First Test Shots with the Nikon D90
When Nikon introduced the D90 last month, it broke a long-lamented barrier in cameras: this DSLR is the first to record video (720p, at that). Unlike Casio, which positioned the FX1(which isn’t a DSLR) as a possible camcorder replacement, Nikon is adamant that the D90′s video is just meant for taking clips. Nevertheless, there are some clear advantages to shooting video on a DSLR: you can change the lenses, and you can take advantage of the optical zoom while filming. And all those fancy manual settings that make your photos look more polished? Those settings will carry over once you start filming. I also love how filming is as easy pressing the Live View button on the back and pressing OK. It’s more spontaneous that switching to movie mode on a point-and-shoot– and waiting for its slow engine to catch up. As for the quality, it’s fluid and the sound is loud, to boot. But there are drawbacks to filming with a DSLR (or, at least, the Nikon D90). When you use the optical zoom, the camera doesn’t automatically refocus. So, you have to hold the camera so that you’re wielding the zoom ring with one hand, and the manual focus ring with the other. This is clumsy, even with more modest lenses, and isn’t really conducive to taking spur-of-the-moment clips. It helps to tweak your settings beforehand, but then you get less flexibility in your shooting. Also, there’s the obvious problem of trying to wield this DSLR and heavy lens makes the video appear shaky. Take a look at the video samples below to see what we’re talking about.
So, the video’s imperfect. But the D90 ($1,299 with an 18-105mm lens) is still an awesome camera. The 12.3-MP DSLR has fast shutter speeds, and does burst shooting at a rate of 4.5 fps. Its ISO goes up to 6400, and, although we’re not fans of Live View on DSLRs (real photographers use optical viewfinders), it works like a charm on the D90 (on some DSLRs, using Live View cuts into the camera’s shutter speed, hurting the camera’s performance). Finally, the bright, 3-inch LCD makes it easy to preview and review shots. But those are just the specs. Here’s what we were able to do in our first days with the camera. Note: I was using a 70-300mm lens, not the 18-105mm lens that comes with the basic kit. Yeah, the D90 does pretty well in tricky lighting conditions. Before the game against the Marlins on Friday night, I attended a press conference in which Tom Seaver, Bud Harrelson, Mike Piazza, and Darryl Strawberry shared their favorite memories of Shea Stadium, which is on the verge of closing (full disclosure: Nikon was a partner in this event). To get this shot, I had to leave Auto mode and manually take the exposure down to -.0.7. As for Strawberry, this was his best shot. I have almost a dozen frames of him making ridiculous faces. America’s Top Model he is not. I like the dynamic range in this shot, the fact that although this boy is shaded with tons of light behind him, you can still make the shadow detail on his shirt and hat (some of this might be more obvious if you could see the image at full resolution, and not 500 pixels wide). The camera, as you can see, also does a good job gently blurring the background, which is more pleasing to the eye. And now, here’s what you can do with the D90′s shutter speed, burst shooting, and sports scene mode: