Nikon D90 vs D80 Compared

First published on: Monday, 12 January 2009

Last update (Feb 27, 2009): Thread on DPReview where D80 owners share about their likes and dislikes on upgrading to the D90

Here’s a comparison of pros and cons of the Nikon D90 and the camera it replaces, the Nikon D80.

Here are both cameras side-by-side. These images are found here.

Nikon D80 vs Nikon D90 side by side

Direct links to the side-by-side comparison photos (Nikon D90 on the left, Nikon D80 on the right):

  1. Front

  2. Rear

  3. Left side

  4. Right side

  5. Top view

  6. Bottom view

Nikon D90 Advantages

Resolution: The slightly higher 12.3 MP resolution on the D90 gives slightly more detail than what you’d get from the 10 MP sensor on the D80. You get a bit more headroom for cropping too.

Shoot movies with sound in D-Movie mode: This is the most notable step-up in functionality over the D80. If shooting 720p video clips with a large-sensor camera and SLR lenses is your thing, get the D90.

Live View: Live View offers the most accurate method of manual focusing if required. It also allows for easier shooting at awkward angles.

Rear LCD: The rear LCD on the D90 measures 3 inches, which is larger than the 2.5 inch LCD on the D80. The D90’s LCD also has VGA resolution, which makes menus clearer and preview images sharper.

Better high ISO performance: Image noise on the D90 is very much lower due to the use of a CMOS sensor, compared to the D80 which uses a CCD sensor.

No purple blooming: If you shoot lots of night skies with long exposures, you’d be pleased to know that the CMOS sensor used on the D90 won’t result in purple blooms near the edges and corners of the photo. You get this artifact if you shoot under the same conditions with the D80 due to its use of a CCD sensor.

Info button and readout: One press on the D90’s Info button and the camera settings appear on the rear LCD. This is extremely useful if your camera is high up on a tripod and you can’t read what’s displayed on the top LCD.

Dust-cleaning sensor: The sensor on the D90 can be set to vibrate at startup and / or shutdown (or switched off altogether) to shake off loose dust.

The D90 fixes many of the shortcomings on the D80: According to Thom Hogan:

If you’re looking for the best tool for producing the best possible photograph, there’s little question in my mind that the winner there is the D90. Indeed, I’m not sure how you can say otherwise. The D80 is actually my LEAST favorite of any camera Nikon has produced since the D70. It hot pixels worse than any other Nikon, Nikon never fully fixed the amp noise issue, it has the least capable high ISO JPEG from the same sensor as other Nikons (the D60, for example), and the matrix metering is horribly off-kilter. THAT’S a “pure photographic tool”? Sorry, but it looks as if the D90 fixes all of those things, so it wins on that alone in my book.

I’ve sold off my near 1-year old D300 and purchased the D90 myself, and am really loving the camera. Read my Nikon D90 review for more information.

Nikon D80 Advantages

Lower price, save $300 USD: The Nikon D80 will continue to be sold for a while after the D90 starts shipping. The D80 is priced at approximately $537, and represents a fantastic deal if you don’t require the benefits and new functionality found on the D90.

User feedback

Thread on DPReview where D80 owners share about their likes and dislikes on upgrading to the D90. Quoting GK Lai, here’s what he likes (some edits were made):

From D80 to D90:
Cleaner image
Built-in automatic Chromatic Aberration correction (great!)
Active D-Lighting
White Balance customizations, multiple custom presets can be stored
3D Tracking AF (it really works!)
Live View
* Video mode (an added bonus, and it’s fun)

blog comments powered by Disqus