Almost exactly two years after the D80 was announced comes its replacement, the rather predictably named D90. The D80 has been one of Nikon's quiet successes, and even today, despite being positively Methuselah-like in digital camera terms it continues to sell and often makes its way into our top 10 most clicked on cameras. Because it looks so similar to the D80 the D90 appears at first glance to be one of those rather subdued incremental upgrades, but dig a little deeper and you'll find there's plenty to keep Nikon fans happy.
First and foremost there's a new CMOS sensor, which Nikon claim produces D300 quality output at up to ISO 6400 and - one of several features to 'trickle down' from higher models - the same highly acclaimed 3.0-inch VGA screen as the D3/D300. Naturally it has Live View with contrast-detect AF and it would have been surprising had it not sported some form of dust removal system. More surprising is the inclusion of the world's first DSLR movie mode (720p HDTV quality, no less) and HDMI output, though as we'll see later it does come with some limitations. A lot of the core photographic spec is the same as or very similar to the D80, though there is a new shutter and an implementation of the 3D tracking AF seen on the D3/D300.
And it's not just the high end models that have lent features and technology to the D90; the user interface has been given the same user-friendly treatment as the D60, as have the retouching options. As it was explained to us the D90 is intended to appeal to the broadest audience of any Nikon SLR, from first-time 'step up' customers moving from a compact to serious amateurs wanting comprehensive photographic control without the cost and weight of a D300. Whether the D90 is as capable as its feature set suggests, we'll see as the review unfolds.
Nikon D90 Key Features
- 12.9 megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor (effective pixels: 12.3 million)
- 3.0-inch 920,000 pixel (VGA x 3 colors) TFT-LCD (same as D3 and D300)
- Live View with contrast-detect AF, face detection
- Image sensor cleaning (sensor shake)
- Illuminated focus points
- Movie capture at up to 1280 x 720 (720p) 24 fps with mono sound
- IS0 200-3200 range (100-6400 expanded)
- 4.5 frames per second continuous shooting (buffer: 7 RAW, 25 JPEG fine, 100 JPEG Normal)
- Expeed image processing engine
- 3D tracking AF (11 point)
- Short startup time, viewfinder blackout and shutter lag
- Slightly improved viewfinder (96% frame coverage)
- Extensive in-camera retouching including raw development and straightening
- Improved user interface
- New optional compact GPS unit (fits on hot shoe)
- Same battery and vertical grip as D80
- Vignetting control in-camera
- 72 thumbnail and calendar view in playback
Nikon D90 vs D80: Key Differences
Although it's had a bit of a design refresh with slightly sharper lines, the D90 is externally very similar to its predecessor (dimensions are identical, though it is heavier). Looking at the differences it's obviously a solid incremental upgrade rather than a total reinvention of the popular D80, with several key improvements (most importantly the sensor and screen) and a welcome smattering of must-have 2008 features (live view, dust removal). Oh yes, and of course there's that one little new feature sitting at the back of the classroom with its hand waving in the air, shouting 'Sir! Sir!'; the 'world's first' DSLR movie mode.
- 12.3 MP CMOS sensor (D80: 10.2 MP CCD)
- Dust removal system
- Bigger, better screen (as D3, D300)
- Live View with contrast detect AF
- Movie Mode
- Wider ISO range, upgraded AF system (3D tracking, face detection)
- Active D-Lighting, vignetting control and extra retouching options
- Automatic chromatic aberration correction
- Picture Control presets
- Faster continuous shooting and larger buffer
- Pictmotion slideshows
Compared to the Nikon D80, major feature and specification differences
As you can see from the table below the D90 carries some quite significant improvements compared to the D80.
Nikon D90 video review