Conclusion

What we like: What we don't:
  • Excellent Raw image quality, both detail capture and dynamic range are up there with the best APS-C competitors
  • Pleasing JPEG color
  • Good live view autofocus with eye detection
  • Lovely optical finder
  • 4K video with no crop
  • 10 fps through the finder shooting
    (w/ AF)
  • Good quality Full HD capture
  • Responsive touch LCD flips 180 degrees
  • Well-built camera body with excellent ergonomics
  • Weather-sealed
  • Microphone and headphone ports
  • Good battery life
  • WiFi and Bluetooth
  • AF joystick
  • Default through-the finder autofocus is not very accurate
  • Over-aggressive default JPEG noise reduction
  • Limited viewfinder AF coverage
  • Soft 4K video
  • 7 fps live view shooting (with AF)
  • No 24p option in 4K or 1080 video
  • No USB charging
  • No Log gamma in video
  • Digital IS for video comes with heavy crop
  • Confusing menu layout
  • Limited button customization
  • Optically-unimpressive 18-135mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens
  • No in-body stabilization limits options for hand-held video shooting

Overall conclusion

The Canon EOS 90D is a capable DSLR that happens to be at its best when used in live view mode.

Canon's latest enthusiast APS-C DSLR represents a solid leap forward in image quality for this line. The 90D, along with its mirrorless near-twin the EOS M6 II, both share what is at the time of publishing, the highest resolution APS-C sensor on the market. It offers outstanding Raw detail capture and noise performance, up there with other class-leaders like the Sony a6400. Canon JPEG color continues to be a favorite, but Canon's default JPEG noise reduction continues to be overly aggressive - fortunately, this can be dialed down.

Through-the-viewfinder autofocus tracking should, in theory, be more reliable than the EOS 80D thanks to an updated metering sensor. But any jumps in image recognition capability seem hampered by an autofocus system that is essentially unchanged from its predecessor, with somewhat limited coverage and poor out-of-the-box accuracy. Dual Pixel CMOS autofocus in live view, by contrast, is excellent, with great coverage and accuracy. Face and eye detect AF both work with good reliability, whether shooting stills or video.

Raw processed in Adobe Camera Raw 11.
ISO 100 | 1/500 sec | F11 | Shot on a Canon 16-35mm F2.8 L II @16mmm

The 90D gains 4K video with no crop, however video quality, while usable, looks significantly softer than the competition. There's also no Log gamma option for those comfortable with post-production. And there's no 24p option at all, regardless of video quality settings. Still, 1080p footage looks solid and the availability of microphone and headphone jacks, as well as a fully-articulating touchscreen gives it appeal for vlogging. Just be aware, image stabilization (digital only) comes with a heavy crop.

It's a sensible upgrade if you're curious about the benefits of a mirrorless camera, but aren't ready to commit to the form factor

In terms of ergonomics, the 90D is excellent. Its large comfortable grip and sizable optical finder with 100% coverage are something that set it apart from its mirrorless APS-C competition. The body is also weather-sealed and well-built, with well-placed controls. An AF joystick is nice to have, but with no real tangible improvements to through-the-finder AF and with touch-enabled live view AF being considerably more reliable, we found ourselves rarely engaging with it.

Out of camera JPEG.
ISO 200 | 1/100 sec | F5.6 | Shot on on the Canon 18-135mm 3.5-5.6 @ 104mm
Photo by Carey Rose

Ultimately, the 90D is a DSLR that operates best when used as if it were a mirrorless camera. It offers live view autofocus that's competitive and easy to use, class-leading image quality, and video specs that'll appeal to the masses, all in a familiar, DSLR package. It's a sensible upgrade if you have EF lenses and/or if you're curious about the benefits of a mirrorless camera, but aren't ready to commit to the form factor. On the other hand, if you can move beyond that familiar form factor and aren't too heavily invested in EF glass, the less expensive EOS M6 II should prove just as capable.


What we think


Jeff Keller
Editor

As one of the declining number of people who still enjoy shooting with DSLRs, I found the 90D to be both comfortable in the hand and capable while shooting. The viewfinder is good-sized and bright, and the camera generally focuses well when using it, despite having a somewhat dated AF system. In situations where I need better AF performance, Dual Pixel AF rarely let me down. I do wish that Canon used USB-C (with charging capability) instead of micro USB, and the lack of 4K/24p is puzzling, but overall the 90D is a nice camera for those who still want that optical viewfinder.


Barney Britton
Sr. Editor

The Canon EOS 90D is arguably Canon's best ever enthusiast APS-C DSLR. It feels good in the hand, it's solid, reliable, and capable of turning out excellent images. But in terms of performance, it's at its best when the mirror is locked up. Could the 90D be the end of the line, now that cameras like the EOS M6 II are nipping so closely at its heels? Anything is possible. For now though, Canon continues to maintain three lens lineups, clearly in the belief that there are a lot of people out there that still want DSLRs.

Compared to its peers

The EOS 90D looks nearly identical to its predecessor, the Canon EOS 80D, though there are some small body improvements like the addition of an AF joystick. But while both cameras offer similar through-the-finder autofocus performance, the 90D pulls ahead is in terms of overall image quality, live view AF reliability, 4K video and improved battery life. All of this adds up to a worthwhile upgrade, in our opinion.

Compared to its nearest DSLR rival, the Nikon D7500, the Canon offers slightly better Raw image quality and substantially better live view autofocus. However we prefer the reliability of the Nikon's through-the-finder AF, even if its burst rate is slower. We also prefer its 4K video quality. However if you plan on using AF during video, the Canon is the clear choice. If you're mostly going to be shooting through the finder, go with the Nikon.

Another APS-C DSLR competitor is the Pentax KP. Though its getting a bit long in the tooth, it is a more rugged option than the 90D, and the only DSLR in its class with in-body image stabilization. Unfortunately its lack of 4K video, and a fairly rudimentary AF system mean the 90D is a more all-around capable option. The 90D also offers better image quality than the KP, faster burst shooting and better battery life.

In terms of pure photographic muscle, the mirrorless Sony a6400 is one of the 90D's closest and toughest competitors. Both cameras offer excellent live view autofocus, though Sony's Eye AF is a tad more reliable than Canon's eye detection. However Canon's Raw image quality is a hair better than Sony's. And though we much prefer Canon's touch-implementation and fully-articulating screen, as well as its superior battery life, we like the Sony's faster burst shooting and better 4K video quality. Ultimately, deciding between these two cameras comes down to form factor. If you prefer a beefy grip with lots of well-placed controls, the Canon is a sensible option. if you want to roll light, without sacrificing overall capability, the Sony may be the answer.


Scoring

Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category. Click here to learn about the changes to our scoring system and what these numbers mean.

Canon EOS 90D
Category: Mid Range Interchangeable Lens Camera / DSLR
Build quality
Ergonomics & handling
Features
Metering & focus accuracy
Image quality (raw)
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Viewfinder / screen rating
Performance
Movie / video mode
Connectivity
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The EOS 90D is a DSLR that functions most reliably when used in live view, thanks to its excellent Dual Pixel AF system. Through-the-finder AF is less reliable, by comparison. The camera also offers excellent Raw image quality and usable full-width 4K in a well-built, weather-sealed package with fabulous ergonomics.
Good for
Those looking to document friends and family. Anyone seeking an easy-to-use DSLR than can seamlessly handle stills and video capture. Those planning to mostly shoot in live view.
Not so good for
Sports action and wildlife photographers requiring reliable through-the-finder autofocus.
85%
Overall score