef aquariums so I recently purchased a better macro. I opted for the new VR version of the 105mm Nikkor micro, and the 50mm f1.8 and have loved the results. I can’t even begin to explain the difference in getting a couple of really good lenses. The kit lens is nice but I also do quite a bit of low light work and they have made a world of difference.

  • Fazel says:

    I have purchased a D90 based on all mentioned reviews. Incredible picture quality especially from low distance with flash. It captures every details of the face, maybe some woman don t prefer! I highly recommend the camera to at least amateurs like me.

  • AR says:

    I recently purchased a D90 and all i can say is WOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOO!!! i just switched coming from a canon 450d and the ergonomics of Nikon is sweeeeet. Not only do the buttons make taking photos a breeze but the dedicated AE/AF lock button is something i have been drooling about. It handles really well and i just tried it on a concert with ISO 2000 using the 18-105 kit… The noise is fairly manageable, nothing post processing cant handle. I have set the Function button to picture control and i have all i need. I highly recommend this camera. THANK YOU NIKON!

  • pravin says:

    Absolutely stunning photos I must say. I am looking for an upgrade to my Nikon D60. And I think after reading the review and sample images, I found it very helpful. I am still learning my photography lessons, however have came across a long way into taking quality photos. Can you tell me if my old lenses will also be useful for the new camera, Currently I have 18-55 and 55-200mm VR lenses.
    I have put some of my reviews in my blog, hope it helps anyone who wants to buy the D60 which i would be replacing with the new D90. !!!

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