Canon 40D vs Nikon D90
The Canon EOS 40D and the Nikon D90 are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2007 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 10.1 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 40D 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon 40D and the Nikon D90 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions 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 (14 percent) than the Canon 40D. Moreover, the D90 is markedly lighter (14 percent) than the 40D. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the 40D 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 (40D) and the Nikon Lens Catalog (D90).
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|Canon 40D||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.9 in||29.0 oz||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|Nikon D90||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||24.8 oz||850||n||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Canon T3||5.1 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||17.5 oz||700||n||Feb 2011||449|
|Canon 60D||5.7 in||4.2 in||3.1 in||26.6 oz||1100||Y||Aug 2010||1,399|
|Canon 50D||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.9 in||29.0 oz||800||Y||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Canon XS||5.0 in||3.9 in||2.6 in||17.7 oz||500||n||Jun 2008||449|
|Canon XSi||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.5 oz||500||n||Jan 2008||799|
|Canon 30D||5.7 in||4.2 in||2.9 in||27.7 oz||750||n||Feb 2006||1,399|
|Canon XTi||5.0 in||3.3 in||2.6 in||19.6 oz||370||n||Aug 2006||799|
|Canon 20D||5.7 in||4.2 in||2.8 in||27.2 oz||700||n||Aug 2004||1,499|
|Canon 10D||5.9 in||4.2 in||3.0 in||30.0 oz||500||n||Feb 2003||1,999|
|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|
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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The two cameras under review were launched at the same price and fall into the same 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 sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its 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 12 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 1.6 (40D) and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.
With 12.2MP, the D90 offers a higher resolution than the 40D (10.1MP), but the D90 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.53μm versus 5.73μm for the 40D). Yet, the D90 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year) than the 40D, and its sensor might 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 40D are 19.4 x 13 inches or 49.4 x 32.9 cm for good quality, 15.6 x 10.4 inches or 39.5 x 26.3 cm for very good quality, and 13 x 8.6 inches or 32.9 x 21.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon EOS 40D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 100-3200. 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.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the D90 has a markedly higher DXO score than the 40D (overall score 9 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.6 bits higher color depth, 1.2 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.5 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
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 40D 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 range of features. The 40D 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 40D (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 0.59x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon 40D and Nikon D90 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
The 40D 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 40D 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 40D (unlike the D90) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the 40D and the D90 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 40D was replaced by the Canon 50D, 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 how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 40D or the Nikon D90 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Canon EOS 40D:
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6.5 vs 4.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2007).
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D90:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 10.1MP), which boosts linear resolution by 10%.
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (9 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.2 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.5 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 0.59x).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 230k dots).
- More compact: Is smaller (132x103mm vs 146x108mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 119g or 14 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (850 versus 750) out of a single battery charge.
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year) more recently.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D90 is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 4 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 wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports 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 40D 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 comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 40D or the D90 perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.
This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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 40D||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|Nikon D90||+ +||+ +||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Canon T3||80/100||69/100||4/5||4/5||4.5/5||Feb 2011||449|
|Canon 60D||+||79/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||1,399|
|Canon 50D||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Canon XS||82/100||+ +||3.5/5||4/5||4.5/5||Jun 2008||449|
|Canon XSi||+ +||+ +||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2008||799|
|Canon 30D||+ +||+ +||o||o||..||Feb 2006||1,399|
|Canon XTi||+ +||+ +||o||4.5/5||4/5||Aug 2006||799|
|Canon 20D||..||+ +||..||o||..||Aug 2004||1,499|
|Canon 10D||..||+ +||..||o||..||Feb 2003||1,999|
|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|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Canon 40D 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 40D||Nikon D90|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2007||August 2008|
|Launch Price||USD 1,299||USD 1,299|
|Sensor Specs||Canon 40D||Nikon D90|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||22.3 x 14.9 mm||23.6 x 15.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||332.27 mm2||372.88 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||26.8 mm||28.4 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||10.1 Megapixels||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3888 x 2592 pixels||4288 x 2848 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.73 μm||5.53 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.03 MP/cm2||3.28 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 3,200 ISO||200 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC 3||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||64||73|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.1||22.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.3||12.5|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||703||977|
|Screen Specs||Canon 40D||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||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon 40D||Nikon D90|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||6.5 shutter flaps/s||4.5 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||100 000 actuations|
|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 40D||Nikon D90|
|Studio Flash||PC Sync socket||no PC Sync|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon 40D||Nikon D90|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||750 shots per charge||850 shots per charge|
146 x 108 x 74 mm
(5.7 x 4.3 x 2.9 in)
132 x 103 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||822 g (29.0 oz)||703 g (24.8 oz)|
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