Canon 10D vs Nikon D90
The Canon EOS 10D and the Nikon D90 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in February 2003 and August 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 6.3 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 12.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 10D and the Nikon D90? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon 10D and the Nikon D90. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D90 is notably smaller (15 percent) than the Canon 10D. Moreover, the D90 is markedly lighter (17 percent) than the 10D. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the 10D nor the D90 are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. Yet, since both cameras are based around an APS-C sensor, their respective lenses will tend to have similar dimensions and heft. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (10D) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D90).
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.
|Canon 10D||5.9 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||30.0 oz||500||n||Feb 2003||1,999|
|Nikon D90||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||24.8 oz||850||n||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Canon T5||5.1 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||16.9 oz||500||n||Feb 2014||449|
|Canon SL1||4.6 in||3.6 in||2.7 in||14.4 oz||380||n||Mar 2013||549|
|Canon T4i||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.3 oz||440||n||Jun 2012||849|
|Canon 7D||5.8 in||4.4 in||2.9 in||30.3 oz||800||Y||Sep 2009||1,699|
|Canon 40D||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.9 in||29.0 oz||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|Canon 30D||5.7 in||4.2 in||2.9 in||27.7 oz||750||n||Feb 2006||1,399|
|Canon 20D||5.7 in||4.2 in||2.8 in||27.2 oz||700||n||Aug 2004||1,499|
|Canon Rebel||5.6 in||3.9 in||2.8 in||22.9 oz||400||n||Aug 2003||899|
|Canon D60||5.9 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||30.2 oz||620||n||Feb 2002||2,999|
|Nikon D7000||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||27.5 oz||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D300S||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||33.1 oz||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Nikon D5000||5.0 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||20.8 oz||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D80||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||23.6 oz||600||n||Aug 2006||999|
|Nikon D100||5.7 in||4.6 in||3.2 in||27.5 oz||370||n||Feb 2002||1,999|
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D90 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 35 percent) than the 10D, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. The sensor area in the D90 is 9 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 1.6 (10D) and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
With 12.2MP, the D90 offers a higher resolution than the 10D (6.3MP), but the D90 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.53μm versus 7.38μm for the 10D). Yet, the D90 is a much more recent model (by 5 years and 6 months) than the 10D, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D90 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D90 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 21.4 x 14.2 inches or 54.5 x 36.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17.2 x 11.4 inches or 43.6 x 28.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.3 x 9.5 inches or 36.3 x 24.1 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 10D are 15.4 x 10.2 inches or 39 x 26 cm for good quality, 12.3 x 8.2 inches or 31.2 x 20.8 cm for very good quality, and 10.2 x 6.8 inches or 26 x 17.3 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS 10D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D90 are ISO 200 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 200-6400.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D90 offers substantially better image quality than the 10D (overall score 16 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.6 bits higher color depth, 1.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.8 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The D90 indeed provides for movie recording, while the 10D does not. The highest resolution format that the D90 can use is 720/24p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 10D and the D90 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinder in the D90 offers a wider field of view (96%) than the one in the 10D (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the D90 has a higher magnification (0.63x vs 0.55x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Canon 10D and Nikon D90 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
The 10D writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D90 uses SDHC cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS 10D and Nikon D90 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Canon 10D (unlike the D90) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the 10D and the D90 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 10D was replaced by the Canon 20D, while the D90 was followed by the Nikon D7000. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Nikon websites.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Canon 10D better than the Nikon D90 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Canon EOS 10D:
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in February 2003).
Advantages of the Nikon D90:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 6.3MP), which boosts linear resolution by 39%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (16 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.6 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.6 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/24p video.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (96% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.63x vs 0.55x).
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 1.8") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 118k dots).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (132x103mm vs 150x107mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 147g or 17 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (850 versus 500) out of a single battery charge.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (2.0 vs 1.1).
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (35 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 6 months of technical progress since the 10D launch.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D90 is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 2 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional sports photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a street photog, and a person interested in family portraits has distinct needs from a landscape shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 10D and the Nikon D90 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the 10D and the D90 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|Canon 10D||..||+ +||..||o||..||Feb 2003||1,999|
|Nikon D90||+ +||+ +||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Canon T5||+||..||4/5||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2014||449|
|Canon SL1||+||78/100||4/5||4/5||4/5||Mar 2013||549|
|Canon T4i||+ +||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2012||849|
|Canon 7D||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2009||1,699|
|Canon 40D||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|Canon 30D||+ +||+ +||o||o||..||Feb 2006||1,399|
|Canon 20D||..||+ +||..||o||..||Aug 2004||1,499|
|Canon Rebel||..||+ +||..||o||..||Aug 2003||899|
|Canon D60||..||+ +||o||..||..||Feb 2002||2,999|
|Nikon D7000||..||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D300S||+ +||82/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Nikon D5000||+ +||75/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D80||+||+ +||o||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999|
|Nikon D100||..||+ +||o||o||..||Feb 2002||1,999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Canon 10D vs Nikon D90
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Canon 10D||Nikon D90|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||February 2003||August 2008|
|Launch Price||USD 1,999||USD 1,299|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 10D||Nikon D90|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.7 x 15.1 mm||23.6 x 15.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||342.77 mm2||372.88 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||27.3 mm||28.4 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||6.3 Megapixels||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3072 x 2048 pixels||4288 x 2848 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||7.38 μm||5.53 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.84 MP/cm2||3.28 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 3,200 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||200 - 6,400 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||57||73|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.1||22.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.9||12.5|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||571||977|
|Screen Specs||Canon 10D||Nikon D90|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||96%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||1.8inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||118k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 10D||Nikon D90|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3 shutter flaps/s||4.5 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF cards||SDHC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon 10D||Nikon D90|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 1.1||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 10D||Nikon D90|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||500 shots per charge||850 shots per charge|
150 x 107 x 75 mm
(5.9 x 4.2 x 3.0 in)
132 x 103 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||850 g (30.0 oz)||703 g (24.8 oz)|
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