Nikon’s D90 DSLR Announcement


The new Nikon D90 digital SLR is a surprise to nobody: it's predecessor (the D80) was the oldest in Nikon's line-up, and rumors and leaks have been circulating for months. The D90 is the "little brother" to the D300 (which I use)--in just the same way that the D80 was the little brother to the D200--picking up many of the better camera's features and capabilities.

From the D300, the new D90 gets the 12.3 megapixel sensor and it's wonderful ISO 100-6400 performance, as well as the big 3-inch LCD screen. It also picks up some other features that are necessary only after you've tried them, such as illuminated focus points and a 1-4 fps programmable Continuous Low shooting mode.

What I find a little more interesting is that the same CAM1000 11-point autofocus system found in the D80 and D200 is being used in the D90. In the very brief time i used the D200 I found the CAM1000 to be a very capable system. However, compared to the D300's CAM3500 51-point system, it's simply disappointing. Because the D300 borrowed the CAM3500 from its big brother (the D3), I really wasn't expecting to see this in the D90. (Let's be real: why would Nikon put the autofocus module from the $5000 flagship camera into a $1000 prosumer camera?) I really thought a new AF module would be introduced that would bridge the gap--perhaps a 20- or 25-point system, which would almost definitely make AF tracking go much more smoothly. Also, squeezing one or two more cross-type sensors in would help to make a more sure-focusing camera in varying conditions.

Something that did not surprise me about the Nikon D90 is that it uses the same 420-pixel color metering system as the D80 and many of the other Nikon cameras of the past. It's simply an amazing system for getting a good exposure. Similarly, the 1005-pixel system in the D300 and other Nikon's has also been fantastic.

Of course, the big news about the D90 is the video mode it offers: 1280x720 (yes, high-def). On the one hand, I think this is amazing: it offers the ability to create better video than other cameras (or camcorders) because of the large image sensor. Similarly, controlling the shot's depth of field and using wide angle lenses lets an amateur film-maker go into realms that otherwise required a significantly larger investment in video equipment than is available at your local electronics store. On the other hand, clips are limited to five minutes, autofocus is not functional, and the built-in microphone is surely unable to record the kind of quality (or length) that one might expect to do when they can also adjust the depth-of-field. In the end I think the video mode is good from a "hey, they did it!" perspective, and in coming cameras it will be significantly better... but for now, meh.

In my opinion, the new Nikon D90 looks like a great replacement for the D80. As good as it looks I don't think it will eat into any sales of the D300, which is a significantly more capable camera, primarily thanks to its better autofocus. Since the D300 still costs a significant amount over what the D90 will, however, that makes sense--it should be better!

Share Your Thoughts ( Comments Already)