The road to nirvana

My journey into Photography, Horology, and Audiophilia

My take on the Nikon D90

This is my second DSLR and it replaced my D40. Its specs are vastly superior to that of the D40, and I had high expectations from it after I failed to nail the D700 which was the original plan.

There are so many reviews of the D90 out there and I don't intend to add to what was written already.

What I'm writing about is how my experience with the D90 is taking place, coming from the entry-level D40.

AF Module

To begin with, I'll talk about the AF module. The D40 uses Nikon's Multi-CAM530 AF module, while the D90 has the Multi-CAM1000.

The Multi-CAM530 has been previously used by Nikon on their film camera such as the N55/F55. On the D40, it provides three auto focus points one of which is cross type.

The Multi-CAM1000 was used on previous DSLR models such as D200, and D80 that provides 11-point auto focus points one of which is cross type, and has a 3D tracking capability.

I thought, and felt confident, that the superior AF module will allow me to produce better results. As it turned out, I didn't get the hang of the new Multi-CAM1000 on my first shots as  I easily became frustrated during a volleyball shoot which resulted in more blurred shots compared to when I was using the D40.

It turns out my shooting style suits the "inferior" AF module of the D40, as I continue to struggle with the D90.


I studied the AF options available in the D90 so I can get a good grasp of it. Coupled with some practice, I was able to maximize the use of each mode.

Here's my take on the D90 AF modes.

High ISO

This is a feature that I'd really love to benefit from. Advances in technology makes things such as this possible. Or is it? With the D40, I was able to get acceptable results at ISO 800, and correctable noise level at ISO 1600. I never turn on the Noise Reduction feature as I'd like to see what the sensor is actually capable of.

The D90 in my experience, allows me to shoot with convincingly good results at ISO 1600. The photos become visibly noisy at ISO 3200, and annoyingly noisy at ISO 6400 (Hi 1), depending on the scene. Again, Noise Reduction is turned off.

Noise Reduction

I never liked the effect of Noise Reduction when I first experienced it on the D40. Since then, I always turn it off. With the D90, I still don't like what NR does to the photos. It may be a personal thing, but I simply don't like it.

My preference is to apply Noise Reduction using Nikon's Capture NX2, when needed. In addition, I have full control on the amount of noise reduction that I will apply to the photo.


On the D40, the D-Lighting can be applied after the shot has been taken and a new file will be created, leaving the original photo intact. Again, depending on the scene and how bad I did my shot, the D-Lighting may or may not work well.

On the D90, the new Active D-Lighting can be set to apply the feature as you take the shot. In line with my logic of minimizing alterations to capture photographs, I also turn this off. I felt that I will not always agree with what the camera thinks as we may see the subject differently.

My preference is to apply D-Lighting after the photo has been taken, either in-camera or using Capture NX2.

Dynamic Range

All in all, the three previous features, I suspect will affect the dynamic range of the captured images. This is the primary reason why I don't want so much processing done on the camera. I'll just deal with those later using Nikon Capture NX2.

Picture Control

This is an enhancement to the simple settings found on the D40. With Picture Control, you get preset controls called Nikon Picture Control. Custom Picture Controls can be created from existing ones, and these can be saved and recognized by Nikon Capture NX2.

The default Standard Picture Control (SD) was a big change from the D40 and my initial impressions seem negative. I'm used to the vibrant and very sharp photos coming out from the D40 and having softer and less saturated photos had me looking elsewhere. This led me to create a few Custom Picture Controls of my own, which is a great feature otherwise, I'll be stuck with something I don't like.

Live View

I have mixed emotions about the Live View support as the three options are somewhat inferior to what you'll get from using the optical viewfinder. Face priority is one option, commonly available from Point & Shoot cameras. In addition, there is Wide-area and Normal area Live View Auto Focus modes.

The Live View Auto Focus modes are as good as they can get. When used properly, they assist in capturing photos with more convenience depending on the situation. I particularly like using Live View when using a tripod.

Video Mode aka D-Movie

Before I bought the D90, I have always felt that movie features should remain with P&S cameras and mobile phones. But I do keep an open mind towards new capabilities manufacturers would put into their DSLR. We've seen convergence in other areas, so this is not a surprise.

The D-Movie mode does not replace a dedicated video camera but opens up opportunities to extend one's creativity or just to capture a moment like these.

Hooters Manila Bay from azcruz on Vimeo.

Shakey's V-League: San Sebastian College - Recoletos celebration from azcruz on Vimeo.

The notorious "jello" effect and manual focusing while in D-Movie mode has to be considered if one decides to get serious.

Acquired taste

So far, I'm still in the "getting to know" period with my D90. Unlike the D40, that does the things right the first time for me, the D90 needs to be customized to my liking. The D40 is still unbeatable as the Point & Shoot DSLR!