Nikon has been busy this summer. First came the D700 -- a full-frame, professional/enthusiast digital single-lens reflex camera that neatly fills the gap between the company's D300 and D3 models. Now, with the D90, Nikon has unleashed another digital SLR refresh -- this time, to its midrange SLR.
The Nikon D90, which replaces Nikon's current D80, provides similar functionality to the D300 but at a lower price (£595 plus VAT/US$1,000 for the body only, or £722/$1300 with the 18-105mm Vibration Reduction kit lens). The resolution is the same (12.3 megapixels); and so too are the sensor cleaning system, the picture control system, and the sensor size (DX format).
What's new: Nikon has improved its Expeed Image Processor to provide better noise reduction on ISO levels of up to 6400. The scene recognition system adds face detection and an improved metering system. And Live View mode gets its own dedicated button and lets you focus on a specific point in the frame. The camera also offers HDMI output (unusual in an SLR): a continuous shooting speed of 4.5 frames per second, and an 11-point autofocus system that is better than the D80's.
What makes me eager to take this model for a spin, though, is the D90's video recording capability--a huge boon, and a move that enables the last desirable point-and-shoot-only feature to migrate to the SLR realm. Nikon achieves its video capture, called D-Movie, by recording motion JPEG .AVI movies at 24 frames per second. The camera has three movie-mode resolutions -- 1280-x-720 (for 720p high-definition videos that have a 16:9 aspect ratio and can run for up to 5 minutes); 640 -x-480; and 320-x-216 (the last two modes carry a 20-minute time limit).
Another nifty feature is support for geo-tagging via an optional GP-1 GPS unit (due in November; pricing to be announced).
The prospect of using a digital SLR to capture video clips is especially enticing in view ofthe range of lenses at your disposable. I'm already salivating at some of the creative possibilities that the D90 opens up, though I worry about the challenge of holding the camera steady for the duration of a video several minutes--or more--long.