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Timings & File Sizes

The D90 is a very quick camera - the give-away being that you tend not to notice the camera at all. The only way you'd really notice that files aren't being stored instantly is if you were to sit, staring at the card-write light with a stopwatch in one hand. We can't think of a single instance in which the camera wasn't available for shooting when we wanted it and that's the key thing with these timing tests.

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 4288 x 2848 JPEG Fine (approx. 2,600 KB per image).

The media used for these tests were:

  • 8 GB SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/sec SDHC card
  • 4 GB Lexar Pro 133x SDHC card
Action
Details
Time, secs
(8 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(4 GB Lexar)
Power Off to On   <0.1 <0.1
Power Off to Shot   <0.1 <0.1
Sleep to On   <0.1 <0.1
Power On to Off   <0.1 <0.1
Record Review *1
RAW
0.6 0.6
Record Review
JPEG
0.6 0.6
Activate Live view *2
0.5 0.5
Exit Live view
0.5 0.5
Play *3
0.5 / <0.1 0.5 / <0.1
Play Image to Image
RAW
<0.2 <0.2
Play Image to Image
JPEG
<0.2 <0.2

*1 Time taken from the shutter release being pressed to the review image being displayed on the LCD monitor.
*2 Live view on is considered to be when the Live preview appears. Live view is considered off when the mirror drops and the viewfinder is again available.
*3 First figure is time to display if the camera has been off (image isn't cached), second figure is if the image is still in the camera's internal cache.

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/320 sec, F5.6), ISO 200. Measurements were taken from audio recordings of the tests. Media used were the same as above.

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate, this was consistently 4.5 fps
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held after burst (buffer full)
  • Next burst - How soon after the burst it is fully written to the card (indicator goes out)

Burst of JPEG Large Fine images

As befits the D90's above entry-level, below semi-pro status, it has a continuous shooting rate that would be considered rapid by one standard and sluggish by the other. We feel your needs would have to be pretty specialist to need more than 4.5 frames per second.

The camera will shoot very comfortably at its advertised rate for the first 100 frames, then stop, for no apparent reason - the buffer counter suddenly runs to zero and the camera stops. If you let go of the shutter release button, the buffer counter jumps back up and you can shoot another 100 frame burst. This appears to be an arbitrary restriction, rather than the buffer filling.

Timing
8 GB SanDisk
Extreme III SD
4 GB Lexar
Pro 133x SD
Frame rate (average) 4.5 fps 4.5 fps
Number of frames 100 100
Buffer full rate - -
Next burst - -

Burst of RAW images

Timing
8 GB SanDisk
Extreme III SD
4 GB Lexar
Pro 133x SD
Frame rate (average) 4.5 fps 4.5 fps
Number of frames 11 11
Buffer full rate 2.4 fps 1.9 fps
Next burst 5.2 sec 6.1 sec

Burst of RAW+JPEG Large Fine images

Timing
8 GB SanDisk
Extreme III SD
4 GB Lexar
Pro 133x SD
Frame rate (average) 4.5 fps 4.5 fps
Number of frames 11 7
Buffer full rate 1.3 fps 1.2 fps
Next burst 7.2 sec 7.9 sec

The D90 puts in a very impressive performance for a camera at this level. In Raw shooting, there is a delay between the full frame rate ending and the 'buffer full' rate commencing but 11 files at 4.5 frames per second should do a reasonable job of capturing the moment if you're trying to shoot continuous RAW.

File Flush Timing

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card. Timing was taken from the instant the shutter release was pressed to the time the storage card activity indicator on the LCD monitor disappears (note that this is unlikely to be as accurate as an LED lamp). Media used were the same as above.

Image type
Time, secs
(2 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(4 GB Lexar)
Approx.
size
4288 x 2848 RAW + JPEG Fine 1.7 1.7 11,250 KB *1
4288 x 2848 RAW 1.5 2.2 8,600 KB
4288 x 2848 JPEG Fine 0.9 0.9 2,650 KB
4288 x 2848 JPEG Normal 0.8 0.8 1,800 KB

*1 File size reported here is the size of the RAW and JPEG files added together.
*2 The D90 begins writing around 0.8 seconds after the shutter release is pressed so you must subtract 'processing time' from the timing to get the actual write time.

The D90 continues its predecessor's excellent write times, (we estimate over 6 MB/sec for RAW images with fast cards such as the ones used in this test). The buffering is also good, with all image processing and card writing occurring in the background so it never interrupts your ability to take the next shot.

USB transfer speed

To test the D90's USB transfer speed we transferred approximately 1.0 GB of images (mixed RAW and JPEG) from a Lexar Professional 133x 4GB SDHC card.

Method
Transfer rate
Nikon D90 (PTP device) 9.3 MB/sec
Nikon D90 (Using Nikon Transfer Software) 10.6 MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme IV USB 2.0 card reader 18.0 MB/sec

The D90's peer-to-peer (PTP) mode produced very good results: over nine megabytes per second is good USB 2.0 reader territory (the SanDisk Extreme IV reader here is exceptional). This speed would mean you could offload a full 1 GB card in under two minutes. Still worth investing in a card reader, though.

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