Canon 90D First Shots: Packing more pixels onto an APS-C sensor… Good idea or bad idea?


posted Friday, September 6, 2019 at 3:15 PM EDT

Click here to see our Canon 90D First Shots


While on the outside, the new Canon 90D looks nearly identical to its 80D predecessor, the insides are packing an all-new imaging pipeline centered around a brand-new 32.5-megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor. In recent years, most APS-C cameras have topped-out at 24-megapixels, which already offered quite impressive resolving power. But the new EOS 90D (and M6 Mark II as well) break this trend, offering the highest resolution sensor for an APS-C-class camera. On one hand, having a high-resolution sensor is nice, if not for just detail's sake but also for cropping potential. However, cramming tinier and tinier individual pixels onto an APS-C sensor (in other words, having a very tiny pixel pitch) can result in stronger noise at higher ISOs compared to cameras with the same sensor size but lower megapixel count.

To go along with the new image sensor, the Canon 90D uses Canon's latest DIGIC 8 image processor, providing improved performance features compared to the DIGIC 6-based 80D. Furthermore, the combination of a new sensor and processor gives the 90D a broader native ISO range, despite the increase in sensor resolution. The 90D has a native ISO range of 100 up to 25,600, with an expanded high ISO of 51,200. The 80D, by comparison, had a native high ISO of just 16,000.

So, how does the image quality from the new 90D look across its full ISO range? Well, our just-published Canon 90D First Shots should give you a good start. As always, our handy First Shots series of lab sample images use our still life target and provides a standardized and comparable test scene to see how the image quality changes as the ISO rise, as well as how it compares to other cameras. Using our Comparometer, you can put the 90D lab images side-by-side against almost every other cameras we've lab-tested.

Below are a couple of popular image crop comparisons, putting the Canon 90D up against its 80D predecessor as well as the Canon EOS R. Now, the EOS R might be an odd one to compare, seeing as it's a full-frame camera, but with a 30MP full-frame sensor, it's quite similar to the 90D in megapixel count. It should be interesting to see any detail and high ISO differences.

Canon 90D vs. Canon 80D

ISO 100: Canon 90D (left) vs. Canon 80D (right)

ISO 3200: Canon 90D (left) vs. Canon 80D (right)


Canon 90D vs. Canon EOS R

ISO 100: Canon 90D (left) vs. Canon EOS R (right)

ISO 3200: Canon 90D (left) vs. Canon EOS R (right)

Canon 90D PreviewLab Samples