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Nikon Coolpix P90 - Nikon Coolpix P90

By Cliff Smith



  • Recommended by TR
Nikon Coolpix P90


Our Score:


The P90 is a large and complex camera, but it can still manage some impressive performance figures. The start-up time is impressive at approximately two and a half seconds, and shut down time is even quicker at well under two seconds. In single-shot mode at maximum image quality the shot-to-shot time is an impressive 1.9 seconds, while in continuous shooting mode it can manage an even more impressive 1.5 frames per second, and keep it up for approximately 17 shots. There is also a 5fps sports continuous mode with pre-record, but it is restricted to three megapixels.

The P90 has a very good autofocus system, with auto wide-area, centre-spot, moveable area and face detection. It's fast and reliable in good light, and doesn't slow down much in darker conditions. It will focus well in quite low light even when zoomed in, but the AF assist lamp is a bit anaemic and only has a useful range of about 1.5m, which restricts its use in very dark conditions, but then this isn't the sort of camera you'll want to take to a nightclub. The pop-up flash is exceptionally bright with excellent frame coverage and a nice fast recharge time. It has a maximum range of eight metres in auto ISO mode, which is pretty good by any standard.

In terms of image quality the P90 is much better than I expected, even considering its impressive performance so far. A lot of the credit must go to the lens, which has superb edge-to-edge sharpness and produces a lot of fine detail. It suffers from very little distortion at either end of the zoom range; nonetheless the P90 has software distortion control to correct it. There is a little chromatic aberration at the far end of the telephoto range, but it's no worse than I've seen from other super-zooms, and even a few DSLR lenses.

Exposure metering and colour reproduction are excellent. The P90 is the sort of camera that encourages experimentation, and is versatile enough to turn in good results even under some difficult circumstances, such as strong backlighting. The D-Lighting feature, applied either before or after the shot is taken, does help a lot with shadow detail, and high-ISO image quality is also better than one might expect from a small overcrowded sensor, with good image quality at 400 ISO, and usable pictures at 800.

The only things I would add to the P90's specification are a larger 1/1.6-inch sensor and the option for RAW mode shooting. With these features the P90 would be the versatile high-end bridge camera that Nikon's range lacks, but even as it stands it is unquestionably one of the best super-zoom cameras currently available.


The Nikon Coolpix P90 is a superb camera, certainly one of the best super-zoom bridge cameras on the market, with plenty to appeal to the enthusiast while still retaining some ease of use for the novice. It is attractively and sensibly designed, extremely well made, performs well and produces excellent image quality. It may be relatively expensive, but you certainly get a lot for your money.


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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