Nikon D90 review

The D90 replaces Nikon’s D80, and has many of the improvements you’d expect. As well as another two million pixels (12.3 megapixel), and the switch from CCD to CMOS, the D90 adds auto-sensor cleaning and a high-res 3in LCD, Live View, ISOs up to a native ISO 3200, plus one-stop expansion and bursts up to 4.5 frames per second (fps). The big news, though, is that the D90 is the world’s first digital SLR to include high-definition video capture.

To compete with rivals Sony and Pentax, which have introduced models with in-camera image stabilisation, Nikon has added a new DX-format 18-105mm Vibration Reduction (VR) lens to the range. The D90 has auto-focus (AF) compatibility with all AF-Nikkor lenses as well as the newer AF-S types. Sadly, the D90 doesn’t have the D300’s firmware-based support for manual-focus Ai-s lenses, nor its superior 51-point AF system. Instead, it has the wide-area 11-point focus detection module of the D80 and D200.

The D90’s Live View options include both AF and manual focus with a decent magnified view, as well as a new face-detection mode.

The Nikon D90’s video is restricted to 2GB or five minutes, and captures AVI files with Motion-JPEG encoding. Data rates are pretty low – 1.6Mbps at the best-quality settings – lower-quality options drop the image capture size.

As soon as capture starts, you can’t adjust exposure, apart from using EV shift control. Nor can you change the aperture once capture has started, though you can take advantage of the limited depth of field of wide-aperture optics by setting the desired F-stop before recording.

Auto-focus is disabled, but manual focus is available. The 24p frame rate is prone to motion blur, and with sudden movement the D90’s CMOS rolling shutter is susceptible to skewing and wobble. Video is heavily compressed at up to 1:49, and is artifact laden as a result. A full-resolution still can be taken while filming, but video capture stops and doesn’t automatically resume.

While there’s little here for the filmmaker, the D90 is a hugely capable stills camera. However, there’s no 14-bit capture, nor a lossless uncompressed Raw option – Raw files are a lossy 12-bit only. The D90 is limited
to 100 consecutive JPEGs at 4.5fps, with Raw capture it’s 11 frames.

OUR VERDICT

As a stills camera, the Nikon D90 outclasses similarly priced rivals. While it may lack features required by professional filmmakers, the addition of 720p/24p video is a real bonus.

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