Home  Donate  New  Search  Gallery  Reviews  How-To  Books  Links  Workshops  About  Contact

Nikon D90
12 MP DX, 4.5 FPS, 3" LCD, 720p/24
© 2008-2013 KenRockwell.com

Intro    Specs    Performance    Recommendations

Please help KenRockwell..com

Nikon D90

Nikon D90 with 50mm f/1.4 AF-D (25.2 oz/710g). enlarge. This one came from Adorama, available as body-only or with many kit options at that link. You also can get it at Amazon as body-only or as a kit with the 18-105mm lens, too. It helps me keep adding to this site when you get yours from any of these links, thanks! Ken.

 

March 2013    more Nikon reviews

DEAL, March 2013: Nikon D90 for $599.95. (add-to-cart for low price)

Nikon D90 Users Guide foriPhone and iPod.

Nikon D90 User's Guide in PDF. ($5 mandatory donation if you'd like to print or save, thanks!)

Plain-English Nikon D90 User's Guide 25 September 2008

How to Use the Nikon D90's Autofocus System 24 September 2008

 

Introduction      top

Intro    Specs    Performance    Recommendations

Accessories   Lens Compatibility   Movies   Fluff   Lenses

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

The Nikon D90 is a fantastic camera. It's Nikon's newest and best DX format DSLR. I prefer it to the old D300, which costs almost twice as much. That's the way it goes with digital cameras: new is almost always better, even for much less cost. The D90 has identical, or slightly better technical image quality than the D300, the exact same rear LCD, and adds several very useful ergonomic features for faster handling compared to the D300. These handling improvements will let you react faster to conditions, meaning you're more likely to get better pictures by being better prepared.

If you're considering a D300, forget it. Get the D90 instead.

The Nikon D90 is Nikon's newest and smartest DSLR. It has the same or better technical image quality as the D300 that costs much more, and it handles better and it makes movies, too!

The D90 is newer and better than the D300, for a fraction of the price, so long as you prefer the D90's lighter plastic body. Let's be honest: I've used my plastic D40 for years and it still works like new, so I don't see any reason to pay more for a D300's metal body unless you're shooting sports all day. All these cameras have metal lens mounts and are built to very high standards.

The more I use the D90, the more I like it. Compared to the old D300, the D90 offers the same or better image quality, with many new features, in a lighter plastic package with the same vivid and accurate 3" LCD and a much improved rear multi selector for faster handling. The D90 also has better ergonomics than the D300 and D3, so it's easier to get where you want in the menus faster.

The D90 is super easy to use. As Nikon's newest camera incorporating over 60 years of continuous innovation, it's got more clever features, like a multiple-shot self timer, and a 72-image and calendar display if you keep zooming out on playback, than any other Nikon to date. It all works intuitively, and unlike the D3 and D300, I can operate everything with one hand. I have to waste a frame to shoot a picture to get it to play images if I can't hit the PLAY button, but I can get to all the menus and everything when set up as I like it in just one hand.

The only thing I miss from the more expensive D3, D700 and D300 are the option to set instant zoom on playback when hitting the OK button, and I do miss the 5:4 aspect ratio crop from the D3.

For you techies, as you can see at my Nikon D90, D3, D300 and D200 Sharpness Comparison, for use in daylight, the D90 renders images identical to the $5,000 Nikon D3. Of course the D3 shoots faster for sports, but the images are as good, the rear LCD is identical, and the D90 has a few new convenience features that weren't invented back when the D3 came out.

Also for you techies, in my Nikon D90, D3, D300 and D200 ISO 3,200 Comparison, I discovered that the Nikon D90 is even a bit better in low light than the $1,800 D300.

The D90 is worlds beyond the old first-generation D80, which it replaces as Nikon's mid-line DSLR.The Nikon D90 is a D80 with Live View, ADR, an almost three-dimensional 3" LCD, it can shoot movies, and has far more advanced ergonomics.

Nikon D90 TOp

Top, Nikon D90

(prototype with integrated WiFi; production model has no WiFi unless you use an Eye-Fi card, and then only for transferring files, not web browsing on the rear LCD).

Lens Compatibility     top

Intro    Specs    Performance    Recommendations

Accessories   Lens Compatibility   Movies   Fluff Features   Lens Suggestions

The D90 works perfectly with all traditional AF, AF-I, AF-D and AF-S lenses.

No metering or EXIF data with manual focus lenses, you need at least a D300 to use these well. Then again, you always can guess exposure and correct based on looking at the LCD on playback, or play with it even faster in Live View, or you can buy a small light meter which will slip into the hot shoe.

The D90 has the same lens compatibility as the D80, D70, D100 and D50, which is better than the D40/D60, but worse than the D300.

The D90 provides automatic correction of lateral chromatic color fringes.

Details at Nikon Lens Compatibility.

Nikn D90 rear

Back, Nikon D90. enlarge.

 

Specifications     top

Intro    Specs    Performance    Recommendations

Accessories   Lens Compatibility   Movies   Fluff Features   Lens Suggestions

 

Sensor

12.3 MP CMOS DX (15.8 x 23.6 mm). Sensor cleaner.

 

ISO

100-6,400.

ISO 200 ~ 3,200 come up the usual way, while ISO 100 is 'cyrpted as "Lo 1" and ISO 6,400 as "Hi 1."

 

Still Image Sizes

4,288 x 2,848 (L), 3,216 x 2,136 (M) and 2,144 x 1,424 (S).

 

Still Image Formats

JPG, NEF, or both.

 

Motion Picture Formats

1,280x720p/24, motion JPG .AVI for great frame-to-frame editing.

Also 640x424 and 320 x 216 pixels. No word yet about variable frame rates, 23.98, genlock or variable shutter angles, probably not.

 

Longest Movie Scene

Up to the least of 2GB, or 5 minutes in 720p or 20 minutes in SD or 320.

 

Longest Movie Shooting before a break

One hour before the D90 gets too hot.

 

Finder

0.53x magnification with standard (for DX) 28mm lens. (0.94x with 50mm tele lens).

96% coverage.

Pentaprism.

19.5 mm eyepoint.

Selectable 16-frame grid.

Still a crappy, small finder compared to any film or FX camera: remember, the 96% coverage is of a frame only 0.65x the size of FX.

 

AF

11 points. Multi-CAM 1000 AF module. Annoying AF assist illuminator.

 

Light Meter

420 segment RGB Color Matrix with face detection. Center-weighted and spot for old-timers, too. Movie mode only uses Matrix.

 

Depth-of-Field Preview Button

Yes.

 

Shutter

1/4,000 ~ 30 seconds and Bulb. Full, half and third stops. If you use the optional $17 ML-L3 remote release, the Bulb position becomes an extremely useful Time setting, meaning the shutter opens on the first press, and stays open (for up to a half hour) until you press it again.

Shutter Death

Tested to 100,000 cycles during design, Nikon doesn't share how many of them passed or failed that test. No big deal, Nikon's warrantees have never had a mileage (shutter count) limitation.

Fastest Shutter Speed with Flash (sync speed)

1/200. No mention of the trick FP mode.

 

Built-in flash

18mm lens coverage, Guide Number 17/56 (ISO 200, m/ft.), 12/40 (ISO 100). i-TTL flash control: works as commander controlling up to two groups of remote flashes.

 

Flash Compatibility

i-TTL (SB-400, SB-600, SB-800, SB-900 and R1C1).

 

Storage

SD and SDHC cards.

 

Video out

HDMI and composite analog (NTSC or PAL).

 

LCD

3," 640 x 480. BM-10 condom (clear removable cover).

 

Power

Standard EN-EL3e battery (D80, D200, D300, D700, etc.). Rated 850 shots with 50% flash.

 

Size

5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in. (132 x 103 x 77 mm).

 

Weight:

25.185 oz. (710.3g) calculated with battery, LCD condom and SD card, but no lens, caps or straps.

Nikon specifies 1 lb. 6 oz. (620 g), stripped naked like abandoned cars in the Bronx (no battery, no card, no lens, no cap, no strap and no monitor cover).

 

Included (can vary by area, especially if you order from any store in Brooklyn):

   EN-EL3e battery

   MH-18a charger

   DK-5 eyepiece cap

   DK-21 Rubber Eyecup

   UC-E4 USB cable,

   EG-D2 AV cable,

   AN-DC1 Strap

   BM-10 LCD Monitor Cover

   Body Cap

   BS-1 Accessory Shoe Cover (don't you love these Japanese designations?)

   Software CD

   Nikon ViewNX browsing and editing software, which also does raw (NEF) image adjustments and conversions. This is good; Nikon View is one of the very few decent pieces of software from Nikon.

 

Optional Accessories

See Nikon D90 Accessories.

 

Announced

27 August 2008.

 

Shipping Since

Early September 2008.

 

Nikon Product Number

25446 (body only).

25448 (kit with 18-105mm).

 

Price

March 2013: $559.95 on close-out (add to cart for price).

Package Discounts March 2010

October 2009: $810, body only.

November 2008: $890, body only.

Introduction, August 2008: $999 USA (€ 899), and add $300 for the plastic 18-105mm kit lens.

 

Marketing

16 page brochure. The photo examples suggest that buying a D90 will earn you a lot of young, colorful, outgoing and active friends. No photos are credited. As usual, most of the example shots are made with lenses like the 85mm f/1.4, 14-24mm f/2.8 and 24-70mm f/2.8 that each cost as least as much as the D90 body alone and weigh several times as much, and would never be carried by someone young and exciting.

Notice that you will never, ever see anyone in a brochure sitting in front of a computer screen dicking with raw images. All you will see is skateboarding and bicycling, and the only time you'll see a person portrayed as cool with any electronic device is if Apple is trying to sell them iPods, or a cell phone company is trying to push wireless devices, which do cause cancer. You also will never see anyone holding a camera, unless it's a camera ad. Cameras and electronics are not cool. Dealing with people in person and participating in, not watching, active sports is where it's at.

˜ikon D90 back

Nikon D90. enlarge.

 

Performance     top

Intro    Specs    Performance    Recommendations

Accessories   Lens Compatibility   Movies   Fluff Features   Lens Suggestions

The D90 works great. I can't find any real flaws, just the occasional small feature not present on more expensive cameras.

 

Ergonomics

The D90 handles great. I'll be writing a complete users guide, and if you know how to shoot Nikon, the D90 will be the easiest camera yet.

It's super easy to use. As Nikon's newest camera with over 60 years of continuous innovation, it's got more clever features than any other Nikon to date. For instance, you can use the dials to zip through setting the clock, and it all works intuitively.

The rear multi-selector is greatly improved over the D300. Call me silly, but I use this control a lot as I shoot, so having a good one as on the D90 means a lot to me compared to the mushy thing on the D300.

 

Image Quality

 

Exposure Metering

The meter seems identical to the D300 and D3. The defective meter of the D40 and D80, which often overexposed, is gone.

On the D90, D300, D700 and D3, I usually shoot at 0.0 exposure compensation, or often at -0.7 compensation outdoors if I'm shooting in VIVID picture control with +3 saturation. Forget me, just look at your LCD, and change the compensation (the +/- button near the shutter) for your next shot if your pictures are too dark or too light.

 

Flash Metering

As we Nikon users expect, flash metering is perfect. Pop up the built-in, and you get perfect fill light outdoors, or as the only source of light indoors.

Of course using the flash a the only source of light indoors looks crappy with black backgrounds, just as any other time you useflash like this.

 

Technical Quality (for pixel counters)

As expected, the technical quality is as good or better than older, more expensive Nikons like the D3, D700 and D300 under the right conditions.

See my Nikon D90, D3, D300 and D200 Sharpness Comparison my Nikon D90, D3, D300 and D200 ISO 3,200 Comparison and my Nikon Camera Generations pages for examples.

 

Live View

I don't use Live View. The manual warns at high temperatures it may only work 30 seconds at a time. A countdown timer will show on the screen if its getting ready to time out on you.

Nikon suggests an AF-S lens for AF during live view, not a traditional AF lens.

 

Speed

The D90 is fast, but not as fast as a D300, D700 or D3.

At 4.5 FPS, the D90 is almost as fast as the professional D1H was, and has four times the resolution.

 

Data

 

Data Transfer

The D90 has one design flaw: when plugged into a computer, it does not always appear directly as a hard drive, as other Nikon cameras do.

There is no USB menu option for PTP or mass storage. It s stuck in PTP, meaning if you want to plug the D90 to your computer, that you'll need certain software or operating systems to recognize it.

it works fine on some computers, but doesn't work on mine unless I futz with software, which I won't do.

You may need to buy a separate SD card reader, or gamble installing Nikon's always buggy software on your computer to download directly from the D90 if Apple's Image Capture or other software doesn't do it for you.

 

Default JPG DPI

JPGs default to 300 DPI, which is too bad, because I have to reset it to 72DPI before I drop text in for web use. I doubt anyone else would care, but I prefer how Canon DSLRs make images already dialed-in at 72DPI so my text looks right.

 

Autorotation

Vertical shots come up with rotated thumbnails in my Mac's Finder. Just like all other cameras today, the images themselves aren't rotated, unless you read the with the right software. I prefer to hard-rotate the images using the Lossless JPG Rotate command in iView, so they are always vertical, no matter what software is used to read them

Pointed straight down, it's not uncommon for shots to be rotated incorrectly.

The rotation sensor is worse then the D3; it's not unusual for it to get fooled. No big deal, it's easy to right these later.

 

Playback

Playback works great, with all the usual Nikon tricks.

The only step backwards in the D90 is the new YRGB histogram display. Unlike the D3, D700 and D300, this page in the D90 wastes space with smaller histograms, and when you hit the MAG button, only uses the smaller area of the screen dedicated to the image to display the enlarged image.

I prefer the other cameras with larger color histograms. When I hit the mag buttons on the other cameras, the image blows up to fill the entire LCD, while the histograms evaporate.

The D90 does this with color histograms because, if you zoom and pan in the color histogram page, the histograms are only reading the area shown! That's a nice parlour trick, and may help some people.

Particularly nice is that the multi-way button also lets us scroll diagonally, YAY!!

 

Distortion Correction

Unlike the excellent automatic correction of lateral color fringes, the lens distortion correction is a manual parlour-trick that is conjured up in the Playback Retouch menu.

Barrel-distorted image. Roll over to see correction.
(30" Apple monitor shot with 18-105mm lens.)

Worse, distortion correction works, but not completely. The distortion correction is handy for quick "almost perfect" fixes, but not acceptable for serious use. For serious use, get either DxO or correct it in Photoshop.

The "Auto" position works OK, but I got better results with a manual in-camera adjustment. Neither was perfect; there's still curvature.

Worse, just like Nikon's other Retouch options, a design flaw in the D90 makes new, altered files with the wrong file names. The new, corrected files have file names which start with CSC, instead of DSC, so they don't catalog correctly. If Nikon did this correctly, the new files would add suffices, like DSC-0123-edit-1.jpg

 

Motion Pictures and HD     top

Movies are easy. Tap the rear Lv button to get Live View, and tap OK when you're ready to roll.

That's where the fun stops. There is no autofocus, so God forbid if anything moves (the whole point of a movie), because focus won't track.

Since D90 can't autofocus while shooting movies, they suck.

If you're going to try to film anything that moves, the entire point of a movie, forget it. The "Live View" isn't! The images on the rear LCD, just like every digital camera's LCD, is delayed a fraction of a second. It will be very difficult to track and predict motion and action, since what you're seeing on the LCD already is history by the time you see it. There is NO live finder, like a real SLR viewing on ground glass.

Unless you hire a Hollywood-bred Focus Puller and mount your D90 to a dolly and rig up that big white write-on calibrated external focus knob that the Focus Puller uses to pull focus from known point to known point as actors move between their known and rehearsed marks, your movies will be out of focus.

If you're a DP (Hollywood Director of Photography), check out RedRock's and Zacuto's mount systems.

This is no problem for Hollywood, since theatrical movies have been shot with manual focus like this since the 1800s, but without a crew of four operators hovering around your D90, the results will be worse than from a point-and-shoot from Canon or Casio. Point-and-shoots focus while you're shooting a movie, while the D90 is clueless.

Nikon's USA User's Guide, page 51, warns movies will have nasty tilts, banding, bends, and distortion if anything moves horizontally or if you pan. Even if nothing moves, the manual warns objects can have jagged edges, false colors, moiré and bright spots appearing before your eyes. So why bother with movies on the D90?

Movies are a kludge on the D90. They are such a kludge that when scrolling through the file EXIF info on playback in the D90, it all comes up blank! Nikon goofed, since AVI files have whatever data they have in different places than still image files, and Nikon didn't get to writing the D90 firmware to display whatever is there properly. My 5-year-old Canon point-and-shoots display movie data properly, but not the Nikon D90.

The D90's movies can't do stereo and can't do smooth power zooms either, as my Casio EX-V8 does, and the D90 certainly doesn't fit in my pocket.

If you can get focus, you still can't set exposure. Exposure seems to run off on its own. In dim light the D90 applies hellaicious amounts of noise reduction to the additional ISO it piles on.

Another gotcha about shooting movies with the D90 is that you have no viewfinder — whoops! It blacks out! You have to use the rear LCD like a common tourist, or mount a larger video assist on your dolly, using the video or HDMI outputs.

Another gotcha is that I see no mention of how long your shot can be, but other Nikons with Live View (the same technology used for movies) warn that you can't do it for more than a few minutes at a time before the sensor overheats.

My video stinks, but if you have a crew and get anything good, the D90 shoots 720p/24 for theatrical release! Just call Ascent Media in Burbank to strike your prints. Nikon claims, probably correctly, that you'll be getting much better results than an old-style camcorder because the sensor of the D90 is so much bigger.

What Nikon's still camera division probably doesn't realize yet is that the DX sensor is very close to the size of Hollywood 35mm movie film, which is a half of the frame that still photographers call "full-frame." In the roughest terms, Hollywood shoots 18 x 24mm frames all day.

You Hollywood folks just need to hack your Zeiss and Panavision lenses and go, but if you use Nikon's VR lenses, maybe your Steadicam rig can stay in its case. The flange focal distance is 46.5mm, so I'm unsure if it will be easy to adapt cine lenses to the D90.

In simple English for everyone else, unlike camcorders, you can throw backgrounds way out of focus for movies shot on the D90. The slow zoom kit lenses aren't good for this, but pop on a 135mm f/2 DC or 300mm f/2.8 and see what happens. Heck, you now can steal back your Hollywood neighbor's 300mm f/2 AI-s that he had converted to Arri mount and recombobulate it back to use on your Nikon!

24 FPS means movies will look like movies, presuming you shoot at 1/50 shutter speed. In bright light, shorter exposures will make things look a bit jumpy, and movies at 24 PFS are never as smooth as real video, which is shot at 60 fields per second. The video of the D90 can look like movies, but will never have the smooth fluid motion of regular camcorders.

Believe it or not, the jumpiness of theatrical movies is something for which professional video shooters pay FilmLook in Burbank (Hollywood) a lot of money to add back in!

Unlike a $250,000 Arriflex movie camera, the D90 records sound and has its own microphone. I don't see any particular audio input or output jacks; it's likely that unless the built-in mic does it for you, that you'll have to treat this as MOS. Unlike the Casio EX-V8 which records in glorious stereo sound, the D90 appears to be mono only.

If I were Nikon, I'd shoot any TV commercials advertising the D90 on the D90. Hand this to someone in the ASC and he'll get great results.

Works great with manual-focus AI-s lenses, in fact, they work better than the AF lenses!

Shows shutter setting, but ignores it. (Live view has the same idle screen, not knowing if you're about the shoot a movie or a still)

Exposure Compensation, WB settings and Picture Controls all work in movie mode.

In daylight at f/.4, you can get poor images that flicker in and out slowly. If you see this, stop down or use an ND filter.

Image quality is limited by the data compression in 720p. Al the textures are lost even though edges stay sharp. IN hollywood, we refer to this making your video "look like cartoons," which also have sharp edges but no textures.

Movie File Sizes, 10 second clips: 720p: 21.4MB. 480: 7.2MB. 320: 4.1MB.

 

Movie Image Quality:

320x216: Sharp, but that's because its jaggy and aliased. It looks like a mistake! Wrong aspect ratio! No video uses 1.5:1.

640x424: Looks fine, but it's the wrong aspect ratio! Its not 640x480, but only 640x424. There is no 1:1.5 aspect ratio on film or video anywhere, unless you're trying to match the old double-frame Vista-Vision format! It's sharp but aliased. I wouldn't want to spend much time watching it.

1280x720: Soft, with textures smoothed over by compression.

Exposure: automatic, from daylight to dim light. It works pretty well.

Blooming: None, go ahead and point it at the sun if you dare.

320 x 216 file example (2 seconds, 789kB).

 

24 FPS for Sports      top

I didn't tell you this, but with the right software (maybe even included with the D90 for all I know), you can pull single frames out of the 24 FPS video stream.

I know I can do it in iMovie. My Casio EX-V8 can do it in-camera. We'll see with the D90.

 

Sales (Fluff) Features     top

Intro    Specs    Performance    Recommendations

Accessories   Lens Compatibility   Movies   Fluff Features   Lens Suggestions

 

Active D-Lighting (Adaptive Dynamic Range)

Used for taming highlights and shadows. There's a new “Extra High” mode for really nasty situations, and personally I'd just leave it in the Auto mode. If you're a turkey, you can bracket pictures with and without ADR. Nikon doesn't mention if this works for the video mode; I doubt it does but it would be awesome if it did.

 

Live View

With face-recognition AF.

 

Live View Focus Modes

Contrast-detection: Face priority AF automatically detects up to five faces and focuses on the closest, Wide area AF, and normal area AF used on a tripod.

 

Picture Controls

Similar to the D3, D700 and D300.

 

Scene Modes

Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports and Night Portrait. The D90 is smart enough to know if VR is working and adjusts accordingly.

 

In-Camera Editing

The D90 adds Lens Distortion Correction and the ability to straighten horizons. There's also a goofy Spherize mode to screw up images as if they were shot with a fisheye, but it won't see any wider than the image did in the first place.

 

Playback Tricks

72-frame playback, calendar playback and histogram display for a cropped portion of an image.

 

Gag me

"Pictmotion" menu creates slide shows combining five choices of both background music and image effects.

 

What's Missing

What's missing compared to the D300, D700 and D3 (not much!)

No ability to program the center OK button to zoom-in full-size in playback.

No options for JPG optimization.

No selection of NEF/raw characteristics.

No Shooting and Custom Setting Banks.

11 versus 51 AF points. I didn't miss the extra 40, which are just in-between points.

No AF Area Mode switch; need to call this up in a menu (easy if you use the FUNC button to get to My Menu, and put this selection in My Menu.

No PC connector for studio flash. No big deal, I use the pop-up flash to trigger my studio strobes, or you can buy a hot-shoe to PC adapter.

Can't program the Preview button to do tricks.

No ability to use a custom prefix, like KEN_0123.JPG, for the file names.

No Mirror-up mode. This mode sucks in the D3, D700 and D300 anyway.

WB/ISO/QUAL buttons shared with other functions, but still easier to use than the hidden ones on the D3, whose locations date from the F5.

No option for seeing the Focus Point Selection in playback, but who cares?

No Intervalometer (automatic timed shooting).

Can't set ISO or exposure in full stops: ISO sets only in third stops, and exposure only in third or half stops.

No ability to change the focus and release priorities in the AF-S and AF-C modes.

No metering, finder read-out or EXIF data with manual-focus lenses. (buy a small light meter and a hot-shoe adapter if you can't use the LCD to guess exposure.)

No macho-man metal body, so the D90 weighs much less. The D90 has a metal lens mount.

Maximum sync speed fixed at 1/250. (The D3, D700 and D300 can be set from 1/60 ~ 1/320 FP.) All these camera allow setting the slowest sync in P and A modes to any speed as slow as 30 seconds.

No compatibility with Nikon's 1970s-inspired wireless transmitter.

No compatibility with Nikon's expensive (like $500) Image Authentication software.

No ability to Save/Load camera settings and Picture Controls to an SD card.

No AF fine tuning, which I never use, and for most people, just lets then screw up a good thing.

No RESET option in Easy Exposure Compensation.

Only uses SD, not professional CF cards. This matters because SD cards don't come in professional speed grades, like Lexar 300x and 233x and SanDisk Extreme IV, and because SD card readers aren't available in Firewire to support those speeds. This means that it takes too long to download photos in the large quantities shot by pros. This is too bad, because the D90 is up to pro needs in every other way.

No 4:5 professional aspect ratio, but only the D3 does this.

 

What's Weird

Compared to the D3, D700 and D300, the D90:

The FUNC button and Depth-of-Field Preview buttons are reversed.

When playing images with the ALL FOLDERS playback mode selected, instead of counting the images per folder (top right display might say 5/21), it counts as if all images on the card are in the same folder (top display might say 56/342). This gets confusing when images are in multiple folders.

The D90 has the option of five alphanumeric places for file names (better than the older D3, D700 and D300 which only have three digits and no letters), but there isn't an easy option to create new folders incremented by one digit. Nice for naming files!

The D90 defaults to the wrong file-numbering convention. You need to remember to set Custom Setting d7 to ON to prevent starting file numbers from DSC_0001.JPG every time you format a card. (All other recent cameras do this by default.)

 

What's Better (lots of new stuff!)

What's better on the D90 than the D3, better than the D700 and better than the D300:

Easier selection of advance modes, frame rates, remote control and self timer, especially in the dark.

Works with the superior $17 ML-L3 wireless remote release.

ADR is on by default.

Adds the AF-A AF mode.

Easier Live View mode with dedicated button! The other cameras use the rotary top switch, which sucks!

Makes movies with sound. The D3 at least records sound alone, which the D90 can't.

The AF Selector Lock is better designed so it won't get knocked by accident.

The Self Timer can make multiple exposures, helping ensure everyone's eyes are open in at least one of the shots.

Nikon finally fixed the design flaw where by default the Modeling Flash fired if you hit the Depth-of-Field preview button. Thank you Nikon!

The dials work during playback by default. In the other cameras, I have to look for a few minutes to find this option hiding in the Custom Settings > Controls > Customize Command Dials option.

By default, the D90 won't shoot without a card. The D3, D300 and D70 default to the very dangerous DEMO setting which lets you happily shoot an entire wedding, look at each shot on the LCD in every display mode and zoom setting, and not realizing until the end of the day that you had no card in the camera!

 

Better than the D3 and Better than the D300:

Can call up the top item in My Menu with the FUNC button. This makes the D90 much faster to use, because I now can get into the menus and set everything with just one hand!

Dedicated rear INFO button.

ADR modes include AUTO.

The rear LCD Monitor-on times are selectable separately for Playback, Menus, the INFO panel and Image Review.

The D90 has both the My Menu menu and Recent Items Menus. (D3 and D300 lack the Recent Items menu)

 

Better than the D300

Far nicer rear multi selector. The D300 has a mushy single piece of crap, while the D3, D700 and D90 have much better two-piece controls with a separate center OK button.

 

Recommendations     top

Camera Suggestions      Lens Suggestions

Intro    Specs    Performance    Recommendations

Camera Suggestions

Got less than $1,600 but more than $500 for a Nikon DSLR? Here's your camera.

The ADR feature is a huge help in taming wild highlights and shadows, the new LCD, identical to the one on Nikon's $5,000 D3, is incredible, and the expanded Picture Control options let me get state-of-the art image performance in a $999 camera. If you know how to turn these on and appreciate what they do (or want to make Hollywood movies cheap), get a D90.

The dedicated INFO button mirrors the ingenious new INFO modes of the D700, making the D90 a world leader in usability.

 

What about the D40?

If money makes any difference, forget the D90. Digital cameras are a rich man's game. You don't need to spend $999 every other year just because Nikon or some web site says so. If I was on a budget and didn't shoot these cameras all day, every day, I'd never want anything other than the D40 for $499, complete with a great lens. I have no problem making great 20x30" prints from my D40 and its dinky kit lens.

The reason to buy a D90 is for the many subtle extra features, like a depth-of-field preview button, and for the better pictures in most picture-taking situations afforded by the Auto ADR feature, which is always on by default.

If you know how to turn on all the hot stuff in the D90, like ADR and adjust the Picture Controls which are newer and more flexible than the D40, D60 and D80, by all means, get a D90. I hope to have a plain-English user's guide to the D90 which will show you how to use all these great features, in which case, the D90 will be able to crank out more vivid colors and smoother skin tones than the D40.

 

What About the D80?

History! Forget it.

Get a D40 instead of a D80 if money is an issue. The D40 is 95% the same as the D80, except for a few minor features.

 

What about the D300 and D700?

Each of these is much tougher (and heavier) than the D90 if you're going to bang it around. Each is also much faster if you're shooting a lot of sports.

The funny reality of the world today is that the newer D90 has identical technical image quality to the older D300 and $5,000 D3 in good light.

Paying more gets you more durability and faster focus and frame rates, but that's about it. All these have the same superb LCD and image quality.

If you shoot in the dark, pro photographers first improve the light. If you can't improve the lighting and need to shoot at high ISOs, the D700 and D3 are vastly superior to an DX camera.

 

Lens Suggestions      top

The D90 works with every AF lens made since 1986.

The 18-105mm VR is a swell idea, and even the cheapest 18-55mm kit lens is also excellent.

The 18-200mm VR does everything; if you get it, you won't need any other lenses unless you're an ultrawide junkie like me.

Nikoj 50-300mm ED

For Movies: the Nikon Zoom-NIKKOR*ED 50~300mm f/4.5 (discontinued).

For serious motion picture use, you might want to find one of the discontinued Zoom-NIKKOR*ED 50-300mm f/4.5 lenses (try these direct links to the 50-300 at Adorama and ). By serious, I mean Hollywood-style where you have four people operating the camera: there is no AF and no metering with manual lenses like this for hobbyists. I don't know if this is that smart an idea, the D90 doesn't provide the level of control demanded in Hollywood, but give it a try.

The 50-300mm f/4.5 ED was frightfully expensive new, selling for $3,000 at full discount at B&H Photo Video through the 1990s, and today they sell used for about $1,000 to $2,000. The advantage of the 50-300 ED for movie work is its long 6x zoom ratio and that zooming happens internally. It holds focus very tightly as zoomed, and its zoom ring is extremely smooth and well spaced for smooth zooms, even by hand.

The older non-ED 50-300 4.5 lens isn't very sharp and its barrel expands and contracts with zooming, so I'd skip it. Skip either 50-300 for still shots; they don't couple to the meter. Live view stops when a lens is removed, so the D90 may or may not be able to make movies with manual focus lenses like this, since they have no CPU contacts and therefore the D90 probably won't recognize them. Try it and see.

 

Deployment

Be sure to get an excellent optional $17 ML-L3 remote release. It's tiny enough to fit in the key pocket of your jeans, and works even better than a real cable release.

 

Help me help you         top

I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.

If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

If you've gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you're family. It's great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

If you haven't helped yet, please do, and consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.

The biggest help is to use these links to Adorama, Amazon, Calumet, Ritz and J&R when you get your goodies. It costs you nothing and is a huge help. These places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

Thanks for reading!

Ken

Home   Donate   New   Search   Gallery   How-To   Books   Links   Workshops   About   Contact

October 2008