Nikon D90 – nice DSLR that also shoots HD video

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 – 1280×720, 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 4288×2848, movie mode is 1280×720. 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

Mike Curtis

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