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Full Review at: http://www.imaging-resource.com/PRODS/D90/D90A.HTM

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Nikon D90 digital camera image
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Nikon D90

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Nikon D90 Performance


Timing and Performance

Excellent speeds for a prosumer digital SLR.

Startup/Shutdown

Power on
to first shot

0.3 second

Time it takes to turn on and capture a picture. (Short enough that it's hard to measure.)

Shutdown

0.4 second

How long it takes camera to turn off before you can remove the memory card.

Buffer clearing time
4 seconds after 20 large/fine JPEGs*
Worst case buffer clearing time. -- This is the delay after a set of shots before you can remove the card.
1 second after 20 small/basic JPEGs*
6 seconds after 10 RAW files*
9 seconds after 7 RAW+JPEG files*
*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III SD card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Fast startup and shut-down times, fast enough that they're difficult to measure. Buffer clearing times are quite good, but depend on the image quality, size and speed of the memory card.

Mode Switching

Play to Record,
first shot

0.3 second

Time until first shot is captured.

Record to play

0.6 second

Time to display a large/fine file immediately after capture.

Display
recorded image

0.3 second

Time to display a large/fine file already on the memory card.

Mode switching times are very good.

Shutter Response (Lag Time)

Full Autofocus
Single-point AF
Optical Viewfinder

0.208 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture. All AF timing measured with Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro lens. (Slower, gear-driven focus, but cameras seem to be able to determine focus speed very quickly with this lens.)

Full Autofocus
Single-point AF
iTTL flash enabled
Optical Viewfinder
0.249 second
Time to capture while forcing flash to fire. (Metering pulses from flash sometimes slow shutter response.)

Full Autofocus
Auto-Area AF
Optical Viewfinder

0.270 second

Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture.

Prefocused
Optical Viewfinder

0.067 second

Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button.

Continuous AF
Optical Viewfinder
0.074 second
This mode usually shows no speed increase with our static subject; we have no way to measure performance with moving subjects.
Manual Focus
Optical Viewfinder
0.067 second
For most cameras, shutter lag is less in manual focus than autofocus, but usually not as fast as when the camera is "prefocused".
Full Autofocus
Live View
2.294 seconds
Time from fully pressing shutter button to image capture, using contrast-detect autofocus in Live View mode.
Prefocused
Live View
0.519 second
Time to capture, after half-pressing and holding shutter button, in Live View mode.

Full autofocus shutter response is very good at 0.208 second, slightly faster than the D80. Enabling the built-in flash increased full AF lag just slightly to 0.249 second: That small an increase is excellent. "Prefocusing" the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the final exposure results in a lag time of only 0.067 second, also a bit faster than the D80. Manual focus was just as fast as prefocused.

Lag times in Live View mode are quite a bit (a lot) slower, as only contrast-detect AF is supported on the D90 (unlike the D300, which also has a phase-detect Live View AF mode). Full AF in Live View required a very long 2.3 seconds to achieve focus. (Contrast-detect AF needs to adjust the lens slightly out of focus first, then back in again, to be able to tell that it's achieved proper focus.) Lenses with fast focus motors seem to make only a minor difference. When prefocused, Live View shutter lag is much faster at 0.519 second, but still almost 8x slower than using phase-detect AF with the optical viewfinder.

Cycle Time (shot to shot)

Single Shot mode
Large/Fine JPEG

0.36 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, 1.5 seconds to clear.

Single Shot mode
Small Basic JPEG

0.50 second

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots, 1 second to clear.

Single Shot mode
RAW

0.35 second

Time per shot, averaged over 13 shots, 6 seconds to clear.

Single Shot mode
RAW + Large/Fine JPEG
0.32 second

Time per shot, averaged over 6 shots, 8.5 seconds to clear.

Early shutter
penalty?

No

Some cameras don't snap another shot if you release and press the shutter too quickly in Single Shot mode, making "No" the preferred answer.

Continuous mode
Large Fine JPEG

0.22 second (4.50 frames per second);
20+ frames total;
4 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots (buffer capacity was more than 20 shots)

Continuous mode
Small Basic JPEG

0.22 second (4.56 frames per second);
20+ frames total;
1 second to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over 20 shots (buffer capacity was more than 20 shots)

Continuous mode
RAW

0.24 second (4.13 frames per second);
10 frames total;
6 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 10 frames

Continuous mode
RAW + Large Fine
JPEG

0.24 second (4.23 frames per second);
7 frames total;
9 seconds to clear*

Time per shot, averaged over buffer length of 7 frames

Flash recycling

2.2 seconds

Flash at maximum output.

*Note: Buffer clearing times measured with a SanDisk Extreme III SD card. Slower cards will produce correspondingly slower clearing times. Slow cards may also limit length of bursts in continuous mode. ISO sensitivity and noise reduction settings can also affect cycle times and burst mode performance.

Shot-to-shot cycle times in single-shot mode were quite fast, at 0.36 second for large/fine JPEGs, 0.35 second for RAW frames, and, oddly only 0.32 second for RAW + LF JPEGs. We questioned the slight differences between modes, as we'd normally expect RAW+JPEG to take longer than JPEG alone, but for whatever reason, there was a lot of variation in the cycle times for the JPEG large/fine case, giving a standard deviation of +/- 0.07 second, or 20%. We also hit some significant slowdowns after 6 shots of our very hard-to-compress noise target, indicating a worst-case buffer capacity of 6 shots for RAW+JPEG mode. In JPEG-only modes, the camera captured a full run of 20 shots without having to slow for buffer clearing, while RAW-only slowed after 13 frames.

Continuous mode speeds are also quite good, our measured speeds coming in at around the camera's rated 4.5 frames/second for JPEGs, a little slower for RAW (4.13 frames/second for RAW and 4.23 frames/second for RAW + JPEG). Measured buffer depths were more than 20 frames for large/fine JPEGs, 10 frames for RAW mode and 7 frames for RAW+JPEG. (Note that in our cycle time testing we shoot a target consisting of a fine-grained digital noise pattern, designed to be very hard to compress. This gives us worst-case buffer capacity numbers: You're likely to see greater buffer capacity when shooting more normal subjects.)

The flash took about 2.2 seconds to recharge after a full-power pulse, which is very fast.

Download Speed

Windows Computer, USB 2.0

6,327 KBytes/sec

Typical Values:
Less than 600=USB 1.1;
600-769=USB 2.0 Low;
Above 770=USB 2.0 High

Connected to a computer or printer with USB 2.0, download speeds are very fast.

Bottom line, the Nikon D90 is pretty fast in just about every aspect of its operation, improving on the D80's speed in virtually every respect, despite the increase in resolution. Continuous modes are fast enough for most moving subjects, and shutter lag and cycle times are pretty fast as well. The one exception is autofocus in Live View mode: It's definitely not a "sports" mode.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Excellent battery life for a lithium-ion SLR design.

Operating Mode Number of Shots
Lithium-ion Rechargeable Battery,
(CIPA standard, Optical Viewfinder)
850

The Nikon D90 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power, and ships with a charger. Although battery life is quite good, we recommend you pick up a spare battery and keep it freshly charged and on-hand for extended outings.

The table above shows the number of shots the camera is capable of (on a fully-charged rechargeable battery), based on CIPA battery-life and/or manufacturer standard test conditions.

(Interested readers can find an English translation of the CIPA DC-002 standards document here. (180K PDF document))

Storage
The Nikon D90 accepts SD or SDHC memory cards, and does not ship with a card.

Image Capacity with
1GB Memory Card
Fine Normal Basic RAW RAW
+
L/F JPG
4,288 x 2,848
Images
(Avg Size)
137
7.5 MB
271
3.8 MB
534
1.9 MB
67
15.3 MB
45
22.8 MB
Approx.
Comp.
5:1 10:1 19:1 1.2:1 -
3,216 x 2,136
Images
(Avg Size)
242
4.2 MB
469
2.2 MB
911
1.1 MB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
5:1 9:1 18:1 - -
2,144 x 1,424
Images
(Avg Size)
534
1.9 MB
1024
1.0 MB
1924
532 KB
-
-
Approx.
Comp.
5:1 9:1 17:1 - -

We strongly recommend buying a large capacity SD/SDHC memory card at least a 1GB card, preferably a 4GB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings, or when shooting RAW files and/or HD video. (Check the shopping link above, cards are really cheap these days, so no reason to skimp.)