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Nikon D90 versus Canon 40D

The Nikon D90 and the Canon EOS 40D are two enthusiast cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2008 and August 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 12.2 megapixel, whereas the Canon provides 10.1 MP.

Body comparison

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D90 and the Canon 40D. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D90 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Nikon D90 vs Canon 40D front
D90 versus 40D top view
D90 and 40D rear side
Body view (D90 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 40D is notably larger (16 percent) than the Nikon D90. Moreover, the 40D is markedly heavier (17 percent) than the D90. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D90 nor the 40D 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 find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D90) and the Canon EF Lens Catalog (40D).

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

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D90 (⇒ rgt) 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 703 g 850 no 2008 1,299discont. check
Canon 40D (⇒ lft) 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 750 no 2007 1,299discont. check
Canon 50D (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 800 YES 2008 1,299discont. check
Canon XSi (⇒ lft | rgt) 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 524 g 500 no 2008 799discont. check
Canon 30D (⇒ lft | rgt) 144 mm 106 mm 74 mm 785 g 750 no 2006 1,399discont. check
Canon XTi (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 84 mm 65 mm 556 g 370 no 2006 799discont. check
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 136 mm 104 mm 73 mm 720 g 950 YES 2017 1,299 latest check
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 136 mm 107 mm 76 mm 765 g 1110 YES 2015 1,199discont. check
Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 136 mm 107 mm 76 mm 765 g 950 YES 2013 1,199discont. check
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 132 mm 105 mm 77 mm 780 g 1050 YES 2010 1,499discont. check
Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 126 mm 97 mm 64 mm 536 g 500 no 2009 599discont. check
Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 127 mm 104 mm 80 mm 590 g 510 no 2009 749discont. check
Nikon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt) 126 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 500 no 2008 629discont. check
Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 520 no 2007 729discont. check
Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt) 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 no 2006 999discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. 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

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. 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 are more costly to manufacture and tent to 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 40D is 11 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have format factors, respectively, of 1.5 (D90) and 1.6. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D90 and Canon 40D sensor measures
Sensor size

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). However, 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 pixels.

D90 versus 40D MP
Sensor resolution

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under review, the D90 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the 40D (overall score 9 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This 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 table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D90 (⇒ rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 720/24p 22.7 12.5 977 73
Canon 40D (⇒ lft) APS-C 10.1 3888 2592 no 22.1 11.3 703 64
Canon 50D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 15.1 4752 3168 no 21.8 11.4 696 63
Canon XSi (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4272 2848 no 21.9 10.8 692 61
Canon 30D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 8.2 3504 2336 no 21.5 10.8 736 59
Canon XTi (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.1 3888 2592 no 22.1 11.0 664 62
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 20.7 5568 3712 4K/30p 24.3 14.0 1483 86
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.5 14.6 1333 87
Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.2 13.7 1256 83
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 16.1 4928 3264 10800/24p 23.5 13.9 1167 80
Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.0 3872 2592 no 22.3 11.1 563 62
Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 720/24p 22.7 12.5 868 72
Nikon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.0 3872 2592 no 22.5 11.4 562 65
Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.0 3872 2592 no 22.4 11.4 516 63
Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.0 3872 2592 no 22.1 11.2 524 61

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The D90 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the 40D 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 D90 and the 40D 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D90 and Canon 40D along with similar information for a selection of comparators. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Nikon D90 (⇒ rgt) optical YES 3 920 fixed no 4000 4.5 17 no
Canon 40D (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.0 230 fixed no 8000 6.5 12 no
Canon 50D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 8000 6.3 13 no
Canon XSi (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 230 fixed no 4000 3.5 13 no
Canon 30D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 2.5 230 fixed no 8000 5.0 13 no
Canon XTi (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 13 no
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 922 tilting YES 8000 8.0 12 no
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1229 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 12 no
Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.7 230 full-flex no 4000 4.0 17 no
Nikon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 12 no
Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 17 no
Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 13 no

Both the D90 and the 40D 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.

Summary

So what is the bottom line? Is the Nikon D90 better than the Canon 40D or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


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Advantages of the Nikon D90:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (12.2 vs 10.1MP) with a 10% higher linear resolution.
  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (9 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1.2 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.5 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 720/24p movies.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 230k dots).
  • More compact: Is smaller (132x103mm vs 146x108mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 119g or 14 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (850 versus 750) on a single battery charge.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year after the 40D).

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Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 40D:

  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6.5 vs 4.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2007).

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D90 is the clear winner of the match-up (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.

D90 10:03 40D

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 handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D90 or the 40D. 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 hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. The detailed reviews can be accessed, respectively, on the websites of cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D90 (⇒ rgt) 89/100 HiRec HiRec 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 1,299discont. check
Canon 40D (⇒ lft) 90/100 HiRec HiRec 4.5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 1,299discont. check
Canon 50D (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec HiRec 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 1,299discont. check
Canon XSi (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 HiRec HiRec 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 799discont. check
Canon 30D (⇒ lft | rgt) 87/100 HiRec HiRec reviewed reviewed - 2006 1,399discont. check
Canon XTi (⇒ lft | rgt) 85/100 HiRec HiRec reviewed 4.5/5 4/5 2006 799discont. check
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 86/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2017 1,299 latest check
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 84/100 Silver 4.5/5 4/5 4.5/5 2015 1,199discont. check
Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2013 1,199discont. check
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2010 1,499discont. check
Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 80/100 Rec 72/100 HiRec 4/5 3.5/5 4.5/5 2009 599discont. check
Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 HiRec 75/100 HiRec 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 749discont. check
Nikon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt) 80/100 HiRec 4/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2008 629discont. check
Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt) 79/100 HiRec 4/5 reviewed 4/5 2007 729discont. check
Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt) 86/100 Rec HiRec reviewed 4.5/5 4.5/5 2006 999discont. check

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. 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 comparisons

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 the camera you are interested in is not available, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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