Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Nikon D90...

By Penn Camera Customer Bob Blanken

The Nikon D90 w/18-105 VRII DX Lens
The Nikon D90 was introduced in 2008 as the replacement for the D80 and the camera for which a D5000 or a Rebel owner might wish to upgrade. With a full feature set, the camera offers the passionate photographer wanting to upgrade from a point & shoot to a D/SLR the versatility for complete control and access to all Nikon lenses accessories. The camera offers some elements of a camera a professional might use, including a fast shutter and heavier duty body plus the Expeed sensor, but without requiring the expense and weight of a true pro camera.  While it will shortly be superseded by the D7000, already announced, this camera offers a great deal for the serious pro-sumer or as a backup for a pro, at a very attractive price point relative to its replacement. But first, let me delve into the camera. The D90 body is available with or without a 18-105mm Nikkor AF-S VR II zoom lens. The Nikon EXPEED image processor produces a superb rendition of the sensor’s data.

The main features are:

• Newly designed Nikon DX-format CMOS image sensor with 12.3 effective mega pixels and Integrated Dust Reduction System.

• Incredibly low-noise performance throughout a wide sensitivity range of ISO 200 to 3200; can be set to ISO 6400 equivalent.

• Incorporates Nikon's comprehensive digital image-processing EXPEED concept

• Revolutionary at the time, The world's first D-SLR movie function: D-Movie, selectable from 320x216 pixels, 640 x 424 pixels or 1,280 x 720 pixels in AVI format.

•Scene Recognition System, utilizing 420-pixel RGB sensor, improves auto focus, auto exposure and auto white balance performance; which is also integrated with the new Face Detection System.

•Live View enables face priority AF with the 3-in., approx. 920k-dot, high-density color LCD featuring 170° ultra-wide viewing angle.

•Picture Control System offers new Portrait and Landscape options for more vibrant customized colors.

•Active D-Lighting for smooth tone reproduction in high-contrast lighting.

•Multi-CAM 1000 auto focus sensor module featuring 11 AF points offers fast and precise auto focus coverage across the frame.

•Viewfinder with approx. 96% frame coverage and an easy-to-view 19.5 mm eyepoint (at -1.0 m-1).

•Advanced Scene Modes that automatically adjust exposure, image processing, Active D-Lighting and Picture Control settings for superior image quality.

•Extensive palette of in-camera Retouch Menus including several new retouch options such as Distortion Control, Straighten and Fish-eye.

•4.5 fps continuous shooting and quick response of 0.15-second start-up and 65-ms shutter release time lag.

•Built-in flash with 18mm lens coverage and Nikon's original i-TTL flash control that commands Advanced Wireless Lighting.

•Highly efficient energy-saving design that allows approx. 850 images on a single charge of the Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL3e (CIPA standard, with AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR, with 50% of pictures taken with flash).

•Versatile Pict motion menu that creates sideshows combining five choices of both background music and image effects.

•Compatible with HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) output.

•Optional Multi-Power Battery Pack MB-D80 extends shooting capability and enables use of 6 x AA-size batteries.

•Included Nikon ViewNX software makes browsing and organizing your images easy.

•Optional photo-editing software, Capture NX 2 allows users quick and easy photo editing.

•Lightweight compact body weighing 1 lb 6 oz with battery.

•Numerous Custom Functions.

In the field the camera performed very well. Foremost, the camera, ergonomically, feels good is your hands. The controls are easily manipulated and adjusted. The menus rely more on type than icons so it is a simple to master, especially if you read the manual…sadly, often the least used accessory. While the view finder provides 96% coverage of the actual image, the 3” TFT-LCD with 920,000 pixels offer a 100% image. The screen is critical for aiding composition and sharpness review.

The D90 offers 720p HD-Movie at various capture settings. The camera, though should be tripod bound to get the best video for smooth pans and tilts. Hardware to support the camera hand-held is now readily available, and can be rented to test before you purchase. All that being said, the camera produces vivid videos that you will be pleased to show.

While I am used to shooting at ISO 100-800 and rarely higher, the D90 produces smooth images at ISO 1600 and 3200, so hand held photos in subdued light can be easily accomplished without sacrificing image quality.

Excessive noise that results at extended ISO settings can be tamed with software.

As in all cameras the built-in flash is most inefficient for the task at hand. I always recommend the first accessory to buy is the best flash you can afford. The good news is the on camera the flash can control off camera flashes such as the Nikon SB400, SB600, SB900  or even the Nikon  R1 Wireless Close-Up Speedlight System.

The major features that I consider essential:

•Bracketing for exposure and white balance.

•White balance control.

•Focus options.

•Picture control for jpgs.

•Image Quality.

•Metering choices.

•Flash Exposure lock.

•Scene Modes (for those still mastering the craft).

As an instructor, I would suggest renting it for a weekend, using it in all the ways you are likely to encounter and see for yourself the results it can produce. If you’re thinking about upgrading your D5000 or Rebel, or finally giving up your old film SLR, this would be an excellent choice. For current D/SLR users it is a significant upgrade over the entry level models, adding the HD video and giving you access to the full range of the lenses that Nikon offers.

Now, if you’re really serious and want a more substantial body with a faster response time, better auto focus, auto focus calibration, moisture sealed buttons, and more control. Then the D300s or the D700 would be the direction to take. A lot of pros favor the lighter weight of the D300s and the D700, over their big brother the D3x, which is also a heavier hit on your wallet.

The only other camera to compare to the D90 is the newly introduced Canon 60D, which offers several upgrades over the D90 but also comes at a substantially higher cost, or the Nikon D7000 which has been announced, and should be available in October/November of 2010. The D5000, or Canon Rebels are excellent cameras, but do not match the capabilities or durability of the D90, a hugely successful model which should still give any purchaser years of great service.

About the author:
Bob Blanken has been a professional photographer for over 40 years. Corporate clients have included Anheuser-Busch, L’Oreal, Toyota, AT&T, Disney, USPS, ALTA, AGA, Royal Ahold, and many others. He has photographed hundreds of weddings since 1967.