First Impressions

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The Nikon D90 is one hell of a DSLR. When you consider that the image quality is comparable to the D300, then it’s clearly a smart choice for professionals who want to save a buck. It also makes an ideal choice as a backup camera. Factor in the D90’s ability to shoot 24 fps video and it’s a no-brainier for photojournalists. (Note: Canon jumped on the bandwagon, but Nikon was first.)

The D90 is fast, very responsive. Great build, feels substantial. Has a comfortable grip,  well-placed controls, and a gorgeous 3″ LCD monitor. No lag time when shooting RAW and JPEG files to the SDHC card.

I haven’t shot any videos yet, but from what I’ve heard it’s clear that the D90 doesn’t replace a camcorder. There are simply too many limitations, like not being able to use an external mic and being limited to shooting five minute clips. Panning without a tripod doesn’t cut it, either, unless you’re going for wobbly funhouse mirror effects.

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That said, there are work-arounds for these issues. For example, if you want quality audio you can record your soundtrack independently with a digital audio recorder like the Edirol R-09.

It’ll be interesting to see what Nikon does with future DV-capable models.

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The above image marks my first shot with the Nikon D90. (Click on the image for a large view.) These contrasting textures have been cropped down from a large original shot at 18mm. Exposure: 1/125 at f/8. ISO 200.

Original image below.

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I bought the D90 body without the kit lens and instead sprang for the 18-200mm AF-S DX VR zoom which adds considerable weight to the D90 body. I’ve ordered the MB-D80 battery pack which should balance the weight of the zoom.

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The 18-200mm is not super fast (3.5 – 5.6) but fast enough. It’s an ideal walk-around lens, and a good choice if you don’t want to lug around two cameras or have to change lenses in the field.

The shot below was taken at 200mm at a considerable distance, i.e., with four lanes of traffic and a divider separating camera and subject. Exposure: 1/1000 at f/5.6, ISO 500.

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Below is a handheld night shot taken at 1/80 at f/4.8 with the ISO cranked up to 1250. The limited noise is phenomenal and can easily be removed in post. The ISO range of the D90 is 100 to a whopping 6400.

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I realize these test shots won’t win any awards, but I’ve only had the damn cam for 24 hours. Hell, I’m still reading Simon Stafford’s 400-paged Magic Lantern Guide to the D90 (Lark Books), which BTW I highly recommend. There are plenty of features to be tested such as the Scene Recognition System, Live View, 3D focus-tracking, on and on, so expect more than a few future posts.

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Now it’s time for a nightcap…

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