Customer Reviews: Nikon D90 12.3MP DX-Format CMOS Digital SLR Camera with 18-105 mm f/3.5-5.6G ED AF-S VR DX Nikkor Zoom Lens (OLD MODEL)
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on October 20, 2008
Several months before the D90 came out, I bought a D60 to hold me over until the D90 was released. Well, I've enjoyed using both cameras, but this one is a huge step up and more suited to an advanced enthusiast, like me. It's a real pleasure to use.

ERGONOMICS - The D90 is solid, tight, and well-balanced with the 18-105 VR lens. It's always ready and it shoots very fast. I love all the direct access buttons; they're easy to press, with good tactile feedback. And since you're not going into the menus as much, you can work faster. It's heavier than the D60, but that's OK. It's still very manageable to carry around and it fits my average-sized hand better too. The shutter sounds different than the D60 (if that matters to you). It sounds more like a professional camera; more like a fast "whoosh" than a "click-click". And there are so many internal customizations that you can set it up exactly as you want.

LENS - Biggest surprise was the 18-105 VR lens which I expected would be ho-hum, but turned out to be pretty sharp and clear. Better results than the 18-55 VR. We've really come a long way from the days (30 years ago) when you were cautioned to ALWAYS to buy a prime lens, NEVER the kit lens because of it's poor image quality. With computer-aided design and new technology, that's not true anymore.

IMAGE QUALITY - I shoot RAW for maximum detail and the ability to adjust settings afterward if necessary - like exposure or white balance. Image quality is very good to excellent depending on your RAW converter. To my eye, best results are obtained with View NX/Capture NX, but Adobe ACR/Lightroom still do a very good job (2010 UPDATE; After using Lightroom the past year, raw conversions are beautiful and far quicker to achieve than Capture NX). When shooting JPGs using the Standard Picture Mode, images are sharp and colors are true, without over-saturation. You can always use different Picture Modes and customize any of them to get closer to the in-camera results you want. For example, you can boost saturation and contrast and save the setting as your default if that's what you like.

LIGHT METER - Metering is fine and seems to be quite accurate in most cases. I use matrix metering mostly. As with any camera, you have to get to know the meter. If I had to be VERY critical, I'd say when it's pushed, it's more likely to preserve shadows than highlights, usually when Active DLighting is on. To me that's a good thing. Another website mentioned a slightly "over-enthusiatic" meter in its review. The good news is: if you really feel exposure results are not to your liking (whether over or under exposed), the meter is fine-tuneable, so go ahead and customize it as you see fit. I would just work with the meter first -get to know the camera and adapt yourself to it before you start making any adjustments. That said, I've used the D90 in a very wide range of lighting conditions and I can truly say that while exposures may vary occasionally, they've always made perfect sense for the situation. I've never been shocked or puzzled by the output.

LIVE VIEW - is great for the occasional high or low shot. I didn't think would need it, but when I had the D60, I found myself in many situations where I really could have used it. Unlike a point-and-shoot, focus is slower in this mode and shooting seems somewhat clunky. I wouldn't use Live View if I were in a rush or trying to get an important shot. It's just a nice little extra.

MOVIE MODE - this is a nice novelty and may be handy in a rare moment, but I'm generally not a video camera person. I'm surprised to read that some people have made movies and commercials with the D90. I keep promising myself to use this feature more, but I don't have a tripod and I'm just too jittery and uncreative to get good cinema-like results. Moreover, from the little I've tried it, I'm not impressed - there's no autofocus during filming and the movie comes out over exposed and far from HD quality. The user manual is not very helpful either. But I didn't purchase the camera for this feature, so I'm not disappointed.

ISO - I really like the new wide range of ISO settings, especially when coupled with the Auto-ISO setting. Mine is customized to keep the camera at ISO 200, but kick in at 1/30. In this example, anytime lighting decreases enough for the shutter speed to drop below 1/30, the D90 will automatically compensate by raising the ISO high enough (up to an ISO limit you set) to help keep your shutter speed at 1/30. Once the ISO maxes-out at your limit, the camera has no choice but to start bringing down the shutter speed. Noise at high ISOs isn't an issue. In fact, you have to zoom in pretty close for it to be even slightly noticeable. I use Auto-ISO mostly all the time. Its an amazing feature! I only turn this feature off when I want to stick to a particular ISO at all times (if its on a monopod or I've stabilized the camera in some way).

ACTIVE D-LIGHTING - helps camera to preserve shadow and highlight detail. More important to use when shooting JPG because the exposure has to be right at the time of shooting, when the camera creates the JPG. RAW shooters can always adjust exposure in post processing. Even though I shoot RAW, I usually leave it on Auto so I can double check the exposure details on the LCD screen. It's available in various strengths from Low to Extra High. Again, another great customization.

-At this price, Nikon should include a robust image editing software, or at least a decent discount on Capture NX2, which works great, but costs extra.
-Kit lens is thick in diameter (67mm). Also, the front glass of the lens seems somewhat exposed, as if it's not recessed that much (it's just enough for a lens cap). I worry that it'll get scratched easily. Good thing Nikon included the lens hood.

AUTOFOCUS TIP - I customized the D90 to autofocus using the AF-L button instead of the shutter release. Now I can focus with one press of my thumb on the AF-L button and shoot with my index finger on the shutter release. This allows me to focus first, let go, then take the shot. Since the subject is already in focus, I can take multiple shots, recompose or go vertical. I'm not forced to continually re-focus for every shot or move the AF point around in the viewfinder. This minimizes AF mishaps on unintentional subjects. And since the VR system remains off until you half-press the shutter (it activates only when you're ready to take the shot, not while you're focusing) you save on battery life as well.

Also, with the D90 set to AF-C mode (continuous autofocus) you can keep a moving subject in focus by holding down the AF-L with your thumb and shooting with your index finger. If the subject becomes still, simply let go of the AF-L button; focusing stops and is locked where you left it. Then shoot when ready. Now your D90 can act as if it's in Single or Continuous AF mode without you having to change settings all the time. This gives you more immediate control over the behavior of the AF system Try it and you won't go back!

SUMMARY - Overall I'm extremely happy with the D90! It's designed for serious shooting, but it's still fun to use; noticeably heavier than the D60, but still not a burden. You do need to be committed to carrying around a solid DSLR in the first place. Once you get used to that, you'll come to appreciate that it's more substantial because it'll be less shaky during shots. Nikon really packed it with a ton of features and customizations. Now I finally have everything I want in a DSLR, without it being overblown and overpriced. I'm actually surprising myself with some really spectacular shots.

If you have your basic photography skills down, you can make any DSLR sing, however, I believe THIS camera, because of its superb sensor and spot-on feature set, can actually help you improve your technique and get better results. You'll take more chances and push yourself farther because now you have the tools (ie. features) to help capture more difficult, more creative shots. And you didn't have to spend $3,000 to get there!

8-MONTH UPDATE: Still love this camera which hasn't lost any of its original excitement. Very reliable - never frustrating. I'm not craving an upgrade - not contemplating a switch to Canon either - I'm perfectly content. Haven't discovered any hidden quirks. In fact, the longer I use it, the more I realize how well engineered it is. The only extras I bought so far were a light monopod and a 50mm 1.8 lens.
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VINE VOICEon September 28, 2008
I am far from a professional photographer, but I take it as seriously as possible while still referring to it as a hobby. I take mostly pictures of people at events and many of my baby son without flash in low light situations.

I had been using a Nikon D40x for 1 year and very early reached my limitation with that camera. The Nikon D40x has very nice image quality, but the camera's interface is not suited for a more serious shooter who wants quick single button or dial access to such shooting parameters such as white balance, shooting mode, metering mode, etc. I also felt very limited by the D40x not having an in-body focus motor that would allow me to use non AF-I/AF-S lenses (which are lenses without the focus motor built-in).

The Nikon D40x limitations were severe enough that I was about to consider purchasing a Canon 40D until the Nikon D90 appeared just in time.


1. Fantastic set of separate buttons on the camera to control parameters like ISO, white balance, metering, autofocus, image quality, shooting mode, etc.
2. Two command dials
3. High resolution 920K pixel LCD screen (like the one on the Nikon D300)
4. 12.3 megapixel CMOS sensor
5. Low noise high ISO capability (for low light shooting) I can shoot ISO 1600 with good image quality with this camera, while on my D40x I could only shoot with ISO 400 and obtain acceptable IQ. I will even use ISO 3200 frequently with very usable results!
6. Separate top-viewing LCD screen in addition to the rear high res screen, to show shooting parameters constantly
7. In-body focus motor which allows the use of Nikon's non AF-I/S lenses, including wonderful and CHEAP prime lenses such as the Nikkor 50mm 1.8 (~$100 lens!)
8. Continuous shooting of 4.5 frames per second
9. Small size, although larger than the D40/D40x/D60, it is still substantially smaller in the hand than the D300/D3
10. 720p 24fps MPEG video shooting capability with incredible ability to use depth of field that I cannot achieve with my Sony High-Def camcorder.
11. Eleven auto-focus points (not as nice as the 51 points on the D300, but substantially better than my D40x with its 3 points)
12. GPS option
13. HDMI output
14. Enormous number of options to customize camera and shooting settings to fit your style of shooting
15. Fantastic image quality right out-of-box if you don't want to do any post processing
16. Terrific build quality
17. Top notch camera ergonomics (but this will be a very personal opinion that differs for each shooter)


1. "Rolling shutter" phenomenon while recording video: The D90 CMOS sensor has the same problem that other CMOS video recorders have when recording video. If you move the camera, especially horizontally, you get a "jelly" or "rubberbanding" effect where the image wobbles significantly. It is nice to have the video features, which looks very sharp at 720p, but it is NOT a substitute for a video camera. If you use a tripod, and do not do quick zooms/pans, the video quality is excellent. Without a tripod, however, you may get nauseous watching a wobbly video. The sound is also in monoaural.
2. 1/200 flash synch: Not a problem for me, but it might be for you.
3. No weather sealing: This is found on the Nikon D300/D3 and even on similarly priced models from other camera companies
4. The buffer will fill up after about 8 continuous RAW + JPG (FINE) shots. This number differs depending on the shooting parameters that you will choose. If you shoot primarily JPG, the buffer seems to allow a very large number of continuous shots, but I have not quantified this for JPG only.


1. Get the FREE Nikon ViewNX software from Nikon's site as your 1st step in your workflow. This will let you examine your RAW images that you can process for either Nikon CaptureNX2 to do further RAW processing or just export to JPG or TIFF for a JPG/TIFF editor such as PhotoShop.
2. Recommend buying the Nikon CaptureNX2. It is a RAW converter (if you shoot in RAW) that will read the camera settings properly for export to JPG or TIFF. Capture NX2, however, is not as slick as the Adobe products and Capture NX2 requires a fairly powerful computer, otherwise it can run pretty slowly on a PC > 3 years old.
3. If you use JPEGs out-of-camera, consider increasing the sharpness above the default 3 or 4. Nikon uses a very conservative sharpening default setting. Nikon has also decided to change the default JPEG images to match the higher end D3/D700/D300 cameras which produce more neutral images. Consequently, the D90 images that are less punchy than the D40/D40x/D60/D80, so you may also want to turn up the in-camera saturation and contrast.

The Nikon D90 has all of the interface features that serious and even professional photographers need with wonderful image quality.
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on November 29, 2008
There are plenty of reviews out there, and I don't want to be redundant. So here are some helpful points that I had a hard time ferreting out when doing my research before pulling the trigger on this purchase, given that I was upgrading from a D60 and that I am, like many who are reading reviews on this product, not a professional:

1. I owned the D40, then the D60. So this is my third Nikon. I had trouble deciphering how my lenses, purchased for the D40/D60, would behave when used in this new model. The answer is that the D90 handles all of them perfectly. This includes lenses that have the HSM built in (the Hyper Sonic Motor is packaged in the lens, because the D40/D60 range doesn't have a built in auto-focus motor) as well as those with no internal motor. The D90 has an internal focus motor, so all lenses built for Nikon cameras will auto-focus, including the Nikon 50mm f1.8 lens that I had to manually focus in the D60.

2. The D90 is heavier, but certainly not uncomfortable to hold or carry. Weight will not be a discouraging factor in purchasing this camera.

3. The D90 takes different batteries, so any spares you have for the earlier models will not work on it. Battery life is truly outstanding. I am not even going to buy a spare battery.

4. The user interface is completely different from the D40/D60. I found it intuitive however. The functionality is just superb, much easier and more flexible. This is a pro level camera with the ease of use of a high end amateur camera.

5. Live view is a great enhancement. Really.

Overall, there is nothing I can say negative about the D90. It's everything I was hoping it would be, and it's so worth the money to upgrade. I'm selling the D60 for half what I paid - and doing it gladly - because the D90 is worth more than it's being sold for. I absolutely highly recommend it.

I also thought I would offer some lens advice, because I had trouble finding a reviewer that just cut to the chase and said "look, just do this." So, look, just do this: I do NOT recommend the kit lenses that you can obtain bundled with the D90. Get the body only, and buy yourself that Nikon 50mm f1.8 (Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras). It's a no-brainer at the price point, and the images I have already achieved have been just excellent. For the rest of your lenses, I highly recommend Sigma. I own the 18-200 (Sigma 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 DC Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras), the 10-20 (Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras), and the 150-500 (Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 AF APO DG OS HSM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon Digital SLR Cameras). I cannot say enough positive things about the quality of the lenses or the images. Pack the 50mm and the 18-200 superlens for normal occasions. If you can stand the extra weight, you absolutely cannot go wrong with the 10-20 for landscapes, it just pulls in everything and the quality is shocking. The 150-500 is enormous, you are not going to want to carry that thing around, but when you need it, you really need it. I captured images of my son playing in a soccer game that blew me away; could not have gotten the shots without the big lens. Get the lenses in the order I have specified if you cannot afford them all.

I have just learned all this over the past 2 years. I am no expert but I have discovered the joy of capturing great images that you just cannot get from a point-and-shoot. I think once you see the quality you can achieve with a better camera, you will be thrilled with the decision to spend the money and the energy. And Nikon has truly produced the best camera at this price point in the world. It's a pro camera with an amateur price and it's very easy to use. Words really don't do it justice; you need to experience it to understand.

Any questions, please send me a comment. Happy to help!

Update - 16 Jul 2009:

I have now taken well over 4,000 images with the D90 and can confirm that it's still all I had hoped it would be. Every time I think of something I wish I could adjust, I find that the D90 has the adjustment capability in the menu somewhere. The active D-lighting is spectacular. The noiseless photos in low-light conditions have blown me away. I don't see myself upgrading from this camera for a very long time. My technique for most situations has become as follows: snap a few images using the Auto settings. Then switch to full manual and start playing with the depth of field by adjusting ISO, aperture, and shutter speed to fit the situation. Half the time, the Auto photos are so good that I can't do much to top them in manual mode!

Update - 20 Jan 2010:

Over 10,000 photos taken with my D90. No new lenses purchased since last update. I have yet to find a situation the D90 cannot handle deftly. Over Christmas, I took a family photo of my wife's entire extended family, over 40 people involved. It was indoors, at night, with only weak overhead lights and the lights from the Christmas tree behind the group. I used an ISO of 3500, my small Nikon 50mm lens at 1.8 aperture, and my remote control (so I could be in the photo too!) Under these low light conditions, with no flash, I was able to capture 50 images in a very short time, and miraculously got several with everyone smiling and no one blinking, and out of these one was perfect! The group included several young kids who hate standing still, to name one challenge! The output was startling; in the natural light, its almost ethereal. I'm the new family hero. The reality is that this single photo is irreplaceable and worth more than the camera and lens. It could not have been accomplished with a lesser camera/lens combination, including the previous Nikons I have owned. I would venture to say that no other camera in the price range could touch what I did with the D90 in this situation. Over and over, the camera proves its worth to me. In the end, what is one fabulous photograph of your child, your vacation, or your life's important events worth?

Update - 27 April 2010:

I noticed that I forgot to mention another very useful addition to the D90 - the remote control. This device allows you to remotely trigger the shutter and I find I use it for group shots much more often than the timer, especially because I can trigger multiple shots without returning to the camera. It's very inexpensive and small (I keep it in the little pouch that it comes with, threaded into the strap, so it's always there when I need it.) Here is the item: Nikon ML-L3 Wireless Remote Control for Nikon D40, D40x, D60, D80 & D90 Digital SLR Cameras. Highly recommended!

Update - 13 May 2010:

My D90 was stolen two weeks ago. What a bummer. Anyhow, I decided to upgrade to the D700, but not because there's anything wrong with the D90. I loved it. The D700 has the FX size sensor, whereas the D90 has the DX size sensor, which is smaller. The real benefit of the FX sensor is better sensitivity, meaning higher shutter speeds at a given aperture. Of course, the D700 is more sophisticated in nearly every way, but it's also heavier and more complex to operate. It's also over $2,000 for the body only. I sprang for it. But even so, after considering carefully all the current offerings, my conclusion is that for the money, there is still no better camera than the D90.

Update - 15 Feb 2011:

I highly recommend Thom Hogan's "Complete Guide" series for the Nikon D90 (and for any other Nikons). I bought the one for the D700 and it's just incredibly useful, way more easy to understand and more thorough than the Nikon documentation. It's really essential reading; you get the why, not just the how, and practical advice on settings you should use for different situations. Thom really helped me understand why it's worth shooting in RAW (I now onluy shoot in RAW), and what tradeoffs are worth making and when (ISO vs shutter speed vs aperture). You can only get them off his website so google it. bythom dot com is the address BTW. (I don't know the guy and am not getting a kickback, I swear!!!!)

Also, I'm really enjoying having a good quality wide angle zoom, anyone who hasn't obtained one yet for their setup, I think you ought to look into it closely. I find myself using it more and more.
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on September 18, 2008
The same ISO capability of the D300.
Intuitive layout that Nikon is famous for
Fast - focus, frames per second, and card access
First DSLR to have video, but . . .

Video has poor audio quality and no AF
Kit lens is not worth what Nikon says it's worth

Recommendation: Casual users who aren't concerned about how tough the kit lens is should buy now. Semi-pros who want a good lens might want to wait and just get the body (available about a month after the kit release)

Before making the leap to the D90 I researched this and other cameras for several weeks. I actually wanted the more expensive D300 because of the magnesium body and weatherproofing, but ultimately decided that the $600 difference was too big for just that one issue.

The D90 has the same sensor (or greatly similar depending on the source) as the D300 which means it shares the same great ISO capabilities. 1600 looks fine and you can definitely get usable small prints from even 3200. There are some reviewers on other sites claiming that the D90 has better noise reduction than the D300. Combine that with the the new Nikon VR lenses and you can shoot in low light at ridiculously slow shutter speeds. I've always hated using a flash and this camera is going to allow me to avoid using it in situations I never dreamed were possible. I took a shot in a dimly lit room at night and this camera picked up details I couldn't see with my own eyes!

The control layout is superb. The single button choices make complete sense - ISO, image quality, white balance and previous shot are right there on the left side of the LCD.

I did not buy this camera for its video function. However, Nikon did not deliver the goods here. You can buy a several year old Canon P&S S2 or S3 that shoots video (VHS/regular quality, not HD) at 30fps with stereo sound AND autofocus. If they could put that kind of functionality on a $200 camera it should be possible on a $1000 one as well. It just seems that if you're going to add a function like this it should have been done well or not done at all. If you're buying this camera because of its video capability then I would urge you to wait until Nikon or another DSLR maker does it right. Or just buy a separate HD video camera at a fraction of the cost of the D90.

I realize a lot of folks like the kit lens, but it is not the same quality as Nikon's other zooms in this price range. I read that Nikon says this kit lens, the 18-105mm VR, would sell for $400. Thus the "$100 savings by buying the kit." I bought the Nikon 70-300mm VR at the same time for about $485 and the build quality is far better with a metal mount and rubber gasket to keep out the elements. The kit lens has a plastic mount with no rubber gasket and it just feels cheap in comparison. If you're just looking for a basic everyday lens as an average user this might not matter, but if you're an aspiring amateur/semi-pro this is really not acceptable.

Overall this is a great camera and it is, minus the lack of weather proofing (which I can't expect at this price range anyway), exactly what I was looking for. It does have its flaws, however. Thus the 4 star rating instead of 5.
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on October 18, 2011
I am a photography teacher in NYC and online. (See my Amazon profile for my website.) I teach beginner and intermediate photography students every week. I've also been a professional photographer for the last five years with images published in The New York Times, GQ, New York Magazine, Women's Wear Daily, The New York Observer, The Village Voice and Time Out New York.

(This review is for beginner photographers.)

If you're a beginner, you're most likely asking yourself: Nikon or Canon? Really, I feel confident in saying that you can't go wrong with either. I've used both brand's cameras extensively and find that they both offer amazing image quality with well-built, solid cameras that, if taken care of, will last decades. There are two differences between the cameras, though, that can be taken into consideration.

The user-interface: If cameras were computers, Nikons would be PCs and Canons would be MACs. PCs are built for people not afraid of technology whereas Macs are built for people who want things super-easy. Nikons excel at customization options which means you'll see so many more options with the Advanced features of a Nikon than you will with a Canon. Canons, on the other hand, excel at ease-of-use for beginners. Canons offer less advanced options and can be easier to learn on. This can be frustrating down the line, though, once you've learned a lot about photography. At that point you may want all of the options that Nikon offers and be frustrated with your Canon. If you're someone who really likes to delve deep into your hobbies or if you're intent on becoming a professional photographer, I'd say a Nikon would be your best bet. If you're someone who wants to learn the basics of photography and only imagine yourself being a hobbyist, Canon would be a better option for you.

Where Nikon excels: Flash photography. I often find myself in situations where I'm shooting event photography (weddings, movie premiers, benefits and galas) where I need to use a lot of flash. For this kind of photography, I'll always prefer to be shooting with a Nikon. Nikon's flash metering (how the camera magically decides how much light to fire out of the flash) is much more consistent than Canon's. You can take a Canon and shoot the same scene three times in a row with flash and all three images will be at different brightness levels. You can do the same thing with a Nikon and all three images will be wonderfully the same. If you're somebody who plans on shooting a lot with flash (indoor photography, event photography, etc.) you'll want to consider going with Nikon.

Where Canon excels: Richness of colors. I've been in numerous situations where I've been on the red carpet taking the exact same picture as the photographer next to me. I'll have a Canon and the person next to me will have a Nikon. This has provided quite a few opportunities to compare the images side-by-side. What I've found is that the colors on the Canon's images look richer and make the image pop more. If I'm doing fine art photography (anything I'd like to someday hang in a gallery), I'll always want to be shooting with a Canon for this reason.

If you're set on Nikon, there are three cameras you should be considering and it all comes down to what your budget is:

D7000 $1,400 without lens
D5100 $750 without lens
D3100 $600 only available with lens
(current prices as of 2/19/11)

Since you're on the D90 Amazon page, though, I'm going to guess that you're considering the D90 which Amazon is currently selling for $900 (without lens). If you're considering buying the D90 because you didn't realize that Nikon has replaced the D90 with two new camera models (the D5100 and D7000), then you may want to go straight for one of those two models, depending on your budget. If you were already aware that Nikon has newer models and are still considering the D90 then here's how the D90 stacks up to the D5100 and the D7000. (The D90 is such a great camera that, even though Nikon has newer, replacement models, they still sell the D90!)

D90 vs. D7000:

Where the D7000 excels:
-Higher resolution: The D7000 is a 16 MegaPixel camera whereas the D90 is only a 12 MegaPixel camera. This effects how big you can print your images and have them remain high quality prints. 16 MegaPixels will print as big as 24 inches by 16 inches whereas 12 MegaPixels will print as big as 21 inches by 14 inches. A higher resolution also means you can crop an image and have the remaining image still remain high quality.
-Longer battery life. The D7000's battery will last 20% longer than the D90's.
-Two memory card slots. This is really a cool feature. The D7000 has two memory card slots which means you'll be less likely to find yourself standing in front of a gorgeous scene with no more memory left.
-More focus points. When using auto-focus, the D7000 will have an easier time focusing on what you want it to focus on.
-Faster continuous shooting. If you're often shooting sports or any fast moving subject, continuous shooting allows you to capture multiple images in a single second. The D90 shoots at 4.5 frames per second whereas the D7000 shoots at six frames per second.
-Higher ISO options. The D7000 offers two more stops of ISO than the D90 does. If you don't know what ISO means (or what a stop is) just know that this allows you to more easily shoot images in low-light situations.
-Weather sealed. This means you can shoot with the D7000 in the rain.
-Faster shutter speed. The fastest shutter speed on the D90 is 1/4000th of a second; on the D7000: 1/8000th of a second. To be honest, I can't think of any practical reason why this would benefit you unless you're planning on shooting some really bright scenes like directly into the sun.
-Higher quality video and continuous focus while you're shooting video (for all your video buffs out there)
-An external mic jack. (If you're planning on shooting video with an external mic, you'll want the D7000 over the D90.)

Where the D90 excels:
-It's a more affordable camera. By saving money on the D90, you'll have more money in your budget for an awesome lens or two!

D90 vs. D5100:

Where the D5100 excels:
-The D5100 is more affordable. More money for lens(es)!
-Higher resolution: The D5100 is a 16 MegaPixel camera whereas the D90 is only a 12 MegaPixel camera. This effects how big you can print your images and have them remain high quality prints. 16 MegaPixels will print as big as 24 inches by 16 inches whereas 12 MegaPixels will print as big as 21 inches by 14 inches. A higher resolution also means you can crop an image and have the remaining image still remain high quality.
-Smaller and lighter: The D5100 is 10% smaller and 20% lighter than the D90. This is something to consider if you plan on carrying your camera around with you a lot.
-A flip out screen (handy if you want to put your camera anywhere but at your eye level and be able to see what your camera is about to capture before you shoot it.)
-Higher ISO options. The D5100 offers two more stops of ISO than the D90 does. If you don't know what ISO means (or what a stop is) just know that this allows you to more easily shoot images in low-light situations.
-Higher quality video and continuous focus while you're shooting video (for all your video buffs out there)
-An external mic jack. (If you're planning on shooting video with an external mic, you'll want the D5100 over the D90.)
-HDR feature. This is only applicable if HDR is of interest to you. If you don't know what HDR is, I wouldn't worry about it, especially since there are tons of great HDR software programs you can buy, for very little money, if you want to explore it later.

Where the D90 excels:
-Longer battery life. The D90's battery will last 30% longer than the D5100's.

To sum this all up, if you can afford the D7000 body, get the D7000 body. If you can't afford the D7000 body, the D5100 is the way to go since it costs less than the D90 and comes with many advantages. (If you can't afford the D5100, get the D3100. You'll see my review of that camera on the D3100 Amazon page.)

If I can clarify any of this, please email me!

-JP Pullos, photography teacher, NYC and online (see my Amazon profile for my website)
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on January 12, 2009
It is an amazing camera by Nikon, expecially for amateur and enthusiast level photographers. The feature list is fantastic, plus the fact that it has the sensor of similar quality as the professional grade D300 model, and of course how can you forget the HD video capabilities? The sensor is highly rated for amazing dynamic range and color depth (the blues and greens are dreamingly rich, see my images in the customer images section). Please watch the video for a comparison with Rebel XSi that I owned before this one.

- Great sensor, amazing colors out of the camera
- Auto D-lighting to restore shadowed regions
- Feels great in hand, very comfortable to hold... lighter than a Canon 40d/50d.
- The optical viewfinder is bright and big, with great coverage
- AF tracking points are easy to spot and switch to
- Great 320K dots LCD
- Video feature is great.. you can make some really slick short movies after some practice. It is a bit difficult to master both autofocus and zoom and exposure control in video mode, but I guarantee you a huge share of fun with it.. especially with DOF tests:-)

- My copy of the camera came with one big bright hot pixel that was ON even at low ISOs like 200 and at fast shutter speeds. I was just about to learn to ignore it by using the software to map it out, and 2 more developed within a week of normal usage. Not good for a $1K camera right out of the box. I searched online and found many many others with the same issue. Further, you will have to pay at least one way shipping to a Nikon service center to have them mapped out, and yet they say it may develop more with time. I dont understand why a brand new camera has this issue. And its not just my copy, you can search "Nikon D90 + hot pixels" and you will find many many recent posts on this topic.

- The live view is just a gimmick. It doesnt stand in front of the implementation in a cheaper Canon XSI even. It lacks exposure simulation (the mode which brightens or darkens the LCD view based upon live shot setting changes like ISO/aperture/exposure time etc.). Further, it only goes as high as 6.7X while the XSi and 40D/50D go upto 10X zoom. To add to that, D90 seems to extrapolate the live view image at high zooms from a lower resolution image... showing bad interpolation artifacts like blocks at 6.7X zoom. You have to see it to believe it. Try a Rebel XSi and a D90 live view, and you will know what I mean. Also, there is no exposure scale overlay on the live view image to guide the user whether the shot is under/over exposed. You will have to switch to optical view finder to confirm the shot exposure level. All this renders the live view practically useless for anything but framing a snapshot or a video. In fact it should have been called an LCD view finder and not the live view, which it is not. D90 also only has one auto focus mode in live view which is contrast based, and too slow. Even 40d has a fast phase detect mode. Also, the D90 LCD refreshes only 15 frames per sec while a 40d/50d refreshes at 30 fps - better for sports. If you wear glasses and are hoping this live view will help you take pictures without having to goto the top LCD or the optical view finder, you will be shocked. Having owned an XSi and tried a Canon 50d, I can say with confidence that Nikon really has to improve their live view, or at least stop calling it that. I have let the Nikon customer support know of the interpolation issue at least, and they say it may come as a model update later, probably not an easy firmware update. But their answer was not clear. It took many emails just to explain the problem.

- The zoom (+/-) buttons are for the left hand. They may have been like this for most of the Nikons, but coming from Canon, it was a big discomfort to me to first switch the camera weight to the right hand, then move my left hand to use the buttons to the left of the LCD, then switch the hands back. This can be a pain if you have a heavy lens (like 70-300mm VR) and don't have a tripod.

- The pixel depth is only 12-bit as compared to 14-bit in a Rebel XSi or a Canon 40d. This is not that obvious, and it is actually surprising that D90 produces great colors for a shorter pixel depth.

- The video mode can possibly age your sensor quicker than it should. Because of prolonged exposures (upto 5 minutes in HD mode), the sensor may develop more hot pixels over time than usual. It is also hard to lock exposure while in video.. else there are jerks when the auto-exposure-compensation mode jumps in as the scene brightness changes.
In conclusion,

- if you can live with a sensor that may come with hot pixels, or may develop more sooner than expected,
- if you don't mind using both hands to manage controls while also holding a heavy lens,
- if you don't use live view at all and will only use the optical view finder, and
- if you have about $1200 to spare (as of Jan 12 2009), and a few hundred more down the line for expensive Nikkor zooms,

then this is a great camera for you. You will be more than satisfied with the colors that come flying out of it. Otherwise, allow me to recommend Canon 40d or 50d with pretty much all of the basic imaging done the right way.

The live view and the hot pixel issues are a big reason why I gave this camera only 3 stars. Especially so because it is a still camera first.. and if they ship out defective units (with hot pixels) in a brand new box, and ask you to use a software to take 30 minutes just to wait for them to me mapped out, I think they fail to provide the basic purpose of this camera. Plus the live view isnt useful at all except only for shot framing.

Edit to add: Here is a website that will let you compare the sensor quality between different models for your information. I am not sure how reliable they are, but they seem genuine.. still I advise you to interpret that data at your own discretion: [...]%7C0/(appareil2)/267%7C0/(appareil3)/262%7C0/(onglet)/0/(brand)/Canon/(brand2)/Canon/(brand3)/Nikon .

Edit#2: I have since returned this camera and have ordered a Canon 50d. I want to take good still pictures first, and the video mode and the ineffective live view and the LCD werent helping me too much in doing that. Regardless, it may fit your requirements, in which case please enjoy all the features it comes with, and dont forget to share your first video:-) Here are mine:


Edit#3 (1/19/09): After having owned a 50d, I would add one more star to this review, only the system doesnt allow it now. The reason being, I feel D90 handled noise much better... at least better than the 50d. Also, the 50d gave lens mount error right out of the box too... this is with firmware v1.0.3, the latest available.

Edit#4: 1/21/09. I confirmed that D90 had better noise performance in day-to-day use as compared to Canon 50d. Again, no lab tests, no controlled environment.. but just regular in-house pictures.. and I can see more chroma-noise with Canon 50d pictures. Also, no matter what I tried with the Canon pictures style editor, it was near to impossible to get the 'punchy' colors that nikon produces. In all fairness, Canon's picture style editor is a great idea, and it does help a lot too (see my blog here: [...] ). But the limitations are with how we can only select and change 100 discrete/individual colors, and there is no easy way to just plain rotate the color cone for all the possible colors. I decided to return the Canon 50d for these reasons.. plus the fact that it started giving me lens mount errors right out of the box. Come what may, I have re-ordered the D90 kit (I know.. but at least I tried both and found out what I like). I know I will miss the tack sharp live view and the hot-pixel-less sensor from Canon, but I have come to realise that what counts is the ultimate aesthetics of picture-taking, and Nikon D90 gave me that. I caught myself frequently comparing D90's output pictures with the 50d's. And no matter what I did, I always spent more time staring at and panning and zooming in the Nikon results. In a way, they 'called' me.

I plan to deal with the hot pixels with Adobe Lightroom which automagically maps them out from raw images. Or I will write scripts to map them in batches from both RAW and JPEGs in Capture NX2 (yes.. I found out that Capture NX2 allows you to remap hot pixels even in JPEGS.. so you dont necessarily have to shoot RAWs to avoid the hot pixels. as is the common misconception!).

So if you have read this review so far, please know this: I chose aesthetic pleasure over technical (or specification) superiority.. a personal choice. And if I could change the star rating of this camera, I would now make it 4-1/2. The half points will still be gone for hot-pixels and inferior live view with no exposure simulation.

There. I lived through two great cameras, and embraced one. Its your turn now. Good luck.. and whichever one you choose, make sure you like the end result.. and not just the camera's specifications or mega pixel count:-)
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on December 1, 2008
I just upgraded to the D90 from the D40 because I was tired of futzing with the white balance of the D40, and I wanted more low-light sensitivity (better ISO), as well as the flexibility of using faster lenses, many of which are not AF-S.

I have been very impressed with the D90. I'm comparing it to the D40. It takes significantly better pictures because of its larger dynamic range and better colors (ADR) and better white balance. The things that I think are important are ranked from most to least important.

1. Active D-lighting (ADR). This has gotten me photos with large dynamic ranges of light (highly shaded subjects with a bright background) that I would have otherwise botched. Also, we rent a house where they did a quick paint job in white, but there are splotches of beige and light green underneath. We've never successfully taken photos of this with the D40 or our point-and-clicks. The D90 pulls these out (without flash) to the point where it's easier to see them in the photo than by eye, and it nails the colors! I also suspect that the ADR is helping tame the noise at high ISO levels (see #3 below).

2. White Balance. The white balance is a big improvement over the D40, which botched AWB lots of times. If you look closely, it's not perfect, but close enough for all but the perfectionists, and the beauty is it works in Auto. That means that you can focus on taking pictures and not on fiddling with your settings so much. There's also a lot of flexibility to set your AWB defaults with a lot of precision.

3. Low light photography. I take a lot of shots indoors without flash. Until very recently, there weren't any f/1.4 prime lenses that were AF-S (needed on D40). The D90 helps in 2 ways: a) takes AF-D lenses and b) has better high ISO performance. I did controlled tests using my 55-200mm VR lens at 55mm (f/4) and looked at ISO sharpness and color on the D40 and D90. I did it in manual mode, following the exact procedure of Ken Rockwell (tripod, VR off, remote trigger). I find that the D90 is between 1 and 2 stops better ISO than the D40. D90/ISO 6400 is too dirty, but D90/3200 is pretty usable. With the D40 at ISO 800, the sharpness is slightly better than the D90 at 3200 (but worse than D90/1600), but there's a lot more out-of-control, day-old pizza look in dark sections with the D40 at 800 than the D90 at 3200 (I'm guessing that ADR is helping here). The D90's color starts to fade at little at ISO 1600, and drops more at 3200, then quite a bit at 6400.

4. The 11-point AF has helped get things in focus compared with the D40's 3 spots. AF also feels faster. Autofocusing is a big improvement.

5. I also really like that it's quicker changing ISO, WB and QUAL because of dedicated buttons. I've also set AF as my top choice under My Menu, making it 1 button away as well (hit the Fn button). This was another Rockwell suggestion.

6. The screen is amazing, as others have said. Also, you can navigate a zoomed image on the screen really fast.

7. I'm also looking forward to using my SB600 flash remotely in commander mode (you can't do that on the D40).

8. On the down-side, I've just discovered that some old Nikon manual-focus lenses from the 1960s will not mount on the D90, but they will on the D40. I don't think this should affect too many people.

Another observation: I'm not that familiar with the D300 and D700, but the D90 feels pretty solid compared to the D40. I thought that weight would help stabilize hand-held shots, but I also find that it's shutter is stronger than the D40, and that vibration tends to cancel out its heavier weight in terms of holding the camera still.

For someone who doesn't like to adjust the manual settings very much, the main benefits of the D90 over the D40 are the ADR and WB. These upgrades will probably appear in the D40 replacement in ~6 months. I might wait for that. For others who use their manual settings regularly, this is quite a camera.
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on November 10, 2008
~The first part of this review is on the body only. The lens review will be at the bottom.~

For those of you trying to decide between the D80 and D90, I share your dilemma. I spent a lot of time deliberating between the two before making my decision. The D80 offers an amazing realm of features for the money, but the D90 has features you'll wish you had. The D90 offers a 3" LCD to the D80's 2.5", an active anti-dust cleaning system for the sensor, LiveView which is a real boon in tricky angle situations but due to it's slow autofocus speed, use the viewfinder for most other situations, and of course 12.3MP to the D80's 10.2MP. The ISO range is also expanded from 200-3200, to the D80's 100-1600 with better signal-to-noise ratio. The D90 also offers a Lo-1 and Hi-1 expanded ISO of 100 and 6400 respectively. The D90 has excellent image editing and shooting mode options. The Color settings are Standard, Neutral and Vivid, all with adjustable parameters. It also offers a Monochrome setting also with adjustable settings. (NOTE: Tweak the contrast in-camera on Monochrome, and you can (almost) achieve the look of B&W film). The shooting mode dial offers Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Program Auto, along with some specialized modes. They all offer excellent options for exposure, but if you're used to a manual 35mm camera, go with full Manual mode. The only automatic functions I use are Autofocus and Auto White Balance, and I get better results adjusting exposure myself. Bottom Line: Those experienced with SLR's and willing to spend a little extra should definitely go with this camera. The return on the investment will be worth the cash.

The AF-S NIKKOR 18-105mm 3.5-5.6G VR ED wide-angle zoom lens included with the D90 kit is a good lens. Despite it's plastic mount and relatively small maximum aperture, it's a good first lens. However, I've had the camera for only two days and have already probed the limits of the lens in low light. The VR function is it's saving grace. I was able to get a handheld shot indoors at night in relatively low lighting with a 1/50 shutter speed at f/3.5 at about ISO 400, although very slightly underexposed. In normal daylight situations out in the world, this lens performed very well. The AF is smooth and quiet, with very little hiccups. The depth of field, despite the max. aperture of 3.5, is very nice, as is the bokeh. As a kit lens, it's a step above the competition. However, when you decide to upgrade the lens I'd go with two: The 18-200mm VR Wide Angle Zoom as your walkaround lens and the AF 50mm Nikkor 1.4D for low light indoor/night portraits.

~This is an addition to the review above~
I'd recommend shooting color shots on the Standard or Neutral settings. The Vivid setting can make colors look too artificial and in some cases bleed together. You'll be better off playing with color corrections in Photoshop to achieve higher saturation and contrast.
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on December 8, 2008
I've been using a point and shoot camera for about 5 years now - I'm by no means a photographer, just an average dad trying to take some pictures. My son recently turned one and I've been finding it more and more difficult to capture those precious moments. I press the button on my point and shoot....delay...missed the shot. Also whenever I take photos indoor I've found they are always blurry or noisy, just not very good. So I elected to get a Digital SLR camera - wow they are expensive! I did very extensive research before making the most important decision. Which one do I get??? I decided to narrow my search to Canon and Nikon, the two top brands. I was considering the Canon Xsi, Canon 40D, and Nikon D90.

I quickly decided the Xsi was not for me. On paper it looks great. It has a ton of great reviews and I'm sure it takes amazing pictures. The price was the cheapest of all the cameras I was considering. After visiting Best Buy and actually trying the cameras out the xsi felt like a toy compared to its big brother the 40D. Also the kit lens was very disappointing as far as zoom capabilities.

I did like the 40D a lot. The body seems really solid and well build (even more so than the D90). I loved the 6fps rapid shooting (although I can't imagine I would every really need to shot quite that fast). The kit lens seems like a huge improvement over the wimpy one on the xsi. The camera seemed good to me but after picturing my wife using it, it seemed just a tad to "big and heavy". Some people might disagree.

The D90 had a few features that really appealed to me. One of the main things I really liked about the D90 was the beautiful 3" VGA screen for reviewing. This screen was a big reason why I went with this camera over the Canon models. It's the same size but has 4 times the resolution. Why would you care about this? It's just really nice when you take a shoot you can immediately tell if you got it or not. With the canons I found you had to either zoom in or download to the computer before you could really tell if the photo came out well. The D90 also just had a lot of other tricks up its sleeve that I thought were nice. There is a HDMI output to hook this baby up to your fancy HDTV. The camera also has built in software that creates an animated slideshow of your pictures for viewing on the TV. Again, doesn't really effect image quality but it's a cool feature. There's also some neat post processing you can do right on the camera including red eye removal, black and white filter, or tilt the picture if you accidentally took it at a slight angle. Of course there is the movie mode also (lack of auto focus makes this feature a little disappointing actually). One final selling point for the D90 over the 40D was the kit lens. For me the kit lens is very important because I don't really plan on purchasing a bunch of different lenses and swapping them out all the time. I just want a decent "all purpose" lens. The 40D's 28-135mm kit lens just felt a little to "zoomed-in" for me. After playing with it I wanted to be able to zoom out more but was unable to. The D90's 18-105 feels like a pretty good range for me (keep in mind that these cameras have a 1.5 multiplier built in).

The best advice I can give is to go try the cameras out before you order one. Just go with the one you feel most comfortable with, trust your gut. I've been very happy with my D90 but I'm sure all of the cameras I was considering would have been a huge step up from a point and shot.

UPDATE 12/3/12

Still really happy with this camera. It takes amazing pictures and has held up very well. I would buy it again no questions asked.
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on October 17, 2008
I bought this dSLR after reading a bunch of positive reviews online. Overall I'm extremely satisfied with the purchase. As others have mentioned, it's not perfect, but it's probably the best available right now in this price range.

This is my first dSLR and I was impressed with how quickly I was able to jump in and start using it. You can get excellent images right out of the box using the Auto or scene modes. I took it to the USC football game last weekend and was able to get great shots using in Action mode. The images were very sharp, noise free, and because of the 12.3MP resolution, I was able to crop them while still having plenty to work with.

The movie mode is very cool, but the limitations (no autofocus, 5 minute limit for HD) are a bit annoying. It's definitely not a replacement for an HD camcorder, but it's good enough for general purpose.

The lens is nice because it's light and compact, but the 18-200mm lens would be a lot more useful. I'll probably end up either buying that or the 70-300mm lens so I can get close-up shots.

I'd highly recommend this camera to anyone looking for a dSLR in this price range. Even if it's your first dSLR, you'll be able to get great shots with it out of the box, and as many users have pointed out, image quality is nearly on par with the more expensive D300. I kept postponing my dSLR purchase because they kept getting better and cheaper, but this one was intriguing enough to make me bite the bullet.
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