The Canon EOS 90D, released fall of this year, arrives three years following the release of the insanely popular EOS 80D. It aims to serve as not only a refresh to the series but a complete overhaul. It features a whopping 32.5-megapixel CMOS sensor, latest Digic 8 imaging processor, 4K video, and super slow motion 1080p video at 120p.
On paper, these specifications culminate into a camera that represents a huge leap forward in this particular lineup of cameras.
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Considering the predecessor lacked 4K recording altogether and housed only a 24-megapixel sensor. Quite frankly, the addition of 4K alone represents quite an improvement, though needed, for the series. At first glance, this sounds like an exciting and compelling upgrade to the acclaimed 80D, sure.
But, the 80D is one of Canon’s beloved and long-standing robust starting cameras for aspiring videographers and professionals desiring an upgrade before leaping into full-frame.
For this reason, this camera has some seriously large shoes to fill. And, unfortunately, specifications don’t always live up to the real-world performance. The 80D was a huge and successful release from Canon. Can this new camera live up to the hype of its outgoing replacement? It competes primarily with Sony’s a6400 and the newly released Nikon Z50, both of which are mirrorless cameras. Interesting considering this camera is a digital SLR.
Has Canon made improvements here that convince current mirrorless shooters to consider reverting to traditional SLRs? Are digital SLR still a dying breed? Today we find out if there is still a place in today’s world for enthusiast-level DSLRs, considering the ongoing mirrorless domination.
What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Canon EOS 90D?
The headline feature for this camera is the debut of its 32-megapixel sensor, which creates a revolution in the world of APS-C sized cameras and a massive addition from the manufacturer. It provides a significant jump in resolution over the predecessor, which only has a 24-megapixel sensor. This addition makes this camera among the highest resolution APS-C cameras on the market to date, second only to Canon’s own M6 Mark II.
In all, it far surpasses the 24-megapixel standard typically expected in cameras of this size. Overall this is a 60% increase in resolution over the outgoing 7D Mark II and surprisingly makes this small APS-C camera quite comparable to Canon’s 5D Mark IV, a full-frame camera. As expected, it provides ample room for cropping in post-production or larger prints. Images are sharp, crisp, and have excellent color rendition thanks to Canon’s long-standing color science.
This extra bump in resolution also comes without any degradation to the existing dynamic range, as well.
Not only does this camera dominate other APS-C cameras in resolution, but it also does so sporting impressive continuous shooting speeds. It shoots at an impressive 10 fps with AF-C or 11 fps with fixed focus, a vast improvement over the predecessors 7 fps. Previously, only the 7D Mark II delivered this level of performance in an APS-C Camera. But, as this camera takes reign, it’s future looks uncertain.
This kind of burst performance is quite an achievement considering the resolution of its sensor, and it’s pricing towards the enthusiast market, not the pros. For this price, it is a compelling contender for sports, action, or wildlife photography
This camera shoots 4K UHD up to 30p with a full sensor readout, which marks a significant improvement over the predecessor, which lacked 4K altogether. Users previously criticized Canon for a variety of their cameras having significant crop factors when shooting 4K, primarily amongst their full-frame lineup. We are glad to report that there is no irritating crop factor when shooting 4K with this camera.
The uncropped 4K recording of this camera makes a first for a Canon interchangeable lens camera. Dual Pixel AF (DPAF) also carries over into 4K recordings as well, which is a massive addition. This camera shoots 1080p FHD up 120p, doubling over the predecessor, which topped out at 60p. This specific addition is also a first for a Canon DSLR to record at this particular frame rate.
These days the assumption is that we use a mirrorless camera when shooting video. But, this camera challenges that assumption, a feat it does quite well surprisingly. There are no disadvantages when using this camera when shooting video in Live View with DPAF to a mirrorless camera. In fact, in many cases, it outperforms its competitors in this regard. In video, this is Canon’s best video camera under $2,000 and quite possibly the best camera they have altogether.
Extremely rare considering that it’s a digital SLR and not a mirrorless camera.
It has a clean HDMI out.
Low Light Performance
Low light performance, while good, is not industry-leading by any means. It has a native ISO range from ISO 100 to ISO 25,600. Interestingly, the performance delivered here is the same as the predecessor, where both perform similarly at ISO 6,400 or greater in noise and color shifting.
Nonetheless, low light performance is quite respectable considering the increase in sensor resolution, as larger sensors tend to fall victim to reduced poor light performance. There’s minimal banding during post-production recovery as well, especially in shadows. In all, it can easily supply usable images up to ISO 6,400 with only slight color shifting and moderate noise.
As this is an SLR, it has two distinct focusing systems. Firstly, the optical viewfinder and, secondly, the rear LCD in Live View mode. When composing via the optical viewfinder, it uses Canon’s midrange 45 all cross-type AF focusing system, the same as the predecessor, so no improvements there.
This system is good, though not to the level of the 65 point system in the 7D Mark II. This means focusing and recomposing will be a crucial technique to the achieve sports like performance that’s available.
When composing via the rear LCD in Live View, this camera uses an improved system that now provides 143 total points. Not only that, but it also inherits Canon’s latest renowned Dual Pixel AF (DPAF) for quick and confident focusing. DPAF delivers incredibly robust tracking performance, a well-known strength, and is the best Live View system of any SLR manufacturer, hands down.
DPAF carries over into 4K recording as well. Awesome! It also has a new metering system that allows both Face and Eye Detect AF to make their way into this camera, a first for a Canon DSLR. These features combine to enable the camera to track the dominant eye, so long as they’re at an appropriate distance from the camera. Overall, focusing performance here is superb and far superior to other iterations within the series.
Arguably, this is the best system Canon has, second to the EOS R.
This camera features a brand new LP-E6N battery, which delivers an extraordinary battery life of 1,300 shots on a single charge. The ability for optical viewfinders to squeeze out additional battery life remains a key benefit SLRs have over mirrorless cameras, and this camera supplies a prime example of this fact.
Display & Viewfinder
As this is an SLR and not a mirrorless camera, it features an optical viewfinder instead of an electronic viewfinder. This viewfinder delivers 100% coverage of the sensor, x0.95 magnification, and great eye relief. Overall, the experience available here is excellent for an enthusiast-level camera.
Like it’s predecessor, it retains the beloved 3-inch fully articulating touchscreen LCD. An articulating LCD is a necessity for anyone who shoots at extreme angles or self-composed videos. In all, it means you can get creative with your composition when shooting at tricky angles without the backbreaking effort normally required.
Sure, this is an old feature. But, it’s one that’s found on fewer and fewer cameras these days. Considering how helpful this feature is, we’re glad to see it return.
The user’s interface and menus retain classic Canon design, with that previous Canon users will feel welcomed with navigating and mastering the menus of this camera. Overall, the menus remain relatively unchanged from the predecessor. As such, we can still navigate both the Quick and Main menus via touch, swipe in playback, touch focus, and touch to shoot.
Placing the camera into the Auto Mode simplifies its menus, which makes navigating the menus overall far more beginner-friendly than the competition.
Physical Layout & Ergonomics
Physically, it resembles any other digital SLR. However, it features an improved grip that’s quite luxurious for this price point. It represents a significant improvement over the predecessor. No questions, this camera provides ample gripping surfaces and is comfortable during prolonged use, even for those with larger hands.
While it’s on the thicker and chunkier side, this added bulk works in its favor to provide additional shooting controls and excellent ergonomics. And, ironically, this larger camera delivers a more pleasing grip that makes it a more comfortable experience than competing mirrorless cameras half its size. Canon has designed SLRs for quite some time now, and with this camera, their experience shows.
The build quality and construction are similar to the 80D. However, this camera increases the weather resistance and durability for better resistance to inclement weather.
It retains the top LCD, which displays critical shooting parameters at a glance.
It sports a new multi-controller AF joystick, which serves to navigate menus or to change AF points. This is a welcomed addition and a first for this series of Canon SLRs. It’s great to see this feature move exclusively from Canon’s higher-end bodies like the 7D series to their midrange bodies as well.
- It has a headphone input.
- It has a microphone input.
- It has a built-in flash.
- It has a UHS-II compatible SD card slot, which helps minimize buffering during continuous shooting.
- It has a built-in time-lapse mode.
While the image quality is good overall, the sensor of this camera doesn’t deliver the resounding image quality, and the definitive step up the specifications claim. Results show that several competing mirrorless cameras with 24-megapixel sensors still rival its image quality. Unfortunately, the increase in resolution also reduced low light performance making it nearly identical to the predecessor and now falling behind relative to the competition. With that, whether or not this camera will supply better images is very situational and not guaranteed.
The buffer depth here is rather low, 25 RAW, and 68 JPEGS in a row before filling. This means you will have 2.5 or 7 seconds, respectively, to time your bursts. The fact that we can shoot 10 fps burst is brilliant. However, the buffer will not allow it to match the top of the line sports-oriented cameras with buffers of upwards 200 images. Instead, we have a fast but short burst, so time wisely.
The 4K captured with this sensor is not true 4K resolution. Instead, this is the result of image processing, which occurs by artificially upscaling a lower-resolution capture to 4K dimensions. With that, you will not get the full 4K resolution and detail expected. It’s close, but not identical.
Video recording is limited to 29 minutes and 59 seconds. While this is the industry standard, it is worth mentioning nonetheless as this camera doesn’t have unlimited recording time.
When shooting at 120 fps, you will experience a small crop. And, most notably, this mode lacks both audio capture and autofocusing, which limits this mode to strictly b-roll footage.
You cannot adjust the speed of the autofocusing system when using tracking. This feature is reserved solely for single-point AF. Strange considering the core functionality is built into the camera but not fully customizable for some reason.
Not surprisingly, this camera lacks Canon’s higher-end video features like C-log profiles and zebras for exposure clipping indication.
This camera does not shoot 24 fps, which caused quite a bit of a disappointment considering the predecessor was able to shoot in this frame rate. Canon opted to remove this option from both this camera and the EOS RP for some reason. For casual videographers, this may not be important nor a dealbreaker for you. However, as this is the standard frame rate for cinematic capture, this could easily be a dealbreaker for a good segment of the market this camera aims to please.
Low Light Performance
While this camera is capable of taking pleasing images across its entire ISO range, the fine details supplied by its 32.5-megapixel sensor start smoothing as low as ISO 1,600. If you often shoot in low light and fine detail is essential to you, you’re better off using a tripod and lower ISO setting to avoid loss of detail. Overall, the improved resolution of the sensor supplies a near-identical ISO performance as the predecessor and doesn’t supply the marketed improvement expected.
While this camera features 45 cross-type AF points, which deliver both fast and accurate autofocusing performance, these points do not reach the outer corners of the frame. That level of coverage is typically reserved for mirrorless cameras. With that, focus recomposing will be a crucial technique in achieving the desired composition. While it’s common to see AF points clustered around the center of the imaging area with SLRs in this price range. In an age where mirrorless cameras are dominating, it feels a bit limiting to rely on such a small cluster of points and forced to employ a technique to compensate.
While this camera aims to implement Face Detect AF, it’s just not accurate enough to focus on the subject’s eye. Instead, it focuses anywhere on the person’s face, which proves to be problematic when shooting at shallow Depth of Fields. This means you will have to revert to manually selecting focus points to focus on a subject critically. Then, you’re in the situation mentioned above where the AF points don’t reach the edges of the frame when composing via the viewfinder, unlike the competitors.
For that, you will have to use the rear LCD in Live View instead and use DPAF. The problem is, this system is much slower at focusing than the viewfinder, which delivers almost sports like AF performance. Instead, it’s more cinematic and slow for better video focusing. Not to mention, the Eye Detect AF feature only works when shooting at headshot distances where the subject face fills the majority of the frame.
This feature also doesn’t work in Single Shot AF; it only works in AF-C, where the camera automatically picks the focus point. In all, this is a feature seriously best reserved for casual shooters.
Physical Layout & Ergonomics
Interestingly, Canon opted to stick with Micro USB as opposed to USB-C with this camera. This decision means this camera still lacks USB charging, as well as the quick transfer speeds available from the newer format.
It only has a single SD card slot. While this feature is not critical for most users, it can be problematic if redundancy is essential to your particular workflow. However, it’s not surprising, though, as this is a way Canon differentiates this line with its higher-end single digit pro bodies.
Is the Canon EOS 90D a good starting camera?
Absolutely. The Canon 80D was already a highly popular release from Canon, and this camera is proving to continue that tradition. Photographers will surely appreciate the higher megapixel count and improved autofocusing system, while videographers will love DPAF and uncropped 4K capture.
Uncropped 4K video represents an enormous step forward for Canon. All of this, coupled with exceptional usability, ergonomics, and handling, deliver an excellent choice for a starting camera. Sure, the loss of fine textural detail at moderate ISO’s is disappointing, and the overall image quality doesn’t provide the level of astonishment we hoped.
Nonetheless, Canon has provided an excellent refresh to the predecessor, with only minor setbacks in the camera’s larger capabilities. The feature set of this camera makes us seriously question if a 7D Mark III will ever be released. This camera thoroughly functions to expand what buyers can expect from a mid-range Canon SLR.
Sure, it’s a DSLR at heart. But, it tests the line of what’s possible from a traditional SLR in 2019. Overall, Canon has done well to introduce and implement some of the current mirrorless technology into their existing digital SLRs. This camera serves as an excellent example of a split personality yet entirely good SLR and mirrorless interface melded together.
Best bundles for the Canon EOS 90D
Is the Canon EOS 90D a good camera for you?
Yes. It makes an excellent and compelling upgrade for the previous 70D or 80D users. It inherits all of the famous and successful elements from its predecessors, with significant improvements that create a far refined camera. It makes a substantial upgrade to what was already a very good camera to start. It’s an exciting release that represents the merging of two highly popular yet previously separate DSLR lines in the Canon ecosystem, the 80D and 7D series — inheriting the core design, construction, and pricing of the 80D.
But the performance that rivals, and in some cases outperforms that of the 7D Mark II in all but autofocusing. Considering this is a DSLR, it performs to a level we expect from a mirrorless camera, all with the advantage of having an optical viewfinder instead of an electronic one. The 80D created a high point for this series. This camera will surely follow suit.
With it’s fully articulating screen, uncropped 4K recording, microphone, and headphone jacks, it’s undoubtedly a desirable and competitive option for vlogging. It’s quite a good option even over Canon’s own newly released M6 Mark II. Sure, it lacks 24p recording. However, outside of that, this arguably becomes Canon’s best midrange video and vlogging camera to date, be it mirrorless or DSLR.
The predecessor was already an exceptional vlogging camera. This camera takes that to the next level. It overhauls its functionality to deliver one of the top vlogging cameras to date.
The increase in shooting speed, coupled with the addition of an AF joystick, makes this camera a rival to Canon’s 7D Mark II as an appealing option for sports and wildlife shooters.
The increase in sensor resolution also increases the overall pixel density, which creates an effective resolution of 83-megapixels, in an equivalent full-frame camera.
This provides an enormous increase in effective resolution, beating Canon’s 5D Mark IV, the Nikon D850, or Sony A7R Mark IV. For this reason, this camera delivers amongst the highest resolution available to date, making it a compelling choice for these mediums. However, remember, it lacks the robust weather sealing, dual SD card slots, and stronger buffer depth of the 7D Mark II. But the performance to price ratio here is quite competitive.
In summary, the 90D is a game setting release from Canon. They’ve done quite well with this camera, considering the DSLR era is waning. They give a new definition to what users can expect from a traditional SLR in 2019 and have redefined the capabilities of SLR cameras. We doubt this will end the larger movement towards mirrorless technology, however. But, this camera serves as a prime example of what is possible when past meets present. In all, this is a camera to consider seriously.
Last Updated on September 11, 2023 by Photography PX Published November 19, 2019
The Canon 80D was already a highly popular release from Canon, and this camera is proving to continue that tradition. Photographers will surely appreciate the higher megapixel count and improved autofocusing system, while videographers will love DPAF and uncropped 4K capture. Canon has provided an excellent refresh to the predecessor, with only minor setbacks in the camera’s larger capabilities. This camera thoroughly functions to expand what buyers can expect from a mid-range Canon SLR. Sure, it’s a DSLR at heart. But, it tests the line of what’s possible from a traditional SLR in 2019. Overall, Canon has done well to introduce and implement some of the current mirrorless technology into their existing digital SLRs