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Nikon D90 video test.

The D90 is Nikon’s latest mid range consumer DSLR. It does everything a good Nikon does and brings relief to my shoulder that normally carries the weight of a D3.

Although compact compared to other 12.3 Megapixel DSLR’s it has most of the guts of the D300. It’s a DX format sensor and shoots up to 4.5 FPS with ISO settings up to 3200. More than most consumer users will need and enough to keep even some pros happy.

The screen is a hi-res 3″ LCD, and is a long way from what I remember on my first Nikon DSLR, the D100.

The sensor has vibrating dust removal and on the whole, the camera feels good in my hands, even if the layout of the controls is very different to my normal everyday camera.

It would be a great tool in the hands of any keen amateur and even a great back up camera for any pro.

This was not my reason for buying it though. The reason I bought this camera was that it’s the world’s first DSLR with HD video capability.


There are limitations yes.. and I don’t think i will be shooting any feature films on it, but this is an important time in the history of photography and I did not want to let it pass without getting absorbed in this new direction for the digital SLR.

Shooting film on the D90 is easy. Press the rear Lv button to get Live View, and then press the OK button.

There is no auto focus whilst filming so capturing anything that moves requires so much skill if you can manage it well, you have the dexterity of a professional Focus Puller.

This did not deter me in the least. This is for me to play with, to put some art back into my images and give me a different perspective when looking at scenes before me.

Get used to things being out of focus occasionally and instead enjoy the colours, shapes and textures captured by Nikons great glass in a way you may not have experienced before.. Moving. I have lenses 10 years old that still that cost more than this camera is today. Getting to put them on the front and shoot video is going to be a real adventure.

It is important to remember that this camera is just the first step. I think many of the much needed additional features may have been held back for the D3x or even the D4. Like more control over the exposure. I have managed to get over the randomly adjusting exposure by assigning the function button to hold the exposure when pressed. This is another moment where i’ve had to stop and think about what i’m doing. This is not a bad thing at all. We get far too snap happy and end up deleting a ton of pix. Why not take some extra time. You may even feel your photography improves through it.

I am not so keen on using the rear LCD as a viewfinder as this can be difficult in focusing, but it has made me return to looking at the markings on my lens which I have not done for an age.

The video clips are limited to five minutes, this apparently is so the cost can be kept down as the camera is classed as a stills camera that has video capability and not a video camera as such. I don’t mind as it keeps your clips easy to import/edit and stops things getting boring.

The sound captured by the internal microphone is a bit naff but ok just for an ambient holiday video postcard or the occasional blog post but I wish Nikon had had the foresight to add a mic input like Canon have.. Perhaps this will be another feature that comes out on the next model.

720p/24 is more than enough for the web and this is what i intend to use this camera for.

The main thing you see with the video results is how easy it is to throw backgrounds out of focus. This is what I had the most fun with.

I almost forgot during the test that this is a really competent stills camera. It more than holds it’s own with the D300 and is a great back up for the D3.

For the test film embedded, I only used the camera with a 50mm f1.4 AFD but the D90 works with every AF lens made since 1986.

If you want it to be wifi enabled you will need the amazing Eye-Fi card and you can expect your SD card to fill up in movie at a rate of 21.4MB for a 10 second clip set at 720p. If you don’t get the Eye-Fi explore with the built in GPS tagging, Nikon has a compact GPS sensor that can be fitted on the flash shoe and plugged into the side of the camera.

Keep checking back to the blog to see new photos and video shot with the D90. I have some Lumiere projects in mind and on the whole, having a lighter camera in my bag is going to mean my back feels the benefit.

Although pleasantly enjoying the present I am already saving for whatever amazing amalgamation of stills and video that may be on the horizon. Next year expect some really exciting developments from both Canon, Nikon and Red. I am not a purist when it comes to photography. A movie is just lots of stills.

In the not to distant future, we will be extracting out photographs from movie footage and the quality of these images will blow our minds.

Big thanks go to Ben Read for letting me spend longer in the bathroom than normal.. Mainly as I was filming it. icon smile Nikon D90 video test.

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About Documentally

Talking, teaching and documenting using mobile tools. Running workshops and consulting worldwide with a focus on social technology.

  • http://moodlea.blogspot.com Ian

    Looks fantastic… is it worth the extra £££ for upgrading from my D80? And how much was it from Jessops…?

  • http://www.ourmaninside.com Documentally

    It’s miles away from the D80.. If you shop around you can get it for about £600 body only.

  • http://www.beerutopia.com brant

    Looks great! May have to upgrade our Nikon. I bought a 50mm last year and it is the first time I have had one. Love that lens. keep up the great posts.

  • http://www.littlestar.tv Julian Tait

    Although it is not a DSLR, then again no camera is when shooting video the Casio Exilim EX-F1 is a remarkable camera. Allowing HD1080i video recording using an H264 codec. What is more remarkable about this camera is that you can capture at 512×384 at 300fps to 336×96 @1200fps. This is one amazing camera ideal for all those Serge Leone type effects. It also has a pre-shot frame buffer, those people who are used to recording audio will be aware of pre-record buffers. But the camera is shooting before you even press the shutter, Amazing I did an editorial on this http://tinyurl.com/4lhmcp for Zonezero.co back in November

  • Jikan

    havent had time to read all that yet ( getting kids off to nursery/eating porridge, drinking coffee….) but the film was pretty damn good. I’d need/want something with auto focus though.

  • http://www.shemakeswar.com/blog Laura Kidd

    Some lovely shots there Christian, showing once again there can be beauty everywhere…even the (Thomas) crapper! Being able to shoot video with all those lenses at your disposal opens up a whole new world, I look forward to more developments in the field and more images from you.

  • http://twittervlog.tv/ Rupert

    Really great review – and swift. Didn’t you only get this yesterday?? Thanks.
    And your clips look lovely, too. Only you would think of pulling focus on the toilet bowl. Reminded me of some heavy nights.
    Pity about the sound. But, like you say, this is just the beginning.
    I just linked to this review at the Yahoo videoblogging group.

  • Ben Read

    I don’t know, he comes to my house, films all of it, including the holy white altar of the Thomas Crapper and I don’t even get a shout-out…

    Typical bloody blogger.

  • http://www.ourmaninside.com Documentally

    Hehe.. Sorry Ben, I forgot if you said “No way man.. I don’t want everybody to know I chose huge tassels for my bathroom!” Or “No man.. that’s cool, give me a shout out.”

    I have amended the post. :)

  • http://rashbre2.blogspot.com rashbre

    I have one of these D90s and am pleasantly surprised with the picture quality.

    Like you, I’ve had a play with the video and as you imply, its almost filmic in the way it needs to operate -distance/focus/aperture etc. The effects like depth of field are fun and I suppose I’ll have to try a tripod to get a sense of the real HDfullness available. I’ve found any pan & tilt can get a bit choppy but I wonder if its something to do with the lens stabiliser/VR.

    As a snappy P&S video, I suspect my little Panasonic LX5(?) is an easier bet albeit without the cool DoF.

    The thing that really surprised me was the metering/exposure tolerance compared with my somewhat older D80. The challenge with the D80 was getting skies and shadows to look good at the same time and the D90 seems to do a better job.

    I haven’t read much about this in any reviews, but I wonder if they’ve twiddled some of the camera technology to achieve this?

    I guess with the HDV addition, the two or three pager reviews tend to concentrate on this ‘obvious’ change, but I do think as a lightweight SLR its been improved too.

  • M-A

    Hi. Thanks for sharing. BTW, who signs ? Great song ! Please tell me.

  • M-A

    sorry… who sings i meant.

  • http://www.ourmaninside.com Documentally

    Hi, M-A.. check the credits on the end. :)