Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Nikon's new kid on the block: the D90

Chances are, if you're into digital photography, you noticed that Nikon announced a new camera last week, the Nikon D90.  The D90 is a replacement to the D80, Nikon’s top of the line consumer DSLR.  It will be interesting to see what Nikon does when they replace the D90 in a few years.  They've already had a camera called the D100.  They're running out of numbers!

The D90 is essentially a combination of the older D80 and the more expensive Nikon D300, with one new feature thrown in (more on this later).  With the D300, it shares the same 12.3mp image sensor, LCD screen, Live View mode, and sensor cleaning system.  With the D80 it shares the same body (which is smaller and lacks the D300's weather sealing), metering and auto focus system.  Whether those are significant differences depends on how you plan to use the camera.  For me, I actually prefer the smaller size of the D90, though I wouldn't mind the weather sealing.

I'm planning to post a review of this camera (or at least some impressions) later in the month.  I have one on order through B&H which should arrive by Friday.  This is either a sign that I'm doing better financially, or have simply lost my mind.  I don't need this camera.  I already own a D80 and a D50, and I'm rarely if ever an early adopter.  I'm still using a cell phone that I bought three years ago, I've yet to upgrade from Photoshop CS2 (CS4 is coming out later in the month), and my car is over 10 years old.  Yet when I saw the D90 available for order, I couldn't resist.  Why?

The simple answer is that the D300/D90 sensor, from everything I've read, is simply better than the D80 sensor.  It has better dynamic range, and is noticeably better at high ISO settings (particularly useful in low light situations).  I'm picky about image quality, and I rarely use my D80 higher than ISO400.  ISO800 is for emergency and 1600 is pretty much only for documentary shots that I know I'll never show to anyone.  If the D90 can give me better results at ISO800 and usable results at ISO1600 and maybe even 3200, this will allow me to shoot handheld longer during twilight and night settings.  That, to me, is worth it.

There are other features that I'm sure I'll appreciate, but don't excite me as much.  The new sensor cleaning system will be a welcome addition.  Live View, which allows you to compose and focus using the LCD screen instead of the viewfinder, should be useful.  Oh, and the D90 has a video mode.  This is the new feature that I mentioned earlier.  It's been getting a lot of press, and deservedly so, since the D90 is the first DSLR to offer video recording capabilities.  It allows you to shoot "cinematic-quality" (Nikon's words, not mine) movie clips at 720p HD, which is 1280 x 720 pixels, at 24fps for up to 5 minutes.  Personally, it's not a feature that I plan to use often, but I'm not complaining that Nikon included it.

So, who wants to buy a used D80?

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