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Nikon D90 - nice DSLR that also shoots HD video

Nikon's new stills camera shoots nice 720p movies

By Mike Curtis | September 06, 2008

Nikon is about to ship their new DX format DSLR, the D90.

So why should you care?

Because it also shoots 720p movies.

Yep, that's right - 1280x720, progressive frame, nice depth of field (roughly equivalent to Super35mm/Red One), 24 frame per second movies.

With sound.

How much? $1000 for the body, $1300 with an 18-105mm lens.

Read on for the deets.

As a still camera, it is pretty nice, here's the specs I care about from Nikon's page:

-Newly designed Nikon DX-format CMOS image sensor with 12.3 effective megapixels and Integrated Dust Reduction System
-Incredibly low-noise performance throughout a wide sensitivity range of ISO 200 to 3200; can be set to ISO 6400 equivalent
-Incorporates Nikon's comprehensive digital image-processing EXPEED concept
-The world's first D-SLR movie function: D-Movie, selectable from 320 x 216 pixels, 640 x 424 pixels or 1,280 x 720 pixels in AVI format
-Live View enables face priority AF with the 3-in., approx. 920k-dot, high-density color LCD featuring 170° ultra-wide viewing angle
-Active D-Lighting for smooth tone reproduction in high-contrast lighting
-Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus sensor module featuring 11 AF points offers fast and precise autofocus coverage across the frame
-Viewfinder with approx. 96% frame coverage and an easy-to-view 19.5 mm eyepoint (at -1.0 m-1)
-4.5 fps continuous shooting and quick response of 0.15-second start-up and 65-ms shutter release time lag (CIPA standard)
-Built-in flash with 18mm lens coverage and Nikon's original i-TTL flash control that commands Advanced Wireless Lighting
-Compatible with HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) output
-Optional Multi-Power Battery Pack MB-D80 extends shooting capability and enables use of six R6/AA-size batteries
-Included Nikon ViewNX software makes browsing and organizing your images easy
-Optional photo-editing software, Capture NX 2 allows users quick and easy photo editing

In English: this camera has a sensor roughly the same size as a Red One, with about the same sensor resolution, shoots at 24 fps, shoots 12MP stills, and can be had with a lens for about $1300 when it ships. Stills mode shoots 4288x2848, movie mode is 1280x720. Play stills or video back out via HDMI. NICE.

I declare thee Doodle Cam Extraordinaire.

I'd been planning on getting a nice DSLR anyway, in the DX format (since that is about the same size as my Red One's sensor), and I'd been looking at the very well reviewed D300, but wincing a bit at the price (about $1600 for the body alone, no lenses).

I wanted to get one to get more hands on experience with shooting in RAW mode, and perhaps doodle with some with the Nikon mount on my Red One camera - perhaps try out some Nikon primes and see how they work, feel, and look.

I've been debating taking a photo/video safari to the Grand Canyon - I was looking at this to lug all gear: Petrol Bags PCBP-2N, but a D90 with the GPS recorder for a Recon Day, including shooting some stills and video, would allow me to shoot some samples with a decent idea of what lenses to bring back with the heavy gear later. (update - Gibby recommended this Tamrac 5258))

There's been tons of conversation about this online, here's a few good resources:

Stu Maschwitz at the ever-awesome ProLost has posted thrice on the subject, and drat it, he just wrote the summary kind of article I was getting ready to do next with most of what I was fixin' to say.

ProLost: SLR Movies

ProLost: More D90

ProLost: DSLR Movies, Pros and Cons

Posts tagged D90 at Engadget, including some unboxing pics

official schtuff: Nikon | Imaging Products | Nikon D90


Nikon D90 Hands-on Preview: 1. Introduction: Digital Photography Review

Chase Jarvis early testing: Chase Jarvis Blog: Chase Jarvis RAW: Advance Testing the Nikon D90

There's been some discussion on about how this may or may not affect Scarlet, Red's smaller camera due out next year:


Stu nails the main concerns about usign this as a movie camera:

-only 720p, not 1080 - the sensor is waaaaay high enough resolution, the catch is the recording and processing

-24p ONLY, no over/undercrank

-CMOS rolling shutter issues

-5 minute record max time - and isn't limited due to storage

-no external audio input, mono only onboard

-mix of manual and auto controls, frustrating combo

-codec issues

-debayering issues

read the comments on Stu's blog, some interesting stuff, as well as he has TONS of relevant links for those interested.


PS - for kicks I wrote up a bit on D90 vs Red's Scarlet's specs, planned for release early next year

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Ben Richardson: | September, 06, 2008

Assuming equivalent lens angle-of-view and aperture, this will actually give you a DOF equivalent to 35mm motion-picture, or a Red One, not Super16. The D90 chip is 23.6x15.8 mm, Red One is 24.4x13.7mm, Academy 35mm is 22x16mm. Super16 is only 12.5x7.4mm.

billS: | September, 06, 2008

was just chatting with Adam on this very subject!

the D3 does twice the data thru-put (11FPS on 4K ) , so could do 1080P ... if Nikon chooses to… in the soon to be released upgrade…

and the D3 is FX format ( 24mmx36mm)—full sized like the nikon film cameras… so you can use all those nikon lenses from the 60’s to now…

some cool stuff may be coming down the pike soon…

good post!

Mike Curtis: | September, 06, 2008

DOH! Thanks Ben, nice catch!

I’m going to pretend I was thinking about the D90 vs Scarlet piece I was working on simultaneously.

I should know better than to let that kind of slip happen.



Matt Jeppsen: | September, 09, 2008

Hey Mike, thanks for two great writeups on the D90. I’ve linked them both and posted some details on how to lock auto-exposure in D-Movie mode with a single button:

Matt Jeppsen

Jessel: | September, 11, 2008

I don’t know if I would ever shoot video with a D90.  It would look too weird.  Maybe for personal projects like if I’m vacation or something.

With this move by Nikon though, I have a feeling they’re testing the video market waters.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they come out with a full video camera like the Scarlet in the next couple of years.


delela: | March, 05, 2011

GPS location recorder keeps detailed records of routes traveled for quality-control and security purposes. The datalogger works with public Web map systems such as Google Earth and MapQuest, eliminating the need for users to update map software or pay software licensing and maintenance fees.
gps news

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