Like a lot of other people, we got fed up with waiting for the Nikon D90 body we'd ordered to ship, so we cancelled it and ordered the Nikon D90 with the 18-105mm VR kit instead. It arrived today, and at first glance it's better than we expected.
This is the first consumer grade body we've owned since a Nikon FG we had 15 years ago, so we were pleasantly surprised by the build quality the camera feels solid, and fits the hand well.
Compared to the D300, it's noticeable smaller and lighter, as you'd expect. We much prefer the rubber grips on the D300 to the textured plastic grips on the D90, but the D90's grips aren't bad at all, especially given the lower weight. One thing we don't like is the shiny silver shutter release the black plastic ones on the D300 provide a better purchase for your finger and that makes a noticeable difference when shooting. We also weren't thrilled with the camera strap mounts sticking out of the body they look cheap, and don't allow the neck-strap to fall away from the camera quite so well (although a third party neck strap like Op/Tech's pro loop should solve that, plus be more comfortable for under $20).
The first thing we did is put the lens on, grab a charged battery out of a D200, pull an SD card out of a point and shoot camera on my desk, and fire it up. The camera comes set up ready to shoot in auto mode, with auto ISO on.
Being inside, as soon as you half press the shutter, the flash pops up, which surprised me because I wasn't expecting it. It's actually not a bad feature on a consumer camera, and there is probably a menu option somewhere to control that. Shutter lag is a little slower than the Nikon D300, but it's barely noticeable the D300 sounds a little louder and more aggressive in comparison. The initial images looked great with no changes to any settings.
The main reason we bought the camera was for its video mode, which took about 3 seconds to figure out how to work, without having to resort to the manual. First press the [LV] button on the back to enable live view you hear the mirror go up and the image appears almost instantly on the LCD, then hit [ok] to start/stop recording, it's that simple.
Initial test videos looked fine, manual focus is easy using the LCD (if you're not used to manual focus lenses it may take some practice, but it's not difficult).
The kit lens is very similar in size and shape to the 18-200mm VR the 18-105mm VR is a fraction shorter, and a little lighter, so it looks quite big on the D90. Unfortunately the 18-105mm VR has a plastic mount, whereas the 18-200mm has a metal mount. From our initial tests, we didn't see anything major wrong with the image quality through the lens. We'll do a full lens test and report back on the 18-105mm in the next few days.
What surprised me about the camera was my wife's reaction. I've tried to get her to use my D200 a couple of years ago without success it was too complex and too big. However she picked the Nikon D90 up and started taking pictures straight away. After a few minutes, she asked if I had a macro lens she could use with it why do I get the feeling she's going to adopt this camera and I won't be able to get near it?
Bottom line, our first impression of the Nikon D90 is that it is a very capable, very easy to use camera the fact my wife liked it speaks volumes. It should be a winner for Nikon. As for the kit lens, other than not liking the plastic mount, we didn't really form an impression good or bad of it.
Check back soon or sign up for our email alerts/RSS feed to see our full review of both the camera and lens in a few days time, once we've had time to open the manual and really put it through its paces.