Deal 7: How to make money through your photography
Released in August of 2008, the Nikon D90 DSLR raises the bar with a plethora of digital photography features, including:
I was given the Nikon D90 and a Nikkor 18-105mm DX lens with image stabilization to take for a test spin and review around the lovely island of Whidbey in Washington State. As is typical of Washington in the winter, the day was overcast with a bit of fog lingering throughout which meant some really nice, even light. This is also the first Nikon I’ve used in quite a long time. For full disclosure, I’ve used Canon DSLRs for over 6 years but I don’t give in to the blind brand loyalty some profess. I’ve chosen Canon simply because those are the lenses I have. So I was excited for the chance to try something new and review the Nikon D90.
First, some tech speak on what the camera is about. The D90 is a 12.3 megapixel single lens reflex (SLR) body with11 point auto-focus and an ISO speed ranging from 100 to 6400 in 1/3 stop increments. The camera employees Nikon’s advanced 3D Color Matrix Metering II to produce sharp, accurate colors while maintaining an impressive control on white balance. Exposure can be compensated by +/- 5 full stops in 1/3 or 1/2 stop increments and can be locked at any time with the handy Exposure/Flash Lock button. The camera uses Secure Digital (SD) and Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) cards and can store approximately 274 Large-Fine JPG images on a 2GB card.
Picking up the camera for the first time I’m impressed with the feel. The grip has a slight indent where my three fingers go which gives me a more secure hold on the camera. And the size is just right to accommodate all my digits comfortably. The camera without lens weighs in at 1.6 lbs (.72kg), is balanced very well and was comfortable all day while shooting. I’m also dazzled by the array of buttons, 16 of them in all with three switches, two dials, two controls wheels and one control pad. All are within easy reach but I did come to find that adjusting the Exposure Compensation, Frame Rate and Auto Focus modes required a near crippling contortion of my right fingers. Each button is activated with the right index finger and then requires the right thumb to use a scroll wheel in what seems like a Pinch Grip Of Death maneuver. And the Flash button is a bit high for my liking. However, the Function button on the front of the camera is a welcome location for quick adjustment while using the right middle finger, a finger that doesn’t get much, if any, use on an SLR. More on the Function Button in a bit.
The Nikon D90 has a normal array of shooting modes (Auto, Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual), including five Advanced Scene Modes: Portrait, Landscape, Close-Up, Sports and Night Portrait. It also has what’s called D-Movie. The movie mode works very well with an array of settings available including a HD setting (1080i) and wide screen mode (1280×720 16:9). As the movie mode works with nearly all of Nikon’s lenses, the creative possibilities are vast. I was skeptical when movie modes started coming around but am now a convert and love the ability to record a quick HD movie and not have to switch cameras. One draw back of the D-Movie mode is the lack of auto-focus while recording. Manual focus can still be achieved, however, depending on the lens in use. The mode is very easy to use while in Live View with the press of a single OK button on the rear of the camera. Sound is only recorded in mono and the playback speaker is nice and loud.
Speaking of Live View, this is also a new feature on many DSLRs starting in 2008. A standard feature of almost all point and shoot cameras, the ability to view the image coming through the lens of any DLSR was left out in favor of the traditional viewfinder. To enable the Live View so the image is seen on the 3-inch rear display the reflex mirror is flipped out of the way, rendering the viewfinder useless, but opening up a large degree of possibilities. Nikon takes advantage of the new data collected by the sensor to enable features such as Face Priority and Wide Area Auto-Focus. In Face Priority Auto-Focus mode, the camera can detect up to five faces in the scene and lock on the closest one before taking a shot. Live View really does add flexibility and ease of use to the DSLRs Nikon is releasing.
While this is Nikon’s first foray into the Live View realm, there are a few items that can use improvement in my eyes. First, the auto-focus seems to be a bit slower and hunts around more, especially in less than ideal lighting. Definitely much slower than the speedy response when viewed through the viewfinder, which has very little problem with the same indoor, low lighting scenes. Second, when taking a picture in Live View, it sounds like the mirror drops back down, the camera paces through its normal routine of lifting the mirror, tripping the shutter, dropping the mirror and then lifting the mirror again to return to Live View. This is not only a lot of time (ok, not a ton, but a sizable amount) but a lot of noise to take one picture in Live View. I’d like to see Nikon mimic what Canon has accomplished by not requiring the extra mirror movement. Lastly, I must exit Live View to review any pictures taken. I understand it’s *Live* View and not *RE*View, but it seems like an unnecessary step.
The list of features and menu selection capabilities is truly dizzying and I can’t hope to cover them all in this one review. So I want to hit on some of the items I find most useful in the Nikon D90.
First, the light switch is very well placed and something I wish I could move over to my current camera. The On/Off/Light switch is located on the front of the shutter release button and only requires a slight flick of the finger to get the top display light to illuminate. For shooting at night when it’s hard to find all the buttons, this location is perfectly at hand.
Next, one of the menu items that caught my eye is the ability to change the spot meter size. I’ve often found myself dissatisfied with the size the spot meter in my cameras. It’s either seemed too small or too large, taking in more than just a spot. Nikon addressed this concern by allowing the user to change the size of the center spot. In the menu fields it’s possible to pick either 6mm, 8mm or a 10mm size for the center spot. This seems like such a simple change and for someone like me it’s much appreciated.
The Nikon D90 is GPS capable! Finally, more and more, we are seeing cameras with the ability to attach a GPS receiver and write the location information directly to the image when taken. This is heaven for those of us who enjoy recording our travels and posting maps showing location and image together. Nikon offers a GPS device that attaches to the flash hotshoe (not the best location) and there are some third party products in the works which will use an extended grip, much like Nikon’s battery grip, to accomplish this capability. This will be a standard feature on most cameras moving forward and it’s good to see Nikon make this a reality.
Now about that Function button I mentioned earlier. Yes, it’s handy and easy to use, but what does it do? It is a user programmable button with up to ten functions depending on your likes and dislikes. When pressed it can control:
I’m intrigued by the In-Camera Editing feature. Some adjustments seem a bit cumbersome, but others, such as the D-Lighting control, are quite helpful. D-Lighting allows for an increase or decrease in highlights and shadow detail much like the manipulation of curves in Photoshop. With four settings it’s possible to even out a high contrast photo to reveal hidden detail. The straightening feature is also handy but not if there are a lot of images needing help. It’s still better to handle large amounts of edits outside of the camera.
Lastly, and this will seem like a small item to most out there, I’m really excited to see Nikon give a full range of Auto-Timer options. Not only is it possible to select anywhere from one to nine images to be taken when the auto-timer is set, but there are four different pause intervals, including a twenty second option! In the past month I’ve had at least two occasions where I needed just a bit more than the standard ten second countdown before I got into the picture. Thank you, Nikon, for helping some of us not have to sprint to get in our own picture.
The Nikon D90 packs a lot into a well balanced, attractive package. While I have noted some quirks of the camera, I’d use one in a heartbeat if I had more Nikon lenses. It’s a great combination building on Nikon’s excellent photo quality with the addition of High Definition video and some very well thought out photographic features.
Get at price on the Nikon D90 DSLR at Amazon’s Nikon D90 DSLR page.
August 26, 2013 10:35 pm
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January 18, 2012 12:15 am
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March 31, 2011 07:39 am
Vlad my friend , I"m pretty sure the D90 is a superior medium to capture photos. The problem is that the D90 and D300 when they came out Nikon change their in camera philosophy . When you take photos with the manufacturers default settings colors , contrast and sharpness will all be low. That's why when you take photos with the Nikon D90 and any other Nikon camera after the D90 and D300 they tend to look rather bland and soft .
All you have to do is go to SHOOTING MENU , right click the control and pick the PICTURE CONTROL that you want. I can recommend neutral which is the one I use. Then right click it again and you will find a comprehensive list of settings including sharpening , contrast , brightness , saturation and hue which all can be changed to your hearts content. .
The Nikon D90 can be change to look exactly as a D40 , D50 , D60 , D70 , D80...you get the picture . At the Nikon web site they have a list of changes you can set at picture control to get the colors of any of Nikons digital Cameras, past and present. Just go there , look up Nikon D50 and look at the settings you would have to set on your D90 in order to get the same photo quality of a D50 . So you see , there really isn't no excuse for you not to like the d90...All this plus the extra resolution plus the comprehensive user setting makes the D90 a great camera. And at the price you can get it right now it really is a no brainer.
March 30, 2011 06:19 pm
I am surprised with vlad's comment on the D90. Is it realistic to purchase a camera and not test if first? Comparing it with your former camera in all aspects? I doubt the comment.
March 29, 2011 06:18 am
Hello. I have a Nikon D50 and I just bought a Nikon D90 (I was expecting for better pictures with D90). Surprising, bealive me or not - for the same settings - both cameras, the same time and subject , with Nikon D50 I got better pictures (more realistically), the contrast is better, so I'm quite disappointed about D90 and I'm going to sell It . d90 has bigger screen, and lot of settings and better resolution, but with no use for me I don't use 12 megapixel because I don't need 7 Mb pictures - lot of space, so I use Medium Or Large with Normal - pict. quality, so that to get 1.5 - 2 Mb pictures in size not more....
June 29, 2010 07:48 am
Can anyone tell me where I can get more training on the d90 besides the manual and Rockwell? Thanks.
April 28, 2009 03:38 pm
Anne,just set the autofocus point to be used on the eyes of the subject then half press the shutter release , recompose without releasing the shutter release so that the original focus point is kept (in this case it would be eyes of subject) then fully press the shutter release to take the photo.
April 23, 2009 09:31 am
OK, simple question. I took some shots today. Plain, old posed shots of kids. I wanted the eyes focused most of all. I think I had the d90 set on the wrong autofocus. The picture was focused overall, but the eyes weren't as much. How do I get the autofocus point in the center, and do I have to recompose and push the AE-L button to do so? This is really a problem, and I refuse to use the point and shoot functions to do shots. Can someone help?
March 15, 2009 03:43 am
Manuel, I had the sigma 18-200 OS lens, but I had to return it for a refund, whilst the images were sharp in the centre they were soft and out of focus towards the edges. I suspected the lens was faulty....it was. This could be the case with your lens too. Sigma asked me to take two images one with OS switched off , one with OS switched on, it made no difference whether optical stabilisation was on or off, both images were pin sharp in the centre, soft and out of focus towards the edges.
March 7, 2009 11:45 pm
A friend once had a Sigma lens, (I don't remember the type/range), that was very unsharp. It turned out to be a faulty specimen as other lenses of the same type in the shop were sharp. Maybe yours has a similar problem.
It would be hard to give you advice here because the choice of lens depends very much on your own style and preferences. Even stronger: don't accept any lens advice from anyone who doesn't know these things. The best thing to do is visit a photography shop and try a lot of lenses youself. You can also look at the lens reviews on dpreview.com
March 6, 2009 11:57 pm
Thanks alot for your rapid response.Just another question. I've noticed that my lens , Sigma 18-200mm DC OSD is really nice to have around as an all do lens.But its sharpness isn't all that great.Don't get me wrong , I like it as an all around lens.But I'am considering buying another lens and I'am a bit confused at all the options that I have.It doesn't have to be all that inexpensive but at the same time not all that expensive.I know that when you use a zoom lens you gain practicality but lose out on resolution on less you have the money to buy a really good one .What I don't like about the lens is that its consistently soft outside of the center.It's really sharp at the center but everything else isn't .I've tried different f numbers to no avail.I've wonder if it could be the focusing system on the Nikon D90 the culprit giving extreme sharpness only where its focusing ,coming myself from film cameras , this is my first Digital SLR camera and I'am still learning .On film I use to get increible and sharp pictures . Is there a lens you could recommend for the nikon that isn't all that expensive and my give me good all around results?It doesn't have to be a telephoto .Thank you in advance for your response.
March 6, 2009 07:42 pm
That's right. I noticed the same thing. Luckily you can configure the camera software to underexpose a bit using option b4. I've set each metering mode to -2/6.
March 1, 2009 01:52 pm
I have a Nikon D90 slr camera with a sigma 18-200 mm DC OSD lens.How can I find out if my optical Stabilization is working properly? And thank for the review of the Nikon D90.I have notice that exposure is a tiny bit on the bright side compare with a canon camera. Have you noticed the same thing?
January 28, 2009 10:35 am
Thanks Mark. I have a D50, which is my first DSLR. I've been routinely disappointed in its autofocus performance, even in optimal light situations. Sounds like the d90 is better but still not perfect.
January 28, 2009 10:11 am
The image quality is supreme. At first, I was comparing the D80 to the Canon EOS 450D, and I concluded that the 450D was good at high light areas and blurred the dark areas. The D80 was the opposite, and retained detail in dark areas whereas the high areas clipped easily. Proof of this is the dynamic range curve on the D80 review of dpreview, which rises until it goes through the roof instead of limiting slowly. The D90 however has a slowly limiting curve (like all normal cameras), and as a bonus, has D-lighting to gain even more detail (analogous to Canon's highlight priority). I don't know to which extend this depends on the internal software and can be circumvented by shooting RAW though.
The sharpness is also amazing. I've shot full size images, and at 100% crops, per-pixel details were visible, and without aliasing. It's auto focus is a bit less optimal though, this level of details are only possible by focusing manually. The color absorption curve by the color filters is also very much like the eye's response, unlike most cameras. Near-UV, like blacklight, is rendered in an accurate violet hue and infrared becomes red (as opposed to ugly whitish purple like I see everywhere else)
January 28, 2009 09:31 am
Nice overview of the camera's functionality. But you don't really say much about image quality. I know it's a function of the glass, too, but I was wondering what you thought of the pix you took.
January 26, 2009 11:02 am
thanks Peter and Mark. I got it.
January 26, 2009 09:33 am
Eugeneonly and Peter Carey: an easier way to change the [Fn] button is to press the [info] button twice, go to the [right] 4 times and press [ok] to change it there.
January 25, 2009 08:07 pm
I purchased the Nikon D90 at the end of November and I absolutely love it. It's my first DSLR so It'll take me a while to figure my way around it. Having upgraded from the Panasonic DMC-FZ30, I have once again jumped into the realm of beginner!
Just a quick note to Susan and Jane, and all people trying to use the .NEF files with CS3 - download the Adobe DNG 4.6 Converter. You can find this at:
The Camera Raw 4.6 plug-in is not compatible with versions of Photoshop earlier than Photoshop CS3 or versions of Photoshop Elements earlier than Photoshop Elements 5.0 for Windows and Photoshop Elements 4.01 for Mac.
January 25, 2009 04:17 am
Paul, you are correct, only the output is selectable to 1080i.
Eugeneonly, In the Custom Settings Menu from the Main Menu, go to custom function f3 - Assign FUNC Button. This will then give you the choices for what the Func button does. At first, it's not obvious, but once set you'll get the hang of it.
For reference, here's a link to the D90 manual online http://www.nikonusa.com/pdf/manuals/noprint/D90_ennoprint.pdf
January 24, 2009 04:49 pm
Thanks very much for the information about this D90 camera. I just bought one about a week and am still going through many of its functions. By the way can anyone help me about the fn button. How is this easy to use when I'm trying to figure out how this work? I have a D40 and know how to tweak its fn button but the D90 when I press the function button I can't see how this work? Please don't mind my being ignorant. I appreciate very much your assistance.
January 24, 2009 05:39 am
Though Im not very talented I absolutely love this camera. I do agree that liveview is slightly cumbersome and somewhat unnecessary but is handy for shooting good quality video. Overall a great camera for the hobbyist.
January 24, 2009 01:12 am
great review! It's my new "dreamcamera" now!
January 23, 2009 04:27 am
I've had my D90 since December, and I echo what most have said above. Yes, you do need photoshop CS4 to be able to use the Camera Raw, as the latest Camera Raw will not work with CS3. This is an added expense for fans of Photoshop, although on my laptop, I've uploaded my RAW shots using Nikon Transfer, and converted to JPG through the included software. Only then I use CS3 to open it, and I can modify the JPG in Camera Raw. Not the most optimum way to do it, but at least I can do some edits on the fly on the laptop.
The best thing is the battery life of this camera. If you want excellent battery performance, don't bother with Live View. You can shoot an entire wedding all day on one battery with this thing, if you only leave live view alone.
The hood on the 18-105 kit lens does get in the way when you use the inbuilt flash. I don't know if this is a problem on many other cameras, but I have to remember to remove it in low light conditions.
I love the 18-105 lens, but after borrowing an 18-200 lens, I'm saving up to buy one of those for my travel. I'm not sure I'd have the patience to swap and change lenses all the time as I'm travelling, and although it's a $1000 lens here in Aus, I've heard mostly good things about it for what I want.
I've heard some say the Active D lighting is nothing to write about, but I've had some great results with it:
here. Changing ISO is a little tricky, but I'm getting the hang of it. The remote sensor only works from behind if you are standing on the left of the unit, not the right, which made it awkward for me on one shoot. But yeah, I can live with that now I know!
January 23, 2009 03:33 am
Thanks for doing this review. It's great to get another user's perspective on this Camera. I've been holding off buying it but still it seems that it is my choice of cameras. I'm just curious to know when the next upgrade is coming... Great to also know about your likes and dislikes from Cannon to Nikon. I'm a Nikon user specifically because I have Nikon lenses, like you to your Cannon lenses...
January 23, 2009 02:18 am
When I wanted to buy a Nikon SLR, I first thought about the D70, because I have used one in the past, which I borrowed from a friend. As this model was no longer available, I went for the D80 (I did not want to get less with the D60 because it has only one dial!). Then when I wanted to buy it, it turned out they only had a showroom model left as it is getting old too.
I'm really disappointed that Nikon now has no single new camera in between the relatively cheap D60 (entry model) and expensive D90 (almost, if not already, professional), like the D70 used to be.
I finally bought the D90 for a lot more than the D80 would have cost me and I'm really happy with the functionalities, especially the dust removal, high ISO and D-lighting. Even the autofocus helper light is a nice incandecent light bulb instead of the more common LED light. I only wished I could turn it on DURING a shot, in low light situations (heck, I even use it as an actual flashlight on occasions)
It comes with the 18-105 kit lens, which costs the same as the 18-55 lens, has slightly less distortion, but by 18-105 had a significantly worse performing VR than the 18-55 lens.
The only downside, I wished the flash and autofocus lights were positioned a bit further from the optical center, as I get shadows real quickly with my 77mm lens front. (Tamron 17-35)
January 23, 2009 12:57 am
I've had the D90 since November and just love it!!! I had the D40 before that. I am impressed by the video quality--not the best, but better than I had hoped given the reviews I had read. I have to admit, that I didn't buy it for that reason anyway, but having it is just a bonus. I love the quality of my pictures now.
The only downside is that I used to shoot RAW, but now I can't because the Nikon plugin doesn't work with my version of photoshop or photoshop elements. I have to buy the newest version of Photoshop for it to work and I'm considering this as a future purchase (my list is way too long!).
Anyway, I would give it two thumbs up, if you are considering buying this camera!
January 22, 2009 12:46 pm
oh yeah... i was told to buy a circular polarizer for the fish tank shots. is this good advice for the price?
January 22, 2009 12:26 pm
i am headed to monterey bay, ca in a few months. i have been trying to gather the proper equipment to shoot the aquarium. any suggestions on gear? how about tips on shooting through the 3in.+ thick glass walls of the tank? i am new to this so any settings would help as well. i am using a d90 by the way. thank you for your time.
January 21, 2009 11:26 am
Thanks for the reply Peter, I have double checked my D90 and the recording modes available. 1280X720 (720P) is the highest movie mode available. The 1080i setting appears under the HDMI setting for outputting to a HD TV.
January 21, 2009 12:15 am
@The World In 35mm - Thanks for the input, I'll make sure to have that type of summary at the end.
@Mike, you're right about the power, but that location is suboptimal. The strap would be better. I am supposed to be receiving a third party solution soon that fits the bottom of the camera and I should be posting a review when that comes in. It would seem to be more comfortable although the camera is weighted and balanced very well to start with.
@Paul, I don't have the camera in my possesion right now so I'm going off memory. There are settings for resolution and then for the type of recording mode. It has options for 1080i, the interlaced version, and then lower forms of progressive scans, 720p and 480p.
January 20, 2009 04:25 pm
I'm another one who's enjoying the D90 as their first DSLR and it is so much more than I could have asked for. Nice review - thanks for highlighting some of the aspects of the camera I might not have thought about right off the bat. My only wish is that after buying it I could also afford a macro lens!
I'm waiting for some good weather so mostly I've been working with it indoors:
January 20, 2009 02:44 pm
Nice review. I have a D40 and am considering the D90 when I upgrade.
I'm assuming that this is a new review (Jan 2009), but don't see a date for when this was posted. Not sure if there is a reason the date is not included, but it is really helpful for posts like this.
January 20, 2009 12:55 pm
Thanks Paul! I'll check that out. I used to do video post work here in Atlanta...so a DSLR with HD video capabilities is really interesting.
January 20, 2009 11:37 am
Robb, there is a D90 group at Vimeo which showcases some amazing D90 footage, http://www.vimeo.com/groups/d90/videos.
Seems YouTube doesn't play so nicely but unfortunately it is the place to be as it is the most popular video hosting site. Videos uploaded without alteration from the D90 to YouTube only get the the "High Quality" treatment which is much lower quality than their "HD" mode. I found you need to convert to H.262 MP4 first before uploading then all is fine. If you're interested, the testing I did is at http://cybercam.com/133/youtube-high-quality-hd-test/.
I'm extremely happy with the camera, especially at it's price. With the 18-200mm VR lens it makes an awesome and versatile package.
January 20, 2009 11:17 am
The D90 looks like an incredible camera...it just wasn't enough features...that I use...to upgrade from the D80 at this point in time.
What I would really like to see is some of the HD footage...use Vimeo for hosting and get it posted up!
January 20, 2009 11:07 am
Great review, I just have one question. Where is the 1080i setting? The only video options I see on my D90 are 1280X720, 640X424 and 320X216. I know you can use the HDMI port for HD output to a TV, is that what you mean?
January 20, 2009 10:22 am
Great review !
I just posted it on bokehnews:
January 20, 2009 10:03 am
I asked someone from Nikon at Macworld about the GPS attachment. He told me it doesn't actually have any electrical connection to the hot shoe - the actual connection is on the side of the camera. That's just a convenient place to put it, but there's also an option to clip it on to the camera strap.
January 20, 2009 09:25 am
I recently upgraded from a D70 to a D300 while this camera was being released. I held off for the video features, but after seeing some early tests (NOT Chase Jarvis's) I had to decline and wait for the video to mature. I'm more than happy with the D300 for now. Nice compact size on the D90 though.
January 20, 2009 07:29 am
I've had my D90 for 2 weeks now, it was my first DSLR and I _LOVE_ it! The whole package is just GREAT.
January 20, 2009 07:17 am
Nice job on the review. Appreciate the time you took. Just one thought (maybe for future reviews), it would be nice to see a list of pros/cons in the conclusion to help summarize.
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