What's new and how it compares

Key takeaways:

  • The 90D uses an all-new 32.5MP APS-C CMOS sensor: the same one found on the EOS M6 Mark II
  • It uses a 45-point all cross-type AF system when shooting through the viewfinder. A new metering sensor allows for face detection when using the viewfinder.
  • When in live view, the 90D uses a very capable Dual Pixel AF system
  • The camera can shoot at 10 fps with continuous AF with the OVF and in 7fps in live view

New sensor and Dual Pixel AF

Like the EOS M6 Mark II introduced at the same time, the EOS 90D uses a newly designed 32.5 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor. The sensor has a native ISO range of 100-25,600, which can rise to 51,200 if you desire.

As with other recent Canon models, the sensor on the 90D has Dual Pixel technology, which is used for live view and video capture. Unlike other cameras that use on-sensor phase detection, each pixel on the 90D's sensor is used for gathering focus data from both the left and right directions, which means there's no risk of striping or banding.

The 90D's 'Dual Pixels' cover 88% of the sensor's width and nearly all of its height. In Auto Area mode the camera will select from up to 143 points, but in single-point mode there are over 5000 points to choose from.

The 90D lets you choose between electronic front-curtain or a fully mechanical shutter in live view

In live view you can take advantage of the same Eye AF system that debuted on the EOS R and RP. When testing those cameras we found the system to be very good, though not best-in-class: we'll see how it does on the 90D. You can move between faces using the touchscreen or multi-controller. The 90D also lets you choose between electronic front-curtain shutter (EFCS) or fully mechanical shutter when shooting in live view. Previously, all Canon DSLRs used EFCS, but switching the 90D into mechanical unlocks faster burst speeds with autofocus.

The 90D's electronic shutter that supports shutter speeds as fast as 1/16000 sec. Based on some initial testing of the EOS M6 II, rolling shutter should be pretty low. Naturally, there's a mechanical shutter too, which tops out at 1/8000 sec.

Viewfinder autofocus and metering

The 90D has a 45-point, all cross-type phase-detect autofocus system when shooting through the viewfinder, which is very similar to the unit in the older 80D. Also like the 80D, users accustomed to mirrorless options or shooting in live view may find the limited spread of autofocus points around the viewfinder a bit limiting. When using apertures of F8 and smaller, there are 27 points, 9 of which are cross-type.

The 90D has an all-new metering system, which has 220,000 pixels, up from 7,560 on the 80D. The big story here is that it offers face detection when shooting through the viewfinder (Canon calls this EOS iTR AF), a feature which has been on Nikon cameras for quite a while. The EOS 90D also inherits a 'Spot AF' autofocus area for viewfinder shooting, which we've seen on higher-end Canon DSLRs previously. It will take a beat longer to acquire focus, but should be more repeatedly accurate than a normal single AF point.

Burst shooting

While it doesn't have the 30 fps Raw burst mode of the EOS M6 Mark II, the 90D is still a quick camera for action shooting. If you prefer the optical viewfinder, you'll get 10 fps shooting with autofocus, which you can boost to 11fps with focus locked. If you prefer shooting in live view, you'll get 7 fps burst shooting with autofocus and the full mechanical shutter.

Video

The 90D is capable of capturing UHD 4K video at 30p (25p in PAL regions,) though there's no 24p support, even in Full HD modes. Unlike some other recent Canon cameras (we're looking at you, EOS R/RP), there's no 4K crop (though a crop mode is available to boost detail and reduce rolling shutter). Capture it limited to 29 minutes, 59 seconds but the camera can also output an uncompressed signal over HDMI in up to 10-bit 4:2:2 color.

A 1080/120p mode is also available, but with manual focus only.

Mobile Raw workflow

Just like its mirrorless EOS M6 II sibling, the EOS 90D makes use of Canon's newer CR3 Raw format, which includes a compressed 'C-Raw' option. This is smaller with a limited impact of the processing flexibility you get out of the files (you'll mainly see the difference if you push shadows by several stops).

Both types of Raw file can be exported over Wi-Fi and can be edited using Digital Photo Professional Express, the mobile version of Canon's Raw processing software. At this point the app is only available for iOS, though we wouldn't be surprised if an Android version will arrive at some point.


Compared with its peers

While the 90D can be compared with numerous mirrorless cameras, including its near-twin, the EOS M6 II, we're going to stick to DSLRs in the table below to keep things simple.

Canon 90D Canon 80D Nikon D7500 Pentax KP
MSRP (body) $1199 $1099 $999 $1099
Resolution 32.5MP 24MP 21MP 24MP
In-body IS No No No Yes
AF system (OVF) 45-point (all cross-type) 45-point (all cross-type) 51-point (15 cross-type) 27-point (25 cross-type)
AF system (live view) Dual Pixel Dual Pixel Contrast-detect Contrast-detect
Max shutter speed (mechanical) 1/8000 sec 1/8000 sec 1/8000 sec 1/6000 sec
Burst rate (w/C-AF) 10 fps (OVF)
7 fps (LV)
7 fps (OVF) 8 fps (OVF) 7 fps (OVF)
X-sync 1/250 sec 1/250 sec 1/250 sec 1/180 sec
Viewfinder magnification 0.59x equiv. 0.59x equiv. 0.63x equiv. 0.63x equiv.
LCD design Fully articulating Fully articulating Tilting Tilting
Touchscreen Yes Yes Yes No
Video 4K/30p 1080/60p 4K/30p 1080/30p
Mic/headphone jacks Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / No
Connectivity Wi-Fi + BT Wi-Fi + NFC Wi-Fi + BT Wi-Fi
Battery life* 1300 shots 960 shots 950 shots 390 shots
Weather sealing Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dimensions 141 x 105 x 77mm 139 x 105 x 79mm 136 x 104 x 73mm 132 x 101 x 76mm
Weight 701 g 730 g 720 g 703 g

* per CIPA standard

In the above chart the 90D doesn't look like a huge leap over its predecessor, but if you want more resolution, a modern AF system and/or superior battery life - and we think many people will - then it's the better choice.

The 90D keeps up with the D7500, with the latter having a larger optical viewfinder and few more AF points. That said, the Canon smokes the D7500 when it comes to live view AF. Aside from its very valuable in-body image stabilization, the Pentax KP can't keep up with its Canon and Nikon peers.