Nikon Coolpix P90 Review
The Nikon Coolpix P90 is a full-featured ultra-zoom with a 24X very wide-angle zoom going from 26mm to 624mm and full-manual controls. For the most part, these are the only two specifications that matter. It means that the Coolpix P90 is designed for versatility, making framing and exposure control extremely versatile.
The remainder of the P90 is now standard fare for ultra-zooms models with full-manual controls:
- 12 Megapixels sensor
- 24X Wide-angle optical zoom lens
- Optical image stabilization
- ISO 64-1600 at full-resolution
- ISO 3200-6400 at 3 megapixels
- Shutter speeds from 1/2000s to 8s
- Full manual controls including manual focus
- Automatic, preset and custom white-balance
- Exposure bracketing, 3 frames, 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV steps
- High-quality movie recording
- Built-in distortion correction
- Tiltable 3" LCD with 230K pixels
Suitability - What is it good for?
The Nikon Coolpix P90 is highly versatile due to its 24X optical zoom which starts at a very wide-angle 26mm and reaches 624mm, in 35mm equivalent terms. This wide range covers most photographic uses, particularly well in the telephoto range for wildlife and bird photography. This super-long reach puts the P90 even beyond the reach of DSLR lenses under $1000 USD. Macro photography is also possible with the Nikon P90 which can focus as close as 1cm (0.4").
The shots below were taken from the same place at both extremes of the zoom. The second shot, at 624mm, is so zoomed in that it is hard to see where it comes from in the wide 26mm shot. As shown in our sample image gallery, even the moon can be decently framed.
The Nikon Coolpix P90 also features full-manual controls for creative and versatile exposures. With a shutter-speed range from 1/2000 to 8s, this digital camera can in theory handle action and night photography. The limiting factor here is the noise and speed performance of this camera. Regardless of the level of performance described on the next review page, it is to be expected that this is where a camera like this one mostly trails digital SLRs.
While it is no longer as compact as its predecessor, the P80, this camera remains reasonably compact relative to the reach of its lens. Its moderate size means that it is easy to carry such a powerful zoom and shoot rather discretely with it. Size is key to versatility simply because a smaller camera gets taken to more places.
With a 12 megapixels sensor, images from the Coolpix P90 are suitable for relatively large prints, up to 24"x18" provided ISO is kept low. Needless to say, any computer display or web-use will not be a problem.
Storage and power options for this digital camera are rather typical of ultra-zooms. The P90 supports SD-HC cards which always means SD too. it is powered by a small proprietary lithium-ion battery.
Capability - What can it do?
As an ultra-zoom, most of the flexibility comes from the P90's huge zoom range. Like most ultra-zooms, this digital camera is equipped with a number of advanced features. Below is a list of its most useful features, followed by explanations, when required.
- Program exposure with shift, shutter-priority, aperture priority and manual exposure
- Metering: matrix, center-weighed, center spot and AF-point spot
- Exposure compensation: +2 to -2 EV, in 1/3 stop increments
- Flash compensation: +2 to -2 EV, in 1/3 stop increments
- Exposure bracket: 3 shots, 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EV steps
- Auto ISO maximum selectable from 100 to 1600
- White-balance: Auto, 5 presets and custom
- Flash: Auto, red-eye, off, on, slow-sync and burst.
- Focus distance: Normal auto focus, macro, infinity and manual
- Focus area: Auto (9-point), Center, Manual (99-point) and Face-Priority
- Drive: Single-shot, continuous, BSS, multi-shot 16, interval timer
- Self-timer: 10s, 2s, Smile, Blinkproof
- Pre-shooting cache, 10 frames, low-resolution high-speed modes only
- Custom image parameters: 5 contrast and sharpness settings, 3 saturation settings
- Optional forced noise-reduction
- Optional distortion compensation
- Optional vibration reduction
- Panorama assist
- Scene-mode auto-detection
A few features here appear in other Coolpix cameras but may not be familiar to everyone. BSS is best-shot-selector which is a drive mode which takes a few shots in rapid succession and stores the least blurry one. Another drive mode is Multishot-16. This mode records 16 ultra-low resolution photographs into a single low resolution image.
Smile timer waits for someone to smile and Blinkproof takes two pictures and chooses one where the subject did not blink, unless he or she blinked twice. Finally, there is an interval timer feature which shoots one image each 30s, 1, 5 or 10 minutes.
Noise reduction can be forced to ON, otherwise it is Auto only. Distortion compensation triggers processing in the camera to compensate for optical distortion inherent to the lens.
In addition to normal and macro focus, the Nikon P90 has manual focus and infinity focus as well. In macro mode, the center of the image can be magnified to inspect focuss. In infinity mode, focus is locked at infinity. This is useful in low-light when the camera is unable to focus at all.
The Nikkor 24X optical zoom lens of the Nikon Coolpix P90 has a wide range from 26mm to 624mm in 35mm terms. This is 2mm wider than what is considered wide-angle and reaches well into the telephoto range used for wildlife photography and birding. The exact same range is found on the Pentax X70 and Kodak Z980. Olympus does slightly more with its 26X zoom, also starting at 26mm but reaching 676mm.
Vibration Reduction is Nikon's image stabilization. The Nikon Coolpix P90 is equipped with stabilization which compensates for involuntary camera movements, up to 3 stops compared to no stabilization. This helps with the usability of such a long zoom. Recall that the rule-of-thumb is to shoot at 1 over the focal-length. Thus, at the 624mm end, shooting at 1/750s is expected for shots to come out sharp. Considering the maximum aperture is F5 at 624mm and the desire to use low ISO settings, a shutter-speed of 1/750s can be difficult. With stabilization, this requirements is reduced to 1/200s or even 1/100s.
Nikon P90 Highlights
Sensor-Size: 6 x 5mm
Actual size when viewed at 100 DPI
|12 Megapixels Ultra Zoom||ISO 64-1600|
|24X Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/2000-8s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls|
|0.24" Built-in EVF 230K Pixels||Custom white-balance|
|1.5 FPS Drive, 14 Images||Spot-Metering|
|640x480 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|3" LCD 230K Pixels||Secure Digital High Capacity|
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