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 in the EOS M6 Mark II
  • It uses a 45-point all cross-type AF system for through-the-viewfinder shooting. A new metering sensor allows for face detection when using the viewfinder
  • When in live view, the 90D offers a very capable Dual Pixel AF system
  • The 90D can shoot at 10 fps with continuous AF via the OVF and in 7 fps 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 be boosted to a maximum sensitivity of 51,200 if you desire.

As with other recent Canon models, the sensor on the 90D incorporates Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus technology, which is used for live view and video capture. Unlike other cameras that use on-sensor phase detection, active Dual Pixels on the 90D are 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 expands its capability if you switch from electronic front-curtain shutter to fully mechanical shutter in live view

In live view mode you can take advantage of the same Eye AF system that debuted in the EOS R and RP. This system is very good, though not best-in-class. You can move between faces using the touchscreen or multi-controller. The 90D also expands its capability if you switch from electronic front-curtain shutter (EFCS) to fully mechanical shutter in live view. Previously, most Canon DSLRs used (or defaulted to EFCS), but switching the 90D into mechanical shutter mode unlocks faster burst speeds with autofocus.

The 90D's electronic shutter supports shutter speeds as fast as 1/16000 sec. 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 wider, there are 27 points, nine 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 inherits face detection when shooting through the viewfinder from Canon's higher-end models (a feature it calls EOS iTR AF), a feature which has been on some competitive 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. If you use 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). Internal capture is limited to 29 minutes, 59 seconds but the camera can also output an uncompressed signal over HDMI in 8-bit 4:2:2 color.

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

Mobile Raw workflow

Just like its mirrorless EOS M6 II sibling, the EOS 90D makes use of Canon's new 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 Apple's iOS, though we wouldn't be surprised if an Android version arrives fairly soon.


Compared against its peers

There are numerous APS-C cameras against which the 90D can be compared, and below we've picked several direct DSLR competitors as well as the mirrorless a6400.

Canon 90D Canon 80D Nikon D7500 Sony a6400 Pentax KP
MSRP (body) $1199 $1099 $999 $900 $1099
Resolution 32.5MP 24MP 21MP 24MP 24MP
In-body IS No No No No Yes
AF system (OVF) 45-point (all cross-type) 45-point (all cross-type) 51-point (15 cross-type) n/a 27-point (25 cross-type)
AF system (live view) Dual Pixel Dual Pixel Contrast-detect 425-pt Phase- detect Contrast-detect
Max shutter speed (mechanical) 1/8000 sec 1/8000 sec 1/8000 sec 1/4000 sec 1/6000 sec
Burst rate (w/C-AF) 10 fps (OVF)
7 fps (LV)
7 fps (OVF) 8 fps (OVF) 11 fps 7 fps (OVF)
X-sync 1/250 sec 1/250 sec 1/250 sec 1/160 sec 1/180 sec
Viewfinder magnification 0.59x equiv. 0.59x equiv. 0.63x equiv. 0.71x equiv. 0.63x equiv.
LCD design Fully articulating Fully articulating Tilting Tilting Tilting
Touchscreen Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Video 4K/30p 1080/60p 4K/30p 4K/30p 1080/30p
Mic/headphone jacks Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / Yes Yes / No Yes / No
Connectivity Wi-Fi + BT Wi-Fi + NFC Wi-Fi + BT Wi-Fi + BT + NFC Wi-Fi
Battery life* 1300 shots 960 shots 950 shots 410 shots 390 shots
Weather sealing Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Dimensions 141 x 105 x 77mm 139 x 105 x 79mm 136 x 104 x 73mm 120 x 67 x 60 mm 132 x 101 x 76mm
Weight 701 g 730 g 720 g 403 g 703 g

In the above chart the 90D might not 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 Nikon 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 autofocus. Aside from its very valuable in-body image stabilization, the Pentax KP can't keep up with its Canon and Nikon peers.

Compared to the mirrorless Sony a6400, the 90D packs more resolution and better battery life, but the a6400 offers faster continuous shooting, in a much smaller/lighter package, for a more-attractive price.