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.
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