Nikon 1 J4 vs D90
The Nikon 1 J4 and the Nikon D90 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in April 2014 and August 2008. The J4 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera, while the D90 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on an one-inch (J4) and an APS-C (D90) sensor. The J4 has a resolution of 18.2 megapixels, whereas the D90 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 Nikon 1 J4 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 Nikon 1 J4 and the Nikon D90 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The J4 can be obtained in four different colors (black, silver, orange, 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 (127 percent) than the Nikon 1 J4. Moreover, the D90 is substantially heavier (203 percent) than the J4. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the J4 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 following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|1.||Nikon 1 J4||100 mm||60 mm||29 mm||232 g||300||n||Apr 2014||549|
|2.||Nikon D90||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||703 g||850||n||Aug 2008||1,299|
|3.||Canon G9 X Mark II||98 mm||58 mm||31 mm||206 g||235||n||Jan 2017||529|
|4.||Canon G9 X||98 mm||58 mm||31 mm||209 g||220||n||Oct 2015||529|
|5.||Canon SL1||117 mm||91 mm||69 mm||407 g||380||n||Mar 2013||549|
|6.||Canon 40D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|7.||Nikon P900||140 mm||103 mm||137 mm||899 g||360||n||Mar 2015||599|
|8.||Nikon 1 J5||98 mm||60 mm||32 mm||231 g||250||n||Apr 2015||399|
|9.||Nikon 1 V3||111 mm||65 mm||33 mm||381 g||310||n||Mar 2014||799|
|10.||Nikon 1 V2||109 mm||82 mm||46 mm||278 g||310||n||Oct 2012||799|
|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 GF7||107 mm||65 mm||33 mm||266 g||230||n||Jan 2015||499|
|16.||Panasonic FZ1000||137 mm||99 mm||131 mm||831 g||360||n||Jun 2014||899|
|17.||Panasonic G6||122 mm||85 mm||71 mm||390 g||340||n||Apr 2013||599|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 J4 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 58 percent) than the D90, 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 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. 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.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon 1 J4 features an one-inch sensor and the Nikon D90 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D90 is 222 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.7 and 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
In terms of chip-set technology, the J4 uses a more advanced image processing engine (EXPEED 4) than the D90 (EXPEED), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the Nikon 1 J4 offers a higher resolution of 18.2 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 2.52μm versus 5.53μm for the D90). However, it should be noted that the J4 is much more recent (by 5 years and 7 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. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the J4 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon 1 J4 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the J4 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 26.2 x 17.4 inches or 66.4 x 44.3 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 20.9 x 14 inches or 53.2 x 35.4 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 17.4 x 11.6 inches or 44.3 x 29.5 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 J4 has on-sensor phase detect pixels, which results in fast and reliable autofocus acquisition even during live view operation.
The Nikon 1 J4 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 160 to ISO 12800. 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 is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D90 offers substantially better image quality than the J4 (overall score 20 points higher). The advantage is based on 1.9 bits higher color depth, 1.8 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.2 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|1.||Nikon 1 J4||1-inch||18.2||5232||3488||1080/60p||20.8||10.7||426||53|
|3.||Canon G9 X Mark II||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||21.9||12.5||522||65|
|4.||Canon G9 X||1-inch||20.0||5472||3648||1080/60p||21.5||12.3||495||63|
|8.||Nikon 1 J5||1-inch||20.7||5568||3712||4K/15p||21.1||12.0||479||65|
|9.||Nikon 1 V3||1-inch||18.2||5232||3488||1080/60p||20.8||10.7||384||52|
|10.||Nikon 1 V2||1-inch||14.2||4608||3072||1080/60p||20.2||10.8||403||50|
|15.||Panasonic GF7||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60p||..||..||..||..|
|17.||Panasonic G6||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||21.3||11.5||639||61|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the J4 provides a higher video resolution than the D90. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60p, while the D90 is limited to 720/24p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the D90 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the J4 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon 1 J4 and Nikon D90 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|1.||Nikon 1 J4||none||n||3.0||1037||Fixed||Y||1/4000s||60.0||Y||n|
|3.||Canon G9 X Mark II||none||n||3.0||1040||fixed||Y||1/2000s||8.2||Y||Y|
|4.||Canon G9 X||none||n||3.0||1040||fixed||Y||1/2000s||6.0||Y||Y|
|8.||Nikon 1 J5||none||n||3.0||1037||tilting||Y||1/4000s||60.0||Y||n|
|9.||Nikon 1 V3||optional||n||3.0||1037||tilting||Y||1/4000s||60.0||Y||n|
|10.||Nikon 1 V2||1440||n||3.0||921||fixed||n||1/4000s||15.0||Y||n|
One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The J4 has a touchscreen, while the D90 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point.
The reported shutter speed information refers to the use of the mechanical shutter. Yet, some cameras only have an electronic shutter, while others have an electronic shutter in addition to a mechanical one. In fact, the J4 is one of those camera that have an additional electronic shutter, which makes completely silent shooting possible. However, this mode is less suitable for photographing moving objects (risk of rolling shutter) or shooting under artificial light sources (risk of flickering).
The J4 writes its imaging data to micro SDXC cards, while the D90 uses SDHC cards. The J4 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 Nikon 1 J4 and Nikon D90 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|1.||Nikon 1 J4||-||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|3.||Canon G9 X Mark II||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||Y|
|4.||Canon G9 X||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|8.||Nikon 1 J5||-||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||Y||-|
|9.||Nikon 1 V3||-||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||-||-|
|10.||Nikon 1 V2||-||stereo||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-|
It is notable that the J4 offers wifi support, while the D90 does not. Wifi can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location.
Both the J4 and the D90 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D90 was replaced by the Nikon D7000, while the J4 was followed by the Nikon 1 J5. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.
So what is the bottom line? Is the Nikon 1 J4 better than the Nikon D90 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Nikon 1 J4:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (18.2 vs 12.2MP) with a 22% higher linear resolution.
- Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
- Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (EXPEED 4 vs EXPEED).
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60p vs 720/24p).
- Better live-view autofocus: Features on-sensor phase-detection for more confident autofocus.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 920k dots).
- Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (60 vs 4.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Less disturbing: Has an electronic shutter option for completely silent shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (100x60mm vs 132x103mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 471g or 67 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can take a broad range of non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (58 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 7 months of technical progress since the D90 launch.
Advantages of the Nikon D90:
- Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (20 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (1.9 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.8 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.2 stops ISO advantage).
- 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 300) out of a single battery charge.
- Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
- More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in August 2008).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the J4 is the clear winner of the match-up (16 : 10 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 Nikon 1 J4 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 technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the J4 or the D90. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is why expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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.||Nikon 1 J4||3/5||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Apr 2014||549|
|2.||Nikon D90||..||+ +||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|3.||Canon G9 X Mark II||4/5||..||75/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2017||529|
|4.||Canon G9 X||3.5/5||+ +||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2015||529|
|5.||Canon SL1||4/5||+||78/100||4/5||4/5||Mar 2013||549|
|6.||Canon 40D||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|7.||Nikon P900||..||..||77/100||4/5||4/5||Mar 2015||599|
|8.||Nikon 1 J5||..||..||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2015||399|
|9.||Nikon 1 V3||3/5||..||76/100||4.5/5||4/5||Mar 2014||799|
|10.||Nikon 1 V2||3/5||..||..||4.5/5||4/5||Oct 2012||799|
|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 GF7||4/5||+||..||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2015||499|
|16.||Panasonic FZ1000||4/5||+ +||82/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||899|
|17.||Panasonic G6||4/5||+ +||..||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2013||599|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price 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. 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? 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: Nikon 1 J4 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||Nikon 1 J4||Nikon D90|
|Camera Type||Mirrorless system camera||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon 1 mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||April 2014||August 2008|
|Launch Price||USD 549||USD 1,299|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon 1 J4||Nikon D90|
|Sensor Format||1" Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||13.2 x 8.8 mm||23.6 x 15.8 mm|
|Sensor Area||116.16 mm2||372.88 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||15.9 mm||28.4 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||18.2 Megapixels||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||5232 x 3488 pixels||4288 x 2848 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||2.52 μm||5.53 μm|
|Pixel Density||15.71 MP/cm2||3.28 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||no AA filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||1080/60p Video||720/24p Video|
|ISO Setting||160 - 12,800 ISO||200 - 3,200 ISO|
|ISO Boost||no Enhancement||200 - 6,400 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED 4||EXPEED|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||53||73|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||20.8||22.7|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.7||12.5|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||426||977|
|Screen Specs||Nikon 1 J4||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||1037k dots||920k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen|
|Touch Input||Touchscreen||no Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon 1 J4||Nikon D90|
|Focus System||On-Sensor Phase-detect||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||60 shutter flaps/s||4.5 shutter flaps/s|
|Electronic Shutter||up to 1/16000s||no E-Shutter|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||micro or SDXC cards||SDHC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||UHS-I||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon 1 J4||Nikon D90|
|External Flash||no Hotshoe||Hotshoe|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||Wifi built-in||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Nikon 1 J4||Nikon D90|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||300 shots per charge||850 shots per charge|
100 x 60 x 29 mm
(3.9 x 2.4 x 1.1 in)
132 x 103 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
|Camera Weight||232 g (8.2 oz)||703 g (24.8 oz)|
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