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Nikon D3000 versus Nikon D90

The Nikon D3000 and the Nikon D90 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in July 2009 and August 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The D3000 has a resolution of 10 megapixel, whereas the D90 provides 12.2 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D3000 vs Nikon D90

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D3000 and the Nikon D90 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D3000 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Nikon D3000 vs Nikon D90
Compare D3000 versus D90 top
Compare D3000 and 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 larger (11 percent) than the Nikon D3000. Moreover, the D90 is markedly heavier (31 percent) than the D3000. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D3000 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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D3000 gets 500 shots out of its EN-EL9a battery, while the D90 can take 850 images on a single charge of its EN-EL3e power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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)
Nikon D3000» 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 18.9 oz 500 n Jul 2009 599- i
Nikon D90« 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 24.8 oz 850 n Aug 2008 1,299- i
Canon 40D« » 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 750 n Aug 2007 1,299- i
Nikon D3400« » 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 15.7 oz 1200 n Aug 2016 499 i i
Nikon D7000« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499- i
Nikon D3100« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 3.0 in 17.8 oz 550 n Aug 2010 599- i
Nikon D5000« » 5.0 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 20.8 oz 510 n Apr 2009 749- i
Nikon D60« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 500 n Jan 2008 629- i
Nikon D40X« » 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 520 n Mar 2007 729- i
Nikon D80« » 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 n Aug 2006 999- i
Nikon D40« » 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 470 n Nov 2006 499- i
Olympus E-620« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.4 oz 500 n Feb 2009 699- i
Olympus E-450« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 n Mar 2009 499- i
Olympus E-420« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 n Mar 2008 599- i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D3000 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 54 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.

 

Sensor comparison: Nikon D3000 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. 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.5. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D3000 and Nikon D90 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the D90 offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixel, compared with 10 MP of the D3000. This megapixel advantage translates into a 11 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the D90 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.53μm versus 6.11μm for the D3000). Moreover, it should be noted, that the D3000 is a somewhat more recent model (by 11 months) than the D90, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of individual pixels.

D3000 versus D90 MP

For most 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 D3000 (overall score 11 points higher). The advantage is based on 0.4 bits higher color depth, 1.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.8 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D3000» APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.311.156362
Nikon D90« APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.597773
Canon 40D« » APS-C 10.1 3888 2592-22.111.370364
Nikon D3400« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.813.9119286
Nikon D7000« » APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780
Nikon D3100« » APS-C 14.2 4608 30721080/24p22.511.391967
Nikon D5000« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872
Nikon D60« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.511.456265
Nikon D40X« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.411.451663
Nikon D80« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.111.252461
Nikon D40« » APS-C 6.0 3008 2000-21.011.056156
Olympus E-620« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.353655
Olympus E-450« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.510.551256
Olympus E-420« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.510.452756

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The D90 indeed provides for movie recording, while the D3000 does not. The highest resolution format that the D90 can use is 720/24p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D3000 vs Nikon D90

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D3000 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D3000, the Nikon D90, and comparable cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Nikon D3000»optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Nikon D90«optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 4000 4.5 Y n
Canon 40D« »optical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 8000 6.5 Y n
Nikon D3400« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n
Nikon D7000« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n
Nikon D3100« »optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Nikon D5000« »optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 4000 4.0 Y n
Nikon D60« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Nikon D40X« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Nikon D80« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Nikon D40« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n
Olympus E-620« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y
Olympus E-450« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y n
Olympus E-420« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y n

Both the D3000 and the D90 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D90 was replaced by the Nikon D7000, while the D3000 was followed by the Nikon D3100.

Review summary: Nikon D3000 vs Nikon D90

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D3000 or the Nikon D90 – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3000:

  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 167g or 24 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (54 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 11 months after the D90).


Reasons to prefer the Nikon D90:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 10MP), which boosts linear resolution by 10%.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (11 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (1.4 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.8 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/24p video.
  • Easier setting verification: Has a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (850 versus 500) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2008).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D90 is the clear winner of the contest (10 : 3 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.

D3000 03:10 D90

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D3000 or the D90 handle or perform in practice. 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 where reviews by experts come in. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Nikon D3000»Rec72/1004/53.5/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599- i
Nikon D90«HiRecHiRec4/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299- i
Canon 40D« »HiRecHiRec4.5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,299- i
Nikon D3400« »Rec76/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Aug 2016 499 i i
Nikon D7000« »-80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499- i
Nikon D3100« »HiRec72/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 599- i
Nikon D5000« »HiRec75/1004/55/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749- i
Nikon D60« »80/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Jan 2008 629- i
Nikon D40X« »79/100HiRec4/5rev4/5 Mar 2007 729- i
Nikon D80« »RecHiRecrev4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2006 999- i
Nikon D40« »81/100HiRecrev5/54.5/5 Nov 2006 499- i
Olympus E-620« »88/10072/1004.5/5rev5/5 Feb 2009 699- i
Olympus E-450« »--4/5-4/5 Mar 2009 499- i
Olympus E-420« »85/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2008 599- i

The review scores listed above should be treated 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. 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. 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? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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