Did Nikon & Canon save their best DSLRs for last?

Photokina, the largest photo-trade show in the world, kicks off in Cologne, Germany on Sept.23. Predictably, manufacturers announce their top models just prior to the show, and this year it’s no different. Both Canon and Nikon just made back-to-back announcements of their top advance-amateur DSLRs (we’re still hopeful for pro announcements prior to the show!) In this radio segment, Scott and Mike take sides in a verbal shootout of the features to see if Canon’s 50D ($1,400) is a better deal than Nikon’s D90 ($1,000).

NikonD90 and Canon 50D

Do your own comparison with some help from the specs below:

Nikon D90 Key Features:

  1. 12.3 MEGAPIXEL CMOS sensor with LIve View
  2. Records HD movie clips (720p at 24fps, 1280×720)) up to 5 minutes on fast SD cards
  3. 920,000 dot 3-inch screen
  4. 4.5 fps burst mode, stores to SDHC card
  5. Built-in commander mode for external flash
  6. 11 point AF with scene recognition and face detection. Up to 5 faces. Auto zoom to faces in playback.
  7. Live view with contrast detection AF.
  8. New Expeed processor for fast start up and low noise
  9. ISO 100 (normal 200) up to 3200 (expanded to 6400).
  10. HD video with VR lenses activates VR during capture.
  11. Advantage in movie depth of field control vs most camcorders
  12. Built in audio mic (no external input)
  13. Kit lens adds 3-stop VR. AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR.
  14. New in camera editing and image processing includes distortion control, lens abberation, straighten, and fisheye effect.
  15. Shutter tested to 100,000 cycles
  16. Up to 850 shots CIPA rating on battery.
  17. New Pictmotion slideshow playback feature
  18. New optional GP-1 GPS unit.
  19. $999.95 MSRP body
  20. $1299.95 with 18-105 lens
  21. Nikon Capture NX 2 optional ($180), Camera Control Pro 2.0 Software ($149)

Canon EOS 50D Key Features:

  1. 15.1 MP CMOS sensor with live view function
  2. Built like the 40D, with magnesium alloy frame, weather seals, and 100,000 cycle shutter.
  3. Digic 4 processor, 14-bit A/D conversion
  4. ISOs from 100 to 3200, enhanced to 6400 and 12800.
  5. 6.3fps burst mode, with up to 90 JPEGs in one burst or 16 RAW
  6. Takes UDMA Compact flash cards (higher capacities available than SDHC)
  7. Automatic Peripheral illumination adjustment: smart term for vignetting control based on library of lenses.
  8. Comes with Digital photo pro software RAW converter and other neat programs.
  9. Auto Lighting Optimizer control—smart auto levels control.
  10. 3-inch, 920,000 dot LCD screen.
  11. HDMI video out
  12. 9-zone AF system with 9 cross sensors and super sensitive central sensor (works as cross even with f/5.6 lenses.
  13. Microadjustment feature for fine-tuning lenses.
  14. Creative full auto setting has adjustable controls.
  15. Live view mode includes QUICK MODE AF (phase detection)< LIVE MODE AF (contrast detection)< and Face detection live mode AF (contrast detection ).
  16. Detects up to 35 faces!
  17. Two small RAW formats: 7.1MP and 3.8MP
  18. Ultrasonic CMOS sensor cleaning system
  19. $1399 body, $1599 with 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM lens.
  20. Canon also announced a new 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 IS usm lens for $699.

About Author

Michael J. McNamara
Michael J. McNamara

Michael J. McNamara is the Editor-in-Chief of the McNamara Report, Director of In-Depth Focus Labs, and former Exec. Technology Editor at Popular Photography Magazine. His photo and video portfolios can be viewed at www.McPhotoVideo.com.

  • catchlight

    “Spirited debate”? Like when you kept repeating over and over that the D90 has video? Or how you ‘didn’t know’ that the D90 was only 12-bit after Scott mentioned that the 50D was 14-bit?

    And it sort of continues here. In the alleged interest of equality you list 20 factors for each camera, but when a factor in the Nikon is the same as the Canon — like the shutter actuations — you list the info for the Nikon but neglect to note it for Canon, which lets visitors infer that it’s better.

    I’m a Nikon user, but it’s quite clear that for people who shoot still photography the more expensive 50D is a superior instrument: 14-bit images, micro-adjustment of lenses, better face-detection, faster shooting, faster write speed with UDMA CF (instead of the slower SD cards used in consumer Nikons), and of course the ability to crop more with those extra megapixels. And what brings the pricing between the two cameras to PARITY with Nikon is when you consider Canon’s included RAW and Live-View remote software — which runs you $300 extra if you buy a Nikon.

    Mike, I really liked your writing on PopPhoto, but in this post and on DPR you and Scott sound a bit like shills more than anything else. I’m sure you two meant to record a light-hearted segment with feature lists, but it really didn’t come across that way to me. It was probably the hokiest thing I’ve heard on DPR.

  • Catchlight: I think it should have been obvious from the beginning of this verbal shootout that we were trying to record a light-hearted segment. Did we miss a few comparisons such as shutter actuations or software bundles? Yep! Blame it on the fact that we didn’t rehearse this segment–or any other segment we’ve done on IDP (not DPR). Thanks for your feedback, I will update the specs list above to reflect your valid concerns.