Photography - Nikon D90

The 12.3-megapixel Nikon D90 was released in late 2008. It was the first digital SLR to support movie capture, though this wasn't a selling feature, for me... What I wanted was pretty simple: image quality and speed (fps), within my budget.

I wasn't really set on either of the big 2 (Nikon, or Canon), until I started putting camera bodies into my hands... I just found the D90 comfortable to hold, and the control layout to be the most intuitive. Much moreso than the Canon options. The D300, being larger and better weather proofing would be ideal, but the D90 is still sturdy, and it's price point won this battle (my budget was such that the D300 was out of reach).

My Nikon D90

The D90 has a fantastic 3" LCD on the back, which I'm sure some will use for video... Me - not so much. The D90 was the first digital SLR to support movie capture, but we have a very nice Canon HD video camera - the D90 simply cannot compete with it, for video. But the LCD... Is it ever nice! I mean, reviewing images looks far better than I've ever seen. Along with this comes Live View, which is nice to have, but rather gimmicky. It works, but slows down the focusing speed of the camera (though oddly enough IMPROVES the focusing accuracy, as it uses a different algorithm altogether).

The 12.3-megapixel sensor is a keeper. The high ISO capabilities of the sensor are really what make it special. I know that there's a big change when moving from a point & shoot to a DSLR, but I can easily use ISO 1600 if needed. I try to stay under 800, but it's nice to have the flexibility. I tend to shoot in manual mode, but let the D90's auto ISO do it's thing while I adjust aperture and shutter speed, and find it to be very accurate and consistent. Since I'm keen on wildlife photography, the crop sensor really helps, too, turning a 300mm lens into an effective 450mm field of view.

I pretty much shoot exclusively in JPEG, mostly because of storage and time constraints (time to edit and time to shoot). Nikon does a good job here, with Active D-Lighting, and Chromatic Aberration correction, among other goodies. Most usable is the ability to customize and load/save Picture Controls. I've started to tweak the settings to my liking, for each situation (e.g., indoors, outdoors, etc). One thing I've found is that out of the box, I needed to increase the in camera sharpening.

I've found battery performance to be quite good; I can usually go more than a day with a single battery in my D90. I tend not to review every shot, and don't use Live View, or shoot video, but i've easily taken >1,500 shots on a single charge. I'm sure had I used the LCD screen more, or fired the flash that would go down, but still seems good to me.

The autofocus performance seems pretty good - my brother-in-law has a D300, and I have to say it's AF is better. If you're just shooting portraits or in perfect lighting, would you notice? Maybe not, but start shooting in low light or fast moving objects (e.g., birds in flight) and the D90 cannot match the D300. Having said that, I knew this to be one of the trade offs I would have to make, due to budgetary constraints.

So, The D90 is far more camera than I've every had / touched, before (that is clear). The 11-point focus engine works quite well, rendering far more keepers than my previous cameras, but trying to get bird in flight can be pretty tough (though the consumer grade lenses I have would make this worse). The D90 handles low light admirably, and can produce high ISO captures with very printable results. The battery life is great and at 4.5 frames per second, the D90 is there for all those moments when life starting whizzing by.