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Nikon COOLPIX P90 Gordon Laing, April 2009

Nikon COOLPIX P90 Gallery

The following images were taken with a Nikon COOLPIX P90. The P90 was set to 12M Fine JPEG quality, Auto White Balance and Matrix metering. Vibration Reduction (VR) was enabled for all these handheld images.

The individual exposure mode, file sizes, shutter speeds, aperture, ISO and lens focal length are listed for each image.

The crops are taken from the original files, reproduced at 100% and saved in Adobe Photoshop CS4 as JPEGs with the Very High quality preset, while the resized images were made in Photoshop CS4 and saved with the default High quality preset.

The three crops are typically taken from far left, central and far right portions of each image.

Note: you may wish to open a number of galleries for direct comparison of detail and noise: Canon PowerShot SX10 IS sample images and Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 sample images.

Landscape: 4.89MB, Program, 1/320, f6.3, ISO 64, 4.6-110.4mm at 4.6mm (26mm equivalent)

  This first shot was taken with the COOLPIX P90 zoomed-out and set to its lowest 64 ISO sensitivity. The tilting monitor allowed us to easily frame this shot with the camera held-high, and the 26mm wide angle has captured a large field-of-view.

The image is pretty sharp with only minimal softening in the corners and no evidence of fringing despite areas of high contrast.

The crops are clean and detailed, but lacking the ultimate crispness of the best models out there. It should be noted they also already have a fair amount of sharpening applied.

Landscape: 5.28MB, Program, 1/250, f7.1, ISO 100, 4.6-110.4mm at 4.6mm (26mm equivalent)

  Another shot taken under bright light with the lens zoomed-out and the sensitivity nudged up to 100 ISO.

This shot was taken at a very low angle, made easy by the P90's tilting monitor.

As above, there's no fringing to complain about and only minimal fringing. Again though there's a lack of crispness despite sharpening artefacts, and the nudge to 100 ISO has resulted in subtle noise textures in the sky.

Landscape: 4.69MB, Program, 1/800, f8, ISO 200, 4.6-110.4mm at 44mm (250mm equivalent)

    The steamship was docked during our test period, so we stood well back and zoomed-in on its fixed position with the lens roughly halfway through its range. Again the tilting monitor proved useful to frame the shot with the camera held out to one side.

The jump to 200 ISO has seen an increase in visible noise and a softening of edges. There's also now evidence of coloured fringing in areas of high contrast which wasn't apparent at wide-angle.

Wildlife: 4.91MB, Program, 1/360, f5, ISO 64, 4.6-110.4mm at 110.4mm (624mm equivalent)

  The headline feature of the P90 is of course its 24x optical zoom range. Above we were zoomed roughly halfway, and now here we're zoomed all the way into its maximum focal length. The duck looks relatively close, but we were actually positioned at quite a distance.

Focusing is quite quick under good light, but it can take a few seconds before the VR settles-down and stabilises the view by which time your subject may have waddled out of view. We grabbed the shot this time though and with the sensitivity reduced to the minimum 64 ISO, the crops are clean and detailed.

Portrait: 4.12MB, Program, 1/400, f6.3, ISO 200, 4.6-110.4mm at 26mm (150mm equivalent)

  Here we zoomed roughly one quarter of the way through the lens range and set the sensitivity to 200 ISO. The focusing mode was set to Face Detection, allowing the P90 to lock onto the subject with ease.

The crops of the subject are sharp, although like the sample above, there's noise artefacts appearing in areas of flat colour or shadows, and a reduced crispness to edges.

The P90's aperture can be opened about one stop wider at this focal length, but like all compacts, the background won't become as blurred as with a DSLR.

Macro: 5.09MB, Program, 1/230, f5, ISO 400, 4.6-110.4mm at 12mm (68mm equivalent)

  The COOLPIX P90 has a closest focusing distance of 1cm in Macro mode, but we couldn't persuade it to focus that close to our motherboard.

We did however find superior results could be had from a few cm distant and with the lens zoomed-in to around 3x - an equivalent of 68mm here.

Zooming-in has avoided geometric distortions, but even in areas that are in focus, the 100% crops look a little soft. This is partly down to the increase to 400 ISO.


Indoor: 4.87MB, Program, 1/80, f3.2, ISO 400, 4.6-110.4mm at 4.6mm (26mm equivalent)

  Our first indoor shot was taken with the P90 set to 400 ISO and once again zoomed-out.

We manually set the AF mode to Face Detection, after which it locked-onto our subject.

The 400 ISO sensitivity has inevitably seen an increase in noise textures and a softening of edges, but the crops show there's still a decent amount of detail, and noise levels are acceptable for most prints.

Indoor: 5.06MB, Program, 1/16, f2.8, ISO 800, 4.6-110.4mm at 4.6mm (26mm equivalent)

  Our second indoor was taken with the P90's sensitivity increased to 800 ISO.

The camera's VR anti-shake had no problems with a 1/16 exposure here, and in our tests offered three stops of compensation.

There's a noticeable increase in noise levels here, along with a reduction in fine detail.

Fine for small prints, but it won't hold up to close examination on larger prints or on-screen by pixel-peepers.


Indoor: 5MB, Program, 1/180, f3.5, ISO 1600, 4.6-110.4mm at 4.6mm (26mm equivalent)

  Our final shot was taken with the P90 at 1600 ISO, and noise levels have taken a dramatic turn for the worse. On the upside, restrained noise reduction has avoided the usual smearing and mushiness, but most will still find the textures unacceptable for anything other than emergency use.

The P90 then goes onto offer 3200 and 6400 ISO options, albeit at a greatly reduced resolution of 3 Megapixels. You can see samples of them and other sensitivities in our High ISO Noise results page.

All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2017 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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