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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.

Headline Specifications
Canon 40D   Nikon D90
Canon 40D Nikon D90
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Canon EF mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
10.1 MP, APS-C Sensor 12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video 720/24p Video
ISO 100-1600 (100-3200) ISO 200-3200 (200-6400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0" LCD, 230k dots 3.0" LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
6.5 shutter flaps per second 4.5 shutter flaps per second
750 shots per battery charge850 shots per battery charge
146 x 108 x 74 mm, 822 g 132 x 103 x 77 mm, 703 g

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.

Body comparison: Canon 40D vs Nikon D90

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.

Size Canon 40D vs Nikon D90
Compare 40D versus D90 top
Comparison 40D or D90 rear

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).

Concerning battery life, the 40D gets 750 shots out of its BP-511A battery, while the D90 can take 850 images on a single charge of its EN-EL3e power pack.

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.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Canon 40D» 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 750 n Aug 2007 1,299- i Canon 40D
 
Nikon D90« 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 24.8 oz 850 n Aug 2008 1,299- i Nikon D90
 
Canon T3« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 17.5 oz 700 n Feb 2011 449- i Canon T3
 
Canon 60D« » 5.7 in 4.2 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 1100 Y Aug 2010 1,399- i Canon 60D
 
Canon 50D« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 800 Y Aug 2008 1,299- i Canon 50D
 
Canon XS« » 5.0 in 3.9 in 2.6 in 17.7 oz 500 n Jun 2008 449- i Canon XS
 
Canon XSi« » 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.5 oz 500 n Jan 2008 799- i Canon XSi
 
Canon 30D« » 5.7 in 4.2 in 2.9 in 27.7 oz 750 n Feb 2006 1,399- i Canon 30D
 
Canon XTi« » 5.0 in 3.3 in 2.6 in 19.6 oz 370 n Aug 2006 799- i Canon XTi
 
Canon 20D« » 5.7 in 4.2 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 700 n Aug 2004 1,499- i Canon 20D
 
Canon 10D« » 5.9 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 500 n Feb 2003 1,999- i Canon 10D
 
Nikon D7000« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499- i Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D300S« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D5000« » 5.0 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 20.8 oz 510 n Apr 2009 749- i Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D80« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 n Aug 2006 999- i Nikon D80
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

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.

 

Sensor comparison: Canon 40D vs Nikon D90

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.

Canon 40D and Nikon D90 sensor measures

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 inch or 54.5 x 36.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17.2 x 11.4 inch or 43.6 x 28.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.3 x 9.5 inch or 36.3 x 24.1 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon 40D are 19.4 x 13 inch or 49.4 x 32.9 cm for good quality, 15.6 x 10.4 inch or 39.5 x 26.3 cm for very good quality, and 13 x 8.6 inch 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.

40D versus D90 MP

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.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
 
Canon 40D» APS-C 10.1 3888 2592-22.111.370364Canon 40D
 
Nikon D90« APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.597773Nikon D90
 
Canon T3« » APS-C 12.2 4272 2848720/30p21.911.075562Canon T3
 
Canon 60D« » APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.581366Canon 60D
 
Canon 50D« » APS-C 15.1 4752 3168-21.811.469663Canon 50D
 
Canon XS« » APS-C 10.1 3888 2592-----Canon XS
 
Canon XSi« » APS-C 12.2 4272 2848-21.910.869261Canon XSi
 
Canon 30D« » APS-C 8.2 3504 2336-21.510.873659Canon 30D
 
Canon XTi« » APS-C 10.1 3888 2592-22.111.066462Canon XTi
 
Canon 20D« » APS-C 8.2 3504 2336-21.911.072162Canon 20D
 
Canon 10D« » APS-C 6.3 3072 2048-21.110.957157Canon 10D
 
Nikon D7000« » APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D300S« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D5000« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D80« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.111.252461Nikon D80

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.

 

Feature comparison: Canon 40D vs Nikon D90

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.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Canon 40D»optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 6.5 Y n Canon 40D
 
Nikon D90«optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 4.5 Y n Nikon D90
 
Canon T3« »optical n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon T3
 
Canon 60D« »optical Y 3.0 1040 swivel n 1/8000s 5.3 Y n Canon 60D
 
Canon 50D« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 6.3 Y n Canon 50D
 
Canon XS« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon XS
 
Canon XSi« »optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n Canon XSi
 
Canon 30D« »optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n Canon 30D
 
Canon XTi« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon XTi
 
Canon 20D« »optical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n Canon 20D
 
Canon 10D« »optical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Canon 10D
 
Nikon D7000« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D300S« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D5000« »optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D80« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D80

The 40D writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D90 uses SDHC cards.

 

Connectivity comparison: Canon 40D vs Nikon D90

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.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Type
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Canon 40D»Y-----2.0---Canon 40D
 
Nikon D90«Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D90
 
Canon T3« »Ystereomono--mini2.0---Canon T3
 
Canon 60D« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Canon 60D
 
Canon 50D« »Y----mini2.0---Canon 50D
 
Canon XS« »Y-----2.0---Canon XS
 
Canon XSi« »Y----mini2.0---Canon XSi
 
Canon 30D« »Y-----2.0---Canon 30D
 
Canon XTi« »Y-----2.0---Canon XTi
 
Canon 20D« »Y-----1.1---Canon 20D
 
Canon 10D« »Y-----1.1---Canon 10D
 
Nikon D7000« »YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D300S« »YstereomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D5000« »Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D80« »Y-----2.0---Nikon D80

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.


Review summary: Canon 40D vs Nikon D90

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.

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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).

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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.

40D 04:12 D90

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.

Expert reviews: Canon 40D vs Nikon D90

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.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Canon 40D»+ ++ +4.5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,299- i Canon 40D
 
Nikon D90«+ ++ +4/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299- i Nikon D90
 
Canon T3« »80/10069/1004/54/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449- i Canon T3
 
Canon 60D« »+79/1004/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 1,399- i Canon 60D
 
Canon 50D« »+ ++ +4.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299- i Canon 50D
 
Canon XS« »82/100+ +3.5/54/54.5/5 Jun 2008 449- i Canon XS
 
Canon XSi« »+ ++ +4/55/54.5/5 Jan 2008 799- i Canon XSi
 
Canon 30D« »+ ++ +oo- Feb 2006 1,399- i Canon 30D
 
Canon XTi« »+ ++ +o4.5/54/5 Aug 2006 799- i Canon XTi
 
Canon 20D« »-+ +-o- Aug 2004 1,499- i Canon 20D
 
Canon 10D« »-+ +-o- Feb 2003 1,999- i Canon 10D
 
Nikon D7000« »-80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499- i Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D300S« »+ +82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D5000« »+ +75/1004/55/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749- i Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D80« »++ +o4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2006 999- i Nikon D80
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.

Canon 40D:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D90:
Check Ebay offers

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.

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    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 Specifications
    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 1299 USD 1299
    Sensor Specs Canon 40D Nikon D90
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    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
    Crop Factor 1.6x 1.5x
    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 100-1600 ISO 200-3200 ISO
    ISO Boost 100-3200 ISO 200-6400 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%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.59x 0.63x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon 40D Nikon D90
    Autofocus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 6.5 shutter flaps/s 4.5 shutter flaps/s
    Shutter Life Expectancy100 000 actuations100 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
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    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 Type BP-511A power pack EN-EL3e power pack
    Battery Life (CIPA)750 shots per charge850 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 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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