Body & Design
Just as the D80 was a refinement of the D70/D70s design, so the D90 doesn't break any new ground - interestingly they've actually gone back to the more angular look of the D70. Nobody quite does a quality plastic body like Nikon, it feels tight and solid, wrapped around a good metal chassis. Over this are a few offerings of rubber to improve grip, obviously at the front around the hand grip, at the rear for the thumb and on the left side (from the rear).
Side by side
Below you can see the D90 next to Canon's new EOS 50D, which is almost identical to the EOS 40D (which we would guess is the D90's direct rival). As you can see the D90 is a little smaller (it's also a touch lighter than either 40D or 50D).
In your hand
As we've come to expect from a Nikon SLR, the D90 feels very comfortable and natural, with a good grip and logical, ergonomic, button placement. It's neither too heavy or too light (as to feel fragile) and feels very well put together and surprisingly robust.
The D90 shares the D3/D700 and D300's new large, high resolution LCD monitor. It has four times the number of dots of the 230,000 unit used on the D80 and other such cameras. For clarity, the words pixels and dots are interchanged almost randomly in specification sheets but strictly speaking we should talk of dots (these being red, green or blue sub-pixels) when referring to the figures quoted by manufacturers. The D700's LCD has 921,600 dots, 1920 columns by 480 rows, the dots are a third thinner than they are high and so each group of three dots (sub-pixels) make up one full color pixel.
This high resolution screen really has to be seen to be appreciated, it's beautifully detailed and extremely smooth in appearance because the tiny gaps between dots are too small to be seen with the eye. This extra detail is obvious in live view and playback modes where you really can see much 'more' of the image in one glance. Another difference comes when you magnify in playback as you find you don't need to magnify the image as much before you can clearly see sharpness, focus accuracy and even noise.
Top Control Panel
The D90 has one control panel on the top on the right side, which provides a full range of information covering photographic and digital settings. The panel has a green back light which can be illuminated by flicking the power switch to the lamp position, it's spring loaded and returns to 'ON', the back light stays on for the 'auto meter-off' time (defined in custom setting c2). You can also choose to have the back lights come on with any button press (custom setting d9). The layout is very similar to the D80, though not identical (the continuous H/L, remote control and GPS icons have caused things to move around a little.
A breakdown of information displayed on the LCD panel can be found on the diagrams below.
• Shutter speed
• Number of frames remaining