Do new DSLRs still have a place in a market that’s been overtaken by mirrorless? Michael Topham reviews the new Canon EOS 90D to find out
Canon EOS 90D review: Hands-on First Look
After accidentally leaking videos revealing details of the company’s soon-to-be-released cameras on its Australian website, Canon has officially announced its latest DSLR in the form of the EOS 90D. Successor to the Canon EOS 80D that hit the market back in February 2016, the new Canon EOS 90D underlines the manufacturer’s strategy of continuing to strengthen its EOS DSLR lineup whilst at the same time expanding and developing the EOS M and EOS R mirrorless range.
The Canon EOS 90D, much like its predecessor, is intended to be an attractive proposition for enthusiast photographers well as those who’d like to progress through the EOS line-up from an entry-level triple digit EOS DSLR to a more advanced and sophisticated double-digit model.
The Canon EOS 90D has been designed to excel at all genres of photography and video, however Canon sees it being well received by sports and wildlife photographers who demand a camera that can rattle out a continuous burst and resolve excellent detail from a high resolution APS-C sensor.
Canon EOS 90D: Features
The Canon EOS 90D’s headline upgrade is its increase in resolution. Rather than adopting the 24.2-million pixel CMOS sensor from the Canon EOS 80D, it introduces a new 32.5-million pixel CMOS sensor, which teams up with Canon’s latest DIGIC 8 image processor to provide a slightly wider ISO range of 100-25,600 (expandable to ISO 51,200).
This is the first time Canon has used this sensor in a DSLR and it’s identical to the one used in the newly released Canon EOS M6 Mark II. The question sports and wildlife photographers will be wanting to know the answer to is how well this new sensor will cope at high ISO’s – something we look forward to finding out when our review sample arrives next month.
The EOS 90D is the third double-digit EOS model to benefit from Dual Pixel CMOS AF – you may recall the Canon EOS 70D was the first model to introduce this game-changing technology back in 2013. The advantage of Dual Pixel CMOS AF is that each microlens covers two photodiodes that can be read independently. By measuring the difference in light that reaches each of the two diodes, the EOS 90D can perform on-sensor phase detection focusing in Live View and whilst recording 4K and Full HD video.
Thanks to the new and improved image processor, the EOS 90D is able to shoot a continuous burst faster than before. On the EOS 70D and EOS 80D the maximum shooting speed was 7fps, but this has risen to a healthier 10fps with autofocus tracking when using the viewfinder and 11fps when using Live View with fixed AF. Though it’s good to see the EOS 90D being able to shoot faster than its predecessor, it’s slower than the Canon EOS M6 Mark II, which shoots at up to 14fps, with the option to rattle out a continuous burst at an impressive 30fps using a new Raw Burst mode.
Back to the EOS 90D, users get the option to take advantage of Canon’s Eye Detection AF with tracking for stills and movies. Keeping on the subject of autofocus, the EOS 90D inherits the same AF system from the EOS 80D for viewfinder shooting. Out of the 45 all cross-type AF points on offer, 27 are f/8 compatible, with the centre point being sensitive down to f/2.8. The working range of the autofocus system remains the same as the EOS 80D and covers -3EV-18EV.
Rather than using Canon’s 7,560-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor, the EOS 90D features a new 220k pixel RGB+IR metering sensor. For times when users would like to exceed the maximum 1/8000sec shutter speed of the mechanical shutter there’s the option to shoot up to 1/16000sec by selecting the electronic shutter.
Compared to the Canon EOS 70D and Canon EOS 80D, which have only ever offered the ability to shoot movies at Full HD (1920×1080) resolution, the EOS 90D is the first double-digit EOS DSLR to feature 4K video recording. Most importantly it uses the full width of the sensor with no crop. Videographers can shoot 4K video at 30/25p and Full HD video at up to 120fps. Those who’d like to monitor audio levels will be glad to know the EOS 90D features both headphone and microphone inputs at the side of the body for full audio control.
As for wireless connectivity, Wi-fi and Bluetooth are both available, offering photographers the freedom to control the camera remotely and wirelessly transmit images from the camera to a mobile device that has Canon’s intuitive Camera Connect app installed.
Canon EOS 90D: Build & Handling
The size and feel and build quality of the EOS 90D is very similar to that of the EOS 80D. Place the EOS 90D alongside its predecessor and and the only obvious difference from the front is the new model number. Study it a little more closely and you’ll notice the button to raise the pop-up flash protrudes more than it did before and there aren’t as many holes for the in-built microphone.
It’s much of the same story on the top plate. Very little has changed here – the AF, drive, ISO and metering buttons are all easily accessible like before and the mode dial has a lock that prevents it being knocked or accidentally changed. Study the top-plate dial that’s controlled with your right hand index finger and you’ll realise it now has a knurled texture that’s less plasticky.
The optical viewfinder, again just like the EOS 80D, offers 100% coverage with 0.95x magnification. The screen below it is the same 3in, 1040k-dot vari-angle touchscreen type and there’s now a cutout above the screen rather than at the side to aid pulling it out when it’s folded back into the camera.
The biggest change by far on the body is the introduction of a multi-controller joystick. The EOS 90D becomes Canon’s first double-digit DSLR to feature one and it’s positioned where the Quick menu button used to be on the EOS 80D. The Quick menu button has since shifted a little lower to the right and the playback button has moved below the four-way controller that has the rear dial around its perimeter.
The beauty of having a multi-controller joystick, just like the ones you’ll find on Canon’s high-end DSLRs, is that it allows you to intuitively reposition the AF point using your thumb without the need to press an AF selection button first. The combination of new multi-controller joystick and the small AF area button on the top plate, which lets you toggle through the different AF area modes, allows users to quickly setup autofocus and refine it faster than before. All we wish for now is for Canon to bring its multi-controller joystick to its full-frame mirrorless EOS R series!
Other points of interest include a single card slot at the side that accepts UHS-II SD cards and the acceptance of the same LP-E6N battery as the EOS 80D. Canon told us that the battery life will last for more than 1300 shots, with some photographers who’ve been testing early samples of the camera claiming they can get closer to 1800 shots per charge. Users who’d like to extend battery life have the option of loading two batteries via the BG-E14 battery grip, which is the same as the Canon EOS 80D uses.
Canon EOS 90D: First impressions
For the amateurs and enthusiasts it’s designed for, the EOS 90D presents some attractive upgrades over the three-year-old Canon EOS 80D. The increase in resolution to 32.5-million-pixels is an interesting move from Canon. It’ll give sports and wildlife photographers better scope when it comes to cropping, but how well it manages to controls noise at high ISO with a greater number of photosites crammed onto the sensor is the question we’re yet to answer.
The introduction of 4K video has been long overdue on Canon’s double-digit EOS DSLRs so it’s good to see this making an appearance along with the option to shoot a faster continuous burst at the same speed as the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. The Canon EOS 7D Mark II still has advantages of its own in the way it has a more sophisticated 65-point autofocus system, dual card slots and weather sealing to protect it against dust and moisture.
Will Canon replace the EOS 7D Mark II? It’s a question we’ve been asking for a while, but now the new 32.5-million-pixel APS-C CMOS sensor has arrived and Canon has showed they’re committed to making DSLRs alongside mirrorless cameras, it’s certainly a possibility.
Using the EOS 90D for a few hours at a dark, dingy indoor go-kart track prior to its official launch revealed that it’s a very spritely performer when it comes to focusing. I was left impressed by its ability to pick out people’s eyes at distance through a helmet as well as the speed and precision of focusing in Live View when shooting stills and video. Having a multi-controller joystick under your thumb for making fast, reactive focus point changes is great addition. The vari-angle screen is ideal for getting down low down and shooting from unusual angles.
My first impression of the EOS 90D is that it feels well constructed and up to the task to delivering great results in testing conditions. It’s a camera that will receive attention from Canon users who aren’t fussed about switching to mirrorless as well as those who already own a good selection of EF-S or EF lenses. At £1209.99 (body only), it works out quite a lot more than the £899 that you’d spend on EOS 80D (body only; £809 with the summer 2019 £90 cashback offer). Canon has a habit of pitching its new models with a high RRP, but do the improvements really justify spending the extra? Keep an eye out for our upcoming full review to find out.