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Nikon D90 DSLR Digital Camera Review


Digital Camera Review by: Katrina Putker 


After close examination of the 12.3-megapixel D90, it is plain to see that Nikon have cleverly created what is essentially a blend of the most well-received and comprehensible technologies, features, and interface design from their large array of consumer and professional DSLRs, to produce an exceptional prosumer model with a ‘world first’ gong to its name.

One of the D90’s most notable selling features, aside from its outstanding image quality, is undoubtedly its world first ability as a DSLR to produce high definition movie files resulting in what Nikon describe as ‘genuinely cinematic’ movie clips.

Three frame sizes are available for recording in D-Movie mode: 1280x720 (16:9) for highest quality widescreen movies suitable for plasma and LCD TV viewing, the default 640x424 (3:2) for standard viewing, and 320x216 (3:2) for reduced movie file size.

Users can elect whether or not to record with sound and movies up to 2 GB can be recorded at a time with the maximum length at 16:9 being five minutes and up to 20 minutes for movies recorded at either of the 3:2 settings.

Thanks to the D90’s large 23.6 x 15.8mm DX-format CMOS image sensor, movies suffer far less noise than a standard hand-held camcorder, especially in low-light situations where noise is otherwise a typical side effect.

Having said that, the D90’s movie mode is unlikely to replace the camcorder entirely as much as it enhances Nikon’s repertoire and encourages their competitors to do the same.

The inclusion of movie mode in this ‘prosumer-aimed’ DSLR (e.g. best-suited for those no longer at the point-and-shoot end of the spectrum as a ‘consumer,’ nor a full-time ‘professional’ photographer) also expands the possibilities of still photography into the audiovisual realm, thus encouraging prosumers to push their creativity and ability further still.

Movie mode of course, also means that you can capture snippets of footage from your daily-life or travels that will help you re-live the sounds and movements of your experience far better than still photography sometimes can.

The single foreseeable downfall may simply be that the presence of movie mode may create a dilemma for the photographer in whether the moment presented best calls for stills or video footage, and it is important to consider then what may be lost, or indeed enhanced, as a result of movie mode being selected ahead of still photography.

For those enthusiasts who intend to travel or do so often, the D90 is a worthy contender for your dollar given its versatile kit lens, the Nikkor AFS 18-105mm F 3.5-5.6G, which offers wide angle right through to mid-level telephoto capacity and will satisfy an extensive variety of shooting situations.

The inclusion of vibration reduction technology also means that anomalies resulting from camera shake are significantly reduced.

Having an extended zoom capacity however does mean having a physically longer lens, which may not suit those looking for a more compact, lightweight unit.

Influenced by its higher-level cousins the D3 (RRP $7,499) and D300 (RRP $2,899), the D90 has adopted the same generous 3inch VGA LCD screen offering 100% frame coverage, brightness adjustment, and a 3D-tracking eleven point AF option useful for shooting and composing relatively stagnant subjects.

The high-resolution 920k-dot LCD presents a clear, bright display with a 170-degree viewing angle, and the internal menu system exhibits well on-screen in its logically assembled state and is therefore easy to navigate both through and around.

The D90 has the same 12.3-megapixels as the D300 and maintains the high standard of design from right across the Nikon DSLR range that helps to maximise comfort, sturdiness, and efficiency when shooting.

Live view offers the photographer the option of composing and shooting via the live preview displayed on the LCD, proving useful for shooting overhead or at the hip etc. A flip-out, rotating screen would make this process even easier and will no-doubt be an inclusion in future Nikon models.

Auto focus calls for patience as it can take between three and five seconds to settle in live view mode, so unless you are controlling or directing the subject/s or shooting still life, it may be difficult to catch the decisive moment.

As well as taking a few seconds to focus in live view, the AF function is mechanically quite noisy as it shifts back and forth. This process (along with movie mode generally) chews through power much quicker than when regular shooting modes, making it is advisable to have a second battery on hand if these features become favourites, which is likely.

Face priority AF is also available in live view mode and will automatically focus on up to five faces at a time, ‘locking’ on and following them within the frame.

As a result of its 420-pixel matrix metering system, the D90 then combines AF data and colour metering information to better adjust exposure and white balance in order to achieve the best possible results for portraits.

For a DSLR in its range, the D90 offers a speedy 4.5 frames per second of continuous shooting - as opposed to the typical 3fps - and shares the same ISO sensitivity as its higher-priced cousin, the D300, ranging from ISO 200 through to 3200.

Additionally, three high and three low ISO steps are available, further pushing the range right down to 100 and up to 6400.

As well as a HDMI port for direct connection to high definition televisions, the D90 has a connection available for the optional GP-1 accessory, which enables global positioning information (location, altitude, time etc.) to be stored within the metadata and referred to at a later date if required.

This optional accessory will cost approximately $400-$500 and would best suit travellers and landscape photographers who may want to revisit certain locations at an alternative time.

Image quality overall is difficult to fault in the D90: it’s largely correctly exposed with fine detail, accurate colour reproduction, and little-to-no sign of chromatic aberration.

For those who enjoy strong contrast and vivid colours, the accurate colour reproduction described may read as somewhat ‘flat’ to your eye, in which case switch to the supplied picture control setting ‘vivid’ for punchier primary colours and what Nikon call a ‘photoprint’ effect.

Active D-lighting is available to further help preserve detail in the highlights and shadows and bridge the gap between them to reproduce more natural-looking contrast.medal-gold-r.jpg

Preset modes for macro, landscapes, sports and portraits are additional options and a no flash mode is selectable when wanting to shoot with automatic settings but without automatic flash fire.

Auto and program shooting modes are available for those still mastering the finer technical details of photography and for those already there, full manual mode, aperture and shutter priority modes are accessible via the main command dial as well.

Overall, this camera is comfortable to handle and straightforward to use (given the appropriate level of DSLR knowledge) with stunning image quality making it well worth the RRP $1,549 investment.

The D90 is a genuinely well-crafted DSLR from Nikon that covers all of the bases that a mid-range unit should, as well as providing a host of additional features and controls that are well and truly pushing the D90 towards semi-professional territory.


Appearance rating 4.5 stars
Functionality rating 4 stars
Image quality
5 stars
Lens quality
4 stars
View finder / LCD screen 4.5 stars
Value for money 5 stars
RRP (AUD) $1,549
Effective Pixels 12.3 Million mega pixels
Image Sensor
Nikon DX format (23.6 x 15.8 mm) CMOS sensor
Image Sizes 6 Sizes
Lens - zoom wide [mm] 18mm (35mm equivalent )
Lens -zoom tele [mm] 105mm (35mm equivalent )
Resolution Settings 4,288 x 2,848 [L], 3,216 x 2,136 [M], 2,144 x 1,424 [S]; D-movie: 1240 x 720 / 24fps, 640 x 424 / 24fps, 320 x 216 / 24fps
Shooting Modes Scene Recognition System integrated with Face Detection System
Face Detection Scene Recognition System integrated with Face Detection System
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Range F3.5/5.6 - F22/38
Aperture Priority Yes
Exposure Metering System
1) 3D-Color Matrix Metering II (type G and D lenses); Color Matrix Metering II (other CPU lenses) performed by 420-segment RGB sensor, 2) Center-weighted: Weight of 75% given to 6, 8 or 10mm circle in center of frame, 3) Spot: Meters 3.5mm circle (approx. 2% of frame) centered on active focus area
Exposure Bracketing
2 to 3 exposures in increments of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1 or 2 steps to (+-) 1.0 EV
Exposure Metering Range 1) 0 to 20 EV (3D-Color Matrix or Center-weighted metering), 2) 2 to 20 EV (Spot metering)
Shutter Speeds 30s - 1/4000s
Shutter Priority Yes
ISO ISO 200 to 3,200 in steps of 1/3 EV, plus HI-0.3, HI-0.5, HI-0.7, HI-1 (ISO 6400); sensitivity decreases approx. LO-0.3, LO-0.5, LO-0.7 and LO-1 (ISO 100)
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size 3.0", 920,000-dot low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD, allows up to 170-degree wide viewing angle
Viewfinder Yes, Fixed eye-level pentaprism; built-in diopter adjustment (-2 to +1 m-1)
Flash Control
1)TTL flash control with 420-pixel RGB sensor; i-TTL balanced fill-flash and standard i-TTL fill flash available with SB-900, 800, 600 or 400, 2) Auto aperture available with SB-900, 800 and CPU lens 3) Non-TTL auto available with SB-900, 800, 28, 27 or 22s 4) Range-priority manual available with SB-900, 800.
Flash Sync Modes
1) Auto, 2) Fill-in flash, 3) Red-eye reduction, 4) Red-eye reduction with Slow sync, 5) Slow sync, 6) Rear-curtain sync, 7) Off
Hot Shoe Yes
White balance Auto (TTL white-balance with 420-pixel RGB sensor), 12 manual modes with fine-tuning; color temperature setting; preset white balance; white balance bracketing
Self Timer Electronically controlled timer: 2s, 5s, 10s or 20s
Movie Options Yes. Limited only by memory card size.
Video Out Yes
Storage Type SSD memory card (SDHC compliant)
Image / Audio Formats NEF (12 bit compressed RAW); JPEG (Baseline-compliant); AVI (Motion JPEG compression format, monaural sound)
Connectivity USB 2.0 (High-speed): Mass Storage and MTP/PTP selectable, GP-1 (GPS Unit)
Power Source AC Adapter EH-5a, Quick Charger MH-18a
Battery Options Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL3e
Battery Life
Approx 1,000 shots
Dimensions (W) 132 x (H) 103 x (D) 77mm
Weight 620g

About Nikon


The history of Nikon dates back to 1917 when three of Japan's leading optical manufacturers merged to form a fully integrated optical company. By the end of the century Nikon would have accumulated an immense poll of know-how and experience to become a world leader in not only optics and imaging but also industrial equipment and health and medicine sector.

Today Nikon designs, develops, manufactures and markets a gamut of optical, photographic and optoelectronic products globally. You will find them at work in virtually every corner of the earth. If it has something to do with light, Nikon has something to do with it.

The driving force behind Nikon is technology. Not only in manufacturing and assembling the finest lenses or most comprehensive photography system in the world, but also in making the glass itself. That is why Nikon products have gained worldwide customer satisfaction, and even professional recognition worldwide.

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