Nikon D90

Nikon D90 Preview: September 2008

Nikon D90 DSLR

Nikon D90: It had to happen sooner or later and Nikon are the first!

The New Nikon D90 ($999 USA, 899€) introduces High Definition 1,280x720p/24, motion JPG .AVI video to the world of the DSLR! This is, I am sure, a point that will have photographers from all genres and experience levels arguing its good and bad points. The simple way to see it is progression and commercialism.

Technology moves on regardless of what we think and manufacturers have to promote it to stay ahead of the game…simple.

My view is this, if you don't like it, don’t buy it! Check out these video clips and sample images from the Nikon D90:

I have written this in a slightly different way because Nikon have introduced/improved on quite a few items of technology with the Nikon D90. Not all particularly useful to most people. Of course, these are just my opinions so you can have your say at the end.

So, with that out of the way, let's look at the full spec of the Nikon D90

Nikon D90 Rear

Here are the key Nikon D90 features and tech specs taken from Nikon USA:

  • 12.3-megapixel DX-format CMOS imaging sensor: Coupled with Nikon's EXSPEED image processing technologies and NIKKOR optics, breathtaking image fidelity is assured
  • Continuous shooting as fast as 4.5 frames-per-second: Combined with fast 0.15ms power-up and split-second 65ms shooting lag, dramatic action and decisive moments are captured easily
  • D-Movie ModeCinematic 24fps HD with sound: Record cinematic-quality movie clips at up to 720p HD (1280 x 720 pixels) in Motion JPEG format, enhanced by NIKKOR interchangeable lens quality and versatility
  • Low noise ISO sensitivity from 200 to 3200: High signal-to-noise components and design deliver exceptional performance, even at high ISO setting
  • 3-inch super-density 920,000-dot colour LCD monitor: High resolution, 170-degree wide-angle viewing guarantees confident image review and movie playback
  • Built-in image sensor cleaning: Effective 4-frequency, ultrasonic sensor cleaning frees image degrading dust particles from the sensor's optical low pass filter
  • 11-point AF system with Face Priority: Consistently fast and accurate autofocus, reinforced by the Nikon Scene Recognition System, delivers razor sharpness in a wide variety of conditions
  • One-button Live View: Easy to use Live View activates access to 3 contrast detection focus modes including Face Priority AF
  • Nikon 3D Colour Matrix Metering II with Scene Recognition System: Nikon's renowned 420-pixel RGB 3D Colour Matrix Metering II, teamed with the exclusive Scene Recognition System, evaluates images, referencing an on-board database of over 30,000 photographic scenes, for unmatched exposure accuracy
  • Comprehensive exposure control: Five advanced scene modes plus Program Auto, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual
  • Auto Active D-Lighting: Selectable and Automatic, Active D-Lighting optimizes details within shadows and highlights, taming high-contrast situations in real time
  • Durable, high precision shutter: Testing to over 100,000 cycles assures shutter life and accuracy
  • In-Camera Image Editing: Creative freedom stems from exclusive in-camera image editing, featuring Fisheye effect, Straighten and Distortion Control as well as D-Lighting, Red-eye Reduction, Image Overlay, Monochrome and more
  • GPS geo-tagging: GP-1 GPS unit (optional) provides automatic real-time geo-tagging

*ESP (Estimated Selling Price) listed only as an estimate. Actual prices are set by dealers and are subject to change at any time. Some of the main highlights here are


Like it or loathe it, the video application will come in handy for many families. For those who don't want to carry cameras and video for family days out, holidays etc. For serious video, the specs don't really make the grade for things such as stock footage. Having the ability to create such amazing depth of field with DSLR lenses though, is incredible. To be able to use Canon L lenses on my Sony PMW EX1 video camera to get the same results, I would need an adapter costing around $1200!

This is the way consumer cameras are heading. I would expect this to become the norm on most models in the future with the exception of the professional DSLR's. Maybe!

Low Noise at High ISO

Nikon edged ahead with low light performance with the D3. If the Nikon D90 gets the same treatment, this camera should be great as a backup for wedding photographers for example.

Scene/Face Recognition

Is this just another fad or something useful? I personally do not like to use anything on a DSLR which takes away my control of focussing. Focussing is, in most cases, paramount. I can handle and correct slight over/underexposure particularly if shooting RAW. However, getting an important shot out of focus…nothing gets my goat more!

3 Super-Density 920,000-Dot Colour LCD Monitor

I am guessing that the quality of the LCD screen on the Nikon D90 will be incredible. I am a little disappointed with the screen on the Canon 1D Mark III. With just 230,000 pixels especially when zooming in to check focus, it seems a little lack-luster.

One Button Live View

Nikon, at the time of writing, are still ahead of Canon on this one. They have nailed auto focus whilst in live view although Canon's recently released EOS 50D has also added autofocus to its live view mode. I only occasionally use this feature but I can see how it can be handy to have available. E.g. sometimes when shooting interiors I have the camera backed right up against the wall. This means I cannot get behind the viewfinder but I can still see the screen, especially with the 170° viewing angle.

Auto Active D-Lighting

Being a wedding photographer, I am all for anything that tackles high contrast, high dynamic range situations. Think wedding dress Vs Dark Suit. Most manufacturers are now concentrating on this problem with their research and development.

In Camera Image Editing

Red eye reduction maybe, but distorting and playing with images in camera…not for me! For one, the difference between working on an image on a 3" screen and a computer with 15-30" screen is obvious. Are we taking digital imaging technology a little too far? Fad!

GPS Geo Tagging

I am on the fence with this as I don't know enough about it. I guess I don't miss using it so I don't need it?!? The best thing about reflecting on old images for me is that it spurs the memory back into action. Even the fact that my distant memory is a little jaded at times doesn't matter as I fill the gaps with nice things.

Could it be that when my kids look at photos in years to come they will say "Oh look, do you remember when we went to Portland Bill:

  • Latitude: 50.5142, Longitude: -2.4564, Altitude: 52 Metres"?

Naa! Still, it may have its uses for some people.


Pretty cool for viewing your Nikon D90 images instantly on a full 1080p HD TV.

The rest of the specs on the Nikon D90 are pretty standard although improved.

Nikon D90 Top



Image Sensor Format


Image Sensor Type


Sensor Size

15.8 x 23.6mm

Total Pixels

12.9 million

Effective Pixels

12.3 million

Image Area (L) DX Format

DX-format(L) 4288×2848



Top Continuous Shooting Speed at full resolution

4.5 frames per second

Continuous Shooting Options (CH)

DX-formatCH: Up to 4.5 frames per second

CL: Up to 4 frames per second

LCD Monitor Size

3" Diagonal

  "    Monitor Type

Super Density

  "    Monitor Resolution

920,000 Dots

  "    Monitor Angle of View

170-degree wide-viewing angle

LCD Monitor Adjustments

Brightness, 7 Levels

Shutter type

Electronically controlled vertical-travel focal-plane

Slowest Shutter Speed

30 sec. in steps of 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV

Fastest Shutter Speed

1/4000 sec. in steps of 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV

Bulb Shutter Setting



200-3200 in steps of 1/3, 1/2, 1 EV (100-6400 Expanded)

Storage Media


Storage System

JPEG: JPEG-baseline-compliant; can be selected from Size priority and Optimal Quality AVI

Compressed 12-bit NEF (RAW)

Exposure Modes

Program Auto (P) with Flexible Program Shutter-Priority Auto (S)

Aperture-Priority Auto (A)

Manual (M)


Auto (flash off) Advanced Scene Modes

Advanced Scene Modes

Portrait Landscape



Night Portrait

Exposure Metering System

420 pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II



Exposure Lock


Exposure Bracketing


Shutter Release Modes

Single-frame [S] mode

Continuous low-speed [CL] mode; 1-4 frames-per-second

Live View [LV] mode

Self-timer mode

Continuous high-speed [CH] mode: 4.5

Movie Modes

Movie with sound HD 1280 x 720/24 fps VGA 640 x 424/24 fps

QVGA 320 x 216/24 fps

D-Lighting Bracketing

2 exposures


Hi-speed USB



Lens Mount

Nikon F Bayonet Mount

Compatible Lenses

1) DX AF NIKKOR: All functions possible

2) D-/G-type AF NIKKOR (excluding IX NIKKOR lenses): All functions possible (excluding PC Micro- NIKKOR)

3) AF NIKKOR other than D-/G-type (excluding lenses for F3AF): All functions except 3D-Color Matrix Metering II possible

4) AI-P NIKKOR: All functions except Autofocus, 3D-Color Matrix Metering II possible

5) Non-CPU AI NIKKOR: Autofocus not supported. Can be used in exposure modes A and M but exposure meter does not function. Electronic range finder can be used if maximum aperture is 5.6 or faster; Colour Matrix Metering and aperture value display supported if user provides

Picture Control





Nine User-customizable settings



In-Camera Image Editing


Image Overlay

Filter Effects


Colour Balance

NEF (RAW) processing

Quick retouch


Distortion Control

Built-in Flash


External Flash Shoe


Built-in Flash Distance

56 at ISO 200 ft.17 at ISO 200m

Dust-Off Reference Photo


Save/Load Camera settings


Nikon Creative Lighting System Compatibility


Flash Sync Speed

Up To 1/200

FP High Speed Sync

Up To 1/4000

Flash Sync Modes

Front-curtain sync (normal)

Slow sync

Rear-curtain sync

Red-eye reduction

Red-eye reduction with slow sync

Accessory Shoe



2, 5, 10, 20 seconds duration


EN-EL3e Lithium-ion Battery

AC Adapter

EH-5a AC Adapter

Battery Charger

MH-18a Quick Charger

Battery Life (shots per charge)

850 Shots

Approx. Weight

22 oz. (620g)

Supported Languages

Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish

Supplied Software

Software Suite CD-ROM

Optional Accessories

MB-D80 Multi-Power Battery Pack, ML-L3 wireless remote control, DK-21M Magnifying Eyepiece, EH-5a AC Adapter, Capture NX2 Software, Camera Control Pro 2

Supplied Accessories

EN-EL3e Rechargeable Li-ion Battery, MH-18a Quick Charger, DK-5 Eyepiece Cap, DK-21 Rubber Eye-cup, UC-E4 USB Cable, EG-D2 Audio Video Cable, AN-DC1 Camera Strap, BM-10 LCD Monitor Cover, Body Cap, BS-1 Accessory Shoe Cover, Software Suite CD-ROM Supplied accessories may differ depending on country or area

So, is the Nikon D90 worth buying? You decide. For me, if I had the Nikon D80 or D40 I wouldn’t be rushing out to upgrade to the D90. If I had a D100 or D50 with a ton of Nikon lenses or if I was new to digital photography looking for a funky starter camera…I recon I would go for this.

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