Nikon D90 Reviews, User Opinions and Tests

First published on: Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Last update (Nov 09, 2009): The D90’s exposures vs the Canon 40D.

This page is a compilation of annotated links to Nikon D90 professional reviews, user opinions and experiences, tests, conclusions, ratings and feedback.

Full attribution is given by linking to the source, and where possible, the author’s homepage or photo gallery.

If you’re wondering whether to just purchase the D90 body only, or as a kit with the Nikon 18-105mm VR AF-S DX Nikkor lens, give Thom Hogan’s Nikon 18-105mm review a read.

If you value a wider angle of view more than extra reach at the telephoto end, consider purchasing only the D90 body, and get the Nikon 16-85mm lens, which received a comparatively glowing review by Thom.

Recent additions

goldbean posts on the D90’s exposures vs the Canon 40D:

The D90 exposes well. It exposes better than my old 40D, and I can’t think of a camera in its price range that exposes better.

The D90 also has great DR and pretty flexible NEF files. I have frequently recovered 1EV or more from bright skies in NEF files. Blowing unrecoverable highlights with the D90 is rare unless the dynamic range of the scene is just too great. Given the D90’s DR, this happens less frequently than with competing cameras.

goldbean adds:

The D90 has plenty of raw headroom. As a result, if you shoot NEFs it is almost always better for your D90 to overexpose than to underexpose. The D90 meters just fine—great for NEFs, in fact—and you have to work to make it produce unrecoverable blown highlights. The D90 has great DR (Dynamic Range). Those are the facts from a real user.

The Nikon D90: Everything the Enthusiast Needs (Neutralday) — “I’ll just conclude by saying the D90 delivers excellent images that make a perfect platform for further processing. Paired with the 18-105mm VR kit lens, it delivered very good results, an ideal walkaround solution that will please more than most photographers. Even more superior and more fun was the D90 and Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX lens. I can’t say enough good things about this pairing, providing very detailed files and excellent performance. It also happens to be a terrific combo to carry around, compact and comfortable at all times.”

Nikon D90 review at PCAdvisor UK

Gavin Stoker, the reviewer, has the following verdict for the D90:

All things considered, the Nikon D90 is a very capable camera. At its present asking price it offers fair value for the consumer interested in aiming their image-making sights higher.

An ex-Canon 40D owner switched to the Nikon D90

“lizard123” switched from a Canon 40D (and a Rebel XSi / 450D). The reasons given are:

  1. The Nikon D90 has better AF (autofocus), with more AF points, 11, compared to 9 on the 40D.

  2. AF coverage area on the D90 is also larger, and he gets a higher keeper rate (number of photos in focus).

  3. The D90 has Dynamic AF area and 3D-tracking capabilities (tracking based on the color of the subject on which focus was initially acquired — first introduced with the Nikon D3 and D300), which come in handy with moving subjects.

  4. Metering is also more accurate on the D90.

Nikon D90 reviewed at Shutterbug

The D90 article by Joe Farace (Joe is the author of “Creative Digital Monochrome Effects: Go Beyond Black and White to Make Striking Digital Images“) highlights some very interesting points about the handling on the D90.

The highlights from the review are as follows.

In real-world use, the D90’s 11-point AF is fast and accurate and uses a newer version of Nikon’s Multi-CAM 1000 AF Module.
The camera has a power-up time of 0.15 ms and shutter response measuring just 65 ms, eliminating any fear of losing pictures due to the dreaded shutter lag phenomenon.
Casual sports shooters will appreciate the D90’s ability to shoot bursts of JPEG files at 4.5 fps and images are processed and previewed in 120 ms, which is less time than it takes the average chimper to move their eye from the viewfinder to the LCD screen.

And here’s a lady’s opinion:

My wife Mary found the camera’s ergonomics to be excellent and she often borrowed it from me when we were out shooting. She frequently expressed how much she liked how the camera felt in her hands.

On page 2, Joe demonstrates the IR (infrared) capability of the D90 by holding an A-series Cokin A007 Infrared (89B) filter in front of the kit 18-105 lens and taking a before and after photo.

Joe concludes:

I expect that many amateurs and professionals, especially wedding shooters, will embrace the Nikon D90 for its winning combination of features, image quality, and value.

Thom used the D90 at Bosque del Apache

In this article, Thom shares many pointers on how to successfully get that great bird shot. Super-expensive equipment sure helps, but the Nikon D90 managed to do the job just fine with the 70-300mm VR and 200-400mm VR lenses.

Thom summarized by saying that pre-visualization, technique and setting up for the shot plays a far more important role than having the best camera and lenses.

4-way high ISO comparison by Ole Thorsen

Ole went to great extent to piece together high-ISO comparisons from four digital SLR cameras, pitting the D90 against the Canon 50D, Nikon D300 and Canon 40D.

The RAW files were sourced from Imaging Resource, while Raw Therapee (only Windows and Linux versions are available, none for the Mac) was used to convert the files for analysis.

The D90 seemed to do the best of the bunch, although the overall results show that the cameras are pretty close in terms of high ISO noise performance. Refer to my Nikon D90 photos for examples of great noise performance at high ISO, with links to the full-sized images and original NEF / RAW files.

Nikon D90 review at Imaging Resource

Here are two snippets from their conclusion:

I’m starting to feel strange about saying Nikon’s done it again, but it looks like they have. The Nikon D90 looks like a genuinely excellent camera for the intermediate photographer, and a great choice as a full-featured, light weight body for those who own a Nikon D200 or D300.

… and …

Bottom line, the Nikon D90 is an exceptionally well-rounded digital SLR offering, with just about everything an aspiring photographer will need, and quite a few of the advanced features found on the higher-priced SLRs in Nikon’s line, but at a lower price. Very highly recommended, and an easy Dave’s Pick.

In a separate news piece on DXOMark, the D90 ranked higher than two other cameras, the Canon 50D and Olympus E-3 in three areas — SNR (signal to noise ratio), dynamic range and color sensitivity.

Nikon D90 Review at

The overall review was extremely positive. Here are some of the more interesting statements:

Everything is buttery smooth through ISO 1600. Yes, I said ISO 1600. That photo was so clean that I had to inspect the EXIF headers to make sure I didn’t screw something up (I didn’t). Even at ISO 3200, there’s very little noise and great retention of detail. Same goes for ISO 6400 — it’s totally usable. I don’t know what Nikon did to pull over such great high ISO performance, but my hat’s off to them.

The conclusion:

The last Nikon digital SLR I reviewed was the D60, and to be honest, it didn’t do much for me. My impression of the D90 is the total opposite: it blew me away. In terms of photo quality, manual controls, performance, customizability, and yes, its movie mode, the D90 is a home run. There are a few annoyances, such as slow focusing in live view mode and horrible bundled RAW editing software, but the positives far outweigh the negatives. The D90 is a digital SLR that I can highly recommend, without hesitation.

I have to say that a quick glance through the 100% ISO test crops seems to show that noise performance on the Nikon D90 is better than what I get with my own Nikon D300 as far as JPEG is concerned. You might like to perform the comparison yourself by reading up the Nikon D300 review on the same site.

Techradar’s Nikon D90 hands-on review

One thing stood out for me in the review was that they found the contrast-detect AF (autofocus) in Live View mode to be superior to other, older Nikon DSLR cameras (D300, D700 and D3) which also have this feature.

In Live View mode though, the D90 is on a different level. Contrast-detection AF feels much faster and more positive than the systems we’re used to in Nikon’s other DSLRs, and Face Detection really works, accurately picking out subjects within a second of the function being activated.

Miscellaneous opinions and feedback

Darryl decides to go for the D90 plus Nikon 18-105mm kit instead of the D60 plus 16-85mm

Reading through his comments about being blown away by the quality of ISO 3200 photos from the D90, I’m happy for him that he decided to go with the D90. I’ve shot with the D60 myself, and the high ISO performance from that camera cannot compare to the newer generation of DSLR cameras from Nikon (D300, D3, D700, D90), at least as far as high ISO performance is concerned.

It’s also interesting to note that Darryl makes his comments coming from shooting extensively with 35mm film and the Nikon F100.

A Nikon D80 owner really likes his new D90: Read Les’ post, where he lists down the major improvements the D90 has over the D80, especially in the image quality department and high ISO, low-light photography.

He also likes that the ISO value that is currently selected automatically by the camera in Auto ISO mode can be displayed in the viewfinder, plus the shutter release is more responsive.

Additionally, Les suggests that …

… the D90 is to date the best consumer DSLR ever made …

I quite agree with him.

thoppa is one of the first owners of the D90 in Hong Kong (got his unit on September 19th, 2008, HK$7,000 for the body and HK$4,200 for the Nikon 16-85mm lens), and says:

I spent an hour setting up things like the easy ISO, setting the FN button for focus controls, turning off the red vf light (it lights up everything and not just the focus point and that I find very distracting) and going through the menus. It’s very easy to set up I think. The menus are logical and it’s easy to get quick access to all the settings that matter to me. I’m very impressed with the user-friendly controls and menus. The screen is …WOW. So much better than a D40X. The vf is too. LV is cool (but AF speed in LV is not !) and the video is actually very easy and fun to use. VF blackout time is almost non-existent — it is a very speedy camera; although AF speed is better than the D40x, it is perhaps not as fast as some other cameras I’ve tried, but I’ll need to try this with some people shots to see if it can cope with catching momentary smiles. There are several AF options and knowing which one to use will make a big difference I think.

Rick, a Nikon D70 owner is extremely pleased with his new D90 and says:

Granted I’ve only taken a handfull of shots with my D90 purchased today. I am so impressed with the out of box settings with the color. I may never have to PP for color correction again (I know, never say never). I’ve been very impressed with the color of samples posted here too. The sharpness from the kit lense is impressive also.

Rick has also posted a set of D70 vs D90 test photos of his cat which show the more pleasing, out-of-the-camera colors coming from the D90. The Nikon 18-70mm lens was used on the D70 shot, while the Nikkor 18-105mm kit lens on the D90 shot.

PeterTX prefers the D90’s AF over that of the Canon 40D, and likes the video mode too

Peter says:

I just sold my 40D and got the D90. I think AF was slightly faster on Canon but I feel that I have fewer pics out of focus with Nikon. Overall I love the body and the video. Now I can get those short spontaneous videos whenever I bring my cam. Very happy Nikon shooter right now!

Nikon D90 vs Nikon D300 noise test

This was a long discussion thread in which Gabor shares his results showing that the D90 performs better than the D300 in terms of having lower image noise.

Simon Joinson, a reviewer, had this to say about the metering on the D90:

I found metering to be remarkably reliable actually. Slight tendency to overexpose at the 18mm end of the lens in that bright weather (you’ll see some -0.7 EV comp in there), but overall no complaints. Wasn’t really paying a lot of attention, just snapping, so most of it was the camera doing its auto thang.

The useful automatic CA (chromatic reduction) feature on the Nikon D90

Andy Westlake, a reviewer with has some comments on the usefulness of the automatic, in-camera CA reduction feature in the D90.

This post shows a 100% comparison crops from the D90 vs Canon XSi / 450D — there is no detectable CA in the D90 shot.

There are possible autofocus issues …

… with third-party lenses such as Tamron and Sigma when used with the D90 in LiveView mode, according to this post.

From an ex-Nikon D70 owner

Canes finds his new D90 “shockingly better” than the D70 in terms of low-light, high ISO performance.

Advice on where to buy the Nikon D90


New South Wales

The recommendations are:

  1. Nikon on Broadway. Recommended by Rooni.

  2. Paxton’s in George Street. Recommended by Jaelkay.

  3. Digital Fun Stuff, Chambers Arcade in Pitt Street Sydney. Recommended by Brad.

  4. Seancork recommends European Camera Specialists and Discount Digital Photographics.

blog comments powered by Disqus