Canon M vs Nikon D90
The Canon EOS M and the Nikon D90 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in July 2012 and August 2008. The Canon M is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D90 is a DSLR. Both cameras are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 17.9 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 M 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 physical size and weight of the Canon M and the Nikon D90 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The Canon M can be obtained in two different colors (black, white), while the D90 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D90 is considerably larger (89 percent) than the Canon M. Moreover, the D90 is substantially heavier (136 percent) than the Canon M. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the Canon M 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. Hence, you might want to study and compare the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Canon M||109 mm||66 mm||32 mm||298 g||230||n||Jul 2012||599|
|2.||Nikon D90||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||703 g||850||n||Aug 2008||1,299|
|3.||Canon M100||108 mm||67 mm||35 mm||302 g||295||n||Aug 2017||499|
|4.||Canon M10||108 mm||67 mm||35 mm||301 g||255||n||Oct 2015||499|
|5.||Canon G7 X||103 mm||60 mm||40 mm||304 g||210||n||Sep 2014||699|
|6.||Canon G16||109 mm||76 mm||40 mm||356 g||360||n||Aug 2013||549|
|7.||Canon SL1||117 mm||91 mm||69 mm||407 g||380||n||Mar 2013||549|
|8.||Canon T5i||133 mm||100 mm||79 mm||580 g||440||n||Mar 2013||649|
|9.||Canon T3i||133 mm||100 mm||80 mm||570 g||440||n||Feb 2011||599|
|10.||Canon 40D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|11.||Nikon D7000||132 mm||105 mm||77 mm||780 g||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|12.||Nikon D300S||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||938 g||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|13.||Nikon D5000||127 mm||104 mm||80 mm||590 g||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|14.||Nikon D80||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||668 g||600||n||Aug 2006||999|
|15.||Panasonic GF6||111 mm||65 mm||38 mm||323 g||340||n||Apr 2013||499|
|16.||Panasonic G3||115 mm||84 mm||47 mm||336 g||270||n||May 2011||599|
|17.||Sony NEX-3N||110 mm||62 mm||35 mm||269 g||480||n||Feb 2013||499|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The Canon M was launched at a markedly lower price (by 54 percent) than the D90, which puts it into a different market segment. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to 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 12 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 1.6 (Canon M) 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.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon M offers a higher resolution of 17.9 megapixels, compared with 12.2 MP of the Nikon D90. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.31μm versus 5.53μm for the D90). However, it should be noted that the Canon M is much more recent (by 3 years and 10 months) than the D90, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.
The resolution advantage of the Canon M implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the Canon M for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 25.9 x 17.3 inches or 65.8 x 43.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.7 x 13.8 inches or 52.7 x 35.1 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.3 x 11.5 inches or 43.9 x 29.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D90 are 21.4 x 14.2 inches or 54.5 x 36.2 cm for good quality, 17.2 x 11.4 inches or 43.6 x 28.9 cm for very good quality, and 14.3 x 9.5 inches or 36.3 x 24.1 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Canon M has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Canon EOS M has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 12800, which can be extended to ISO 100-25600. 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 Canon M (overall score 8 points higher), which will translate into better image quality. The advantage is based on 0.6 bits higher color depth, 1.3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.2 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.
| DXO |
|5.||Canon G7 X||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||23.0||12.7||556||71|
|15.||Panasonic GF6||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60i||20.7||10.6||622||54|
|16.||Panasonic G3||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60i||21.0||10.6||667||56|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the Canon M provides a higher video resolution than the D90. It can shoot video footage at 1080/30p, while the Nikon is limited to 720/24p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. For example, the D90 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the Canon M relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon M and Nikon D90 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|5.||Canon G7 X||none||n||3.0||1040||tilting||Y||1/2000s||6.5||Y||Y|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The Canon M has a touchscreen, while the D90 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.
The Canon M writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the D90 uses SDHC cards. The Canon M supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the D90 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD 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 M and Nikon D90 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|5.||Canon G7 X||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
It is notable that the Canon M has a microphone port, which is missing on the D90. Such an external microphone input can help to substantially improve the quality of audio recordings when a good external microphone is used.
Both the Canon M and the D90 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D90 was replaced by the Nikon D7000, while the Canon M was followed by the Canon EOS M3. 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 there a clear favorite between the Canon M and the Nikon D90? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS M:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (17.9 vs 12.2MP) with a 21% higher linear resolution.
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/30p vs 720/24p).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- Better sound: Can connect to an external microphone for higher quality sound recording.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1040k vs 920k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- More compact: Is smaller (109x66mm vs 132x103mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 405g or 58 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (54 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 10 months of technical progress since the D90 launch.
Advantages of the Nikon D90:
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (8 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.3 EV of extra DR).
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (850 versus 230) out of a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2008).
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the Canon M is the clear winner of the match-up (12 : 7 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding 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 M and the Nikon D90 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the Canon M 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 where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.
|1.||Canon M||3/5||+||..||4/5||4/5||Jul 2012||599|
|2.||Nikon D90||..||+ +||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|3.||Canon M100||3/5||+||..||4/5||3.5/5||Aug 2017||499|
|4.||Canon M10||..||..||..||..||4/5||Oct 2015||499|
|5.||Canon G7 X||4/5||+ +||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2014||699|
|6.||Canon G16||4/5||+||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2013||549|
|7.||Canon SL1||4/5||+||78/100||4/5||4/5||Mar 2013||549|
|8.||Canon T5i||..||..||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2013||649|
|9.||Canon T3i||3/5||o||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2011||599|
|10.||Canon 40D||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|11.||Nikon D7000||4/5||..||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|12.||Nikon D300S||5/5||+ +||82/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|13.||Nikon D5000||..||+ +||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|14.||Nikon D80||..||+||+ +||o||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999|
|15.||Panasonic GF6||..||+ +||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2013||499|
|16.||Panasonic G3||3/5||+ +||75/100||4.5/5||5/5||May 2011||599|
|17.||Sony NEX-3N||3/5||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2013||499|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. 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? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
Specifications: Canon M 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 M||Nikon D90|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Canon EF-M mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||July 2012||August 2008|
|Launch Price||USD 599||USD 1,299|
|Sensor Specs||Canon M||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||17.9 Megapixels||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5184 x 3456 pixels||4288 x 2848 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.31 μm||5.53 μm|
|Pixel Density||5.39 MP/cm2||3.28 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/30p Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 12,800 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||100 - 25,600 ISO||200 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||DIGIC V||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||65||73|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.1||22.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.2||12.5|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||827||977|
|Screen Specs||Canon M||Nikon D90|
|Viewfinder Type||no viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||96%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||1040k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Canon M||Nikon D90|
|Focus System||On-Sensor Phase-detect||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||4.3 shutter flaps/s||4.5 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||100 000 actuations|
|Fill Flash||no On-Board Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDXC cards||SDHC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Canon M||Nikon D90|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||External MIC port||no MIC socket|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Canon M||Nikon D90|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||230 shots per charge||850 shots per charge|
109 x 66 x 32 mm
(4.3 x 2.6 x 1.3 in)
132 x 103 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||298 g (10.5 oz)||703 g (24.8 oz)|
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