Mat Gallagher and Tim Coleman try out four classic digital cameras that were highly desirable in their time to see if their second-hand prices still make them viable options
Nikon D90 at a glance:
- 12.3-million-pixel CMOS sensor
- ISO 200-3200 (ISO 100-6400 extended)
- 3in, 920,000-dot LCD
- 4.5fps shooting
- Viewfinder with 96% coverage and 0.94x magnification
- 620g (without battery/card)
- 132 x 103 x 77mm
- Nikon F mount
Despite being launched back in 2008, the D90 remains on Nikon’s current model list and can still be bought new in many stores. This long life is testament to the popularity of the model. After four years, though, and with a model number that doesn’t fit with the four-figure arrangement of all the other DSLRs in the Nikon range, it won’t be long before it finally bows out. However, its second-hand demand is likely to continue for some time.
Image: For more contrasting scenes, negative exposure compensation is necessary to retain highlight detail
The D90 replaced the D80, updating the sensor from 10 million to 12 million pixels, and brought Nikon’s sensor-cleaning system from the D300 to shake the dust off the sensor. The biggest feature this camera introduced, however, was video. The D90 was the first DSLR to feature movie capture and did so with a 1080x720p HD resolution at 24fps with mono sound. With video also came live view and contrast-detection AF for composing via the new large 3in, 921,000-dot screen, also from the D300.
Other features to surface on the D90 included 3D tracking, Active D-Lighting and face detection (in live view mode). From the overall specifications, the D90 still sits between the D5100, and D3100 models, depending on the features you are looking at, and while it can’t compete on resolution with the likes of the new D3200, it has a body closer to the D7000. Its price of around £699 new is unlikely to tempt people away from any of these models, but its second-hand value of around £400 will be attractive to some.
Using the D90, it’s easy to forget that this camera is more than four years old, as it feels and handles as well as many more recent models. The 11-point AF system is more than adequate for most scenes and snaps into focus quickly and quietly. The viewfinder has a decent 96% coverage with a pentaprism and, thanks to the 0.94x magnification, looks nice and large for composing. The camera is compact but fairly weighty with an aluminium and plastic body. One benefit over some of the more recent models is that it feels much more manual, with front and back finger dials and a large top LCD for shooting information. The only other consumer Nikon DSLR to do this is the D7000.
When looking at the images, the levels of luminance noise give away the age of this camera, with even ISO 1600 showing significant signs. However, the ISO 6400 setting retains its colour and definition, and with some noise reduction is still usable. Metering appears to be an area that Nikon has improved with its more recent models, as the D90 has a habit of losing the highlights – negative exposure compensation is necessary for more contrasting scenes. Second-hand D90 models are in high demand, but if you can find one in good condition for less than £400 it is worth snapping it up.
Image: The D90’s 11-point AF system is more than adequate for most scenes and reacts quickly