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Compared to...

Studio scene comparison (higher sensitivities)

The D90's performance at base ISO may be indistiguishable from its peers (in RAW) but that changes when we try to raise the sensitivity. We have already seen that it produces slightly softer, lower-contrast JPEGS than its peers at base ISO, so it's not surprizing to see this trend continue as sensitivity is raised. Its performance is comparable to that of the 450D, though you'd need to increase the saturation and contrast to really appreciate this (or its improvement over the D80).

The level of detail retained seems comparable with the D300 at ISO 1600 and above (presumably because noise reduction is blurring away any of the super-fine detail that the D300 captures but that eludes the D90). The ISO 3200 is very good as ISO 3200 performances go from APS-C sensors with some detail still visible and noise reduction that's unobtrusive enough to leave a usable image. ISO 6400 is the blotchy nonsense that you might reasonably expect from working with such extreme settings (even in these comparatively bright lighting conditions). For emergencies only.

ISO 800

Nikon D90 Canon EOS 450D
Pentax K20D Nikon D80
 
Nikon D300  

ISO 1600

Nikon D90 Canon EOS 450D
Pentax K20D Nikon D80
 
Nikon D300  

ISO 3200

Nikon D90 Nikon D80 (Equiv*)
Pentax K20D Nikon D300

ISO 6400

Nikon D90 (Equiv*) Pentax K20D (Equiv*)
 
Nikon D300 (Equiv*)  

* Additional sensitivity settings denoted by the manufacturer as boosted or equivalent to that ISO setting.

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