Prosumer, enthusiast, advanced amateur. Whatever you call it, there is a class of photographers who are not pros but are serious about picture taking -- committed enough to spend a grand or more on an SLR body and at least several hundred dollars more on lenses. Those shutterbugs recently got two new choices from the big guns of digital photography. In September, Nikon released its veeeeerrrry long-anticipated D90 (a winner in our latest Best of What's New honors). In August, Canon released the entirely expected but very welcome 50D. Technically, these cameras are not direct competitors. The Canon has a magnesium-alloy body, esoteric adjustments such as vignette correction, and a higher price tag (about $1,200 online); the Nikon is around $900. But after lugging each of them around for the past several weeks, I think they're quite comparable. So the question is, which one should you get?
If you're this serious about photography, quality is mainly what you care about.
Ultimately, I like the Nikon D90 better. Colors--especially reds--are more saturated. And the exposure is more reliable and consistent. Perhaps I lean towards the D90 because I'm not a pro: I'm less likely to take a horrible picture with this camera.
That's especially true if you are shooting photos as compressed JPEGs, like most amateurs do, because you don't have as much control over how the images are refined and little wiggle room to fix mistakes. The other option, called RAW, is to record the unprocessed data from the sensor as massive files that you refine by hand on a PC. The big advantage here is that you can "re-shoot" a photo, changing settings like the white balance after the fact. To evaluate both types of photos, I set each camera to record both a JPEG and RAW version of the test photos I took.
Shooting both outdoors and inside, in a variety of lighting conditions, the D90's JPEG files consistently beat the Canon's. Specifically, the Nikon prevailed in 10 of 14 tests.
Exposure was the biggest differentiator. Set to matrix metering, the Nikon never let a portion of the photo get "blown-out" bright, even in tricky conditions like photographing a bright sky over a shady street, or a building that was half in direct sunlight and half in shadow. Set to evaluative metering (the equivalent setting) the Canon 50D often overexposed, turning a pale-blue sky nearly white.
It would have made far more sense to compare the 50D and the D300, since they are closer in both price and specs.
The 50D and the D90 are in two different categories. The D90 is basically a glorified budget model, with some admittedly nice features tossed in. For example, the 720p video recording, though it has some pretty major flaws, is at least on paper, a great bonus (although some would call it more of a gimmick than anything).
But while the D90 would likely be a lot of fun to use for most budding amateurs, it just doesn't offer the build quality or the image quality of the 50D. And anyone hoping to take serious video with it will be frustrated to no end. The 50D, of course, opts to pass on the video aspect and just stick to what DSLRs do best--and there's no doubt it's better at that than the D90. As for the apparent user-friendliness of the D90, much of this ease-of-use paradoxically comes from less flexibility, and options that are tucked neatly away to avoid confusing novice DSLR users.
My advice to anyone who is actually considering between these two cameras for their next purchase: before making a purchase, you may need to do some soul searching and decide precisely what your priorities and your needs are, and then determine whether you want to take the next step in DSLR photography. If you would prefer to remain more casual in the pursuit of your hobby, I can think of no better option than the D90. But if you're itching to step up, I would suggest the 50D is more up your alley. (However, note that from the reviews I've read, the Nikon D300 appears to be a slightly superior camera even to the 50D, so I would definitely recommend some hands-on time with both before making a final decision.) Hope this helps.
What a great comparison! It's hard to argue with actual printed results. While I've used and prefer Nikons since the S model for stills, I use and prefer Canons for video. I hardly believe that 720P is "more of a gimmick" - check out the author's indoor videos from his link. You should see what outdoor video is like!
Actually, the Rebel XSi (450D) comes closer in price and features (also a plastic body camera); same 12 MP (the Nikon is 4288 x 2848, the canon is 4272 x 2848), 3 inch diag LCD screen on both, competitive on lenses and accessories (including "smart" flash units); etc. - but the Nikon (with movie mode) is roughly $200 more street price right now.
The first comment ends with the suggestion that you spend some hands on time with the cameras and I would like to emphasize this as the most important - having good numbers doesn't mean a whole lot when you are uncomfortable with the camera for your usage (be it portraits, outdoors, macro / close ups, etc.
This is also where you look for tricks like wireless remote, and other accessories for your specific use. With computers I always stress your type of use dictates software dictates hardware; the same holds true for these cameras - your use dictates the camera you want.
I own the Canon I used it to take a photo of this website and it looks great http://www.gambling365.com/