Nikon Coolpix P90 Review

4.0
May 29, 2009 | Mark Goldstein |

Image Quality


All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

The Nikon Coolpix P90's image quality is above average. The Nikon Coolpix P90's main drawback in terms of image quality is noise, with the relatively slow speed of ISO 200 showing some noise, particularly in shadow areas. The noise gets progressively worse as you go from ISO 200 to ISO 400 and finally the virtually unusable ISO 800 and 1600 settings.

The Nikon Coolpix P90 dealt with chromatic aberrations a little better, with purple fringing effects appearing only in high contrast situations. The 10 megapixel images were soft straight out of the camera, but you can change the in-camera sharpening level if you wish. The night photograph was fine, with the maximum shutter speed of 8 seconds allowing you to capture just enough light for most situations.

The built-in flash worked well indoors, with a little red-eye and good overall exposure. Macro performance is excellent, allowing you to focus as close as just 1cm away from the subject at the wide-angle lens setting. Anti-shake is an essential feature on a camera like this and one that works well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or using the telephoto end of the zoom range.

Noise

There are 8 ISO settings available on the Nikon Coolpix P90. Note that the image resolution is reduced to 3 megapixels for ISO 3200 and 6400. There is no discernible noise at the slowest settings of ISO 64 and 100, as you would expect, but at ISO 200 noise is already appearing along with some colour desaturation. By ISO 400 it is very obvious, together with coloured artifacts and blurring of detail. ISO 800 is for emergency use only, whilst ISO is only really suitable for small prints or web use. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

ISO 64 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

   

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Nikon Coolpix P90's 24x zoom lens provides a focal length of 26-624mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.

26mm

624mm

File Quality

The Nikon Coolpix P90 has 3 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. There is no RAW mode. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

12M Fine (5.55Mb) (100% Crop)

12M Normal (2.73Mb) (100% Crop)

   

12M Basic (1.34Mb) (100% Crop)

 
 

Sharpening

Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little bit soft at the default sharpening setting, and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can also change the in-camera sharpening levels using the Optimize Image setting if you don't like the default results.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

   

Chromatic Aberrations

The Nikon Coolpix P90 handled chromatic aberrations fairly well during the review. Some purple fringing was present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)

Macro

The Nikon Coolpix P90 offers a Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is just 1cm away from the camera. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject in Macro mode (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop

Flash

The flash settings on the Nikon Coolpix P90 are Auto, Auto + Red-Eye reduction, Off, Fill Flash, Slow sync and Rear-curtain sync. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (26mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (26mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64
   

Flash Off - Telephoto (624mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (624mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. The Auto setting caused a tiny amount of red-eye, which the Red-eye reduction mode failed to remove.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)
   

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)

Night

The Nikon Coolpix P90's maximum shutter speed is 8 seconds, which is fairly good news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 8 seconds, aperture of f/2.8 at ISO 64. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Vibration Reduction

The Nikon Coolpix P90 has a Vibration Reduction mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with Vibration Reduction turned off, the second with it turned on. Here is a 100% crop of the image to show the results. As you can see, with Vibration Reduction turned on, the images are much sharper than when it's turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Vibration Reduction Off (100% Crop)

Vibration Reduction On (100% Crop)

1/10th / 26mm
1/5th / 162mm

Entry Tags

3 inch LCD, compact, 12 megapixel, super-zoom, coolpix, 24x zoom, Nikon, p90

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