Nikon Introduces Video To DSLRs
The new Nikon D90 digital SLR fits into its lineup at the high end of the amateur camera market. Clearly designed to keep pace with the latest offerings from Canon and Sony, the D90 steps up the specs game in this market segment with a 12.3 megapixel CMOS sensor, shooting 50% faster than the D80 and other comparable cameras at a burst rate of 4.5 frames per second, high resolution VGA 3.0-inch LCD, Live View with three modes of contrast AF with improved speed, HDMI, GPS compatibility and more.
But the D90 may be the most groundbreaking DSLR since the Olympus E-330 introduced us to Live View, The D90 signals the beginning of a change in the industry that has been a long time in the making – the merging of high end still photography with video. The D90′s innovative core feature is the addition of a 720P high definition video recording mode.
The D90′s sensor is a variant of the one seen in Nikon’s D300, but with an improved live view frame-rate and the ability to record video images at 24 frames-per-second at 1280x720P, as well as lower resolutions. For still images the sensor still records a full 12-megapixel image and offers an ISO sensitivity range of 200-3200, expandable to 100-6400. As has become standard equipment, there is a built in sensor cleaning system.
Camera processing is carried out by the Expeed image processing system, and standard Nikon features such as Active D-Lighting and Picture Controls. In-camera editing has advanced since the previous generation, with distortion correction, straightening, and a fisheye filter in the retouch menu.
The D90 is built to handle action shooting better than previous Nikon DSLRs, with an improved version of the Multi-CAM 1000 AF system now featuring higher speed and a version of the 3D color tracking system used in the D3, D300, and D700. The 4.5 FPS continuous shooting can be sustained for 9 RAW files, 25 Large/Fine JPEGs, or 100 JPEG Large/Normal files. The shutter is tested to 100,000 actuations, and has a lag time of a mere 65ms and a startup time of 0.15s.
Viewing and composing can be accomplished with the 96% coverage pentaprism optical viewfinder or in live view mode via the large 3-inch high-resolution LCD. Live View in the D90 abandons conventional phase-detection auto focus in favor of sped up contrast-detection AF like a point-and-shoot. Auto focus area options are a fast wide area mode for handheld shooting, a smaller area mode for critical tripod work, and a face detection mode that can even do basic tracking if the face begins to move. This will certainly make those moving up from point-and-shoots more comfortable, as face detection has become a feature many people are accustomed to.
With an HDMI high-def video connection, the D90 also integrates with today’s digital lifestyle. It can output 720P or 1080i in playback or live view modes, but uses a ‘type-C’ HDMI connector, which is smaller than the standard one (the D700 uses the same connector). There is also support for geo-tagging photos with the new Nikon GP-1 GPS unit. It mounts to the hotshoe and connects to the D90 with a cable. An adapter cable is included with the GP-1 that allows use with the D300, D3, and all other Nikons that support GPS input through the 10-pin connector. So for photographers using the D90 as a backup to a heavier hitting body, the same GPS unit can be used.
To power all this, the D90 uses the same EN-EL3E battery used in the D200, D300, D700, and D80 (the EN-EL3E battery is backwards compatible for the D70, D70s, and D50). It also uses the same MB-D80 vertical grip from the D80, which can hold two EN-EL3Es or 6 AA batteries. Nikon claims the D90 has low power consumption, and given how the D300 improved in battery life over the D200 despite a larger screen, I think it is fair to expect improved battery life over the D80.
The Nikon D90 body is very similar to the D80. The main changes are the larger LCD and a few changed external buttons. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and the durable and comfortable but light D80 body has survived the transition with only a few noticeable changes.
Like the D80, D60, D40x and D40, the D90 uses SD memory cards, but Nikon has been working with SanDisk and Eye-Fi to get the most out of the SD card format. SanDisk has updated the Extreme III SD-HC 4/8GB cards to 30MB/sec up from 20, and added a 30MB/sec 16GB version to better handle the high data rates from the D90. This is technically beyond the SD-HC spec, so thus far these speeds will only occur in the D90. The cards will still operate at up to 20MB/sec in other bodies.
Eye-Fi wireless transmitter SD cards are detected by the D90 and will display a menu for the card on the rear LCD. This enables you to pick and transmit photos over WiFi to your computer for sharing and storage. The integrated Eye-Fi menu makes the cards much more practical than they were before integration with the camera.
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