On its launch the Nikon D90 caused something of a stir with its near-HD movie capture mode … more of that later I worked with the D90 with the f3.5/18-105mm VR-stabilised kit lens fitted and at no time found the kilo plus weight a bit of a burden.
Main features: 7.6 cm LCD screen plus optical pentaprism; continuous shooting of 4.5 fps —that’s a run of full size shots; HDMI output; SD/SDHC card storage; dust, the main enemy of DSLRS, is handled by shaking a cover filter over the CCD.
Viewing with the pentaprism finder was bright and clear. It presented a view of not only the scene but a read out of correct focus, thanks to an eleven point AF system. You can also select a single point (static subjects), dynamic area (moving), auto area (rapid capture) or 3D tracking for constantly changing subjects.
The Live View LCD is not only large but noticeably bright and sharp. It not only confirms focus but presents a read-out of the D90’s operational status.
The CMOS sensor packs 12.3 million pixels into its DX format surface that measures 23.6×15.8mm; this makes a 18-105mm lens equivalent to a 27-157.5mm lens in 35mm SLR terms.
A decent-sized sensor such as the D90’s lets you shoot 4288×2848 pixel images that can account for a print 36×24 cm at 300 dpi.
The mode dial gives access to auto exposure as well as Program AE, shutter or aperture priority and manual exposure settings; added to this is a selection of dedicated settings that take care of macro shots, sports, landscapes and portraits. And, like most digicams, the D90 has a face detection mode.
Shutter speeds run from 30 seconds to 1/4000 second — and Bulb — while the flash sync is triggered at speeds up to 1/200 second. You can shoot single frames as well as fire a run of continuous shooting at 4.5 fps. To guarantee you get at least one correctly exposed frame, the D90 can shoot a group of three frames with variations from a third of an f stop up to two stops.
Now to Movies
Possibly due to the demand that many press photographers these days have to shoot not only top quality stills but video sequences as well, the majors — Nikon and Canon — have recognised the need for DSLRS to shoot footage for a newspaper’s Web site as well as possible TV broadcasting.
The D90 can shoot AVI shots at three resolutions: 1280×720 (16:9), 640×480, 320×240 (both 4:3) and all at the movie speed of 24fps.
The 1280×720 pixel resolution is not full HD but does possess higher resolution than SD quality and sits very well on a full HD 1920×1080 pixel TV screen.
Unfortunately, you must set focus, white balance etc before you start shooting as AF etc is not operable after you start shooting. Another limit is the running time of five minutes at the top resolution. Audio capture (mono) is only via the camera’s (inadequate) internal microphone.
The pluses of the HD capture feature — and these are not found in consumer level camcorders — are that you can slap on any of Nikon’s lenses high quality lenses like ultra long teles or fisheyes. Another benefit is the provision of HDMI output for High Def teles as well as composite video out for the old ‘steam-driven’ TVs.
There are few cameras that can match the excellent optical and LCD viewing options of the D90. It has excellent image capture quality both in colour quality, dynamic range and resolution. If you want to shoot at ISO 400 and much higher, go ahead … this one’s a low light leader.
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Nikon D90 Specs
Type: Digital SLR.
Lens mount: Nikon F mount (with AF coupling and AF contacts).
Shutter Speeds: 30 to 1/4000 second.
Metering: 3D-Color Matrix, centre-weighted, spot.
Exposure Control: Digital Vario-Program, programmed auto, shutter and aperture priority, manual.
Auto Focus: Single shot, continuous, manual.
Sensitivity: Auto, ISO 100 to 3200.
Sensor: Nikon DX format (23.6 x 15.8 mm) CMOS; 12.3 million effective pixels.
Image Size: 4288×2848, 3216×2136, 2144×1424. Continuous mode: 100 full size JPEG shots at 4.5 fps.
Movies: 124×720 and 640×424 at 24fps; 32×216 at 24fps.
Formats: NEF (12 bit compressed RAW), JPEG, NEF+JPEG; AVI (Motion JPEG compression format with monaural sound). PictBridge and DPOF compatible.
Built-in Flash Modes: Front and rear curtain sync, slow sync, red-eye reduction, red-eye reduction with slow sync.
Flash Sync: X-contact only; flash sync up to 1/200 sec.
Flash Output: Guide number of 12 (metres) at ISO 100.
Viewfinders: Eye level optical pentaprism; 7.6 cm colour LCD (920,000 pixels) with Live View.
Storage: Removable SD/SDHC memory card.
Interface: USB 2.0, composite PAL/NTSC AV, HDMI, DC input, GP-1 (GPS unit).
Power: Rechargeable lithium battery, optional AC adapter.
Dimensions (WHD): 132x103x77mm.
Weight: 620 grams (without card, battery, body cap).