Excellent review and a very clever bit about the autofocus tip.
957 of 973 people found the following review helpful
Designed for serious shooting, but fun to use! Lots of customizations.,
This review is from: 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) (Camera)
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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Showing 1-10 of 42 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 23, 2008 11:50:29 PM PST
Dan S. Tong says:
Excellent review and a very clever bit about the autofocus tip.
Posted on Jan 12, 2009 3:40:56 AM PST
M. Bell says:
Agreed. Very excellent review, and thanks for the details.
Posted on May 15, 2009 9:54:12 AM PDT
Thanks so much for all the detailed information....will definitely save me time and improve my photography!!!
Posted on Jul 25, 2009 11:29:23 AM PDT
U Gave me an Answer for almost Every doubt i had, Which was everything !.. :) .. Im about to check-out.. finally :)
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 30, 2009 1:50:36 PM PST
Thanks for the review. I'm looking for a good camera and I think I might have found one.
Posted on Dec 1, 2009 6:40:42 PM PST
I love my D90. The 18-105 VR is the best multipurpose lens in my kit of 6 lenses. If I go out with one lens, I always take the one. As far as the exposed lens goes, you really need to get an optical flat (clear filter). I call it a $20 insurance policy. It is worth every penny.
Don't forget to get a decent SD card. 30 MBs cards unlock the potential of rapid fire photography that this camera is capable of. In my opinion this is a necessity if you shoot in RAW mode.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2009 1:17:30 PM PST
Gerald E. Collins says:
Thanks for comment on the 18-105 VR lens. Ken Rockwell has not given it a very good rating and recommended changing to the 18-200mm VR lens as his choice. I think the downside of the 18-200 is weight. My opinion is that it is too heavy to lug around all day and would prefer a lighter lens. The 18-105 VR would be my choice as long as the optics are good. It has a good range and I have always been happy with my 35-105 lens on my N90s filmd camera. Never wanted or needed more range than this and if needed could usually just walk forward a short distance. I had good telephoto lens in my case but never used them except to test them out. Nikon did me in when they created two lines of cameras making my lenses almost useless and I refuse to move to the $5000 profession models. The D90 is very similar in looks and features to my N90s film camera and I would feel comfortable with it and the 18-105 VR lens. I found it refreshing that we shared the same view on choice of lenses. I found that one walk around lens was the best choice because I always left the other lenses in the car as they were simply too heavy to lug around and I often was not in a postion to change lenses.
I have not decided yet but am seriously looking at the Cannon line also. Everything I have bought from Cannon has been top-notch and their camera line is excellent. I have a couple of their point and shoot cameras and they give superior pictures to my N90s film camera. Bottom line is that I miss having an SLR camera so I'm looking although my Nikon film camera system gives me good pictures and I can have my prints converted to digital at a very reasonable price.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2009 4:46:42 AM PST
I am a motion picture camera assistant so I make my living hauling around camera gear and setting it up, and focusing cameras. I own one cart that weighs over 100 pounds empty. Most of the lenses we use weigh over 10 lbs yet when I'm shooting my own still pictures I try to keep it simple. (Most of the time)
I don't own an 18-200 and I have not shot with one so I'm not an expert on the lens. The extra 5 oz. does add up when you are walking around with the camera all day but compared to my 80-200 it is not bad. The 18-200 costs $800, the 18-105 costs $360. The difference in price is very significant for many. If I was purchasing my kit over again I would be challenged with the decision of which lens to get but to be honest I would go for the 18-200 which was not available when I bought my D90.
The 18-105 is no slouch of a lens. It takes beautiful pictures.
I have 5 fast, manual, prime lenses that take beautiful pictures but I don't use them that often. Zoom lenses are too versatile and increased zoom range equals increase versatility for me.
Ken Rockwell is a great source for information and I make a $5 contribution everytime I purchase something that I use him for a reference. He is like having an expert friend that you can go to and get unbiased information.
I hear you on the 2 lines of cameras. I have a bunch of gear in the attic that is practically worthless.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2009 7:12:50 AM PST
Gerald E. Collins says:
I have looked into the weight problem and find that the 18-105mm lens weighs 16.8 oz and the 18-200mm lens weighs 19.9 oz. Right now the 80-200 lens is greatly overpriced and Amazon is making a special deal with the N90 body. How the difference in weight translates into a walk around lens is what I now have to determine. A TTL flash has become an important element in my system and I find that it is a good addition for eliminating shadows even in daylight. My daughter-in-law is buying the D90 and I gave her my Nikkor 300MM ED lens to use as a test. I quit using it because of it's weight and need for a tripod. Of course the focal length increases on it 1.5 times to maybe 450MM on the D90. I am hoping she brings her D90 with her at Christmas so that I can see how my old lenses work on the D90. Ken Rockwell has sold me on the advantage of VR lenses and I have to agree with him. My wife and I have aged and our hands are not as steady anymore. Most of my pictures are grab shots so VR is a great plus for us. The digital camera will only be used as a hobby I do not want to invest a fortune into it. The only advantage I would gain over my current film system is the quality of the pictures. I can have the film processed, converted to digital and placed on CD-Rom disks whenever I want. Our SSCC Camera Club newsletter includes pictures that blow my mind away for sharpness, resolution and detail but many members are using the D3 and upscale cameras and lenses. This is a big factor with me and main reason I want to convert from film to a digital SLR. The World has moved on and I am sitting still. I guess you could call me an amateur who appreciates professional pictures. Be careful lifting that camera equipment because I hurt my back lifting heavy camera equipment out of the trunk of my car. Now I think light. I appreciate your reply.
Posted on Feb 3, 2010 7:51:05 PM PST
Alan, Thank you so very much for you thorough review. I just recently (finally!!) bought a D90 after over a year of research & contemplation. I won't be able to afford another for a very long time so I wanted to be sure of the camera I needed & wanted. Your review helped answer many of my questions and offered some useful tips as well. You wrote that you weren't craving an upgrade, that helped give me the confidence that I was deciding on the camera that will serve me well for years to come. I had read other pros, semi pros & advanced enthusiasts saying pretty much the same or that it was the back up to a much more expensive model.