Chase Jarvis RAW: Advance Testing the Nikon D90

Woot! Today I get to be among the very first to share with you the planet’s newest camera: the much-anticipated Nikon D90. You may have been attuned to all the recent leaks, buzz and rumors of a new Nikon camera coming soon, but I can assure you, this here ain’t no rumor. It’s the real deal and I know so because my crew and I spent several weeks testing and experimenting with this gem months in advance of today’s release, and our efforts make up the launch campaign. Hold onto your chairs for a second while I drop a few nuggets:

- 12.3 megapixels (the same luscious chip that’s in the Nikon D300)
- D-movie function (that’s right, MOVIE function. 1280×720, .avi format, HD720p)
- High ISO/low-noise performance (Nikon’s ace in the hole. I shot this at 3200 and dug it.)
- 4.5 frames per second
- 3 inch, 920dot LCD with Live View
- Pop up flash with ‘commander’ mode to interface with Nikon’s lighting system
- GPS tagging

And if you’re at all curious to see actual 1000px detail shots of the camera, sample images, technical specs, and hear the backstory behind what a Nikon D3 pro like yours truly was doing with a D90 camera targeted to advanced amateurs, click ‘continue reading’ below.

Ok, so I normally steer clear of too much tech hype, but today I’m right up in there. Why? Because this time it feels different. Different, sure, because I got to play with, hammer on, and test the bejeezus out of the Nikon D90 for weeks-on-end prior to anybody even knowing it existed. (Did I say lucky? Soooo fun.) But this also feels different because, beyond all the specifications, numbers, megapixels and other geeky stuff, my gut is that Nikon have really delivered on this product. After using this camera and pushing it to it’s limits, I can honestly say that it’s a camera that will deliver stunning, emotive pictures–and MOVIES for Pete’s sake! MOVIES!–to an entire spectrum of amateur photographers. And that’s exciting. The world can always use better pictures.

The Short Backstory: Representatives from Nikon Japan buzzed me to talk about a new camera while I was in Dubai. Two zillion dollars in cell phone bills and a bunch of airline miles later, I’m learning the details. And before I know it, we’ve piggy-backed a Nikon project on top of another commercial shoot I’ve got going back in Seattle in the spring to put this hot little camera to the test. And the best part? I’ve talked them into not only putting the camera in my hands, but it the hands of my staff too. Democracy. Nikon loves the idea. Heck everybody on my staff are advanced amateurs in their own right – so what better way to test this sucker than have everybody shooting – me and the crew…cameras all ‘round.

Speaking of The Camera, how’d you like a handful of snaps of the camera to whet your palette. For an Aperture gallery of twenty 1000px jpgs of each view (even photos of the digital menus…), just click here or an image below:

The Main Event: We had a blast, gaffer taping up the logos, running in stealth mode with all these black beauties so that they wouldn’t be noticed around other crew, cast, and the general public. Secret agent fun. We worked the cameras hard during my piggy-backed commercial shoot for more than a week. We shot them constantly, me–along with the D3–and the crew just with the fleet of D90’s. And funny how this happens, but go figure…our work with the D90 on location soon bled into shooting over dinner, then drinks, and then into the night, then into the next week, and so on. And the more we beat on ‘em, the more the crew liked ‘em.

Here’s one of my favorite grabs from my time with the D90. The flare is a stylistic thing, but the image really shows a great dynamic range:


Click the image above or, better yet, visit www.chasejarvisandfriends.com for more sample images, behind the scenes shots, and access to the main D90 microsite with all the bells and whistles.

The Wrap: In addition to the myriad of reasons I’ve already listed, there’s another reason to celebrate this launch: it’s cool that Nikon are listening to pro photographers, amateurs, and engineers alike, as a part of testing and adopting new products. This D90 project so nicely whips together many of the needs of aspiring photographers, as well as the photo community at large. Nikon is getting it. And Seth Godin will be happy. I hope other photography brands follow Nikon’s lead.

To close this short chapter for me and hopefully open a new one for those of you who might consider rolling with the D90, I’ll wrap with a quick review. Here’s 5 reasons this camera is great:

1. The D-movie. HD720 video in an dSLR is really big news. It’s so cool that we’re seeing the merging of high quality still and video pictures into the same camera. Sure, for us pros, we’ve got the RED camera. But for everybody else? This is the future. People: this is an SLR that shoots killer video! It’s the merging of features that the pros are using and it’s made accessible the the amateur at a price point of $1200+ bucks. Trust me, I played with this feature at length…all of us on location did, for that matter. It’s going to be a powerful tool. You can control your own depth of field so beautifully using the manual focus ring, the audio capture is solid, the high ISO capabilities in video?! Way cool… Long lenses, fisheyes, zoom lenses…versatility. I’m a BIG fan of the D-Movie.

2. Photo J possibilities. This camera will be a great second body for pro photojournalists. Commercial guys like me will be loyal to the D3 and its future, but for any PJ shooter, all the bells and whistles we’ve discussed already– especially video and audio capture–make this a no-brainer as a backup body.

3. Image Quality. The sensor is really top tier for a camera targeted at advanced amateurs. The high ISO capabilities are going to be a welcome addition to cameras in this price point. Want to take images of your kid in the rain at his baseball game at 7pm? This is your camera. It’s the D300 sensor with some juice.

4. The ergonomics of this camera are great. As someone who holds a camera for a living, I think camera ergonomics are waaay underrated. This camera (light at only 1lb. 6oz) is a treat in your hand. The menus are great and everything is right where you want it.

5. Oh ya, did I mention that this thing shoots video?!

And lastly, since I’m a huge music fan and always inundated with emails asking about the great music in our videos, here’s the inside line: the music in this Nikon D90 video is compliments of one of my fav bands going right now: The Blakes. Do yourself
(and them) a favor and buy some iTunes music from these guys so you can say you were listening to them before they made it really big. Hurry, your time is running out.

[If you enjoyed the above video, here are a couple others you might dig:]
[Chase Jarvis RAW: Ninjas.
[Chase Jarvis FRAMES: Hasselblad Masters.]
[Chase Jarvis TECH: Packing Photography Gear.]
[Chase Jarvis TECH: Photoshoot in 180 Seconds.]

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