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Nikon D1X vs D90

The Nikon D1X and the Nikon D90 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in February 2001 and August 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The D1X has a resolution of 5.9 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.

Headline Specifications
Nikon D1X   VS Nikon D90
Nikon D1X Nikon D90
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
5.9 MP, APS-C Sensor 12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor
no Video 720/24p Video
ISO 125-800 (125-3200) ISO 200-3200 (200-6400)
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.0" LCD, 120k dots 3.0" LCD, 920k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 4.5 shutter flaps per second
Weathersealed bodyNot weather sealed
1200 shots per battery charge850 shots per battery charge
157 x 153 x 85 mm, 1100 g 132 x 103 x 77 mm, 703 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D1X 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

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D1X and the Nikon D90. 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 width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Nikon D1X vs Nikon D90
Compare D1X versus D90 top
Comparison D1X 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 considerably smaller (43 percent) than the Nikon D1X. Moreover, the D90 is substantially lighter (36 percent) than the D1X. It is worth mentioning in this context that the D1X is splash and dust resistant, while the D90 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D1X gets 1200 shots out of its EN-4 battery, while the D90 can take 850 images on a single charge of its EN-EL3e power pack. As can be seen in the images above, the D1X has a battery grip built in. This facilitates image-taking in portrait orientation and gives it additional battery power. In order to provide similar functionality for the D90, Nikon provides the MB-D80 vertical grip as an optional accessory (see here on eBay).

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)
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D1X» 6.2 in 6.0 in 3.3 in 38.8 oz 1200 Y Feb 2001 5,999iNikon D1X
 
Nikon D90« 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 24.8 oz 850 n Aug 2008 1,299iNikon D90
 
Canon 40D« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 750 n Aug 2007 1,299iCanon 40D
 
Nikon D4« » 6.3 in 6.2 in 3.6 in 47.3 oz 2600 Y Jan 2012 5,999iNikon D4
 
Nikon D7000« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499iNikon D7000
 
Nikon D300S« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799iNikon D300S
 
Nikon D5000« » 5.0 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 20.8 oz 510 n Apr 2009 749iNikon D5000
 
Nikon D300« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799iNikon D300
 
Nikon D2Xs« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Jun 2006 4,699iNikon D2Xs
 
Nikon D80« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 n Aug 2006 999iNikon D80
 
Nikon D200« » 5.8 in 4.4 in 2.9 in 32.5 oz 400 Y Nov 2005 1,699iNikon D200
 
Nikon D2X« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 44.2 oz 3800 Y Sep 2004 4,999iNikon D2X
 
Nikon D2H« » 6.2 in 5.9 in 3.4 in 37.7 oz 2900 Y Jul 2003 3,499iNikon D2H
 
Nikon D100« » 5.7 in 4.6 in 3.2 in 27.5 oz 370 n Feb 2002 1,999iNikon D100
 
Nikon D1H« » 6.2 in 6.0 in 3.3 in 38.8 oz 1200 Y Feb 2001 4,499iNikon D1H
 
Nikon D1« » 6.2 in 6.0 in 3.3 in 38.8 oz .. Y Jun 1999 5,499iNikon D1
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 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 78 percent) than the D1X, 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.

 

Sensor comparison

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. 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 1 percent bigger. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D1X and Nikon D90 sensor measures

With 12.2MP, the D90 offers a higher resolution than the D1X (5.9MP), but the D90 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.53μm versus 7.92μm for the D1X). Yet, the D90 is a much more recent model (by 7 years and 6 months) than the D1X, 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 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 Nikon D1X are 15 x 9.8 inch or 38.2 x 24.9 cm for good quality, 12 x 7.8 inch or 30.6 x 19.9 cm for very good quality, and 10 x 6.5 inch or 25.5 x 16.6 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Nikon D1X has a native sensitivity range from ISO 125 to ISO 800, which can be extended to ISO 125-3200. 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.

D1X versus D90 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar 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
 
Nikon D1X APS-C 5.9 3008 1960none........Nikon D1X
 
Nikon D90 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.597773Nikon D90
 
Canon 40D APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.370364Canon 40D
 
Nikon D4 Full Frame 16.2 4928 32801080/30p24.713.1296589Nikon D4
 
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 D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967Nikon D300
 
Nikon D2Xs APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.210.948959Nikon D2Xs
 
Nikon D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461Nikon D80
 
Nikon D200 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.558364Nikon D200
 
Nikon D2X APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.110.947659Nikon D2X
 
Nikon D2H APS-C 4.0 2464 1632none18.910.035240Nikon D2H
 
Nikon D100 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none........Nikon D100
 
Nikon D1H APS-C 2.6 2000 1312none........Nikon D1H
 
Nikon D1 APS-C 2.6 2000 1312none........Nikon D1

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The D90 indeed provides for movie recording, while the D1X does not. The highest resolution format that the D90 can use is 720/24p.

 

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D1X 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (96%), but the viewfinder of the D90 has a higher magnification than the one of the D1X (0.63x vs 0.53x), 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 Nikon D1X and Nikon D90 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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
 
Nikon D1Xoptical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/16000s 3.0 n n Nikon D1X
 
Nikon D90optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 4.5 Y n Nikon D90
 
Canon 40Doptical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 6.5 Y n Canon 40D
 
Nikon D4optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 1/8000s 11.0 n n Nikon D4
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D300Soptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 7.0 Y n Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D5000optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D300optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D300
 
Nikon D2Xsoptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n Nikon D2Xs
 
Nikon D80optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D80
 
Nikon D200optical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n Nikon D200
 
Nikon D2Xoptical Y 2.5 235 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 n n Nikon D2X
 
Nikon D2Hoptical Y 2.5 211 fixed n 1/8000s 8.0 n n Nikon D2H
 
Nikon D100optical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D100
 
Nikon D1Hoptical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/16000s 5.0 n n Nikon D1H
 
Nikon D1optical Y 2.0 120 fixed n 1/16000s 1.5 n n Nikon D1

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The D90 has one, while the D1X does not. While the built-in flash of the D90 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

The D1X writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the D90 uses SDHC cards.

 

Connectivity comparison

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 D1X 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
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D1XYnonenone--noneFW---Nikon D1X
 
Nikon D90Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D90
 
Canon 40DYnonenone--none2.0---Canon 40D
 
Nikon D4YmonomonoYYmicro2.0---Nikon D4
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D7000
 
Nikon D300SYstereomonoY-mini2.0---Nikon D300S
 
Nikon D5000Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D300Ynonenone--mini2.0---Nikon D300
 
Nikon D2XsYnonenone--none2.0---Nikon D2Xs
 
Nikon D80Ynonenone--none2.0---Nikon D80
 
Nikon D200Ynonenone--none2.0---Nikon D200
 
Nikon D2XYnonenone--none2.0---Nikon D2X
 
Nikon D2HYnonenone--none2.0---Nikon D2H
 
Nikon D100Ynonenone--none1.1---Nikon D100
 
Nikon D1HYnonenone--noneFW---Nikon D1H
 
Nikon D1Ynonenone--noneFW---Nikon D1

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D1X (unlike the D90) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the D1X and the D90 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D1X was replaced by the Nikon D2X, 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 Nikon website.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Nikon D1X better than the Nikon D90 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D1X:

  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/16000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • More portrait friendly: Features an integrated vertical grip for easier portrait shooting.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1200 versus 850) on a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • 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 2001).


Advantages of the Nikon D90:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 5.9MP), which boosts linear resolution by 43%.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/24p video.
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.63x vs 0.53x).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 120k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (132x103mm vs 157x153mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 397g or 36 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (78 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 7 years and 6 months of technical progress since the D1X launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D90 is the clear winner of the contest (11 : 6 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. 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.

D1X 06:11 D90

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D1X 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 says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D1X and the D90 in practical situations. 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

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
cam
era
  labs  
dp
re
  view  
e
photo
  zine  
ima
ging
resource
photo
graphy
  blog  
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D1X..+ +..o.. Feb 2001 5,999iNikon D1X
 
Nikon D90+ ++ +4/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299iNikon D90
 
Canon 40D+ ++ +4.5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,299iCanon 40D
 
Nikon D4....4.5/5..4.5/5 Jan 2012 5,999iNikon D4
 
Nikon D7000..80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499iNikon D7000
 
Nikon D300S+ +82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799iNikon D300S
 
Nikon D5000+ +75/1004/55/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749iNikon D5000
 
Nikon D300+ ++ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799iNikon D300
 
Nikon D2Xs......o.. Jun 2006 4,699iNikon D2Xs
 
Nikon D80++ +o4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2006 999iNikon D80
 
Nikon D200+ ++ +o5/5.. Nov 2005 1,699iNikon D200
 
Nikon D2X..+ +..o.. Sep 2004 4,999iNikon D2X
 
Nikon D2H..+ +..o.. Jul 2003 3,499iNikon D2H
 
Nikon D100..+ +oo.. Feb 2002 1,999iNikon D100
 
Nikon D1H..+ +..o.. Feb 2001 4,499iNikon D1H
 
Nikon D1..+ +...... Jun 1999 5,499iNikon D1
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, 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.

Nikon D1X:
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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Nikon D1X 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 Nikon D1X Nikon D90
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date February 2001 August 2008
    Launch Price USD 5999 USD 1299
    Sensor Specs Nikon D1X Nikon D90
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.7 x 15.6 mm 23.6 x 15.8 mm
    Sensor Area 369.72 mm2 372.88 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 28.4 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 5.9 Megapixels 12.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3008 x 1960 pixels 4288 x 2848 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 7.92 μm 5.53 μm
    Pixel Density 1.59 MP/cm2 3.28 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video 720/24p Video
    ISO Setting 125-800 ISO 200-3200 ISO
    ISO Boost 125-3200 ISO 200-6400 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 73
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 22.7
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 12.5
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 977
    Screen Specs Nikon D1X Nikon D90
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 96% 96%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.53x 0.63x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel Control Panel
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.0 inch 3.0 inch
    LCD Resolution 120k dots 920k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D1X Nikon D90
    Autofocus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 4.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash no On-Board Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards SDHC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D1X Nikon D90
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector Firewire USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D1X Nikon D90
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodyNot weather sealed
    Battery Type EN-4 EN-EL3e
    Battery Life (CIPA)1200 shots per charge850 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 157 x 153 x 85 mm
    (6.2 x 6.0 x 3.3 in)
    132 x 103 x 77 mm
    (5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 1100 g (38.8 oz) 703 g (24.8 oz)

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