Who Wins? Nikon D90 or Canon 50D

Yes, yes, there’s been a lot of buzz recently about two new cameras from Nikon and Canon. They both decided to announce a new dSLR body at about the same time, and I can’t help but compare the two cameras. By their technical specifications, they’re not exactly in the same class, but they’re close. Both cameras are aimed at the advanced amateur photographer. Here are some details on the two cameras:

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Nikon D90 Home Page
dpreview.com Preview
Canon 50D Home Page
dpreview.com Preview
12.3 Megapixel
23.6 x 15.8mm Sensor
4.5 Frames/Second
3″, 920K-dot LCD
Live View & Face Detection
1/4000s Max Shutter
ISO100 – ISO6400
15.1 Megapixel
22.3 x 14.9mm Sensor
6.3 Frames/Second
3″, 920K-dot LCD
Live View & Face Detection
1/8000s Max Shutter
ISO100 – ISO12800
24fps 720p HD Video
Optional GPS Geotagging
High ISO Performance
Lower Price Tag
More Pixels
Faster Continuous FPS
Faster Shutter Speed
Higher ISO Capability

So let’s pretend for a moment that you’re not loyal to either brand (in my case this isn’t difficult because I’m a Sony user). I mean really step back and take a look at the two cameras. If you were out to buy your first camera, which one would look more enticing to you? And do tell in the comments why you’d choose one over the other. Who got it right in this round?


And be sure to check out the results from our previous poll: “What’s Your Photo-Sharing Frequency?” 1/3 of you are totally random with your upload frequency, while another 1/3 manage to be consistent with a few per week. Only 1% post many photos per day, while only 2% post none at all.

73 thoughts on “Who Wins? Nikon D90 or Canon 50D

  1. Demos Kukeas, Naples, FL Realtor

    From what I read a D300 would be best for me. I tried the D90 for 3 months but b y not knowing much about photography it is hard to decide.Neverless I think a 51 point focus camera will take sharper fotos and if it can take 6 or more per second it would be a winner.
    Because I am realtor in Naples FLorida I would also liked a lens from very wide angle to medium telephoto so I do not have to chanh[ge lenses. I can take pictures of houses and rooms for my Real Estate and sharp pictures of friends and parties and festivals with 100 people under the tent eating and drinking plus pictures in low light without h\the ned of adobe photoshop to brighten them up.
    Since I am not profesional price is important. I need your unbiased opinion because I do not know enough about photography.
    I had an SLR in Vietnam with 1:1.2 lens that took great pictures. I happened to be second in command of the last american ship (not naval ship) under the command of USNavy to sail down the Saigon river. I took terrific pictures. I also think I should take a small course of the very basic in photography.
    So whats the verdict?



    Well all I can say is be happy with whatever you purchase. Both are good cameras, but it all comes down to the person who is shooting the subject, and what kind of lense tou are using. If you are not familliar with your camera, you might have problems, and if you do not have a good lense, then you have a few more issues.
    Canon has some very good L sereis lenses…they cost a bit, but good none the less. Nikon has some desent software, like the ICE software.

    If you are buying the nikon for HD video, keep in mind that when you are recording that you can not zoom in or out and you need a big memory card. I would suggest in buying a cheap video camera instead.

    As for the higher ISO, do you really need it, unless you are a profesional, you are not going to use it that much.
    Faster FPS is good if you are doing moving wildlife, fast cars, trains,planes,etc. I do all of them and faster frames per second has helped me ouy quite a few times.

    Nikon got it right the first time when they put a bigger image sreen on the cameras, it was just a matter of time before canon got it right.

    My brother in law shoots with nikon, myself, i shoot with the 50D…was a rebel XT user for two years, and i thought of going to nikon. but i’m happy with the 50D. So all i can say is just be happy with what you got, invest a little time and money, and maybe even take a course.

    We are all good photograghers, we just need the tools….have fun doing it and don’t be afraid to experiment.

  3. Todd

    Comparing the D90 to the 50D and basing a purchase on this is silly,, these cameras are not in the same class, try the D300…. Let’s next compare the 50D to the upcomming D400.

  4. tony

    absolutely go for 50d, I tried both before buying one of them, In New zealand d90 selling more expensive than 50d, nikon 18-200 selling 60% more expensive than canon 18-200, so what i say ” nikon is overpriced ” ,also comparing their lenses, canon much beter value, also more choices, overal canon is much better value, with the same money you can get canon dslr with higher class and quality, eg nikon d90 =canon 50d, but 50d’s class is close toD300 which nearly 2x more expensive.
    I think because nikon pay too much money to Sony who make their sensor, also since sony make their sensor, nikon dslr start picking up the lost ground quickly to canon, just do research, before 2007(D3/d300) , look at Nikon dslr for high Iso, FPS, focus point, resolution, no Full frame , is way far behind canon dslr, now Nikon may have just slight edge at high iso, rapidly marketing change to high iso, marketing works for Nikon, sponsored media by Nikon.
    just wait canon will take over again for everthing, or should ask Sony to make canon sensor.

  5. Nick

    At this very moment, I’d go with the D90. And that’s in spite of the fact that, at the time of me writing this (6/12/09), you can buy a 50d + 18-200 mm outfit for the SAME price as a 90d + 18-200 due to a $300 rebate from Canon. But street price (rather than release price) should tell you the story – in spite of the superior specs, the market values the two packages at about the same (btw, the street price for the d90 is still around the release price). 50d is a flawed product, due to the tightly packed photosites that work against IQ (smaller pixels = less light hitting them, ergo softer images). Yes, 50d is better built and shoots faster. But if what you care is the ultimate image quality (instead of specs), D90 wins hands down.
    For the record, I owned a D90 (which I returned because of a defect), as well as an XSI, my knowledge of 50d is second hand – from reviews and testimonies.

  6. RichPix

    I shopped & shopped hard…borrowed a 50d for a few weeks because i have in the past always been a fan of Nikon but something about the 50d seemed enticing…I can say it feels awkward in the hand compared to the D90 (which i eventually ended up buying). Beware of grey market rip offs..especially with Nikon (there seems to be more reports of people buying Nikon D90s and finding out they purchased a Cheap Peice of Plastic that was made overseas and then finding out Nikon USA will not only decline validity of the warranty but they (Nikon USA) will not even service an “overseas”/”greymarket” unit!!! So ask hard before you buy and make sure your getting a USA Model D90 with a Nikon USA Warranty….Same goes with Cannon but just not as common a problem.
    Dont let this scare you away from either camera as they are Both in my opinion terriffic peices of work. I found their capabilities as far as image quality to be almost too close to call and as far as how many shots per second, i’m not a “hold down the button guy” so i choose to shoot only as fast as my fingers can repeat and i seldom find myself tapping more than 3 or 4 times/second…and that covers my needs..anything faster than that and you might as well be shooting video as far as i’m concerned…which by the way, with the D90 i can shoot a minute or so of video and throw it across my computer screen and pluck out high-def-snap-shots which i find fun! Yeah its awkward at first shooting video and having to manually focus but after a little practice its fun and to me the fact that you have to manually focus while you shoot video makes it a challenge and reminds you that your useing a dslr and not a video camera..its a new skill to learn and its all in how you choose to hold it. I truely beleive that these are two pioneering companies that are competing for our pleasure and both of these cameras are amazing in their own rite..its really up to your personal feelings about what feels right in your hand but to me the Nikon D90 feels alot more solid in my hand (at least the USA model does, the overseas model feels like a cheap plastic toy so be carefull) Buy smart and go with your instinct and do your homework!!! Do alot of homework !

  7. Waldemar

    For more than 20 years I have always had a Canon camera. After the old, traditional “analogue” SLR cameras (who remembers them now? – my first Canon was the 650…), few years ago I decided to try the digital one, starting with a simple compact Canon A610, soon followed by Canon G9… Very happy with results, I thought of buying now a proper dSLR camera, thinking once again of Canon, but then a friend of mine from NYC, whom I was visiting over Christmas/New Year 2008/2009 lent me for a week his brand new NIKON D90. I was very excited at the prospect of shooting hundreds of pics of Manhattan in its Holidays Colors, but what a disappointment it turned out to be. Pictures were turning out to be out of focus, eventually the camera refused to shoot, unless in manual mode, I kept pressing the shoot button without any result. The weather wasn’t all that cold, and I tried to keep the camera out of the cold (in the bag) most of the time. To this day I don’t know what happened, my friend hasn’t complained to me about his camera since, but then he takes most of his pics indoors, shooting mostly his newborn baby. Wait ’till next winter, when he’ll take it outside… 🙂 Oh, and I should add here, that all that time my wife was shooting with G9 very happily alongside me… No problems.
    And that’s the main reason why I wouldn’t recommend Nikon – Canon has never failed me in all those years, including trips to deserts, seasides, snow or sand, cold or the tropics – always worked. That’s all, folks.

  8. milroy de silva

    i vote for nikon d90 because already i got canon 40d. its only eight months ,now replaced two lences [18-55 is usm] . now its give me a shutter problerm. so canon was a big headache. in durability nikon in no one place

  9. Recca

    i’m using d90 now, i’ll always stick to nikon cameras. it’s always pleased me. d90 definitely has a better autofocus system, in addition to its many focus points. and as a nature photographer, nikon cameras ALWAYS better for the nature itself. it has a strong green colour, while canon has better in red & blue colours.

  10. Amit Gaur


    I am clicking photos for last 6 yrs..initially point and shoot den canon rebel xti and now nikon d90.

    1. Most of us know this, its the photographer that makes the photo not the camera.
    2. When we are talking abt d90 and 50d (bit more than ammature stuff) Its the lens that matters, go for better lenses.

    Abt the camera comparisons, yesterday i sat with my friend who has canon 50d we both started a game…that we will click the same object from same angle with our cameras (50d and d90)

    Results were different!

    we finally click the same images but but but…in nikon d 90 it was easy…m nt sayin that canon 50d failed..but it was like cheese with nikon d90.!

    both are great camera, we just need greater minds holding them!


  11. Joe

    On paper, the specs on the Canon look better, but they seem to be marketing points rather than real-world useful ones. The reason I say this is that they are cramming a lot more pixels and pushing the sensitivity on a smaller sensor. This is not a good thing IMO. The truth is that you pick the brand that you feel most comfortable with and worry about how it helps you capture your vision rather than which one has the better specs.

  12. Shah

    I am Nikon crazy, but the only let down (for me) on the D90 is the weather proofing.
    Where I live the humidity levels are high enough to confuse the D90 sensor. As in if I am taking the camera from an airconditioned room to shoot out doors it takes a while for the camera to warm up and start taking proper pics.
    Also, I have heard some proper horror stories from people shooting on rainy days
    (Dont know if their camera’s got ruined because of extreme negligence or if the camera’s weather proofing is indeed that bad; Dont think I’d want to chance taking it out on a cloudy day let alone rainy weather)

  13. Eric

    I compared these two cameras and I wound up buying the D90. I felt that the additional cash needed to buy the Canon was not justified in terms of pixel count and slightly higher ISO. Plus with the Nikon d90 you can get legacy lenses from the 1980s that you can use seamlessly. The video capability of the d90 was not a factor for me.

  14. Jonathan L

    For practicality, the Nikon fits my need and I really don’t need the extra fps, etc more than the convenient video function of the D90. I got to be pretty good on menu focusing the video shoot so it does not bother me since I only take short videos. I don’t like to lug 2 devices, so the D90 is like a dream come true for me. I think if I am a photographic freak, I would probably care about the slightly higher camera capability of the 50D. I do like to take photos at parties and the IQ at the high ISO on the D90 is slightly better. Canon is got a bigger name and more lens to choose from but I am just a practical Joe who happens to love photography and got a family to feed.

  15. indy

    unless you are working for google or a mapping company you dont need geo tagging feature on anything, as you can geotag most images manually using free software even.

  16. asad

    canon is best on the indoor condition, it gives the best skin tone, studio photo best toys..:P
    the nikon is best quality pictures on outdoor shoot out, the color is more vivid and natural saturated..soo i recomended for you people want to buy a DSLR is based on which your photograph take most frequently, outdoor or indoor?

  17. Laine

    i think both are awesome cameras. i did a lot of research before buying. the canon definitely wins out on speed with the higher frame rate and shutter speed. it’s also got the higher pixel count and ISO capabilities. but if you’re not shooting super high speed sports, the d90’s speed is still fairly impressive. more than enough for the average photographer. and while only 12mp as compared to canon’s 15mp, nikon has a larger sensor, avoiding the “two many pixels jammed onto a smaller sensor creates noise problems” problem. and the difference between 12 and 15 mp is really pretty negligible anyways since it’s really not what makes a picture good. also, nikon, while not being able to go as high with iso, does a better job with 6400 than canon does at the same level, so the quality goes with nikon. canon just doesn’t do as good a job with noise at high iso. i love canon cameras, and might still have gone with the canon for speed and out of loyaltyand trusted quality, but i think for the near $400 difference, the d90 is better in too many respects to turn down.

    another nice but easily overlooked advantage of the nikon is that it takes SD cards, so much more readily available and WAY more affordable. to use canon’s 6.5 fps, you need at the very least a 30mps CF card – pretty hard to find and you’re going to pay another few hundred bucks to get a decent sized one.

    people keep ragging on the extra features of the d90 like video and geotagging. but they’re just EXTRAS. it’s not like the camera’s more expensive for them. the still image specs are still very impressive, ignoring the extras. when i was doing my research, i got really tired of people’s only argument against the d90 being that they don’t care for the video function. i think unless you need the extra speed of the canon, for the price the d90’s the way to go, with or without the cool extras. so why not get some bonuses while you’re buying your already impressive new camera??

  18. jon

    I dropped the D90 down on concrete floor from a height of about 1.5m. It did not get a scratch and everything is fine. Don’t try this at home.
    I have not really found any limitations yet. Maybe I would like higher autofokus speed.

  19. Ami

    Sure, D90 wins if i am a beginner because of lower price tag and HD video. But seriously, if u r here to take pictures u will not look for movie thing, do u?
    Just my view.

  20. Moyan Brenn

    Hi there,
    i have read a lot of your comment and this is the first time i try to enter to a canon vs nikon typical discussion, and i must say, it is clear that nikon people take a completely different approach respect to canon people

    What i have seen reading a lot of your comments is that Canon very skilled people tend to take too much care of quality quality and quality…….i have one of my canon friend which have bought dozens of ultramegaipersharp canon lenses so that when he zooms the photo on the computer at 100% he can distinguish even the hair of the asshole of the caw overthere in the grass……………..

    Hey men, calm down and take a breath………………photo is not only quality…….this friend of mine take too much care of quality, so that every photo he does even if very good in quality, it’s not good for anything else………bad photos, bad ideas, bad subjects, bad compositions…………….and that’s because he spends too much time taking care of this damned quality by selling and bying bodies, selling and buying very expensive canon lenses, etc….etc….etc…..

    In my personal 5 years experience what i can tell you is that when i do a trip i really enjoy the fact that between a photo and the other one, especially when i’m taking a beer to take a rest, especially when i am with my friends too, i can do fantastic and short 24mm videos to remember also sounds and movements of a place, not only the beauty of a photo

    Sincerly, if i must prefer a reflex over my d90 only because it does 6fps instead of 4, it has 16mp instead of 12mp and only because the body is a mix of iron and gold instead of polycarbonate……i really don’t care…………….i really prefer to NOT participate in this stupid Ipermegasupertechnological race like a lot of people nowadays do, and enjoy my very good video capability of my sweet dear D90 which in terms of quality it still deserves all the money i have spent for it by also allowing me to have a very better remembrance of my trips

    Photo is art, not just stupid quality………………learn this and you will be a real photographers, take care of quality more than what you do when the switch is turned on, and the maximum you will be able to do will be just 18 years old teenagers calendars, and wedding photographs on sunday

    (and i say this with ALL my respect to people which actually want just to do this because they do photos not for passion but for job…..in this case the situation is different)

  21. Randy

    The only things I see that make the Nikon more appealing is the HD video and lower price, but I do not feel that I will be using this type of camera for video. Compairing the rest of the specs Canon wins. Canon has more megapixls, more frames per sec, faster shutter capabilities, and more ISO range. I shoot almost all of my photographs without a flash, so on a dark night I really like being able to crank the ISO up, and when shooting sports or any other fast moving subject I like to know that I can stop the action and keep a crisp/clean photograph.

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