Canon EOS 90D review

OUR VERDICT

If you still prefer DSLRs to mirrorless cameras, there’s a lot to like about the Canon EOS 90D – it’s a feature-packed Canon EOS 90D DSLR with a high-resolution sensor and prompt, smooth performance. Its deeper grip, another advantage over mirrorless rivals, makes it comfortable to make use of for long periods, while the inspiring battery life is a boon too. For those who already have Canon glass or are unwilling to make the move to the mirrorless, this snapper is a formidable all-round option.

ProsCons
High-resolution image sensor No image stabilization
Uncropped 4K/30p video Default JPEG noise reduction level inadequate
Ergonomic grip ***************
Joystick control ***************

A few years ago, the Canon EOS 90D was one of the most excellent cameras around for anyone who needed a mid-range snapper that could go beyond basic shooting without adding pro-level complexity. In fact, it’s still a completely solid DSLR even today, but in order to make the series relevant in the age of mirrorless cameras, Canon has built something more modern to fill its substantial shoes. That camera is the Canon EOS 90D, perhaps the last enthusiast-level DSLR the company will ever make.

Launched alongside the Canon EOS M6 Mark II, the Canon EOS 90D plays the conventional strengths of DSLRs – excellent handling, long battery life, optical viewfinder – but adds some pretty cutting-edge specs. This includes a new sensor that brings a lot more megapixels than the 80D (32.5MP, compared to 24.2MP), which is useful for cropping images, plus Canon’s latest imaging engine. Read Also:

Like its predecessor, the new camera is user-friendly, with a cost tag that’s also pocket-friendly – it’s on shelves for $1,199 / £1,210 / AU$1,959 (matching the launch price of the 80D in the US). This makes it a tempting all-rounder for ambitious beginners and experienced enthusiasts who require a camera that can handle a variety of shooting situations.

In short, with the Canon EOS 90D, Canon has proven that DSLRs aren’t fairly prepared to kick the bucket yet.

Canon EOS 90D review
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CANON EOS 90D: KEY SPECS

Sensor 32.5MP APS-C CMOS sensor
Image processor Digic 8
AF points 45 cross-type points
ISO range 100 to 25,600 (expandable to 51,200)
Video 4K up to 30fps/1080p up to 120fps
Max burst Up to 11fps (with Live View)
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB 2.0
Battery CIPA rating of 1,300 shots
Weight 701g (with battery and card)

Features – Canon EOS 90D

  • New 32.5MP APS-C sensor
  • Face Detection when using the viewfinder
  • Uncropped 4K video

At first quick look, there’s not much physical difference between the EOS 80D and its successor. The innards, however, are brand-spanking new, with a 32.5MP APS-C CMOS sensor taking center stage. Historically, the sensor resolution of most APS-C cameras has topped out at about 24MP – meaning the 90D (and the EOS M6 Mark II with the same sensor) offers the highest resolution found in the crop-sensor class of cameras.

The benefit of having this kind of resolution means you’ll be able to capture more details while giving you the suppleness to crop an image during post-processing, allowing you to zoom in closer to your subject without compromising image quality. While the higher resolution is a welcome boost, it can result in extra noise in images shot at higher ISOs compared to cameras in the same sensor class but lower resolutions. This happens because individual pixels have to be shrunk to fit a higher number of them in a limited space.

Canon EOS 90D review

However, it’s Canon’s latest Digic 8 image processor that gives the 90D a main performance boost over the 80D and its Digic 6 engine. The most up-to-date processor, which has yet to be succeeded in 2019, gives the new snapper the capacity to shoot 4K video, where the 80D topped out at just 1080p (aka Full HD) resolution. And, unlike all other Canon cameras, the new EOS R and EOS RP included, video capture uses the whole width of the 90D’s sensor – a long-awaited first for the corporation. Videos themselves are captured in the MP4 file format in either 4K UHD (3840 x 2160) qualities to a maximum 30fps, in Full HD (1920 x 1080) at up to 60fps or Standard HD (1280 x 720) at 60fps, and with a maximum duration of 30 minutes.

The Digic 8 processor also ups the ante when it comes to maximum rupture speed and native ISO range. The former sees a jump from the 80D’s 7fps to a faster 10fps with constant autofocus (or 11fps when using Live View), while the 90D has a native ISO range of 100 to 25,600, expandable to 51,200 (unlike the 80D’s native high ISO of 16,000 and maximum expansion value of 25,600).

When it comes to focus points, the new camera shares the 80D’s 45-point cross-type AF system. However, a new 220,000-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor (the 80D has a 7,560-pixel one) adds face detection when using the camera’s viewfinder, and can be called upon for both stills and video. Face Detect is obtainable mechanically when using the 90D’s Intelligent Tracking and Recognition Autofocus (iTR AF) feature.

Canon’s superb Dual Pixel CMOS AF is obtainable when using Live View and covers about 100% of the frame vertically and 88% horizontally, with a staggering 5,481 AF points to choose from physically. And what makes this system an enjoyment to use is the joystick found on the right of the display, giving greater accuracy when choosing a focal point. With a working range of -3EV to 18, the camera doesn’t quite match the low-light performance of Canon’s full-frame mirrorless cameras but will work well in all but the most tremendous lighting conditions.

Canon EOS 90D review

Taking a leaf out of the Canon EOS RP’s book, the Canon EOS 90D shares its full-frame mirrorless cousin’s eye detection when using Live View, this can be switched on or off if using Face Tracking in AF mode.

Also onboard, like most modern cameras, is Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity to connect the camera to a Smartphone for quick and easy download of images directly to the device for sharing on social media, or for using the phone as a remote shutter release. For wired data transfer to a computer, the 90D uses a USB Type-C connector but it’s the older 2.0 standard. So if you want files to transfer at lightning speed, you’ll need to look somewhere else, perhaps are newer mirrorless snappers like the EOS R, Nikon Z7 or even Fujifilm’s X-T3.

The 90D uses the LP-E6N battery found in some of Canon’s other DSLRs and it comes with a CIPA certification (which is the manufacturing standard) of 1,300 shots when using the viewfinder. That means the battery life is a little lower at 450 shots when using Live View (or the rear display), though that’s still pretty good compared to most mirrorless cameras.

For those looking for the security of plenty more battery life, Canon offers the BG-E14 grip to be used with the Canon EOS 90D.

Build and handling

  • Aluminum alloy and polycarbonate resin body
  • 8-way AF joystick
  • Ergonomic grip

Measuring just 140.7(W) x 104.8(H) x 76.8(D) mm, the Canon EOS 90D is a fraction wider than the 80D (coming in at 139 x 105.2 x 78.5mm), but is shorter and thinner. The new camera is also a tad lighter than its predecessor, weighing in at 701g (with battery and SD card) compared to the 80D at 730g. It’s improbable you’ll feel much of a difference.

While the camera isn’t completely weatherproof (it is water- and dust-resistant, though), it’s an aluminum alloy, polycarbonate resin and glass fiber body feels sturdily built and is particularly comfortable to utilize, even over long durations. This is thanks to a redesigned grip that is deeper and somewhat thinner than the one on Canon’s older DSLRs.

Even if you’ve got small mitts, the 90D is simple to handle. We shot using the EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM, the 17-40mm f/4L USM, and the EF 70-200mm f/2.8L are III USM – even with that last monster of a lens, the camera felt well balanced and comfortable.

Canon EOS 90D review

If you’ve ever used a Canon DSLR before, be it the 80D, the 7D Mark II or even the EOS 6D Mark II, you’ll feel a sense of comfortable familiarity with this new model. A new 8-way joystick on the rear of the camera is a welcome addition, allowing you to choose AF points with no trouble. The default option on the camera to activate AF point selection is by pressing the dedicated button on the shoulder of the 90D. However, an option in the customization menu will move this function to the joystick.

The addition of the joystick means some of the buttons have been moved around a little. It takes the spot the Q button occupied on the 80D (used to rapidly access important camera settings), while on the 90D the Q button has moved to where the playback button used to be on the 80D (just above the control dial). The playback button on the 90D has moved to the position that was occupied by the bin button which, in turn, has moved closer to the lock lever. Despite this slight shuffling of controls, using the 90D is still quite instinctive for those recognizable with Canon’s other DSLRs.

The 90D shares its predecessor’s optical viewfinder, which offers a magnification of approximately 0.95 xs and covers almost 100% of the frame, so you won’t see any surprises at the edges of the image you’ve shot. Being an ocular viewfinder, you won’t be capable to see the effects of camera settings (like exposure and white balance) on the scene, though you can select a horde of other information options to be displayed, like active AF point, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO value. There’s even a flicker alert to warn when a flickering light is detected.

Canon EOS 90D review

The 90D also brings across the 80D’s 3-inch, completely articulating 1,040,000-dot rear screen. It’s a very responsive touch-enabled display, meaning you can tap to focus and shoot, as well as swipe to review images and zoom in or out.

Autofocus

  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF system
  • Impressive face tracking
  • 5,481 selectable AF points

Being a DSLR, there are two autofocus systems onboard the 90D – the reflex mode comes into use when shooting through the viewfinder while Canon’s tried-and-tested Dual Pixel AF comes into play when using Live View. The former is the same 45-point cross-type system we saw in the 80D. Compared to up to date mirrorless cameras with AF points extending all the way to the edges of the frame, the AF points on the 90D are clustered in the middle, though for an APS-C sensor, that’s polite coverage.

The 90D comes with an AF micro-adjustment system that enables focus points to be adjusted for 40 dissimilar lenses. This is essential as the reflex mode uses its own dedicated sensor – not the image sensor – which introduces minute inaccuracies with some lenses due to manufacturing tolerances. These adjustments can be made either for individual lenses or set to the same amount for all lenses.

Canon EOS 90D review

The EOS 90D does an outstanding job of tracking moving subjects | EOS 90 with EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/320 sec at f/3.2, ISO 160 (Image credit: Future)

There are 11 AF point selection modes – Spot AF, 1-point AF, Zone AF, Large Zone AF, Face Priority AF, AI Focus, One Shot, AI Servo, Movie Servo AF, Continuous AF, and Eye Detection AF. These allow the photographer to set the starting AF point and, when shooting in continuous mode, tell the camera how to track the subject if it moves.

Face tracking works very well, locking onto a subject’s face and shoulders, even though if the person is moving quick, eye detect takes a while to catch up. Focusing on static subjects, though, is fast and accurate, while the system is able to lock onto a moving subject in good lighting conditions. It does, however, experience a little in low-light conditions or when the subject is moving quickly, as we discovered when following a bird in flight under grey skies during our testing period. This is particularly true when using the viewfinder; it’s a lot easier to maintain focus when using Live View.

Performance

  • 58 JPEG or 25 RAW buffer capacities
  • Inspiring battery

The most inspiring feature of the 90D is its new 216-zone metering system that gathers data from an RGB and infrared sensor that has a staggering 220,000 pixels. Each of the 216 sections is assessed for exposure, doing a great job of regulating the brightness of the whole frame. By default, the metering mode is set to Evaluative, but you can choose between Partial, Centre-weighted and Spot metering options as well. The evaluative system is outstanding for most situations, but the others are well suited to backlit subjects.

Canon EOS 90D review

The new metering sensor does an outstanding job in both sunlight and shadows | EOS 90 with EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM, 1/160 sec at f/32.8, ISO 160 

While the combination of the 90D’s high-resolution sensor and the latest image processor gives the new camera an extraordinary turn of speed over its predecessor, it can’t quite match the buffer ability of the Canon EOS 7D Mark II. This five-year-old shooter is competent of sending 31 RAW files or 1,030 JPEGs to a card. The 90D, on the other hand, has a buffering capability of just 58 JPEGs and 25 RAW files.

That said, the 11fps burst speed gives Canon the opportunity to market the 90D as a great all-round option. While it can’t match the new EOS M6 Mark II’s 14fps, the 90D does very well for both sports and wildlife photography.

When shooting at base ISO, the 90D’s noise performance is brilliant. You’ll begin to see grain creeping in at about ISO 6400, but it’s kept at a minimum. Even at ISO 8000, there’s nothing to complain about – the little noise you can see in the shadows and the edges can with no trouble be removed in post-production. Go higher, however, and the noise becomes a lot more evident.

Canon has improved the 90D’s dynamic range over the 80D, particularly at higher ISOs. While this allows the 90D to capture extra details in highlights and shadows, underexposure can result in noisy and flat, washed-out images. Read Also;

Battery life, although, is something to write home about. While the CIPA rating is for 1,300 images, you’ll get way more than that. During our testing, shooting both raw and JPEG when switching between viewfinder and Live View, we squeezed out about 1,500 shots. If you stick to just using the viewfinder, you’ll be capable to push that number to about 1,900.

Image quality

  • Detailed 4K footage
  • Generally outstanding results for stills
  • The new firmware update has added the option of 24p video

We were expecting the 90D to produce some exceptional results, thanks to its new sensor, and the camera surely delivered. There were plenty of details in the results, in both highlights and shadows. However, the increase in sensor resolution means you’ll need to be marginally more careful with how you handle the camera – tiny movements could become obvious in images, so you may need to make use of faster shutter speeds to achieve the best sharpness. Thankfully, an electronic shutter takes the speed 1/16,000th of a second, allowing for wide apertures when shooting moving subjects.

Unlike the 80D and the 7D Mark II, where the noise was kept to a minimum across the complete native ISO range, that’s not the case with the 90D. While noise is well controlled at lower ISO values, it does become very obvious at sensitivities above 8000. From here on in, luminance noise is visible at most viewing sizes.

During our testing, we captured a lot of our images using Canon’s Standard picture style and that was adequate to prove the Canon EOS 90D carries forward the camera maker’s superb color reproduction, producing pictures with decent saturation. The Vivid and Landscape options are also fairly good, with the former offering stronger colors and the latter doing an outstanding job of not oversaturation the blue of the sky or the green of the landscape like some other cameras tend to do.

If you don’t want to fiddle around too much with camera settings when capturing people, the Portrait picture style is a fine option, as it doesn’t make skin tones look unnatural. Focus bracketing is also obtainable on the 90D, allowing users to capture a series of images with incremental changes in focus points, which can later be stacked in post-production to enhance the depth of field.

The default Monochrome option, though, produces very flat images, but that can be changed by adding more contrast or changing exposure.

The Canon EOS 90D does very well when shooting video as well. While colors and details are plentiful in any resolution, 4K footage is wonderfully sharp. However, you will have to be careful of the camera’s rolling shutter as distortions are evident in some situations, particularly if you’re moving around a lot while shooting.

Verdict

The main difference between an entry-level camera and an enthusiast-grade one is adaptability. The latter lets you shoot in a wider variety of conditions, with finer levels of control, without ever becoming too complex or costly. Like its predecessor, the Canon EOS 90D again does a fantastic job of delivering on that score, even with rumors circling of two more EOS M cameras being announced in early 2020.

That’s because the 90D actually plays to the strengths of DSLR cameras, which some photographers reasonably prefer over mirrorless. Water- and dust-resistance means it’s excellent for any condition but the harshest of weather, plus it’s comfortable to use over long periods of time. It’s metering system is top-notch, producing wonderfully exposed images across a wide range of situations, and its burst speed is adequate for most users.

As predictable, the 90D produces outstanding results too, whether you’re shooting landscapes or trying to capture the perfect serve during a tennis match, provided you don’t need to shoot at high ISO settings. The bump in resolution means anyone printing their pictures will find the results looking a lot better on paper compared to a print from a lower-resolution snapper.

It also comes in at a pretty fine price point, which should appeal to beginners and enthusiasts alike. Also worth mentioning is the already extensive stable of lenses obtainable for the new camera, particularly for anyone already invested in Canon’s ecosystem.

The question, although, is whether it’s worth upgrading if you already make use of the Canon EOS 80D or the 7D Mark II. That will depend on whether you shoot a lot of videos or not. Uncropped 4K at 30fps and 1080p at 120fps make it worthwhile, and a recent Canon firmware update has recently added the option of shooting in cinema-like 24fps. For still photographers, the EOS 80D is still obtainable and, despite its age, does an extraordinary job for a lower price.

Competition

Canon EOS M6 Mark II

Canon launched the second generation EOS M6 alongside the Canon EOS 90D , with both cameras sharing the same sensor and image processor. The APS-C mirrorless cousin, though, has one benefit over the Canon EOS 90D – its burst rapidity of 14fps – which might appeal more to the traveling wildlife photographer.

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