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Nikon Coolpix P90 Review

12 Megapixels12 MegapixelsUltra-Zoom: At least 10X optical zoom.Ultra-Zoom: At least 10X optical zoom.Electronic View FinderElectronic View FinderStabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.Stabilization: Compensates for tiny involuntary movements of the camera.VGA Video: 640 x 480 or more but less than 1280 x 720.VGA Video: 640 x 480 or more but less than 1280 x 720.Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Manual Controls: Both fully-manual (M) and semi-automatic modes (T and V).Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Custom White-Balance: Specifies exactly what should be white to the camera.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Action Photography: Shutter speeds of 1/1500 or more.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Night Photography: Reaches shutter-speeds longer than 4 seconds.Spot MeteringSpot MeteringAccepts Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) and SD memory.Accepts Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC) and SD memory.Neocamera detailed reviewNeocamera detailed reviewDiscontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.Discontinued: No longer produced by the manufacturer. May still be in stock or found used.

Usability - How easy is it to use?

The Nikon Coolpix P90 is very easy to handle and straight forward to handle and operate. Its body is well built and features a deep-but-narrow hand-grip to hold it steady. The entire camera feels sturdy, even the hinge for the LCD screen - which is often a liability - is substantial.

Nikon Coolpix P90

The main controls are easy to use with positive click points. The shutter-release is decent with a very soft halfway point used to focus the camera before taking a picture. The P90 has a single command dial which is set on the camera's rear within easy reach of your thumb.

The tethered lens-cap easily stays with the camera but causes a lens-error when it is powered on with it in place. Underneath the P90, a metal tripod mount is placed at the camera's physical center. It is better for panoramas if the tripod mount is aligned with the lens' center but for other uses the physical center gives more balance.

The P90 is powered on by a simple button on top of the camera, behind the shutter-release. The zoom control is wrapped around the shutter. Zooming is quite fast if a little coarse for such a range. The top of the camera also holds the mode dial. It features the usual Auto, Program, Shutter-Priority, Aperture-Priority, Manual and Movie mode. Additionally, it has two user-modes which are Program (P) modes with user-defined presets. It is really too bad one cannot choose the exposure mode here.

The mode dial also has Movie-mode, Automatic Scene-Mode detection, Scene-Mode and High-Speed shooting positions. The Scene mode hides all individual scene modes under one setting. High-speed mode is a low-resolution burst mode with frame-rates up to 15 FPS (16:9) or 11 FPS (4:3). A maximum image resolution of 3 megapixels is available here. Up to 45 images can be captured in those scene-modes. A clever Pre-Shooting cache keeps up to 10 images captured between the halfway press and full-press of the shutter-release to reduce the changes of being too late on the trigger.

Nikon Coolpix P90

As most ultra-zooms, this digital camera features a large rear LCD and a small EVF. The EVF has a good protruding position. However, it is quite small, making judging details and focus nearly impossible. The LCD is better with great visibility but limited dynamic range: what you see as all-white or all-black on the LCD may not be over or under-exposed, but you just can't tell by looking at the review image.

Another problem with the LCD is that the preview isn't entirely accurate, although not by much. In Auto and P mode, the LCD is exposure-priority but not in M mode and not in Aperture-priority or Shutter-priority mode when parameters are out of range. This is really too bad as you do not see the effects of being beyond the camera's exposure range.

Nikon Coolpix P90

The camera has a button to switch between the EVF and LCD which is separate from the display mode button. The display mode button cycles through the image-only, information and alignment grip modes. Speaking about the displays, both of them have poor coverage, showing only 94% of the frame.

On the camera's rear, a standard 4-way controller is used to navigate menus and as short-cut to some camera functions. Those functions are: flash-mode, self-timer, exposure-compensation and focus mode. Unfortunately, ISO, white-balance and drive mode do not have dedicated buttons and therefore must be changed by using the menu system. The menus are easy to navigate. This camera is shooting-priority, so a halfway press of the shutter returns this Coolpix to the set shooting mode. There is a playback button which toggles playback mode. The user interface has plenty of useful and intuitive indicators to remind users of how to operate the camera. There is also a delete button which prompts for deletion of the last image shot when in shooting mode. In playback mode, the delete button prompts for deletion of the displayed image.

ISO is selectable between 64 and 6400. Up to 1600, the camera can shoot at its maximum resolution of 12 megapixels. From 3200 onwards, the P90 limits itself to 3 megapixels which is normally enough for an 8"x10" print and for displaying full-screen on most computer displays. Because the usable ISO range depends on the photographic medium, it is great when a camera like the P90 allows the Auto ISO range to be selected. The p90 offers 5 possible ranges: 64-100, 64-200, 64-400, 64-800 (called Auto) and 64-1600 (called High ISO sensitivity auto).

This ultra-zoom allows for -2 to +2 stops of exposure compensation and flash compensation, both in 1/3 stop increments. Exposure bracketing, always 3 frames, can be set in increments of 1/3, 2/3 or 1 EVs. Unlike its predecessor, the P90 allows to reset file numbering via the Setup menu, otherwise file-numbers keep increasing, even after formatting a card.

Nikon Coolpix P90
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By on 2009/07/11
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Nikon P90 Facts

Large digital camera
12 Megapixels Ultra ZoomISO 64-1600
24X Wide Optical ZoomShutter 1/2000-8s
Built-in StabilizationFull manual controls
0.24" Built-in EVF 230K PixelsCustom white-balance
1.5 FPS Drive, 14 ImagesSpot-Metering
640x480 @ 30 FPS Video RecordingLithium-Ion Battery
3" LCD 230K PixelsSecure Digital High Capacity
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