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Nikon Coolpix P90 - Nikon Coolpix P90

By Cliff Smith



  • Recommended by TR
Nikon Coolpix P90


Our Score:


The most important element of a super-zoom camera is of course the lens. The P90 is equipped with a 24x zoom Nikkor lens equivalent to 26-624mm, with a maximum aperture of f/2.8-5.0. This is a close match to the 26x zoom 26-676mm f2.8-5.0 lens of the Olympus SP-590UZ. F/2.8 might sound fast, but remember that the P90 and SP-590UZ also both have small 1/2.3-inch sensors, which has an effect on relative aperture size. The P90 has sensor-shift image stabilisation to offset the inevitable camera shake problems associated with such a long focal length, and it does work very well, but even so the maximum zoom setting is frankly too long for reliable hand-held use, and like the SP-590UZ the P90 really needs to be mounted on a tripod for optimum performance.

Apart from the big lens, the P90's other most obvious feature is its three-inch tilting monitor. The screen can be tilted between 45 degrees downward and 90 degrees upward, for overhead or waist-level shooting. It's also very helpful if you have the camera mounted on a tripod. The screen is nice and sharp with a resolution of 230k dots, and has a good anti-reflective coating and five-level adjustable brightness. It works well outdoors in bright daylight, just to be sure but the camera also has a decent electronic viewfinder. It too has 230k dot resolution, and is larger and sharper than most of its rivals, with a nice clear data display. The viewfinder has a rather stiff rubberised surround and dioptre adjustment for glasses wearers.

The P90 is a proper bridge camera, with a wide range of manual control options, including aperture and shutter priority and full manual exposure. It has an SLR-style input wheel for exposure adjustment, and on-screen match-needle metering for accurate exposure. Aperture values from the maximum to f/8.0 and shutter speeds from eight seconds to 1/2000th of a second can be selected in 1/3EV increments. The input wheel can also be used to bias exposure in program auto mode, useful for quickly altering depth of field or shutter speed while maintaining accurate exposure.

Although in program auto and manual modes the P90 is a complex enthusiast's camera it does have an auto mode which is completely idiot-proof, with only two menu options available, for image size and quality.

I'm becoming quite fond of Nikon's camera menu interface. It's a model of simplicity, works quickly and intuitively, and appears to be adaptable for almost any camera, from simple point-and-click compacts to a sophisticated multi-mode camera like the P90. The three-page shooting menu includes all the usual options such as image size and quality, white balance, ISO setting, metering mode and AF mode, but also includes flash exposure compensation, auto bracketing, lens distortion correction and active D-Lighting to help with shadow detail. Noise reduction can be switched between On or Auto, and colour adjustments include a wide range of pre-sets as well as adjustable saturation, sharpness and contrast. Two preferred set-ups can be saved as user pre-sets and instantly accessed via the main mode dial.

There are also several features available in playback mode, including post-processed D-lighting, automatic quick retouch, rotating, resizing and an option to add a black border around images.

Unlike some of its rivals which can shoot HD video, the P90 only has a 30fps VGA video mode with mono audio and no optical zoom while shooting. However it does offer a couple of unusual features, including sepia and monochrome movies and an automatic time-lapse mode that shoots pictures at intervals and then turns them into 30fps movie clips, ideal for budding animators or shooting speeded-up scenes of flowers opening or mouse corpses being eaten by ants.


April 30, 2009, 2:16 pm

Thanks for this review - I'm after a new bridge camera this summer to replace my worthy Fuji S5500. This camera seems like by far the least compromised of all the current crop of mega-zoom cameras, so I think it's going to have to go on the shopping list!


April 30, 2009, 5:21 pm

Are there supposed to be more pictures on pages 2 and 3? Because I'm not seeing any...

Cliff Smith

April 30, 2009, 6:33 pm

My apologies for the late arrival and low quality of the product shots for this review, but my old Vivitar 285 flashgun that I normally use seems to have flashed its last flash. Not bad going though considering I've had it since about 1989. It's great pity that Vivitar was trashed by corporate brand-pirates, and they're not making flashguns or their excellent 3rd-party lenses anymore.


April 30, 2009, 7:41 pm

How do you think the Coolpix P90 compares to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 of last year? I was seriously tempted to purchase the Panasonic but for various reasons have not yet done so... is the Nikon a better buy?


April 30, 2009, 9:28 pm

The Nikon's certainly a far more expensive buy ... I paid a gnat's whisker over 𧶀 for my own FZ28, and have been absolutely knocked out with it. Even if the P90 were the same price, the review suggests it has marginally lower overall IQ, so a 𧴺 premium for worse pictures seems an unwise investment. If you're planning on using the video facility, there's no competition - the FZ shoots in HD and allows full use of the optical zoom. The P90's only real trump card - the extra zoom 'reach' seems not to be a card it can play very often as sharpness appears to drop off considerably when the full zoom is used. Buy an FZ28 and I guarantee you won't be disappointed.


April 30, 2009, 11:00 pm

Just a note a note if you live in the UK, however, that the vast majority of the UK stock of the FZ28 has been sold, with Panasonic apparently not specifying any date for resupply. It's still available in some places, but is generally in short supply so therefore commands higher prices than it did perhaps a few months ago. I bought an FZ28 myself recently, and the cheapest I found anywhere on the high street was 𧷐, with 𧶔 being the cheapest on the web.


May 1, 2009, 6:58 pm

I reckon I will also be going for the Panasonic FZ28 it seems the better option.

Had a look at one instore and was very impressed, needless to say 𧴜 cheaper online so why delay?

Cliff Smith

May 1, 2009, 9:16 pm

Bear in mind that Panasonic are almost certain to upgrade the FZ28 very soon. I'm guessing, but they'll probably go for 20x zoom and HD video, and maybe 12MP.


May 2, 2009, 2:55 pm

Hmm - I had noticed that the price of the FZ28 had shot up somewhat.... I think 𧶨 is about the cheapest I can find at the moment. I may hang on a while and see if any upgrade offers significant improvement... thanks to all for the votes in favour of Panasonic though, I certainly feel I wouldn't be buying a dud if I went for the FZ28 :)

Dave Sebastian

May 10, 2009, 7:43 pm

Thanks for the review. We live in Singapore and were evaluating for bridge camera for the last 3-4 weeks. Almost purchased Panasonic FZ28 as we liked the features, size/handling and good reviews. Until we saw the Nikon P90 & Olympus P-590 in recent IT sale in Singapore. Both cost only slightly higher than FZ28 (practically the same if we include all the freebies) while come w/ bigger zoom and mega pixels. Liked Nikon for the tilt-able LCD and Li-Ion battery. Ended up w/ olympus SP-590 as we liked the design/handling, 26X zoom and picture quality (did many shots at the show w/ the above 3 cameras). The Olympus is also slightly lower price (~S$50 lower) to the Nikon P90.


May 20, 2009, 7:00 pm

"Can the P90 outgun its competitors?" What, like the H&K MP7? Nice reference to the geektastic Belgian gun, bane of Cylons and Jaffa everywhere.


May 29, 2009, 11:33 pm

Why your ratings for Nikon P90 are so high as compared to anybody else in the industry? Some of them have practically trashed Nikon P90 and Olympus SP590 for their poor picture quality - I don't know whom to believe anymore.


June 7, 2009, 11:08 am

I don't see there is any RAW format as written on the specifications. Are there any firmware updates?

Mister C

July 30, 2009, 8:01 pm

Hi first just a quick love your site etc blah blah... But I cannot agree with some of the comments. My main grip is with the build quality, it rattles, it ticks when the power is on. Minor faults you may think but when I received mine (bought mail order because I work for job satisfaction and not financial reward) i cannot express how disappointed I was with its general feel. So much so that I went to a local camera shop to see one of their stock as I honestly thought mine was duff. Sadly it was the same, yes maybe I should have gone to them in the first place, hands on and all that but i needed the discount of online sales. I was soooooo looking forward to getting this as like many people I always wanted a Nikon, well not any more I have just bought some new batteries for my old faithfull Canon S1 IS, maybe I should have got the S10 IS. Hey ho we live and learn. The new Nikon is going on ebay soon if anyone wants it!

Regards to all


August 10, 2009, 9:55 am

hi cliff,

thanks for this great reviews on nikon coolpix p90. I have bought yesterday one and I can't seem to figure out the best settings for p90. I tried to revert everything back to normal but then again the image quality is horrible. Can you please suggest the best settings for both indoors and outdoors shots.


September 6, 2009, 10:37 pm

24X and no optical zoom while shooting? insane! P90 seems to be useless on video mode


November 9, 2009, 8:51 pm

Read the user manual before using P90. Learn to use manual mode as image quality comes from there. Tilting LCD and 624mm telephoto is very useful in certain situation. Very expensive for a 600mm lens. Best for those who wants to learn about photography..

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