Nikon D90 Reviewed: Great image quality and performance. Video mode? Not so hot

Summary:DPReview and PhotographyBlog both posted full, hands-on reviews of the Nikon D90 yesterday. The general consensus among the reviewers (including our sister site CNET's Lori Grunin who posted her review earlier in the month) is that the D90 is an excellent and highly recommended enthusiast's dSLR.

Just-announced Nikon D90 vs. just-reduced Canon EOS 40D

DPReview and PhotographyBlog both posted full, hands-on reviews of the Nikon D90 yesterday.  The general consensus among the reviewers (including our sister site CNET's Lori Grunin who posted her review earlier in the month) is that the D90 is an excellent and highly recommended enthusiast's dSLR.

All three reviewers agree that image quality is excellent, though DPReview notes "it can need a bit of tweaking of the internal settings to tailor the output to specific needs," and complains of soft JPEG output compared to its peers, noting that more of the captured dynamic range could be incorporated. (PhotographyBlog disagrees, saying "The out-of-camera JPEGs are in fact quite sharp at the default settings if you use a sharp lens to begin with.") CNET's Grunin points out that "As usual for Nikon, the D90 tends to underexpose, and the dynamic range of bright shots fares better than dark." All three agree that you can easily compensate for any perceived deficiency here, though.

Performance was universally lauded, with DPReview stating "We can't think of a single instance in which the camera wasn't available for shooting when we wanted it," and Grunin notes "For all but continuous shooting, it's about as fast as the [Nikon] D300, and overall one of the fastest in its class."

When it was first announced, the big news about the D90 was that it was the first dSLR to include a video shooting mode (with 720p HD output no less). After putting the video mode to the test, though, all three reviewers found limitations with it.

Grunin points out that it "doesn't match the best of the snapshot-camera movie modes," shooting at just 24fps and requiring manual focusing. PhotographyBlog concurs, stating that the "technology remains immature, lacking auto-focus and full manual exposure control, and producing videos with lots of artifacts." Still, everyone agrees that to have video in the camera at all is a bonus and that it's certainly adequate for casual use.

In the end, there were only a few real complaints. From DPReview: "Our only real worry about the D90 is the matrix metering, which seems to be so strongly connected to the selected AF point that it allows highlights to clip a bit too often for our liking," though they point out that you can fine-tune the meter if you find this a problem.

PhotographyBlog disagrees saying "The camera's matrix meter proved so accurate that hardly any exposure compensation was needed regardless of the type of scene you intended to photograph," instead pointing to the LiveView feature as the camera's worst offense: "The Nikon D90's Live View implementation is decidedly sub par...there is no live histogram, the magnified view appears interpolated and the contrast-detect auto-focus is extremely slow."

CNET's Lori Grunin lets the D90 off easier, saying "My main complaint is with the new 18-105mm f3.5-5.6 kit lens...the zoom ring is a bit too stiff and the lens seems just slightly less sharp than the kit lenses from Canon."

All in all, though, the D90 received rave reviews from all three, with the typically tough critics at DPReview positively gushing: "After using and testing the D90 extensively, it's hard to think of a better enthusiast-level camera."

Read the full reviews here:

DPReview CNET PhotographyBlog

Topics: Hardware

About

Janice Chen is an editorial consultant and has been covering technology for over two decades. Serving as editor in chief at CNET and Computer Shopper magazine for many years, she oversaw product coverage for the CNET and ZDNet websites. She has appeared on most of the major morning TV news programs and was featured weekly on CNN Headline... Full Bio

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