I really like using older cameras and gear and trying to squeeze the best results I can out of them. A while ago I picked up a used Nikon D90 as a “backup” camera (as if I need any more cameras). What’s it like using a camera that came on to the market in 2008? Honestly, not that bad.
If you shoot RAW like I’ve suggested, you can get some pretty good results out of a camera that’s considered staggeringly obsolete in today’s fast-moving world of technology.
The D90 has a built-in focus motor, which is great because you can use almost any Nikon or third-party lens on it. I typically pair it with an old Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC HSM, a quirky lens that sometimes doesn’t focus on anything at all, but renders beautifully when it does.
Another great thing about the D90 is the controls and handling. It has dual-dials and many buttons, making using the camera in manual mode very easy. You’ll probably want to shoot in manual mode, pick the lowest shutter speed you find acceptable, and keep your ISO under 800 to get the best results.
The 12.3 megapixel images definitely have a distinct “look” to them, and that’s due to a lack of dynamic range and what I find to be duller colors in general. With a good amount of post-processing effort on the RAW files, particularly in terms of color correction, you can bring them almost up to par with more modern cameras. On the other hand, it’s very easy to get a lo-fi “film look” out of the images if that’s what you’re aiming for.
One last interesting thing about the D90 is that it seems to currently be very popular in other countries. Perhaps this is due to a lack of availability of other models at reasonable prices. I’m just guessing, I don’t really know. But if you hop on the #nikond90 or #d90 tags on Instagram, you’ll likely be treated to some very cool photographic scenes from all over the world.
Would I recommend that you run out and buy a D90? Honestly, no. You’ll get way better images out of a used entry level DSLR like a Nikon D3300 for around the same amount of money. Even with a lot of post-processing, the D90 images still won’t look quite as good as those from a newer camera, particularly when it comes to high-ISO shots.
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However, if you’re looking for a creative challenge, really are looking for a backup camera that you won’t mind ruining, or just want to mess around with old technology, by all means get a D90 and go out and shoot with it.
The photos in this story were taken with a Nikon D90 and Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC HSM lens.