Nikon D90 vs Canon 550D
The Nikon D90 and the Canon EOS 550D (labelled Canon T2i in some countries) are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2008 and February 2010. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Canon provides 17.9 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their sensors, their features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
|Nikon D90||Canon 550D|
|Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Nikon F mount lenses||Canon EF mount lenses|
|12.2 MP, APS-C Sensor||17.9 MP, APS-C Sensor|
|720/24p Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO 200-3200 (200-6400)||ISO 100-6400 (100-12800)|
|Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|3.0" LCD, 920k dots||3.0" LCD, 1040k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|4.5 shutter flaps per second||3.7 shutter flaps per second|
|850 shots per battery charge||440 shots per battery charge|
|132 x 103 x 77 mm, 703 g||129 x 98 x 62 mm, 530 g|
Body comparison: Nikon D90 vs Canon 550D
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D90 and the Canon 550D is provided 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 width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon 550D is notably smaller (7 percent) than the Nikon D90. Moreover, the 550D is markedly lighter (25 percent) than the D90. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D90 nor the 550D 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 compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D90) and the Canon EF Lens Catalog (550D).
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.
|Nikon D90»||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||24.8 oz||850||n||Aug 2008||1,299||-||Nikon D90|
|Canon 550D«||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.7 oz||440||n||Feb 2010||699||-||Canon 550D|
|Canon 750D« »||5.2 in||4.0 in||3.1 in||19.6 oz||440||n||Feb 2015||749||-||Canon 750D|
|Canon 700D« »||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.5 oz||440||n||Mar 2013||649||-||Canon 700D|
|Canon 650D« »||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.3 oz||440||n||Jun 2012||849||-||Canon 650D|
|Canon 600D« »||5.2 in||3.9 in||3.1 in||20.1 oz||440||n||Feb 2011||599||-||Canon 600D|
|Canon 500D« »||5.1 in||3.9 in||2.4 in||18.3 oz||400||n||Mar 2009||799||-||Canon 500D|
|Canon 40D« »||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.9 in||29.0 oz||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299||-||Canon 40D|
|Nikon D7000« »||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||27.5 oz||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499||-||Nikon D7000|
|Nikon D3100« »||4.9 in||3.8 in||3.0 in||17.8 oz||550||n||Aug 2010||599||-||Nikon D3100|
|Nikon D300S« »||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||33.1 oz||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799||-||Nikon D300S|
|Nikon D3000« »||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.5 in||18.9 oz||500||n||Jul 2009||599||-||Nikon D3000|
|Nikon D5000« »||5.0 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||20.8 oz||510||n||Apr 2009||749||-||Nikon D5000|
|Nikon D60« »||5.0 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||500||n||Jan 2008||629||-||Nikon D60|
|Nikon D40X« »||4.9 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||520||n||Mar 2007||729||-||Nikon D40X|
|Nikon D300« »||5.8 in||4.5 in||2.9 in||32.6 oz||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799||-||Nikon D300|
|Nikon D80« »||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||23.6 oz||600||n||Aug 2006||999||-||Nikon D80|
Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The 550D was launched at a markedly lower price (by 46 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
Sensor comparison: Nikon D90 vs Canon 550D
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its 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 550D 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.
In terms of underlying technology, both cameras are build around CMOS sensors.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the 550D offers a higher resolution of 17.9 megapixels, compared with 12.2 MP of the 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 550D is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 5 months) than the D90, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that partly offset its pixel-size disadvantage.
The Nikon D90 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 3200, which can be extended to ISO 200-6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Canon EOS 550D are ISO 100 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-12800..
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 review, the D90 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the 550D (overall score 7 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.6 bits higher color depth, 1 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.3 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.
|Nikon D90»||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||720/24p||22.7||12.5||977||73||Nikon D90|
|Canon 550D«||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.1||11.5||784||66||Canon 550D|
|Canon 750D« »||APS-C||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||22.7||12.0||919||71||Canon 750D|
|Canon 700D« »||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||21.7||11.2||681||61||Canon 700D|
|Canon 650D« »||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||21.7||11.2||722||62||Canon 650D|
|Canon 600D« »||APS-C||17.9||5184||3456||1080/30p||22.1||11.5||793||65||Canon 600D|
|Canon 500D« »||APS-C||15.1||4752||3168||1080/20p||21.7||11.5||663||63||Canon 500D|
|Canon 40D« »||APS-C||10.1||3888||2592||-||22.1||11.3||703||64||Canon 40D|
|Nikon D7000« »||APS-C||16.1||4928||3264||10800/24p||23.5||13.9||1167||80||Nikon D7000|
|Nikon D3100« »||APS-C||14.2||4608||3072||1080/24p||22.5||11.3||919||67||Nikon D3100|
|Nikon D300S« »||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||720/24p||22.5||12.2||787||70||Nikon D300S|
|Nikon D3000« »||APS-C||10.0||3872||2592||-||22.3||11.1||563||62||Nikon D3000|
|Nikon D5000« »||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||720/24p||22.7||12.5||868||72||Nikon D5000|
|Nikon D60« »||APS-C||10.0||3872||2592||-||22.5||11.4||562||65||Nikon D60|
|Nikon D40X« »||APS-C||10.0||3872||2592||-||22.4||11.4||516||63||Nikon D40X|
|Nikon D300« »||APS-C||12.2||4288||2848||-||22.1||12.0||679||67||Nikon D300|
|Nikon D80« »||APS-C||10.0||3872||2592||-||22.1||11.2||524||61||Nikon D80|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the 550D provides a better video resolution than the D90. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/30p, while the Nikon is limited to 720/24p.
Feature comparison: Nikon D90 vs Canon 550D
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D90 and the 550D 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 viewfinder in the D90 offers a wider field of view (96%) than the one in the 550D (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the D90 has a higher magnification (0.63x vs 0.54x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D90, the Canon 550D, and comparable cameras.
|Nikon D90»||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/4000s||4.5||Y||n||Nikon D90|
|Canon 550D«||optical||n||3.0||1040||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.7||Y||n||Canon 550D|
|Canon 750D« »||optical||n||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Canon 750D|
|Canon 700D« »||optical||n||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Canon 700D|
|Canon 650D« »||optical||n||3.0||1040||swivel||Y||1/4000s||5.0||Y||n||Canon 650D|
|Canon 600D« »||optical||n||3.0||1040||swivel||n||1/4000s||3.7||Y||n||Canon 600D|
|Canon 500D« »||optical||n||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.4||Y||n||Canon 500D|
|Canon 40D« »||optical||Y||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.5||Y||n||Canon 40D|
|Nikon D7000« »||optical||Y||3.0||921||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||Y||n||Nikon D7000|
|Nikon D3100« »||optical||n||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Nikon D3100|
|Nikon D300S« »||optical||Y||3.0||920||fixed||n||1/8000s||7.0||Y||n||Nikon D300S|
|Nikon D3000« »||optical||n||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Nikon D3000|
|Nikon D5000« »||optical||n||2.7||230||full-flex||n||1/4000s||4.0||Y||n||Nikon D5000|
|Nikon D60« »||optical||n||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Nikon D60|
|Nikon D40X« »||optical||n||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Nikon D40X|
|Nikon D300« »||optical||Y||3.0||922||fixed||n||1/8000s||6.0||Y||n||Nikon D300|
|Nikon D80« »||optical||n||2.5||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Nikon D80|
One feature that is present on the D90, but is missing on the 550D is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The D90 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the 550D uses SDXC cards.
Connectivity comparison: Nikon D90 vs Canon 550D
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 D90 and Canon EOS 550D and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Nikon D90»||Y||mono||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D90|
|Canon 550D«||Y||stereo||-||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 550D|
|Canon 750D« »||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||Y||Y||-||Canon 750D|
|Canon 700D« »||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 700D|
|Canon 650D« »||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 650D|
|Canon 600D« »||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 600D|
|Canon 500D« »||Y||mono||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 500D|
|Canon 40D« »||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-||Canon 40D|
|Nikon D7000« »||Y||mono||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D7000|
|Nikon D3100« »||Y||mono||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D3100|
|Nikon D300S« »||Y||stereo||mono||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D300S|
|Nikon D3000« »||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D3000|
|Nikon D5000« »||Y||mono||mono||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D5000|
|Nikon D60« »||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D60|
|Nikon D40X« »||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D40X|
|Nikon D300« »||Y||-||-||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D300|
|Nikon D80« »||Y||-||-||-||-||-||2.0||-||-||-||Nikon D80|
It is notable that the 550D has a microphone port, which can help to improve the quality of audio recordings by attaching an external microphone. The D90 does not feature such a mic input.
Both the D90 and the 550D have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D90 was replaced by the Nikon D7000, while the 550D was followed by the Canon 600D. Further information on the two cameras, as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon and Canon websites.
Review summary: Nikon D90 vs Canon 550D
So what is the bottom line? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D90 and the Canon 550D? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D90:
- Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (7 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
- More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (1 EV of extra DR).
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (96% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.63x vs 0.54x).
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.5 vs 3.7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (850 versus 440) on a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2008).
Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 550D:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (17.9 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 21%.
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/30p vs 720/24p).
- 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).
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 173g or 25 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (46 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 5 months) more recently.
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D90 comes out slightly ahead of the 550D (8 : 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.
Do the specifications of the Nikon D90 and the Canon 550D place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing.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 D90 and the 550D 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: Nikon D90 vs Canon 550D
This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog).
|Nikon D90»||++||++||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299||-||Nikon D90|
|Canon 550D«||++||77/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2010||699||-||Canon 550D|
|Canon 750D« »||-||75/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2015||749||-||Canon 750D|
|Canon 700D« »||-||76/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2013||649||-||Canon 700D|
|Canon 650D« »||++||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2012||849||-||Canon 650D|
|Canon 600D« »||o||77/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Feb 2011||599||-||Canon 600D|
|Canon 500D« »||++||74/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2009||799||-||Canon 500D|
|Canon 40D« »||++||++||4.5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299||-||Canon 40D|
|Nikon D7000« »||-||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499||-||Nikon D7000|
|Nikon D3100« »||++||72/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||599||-||Nikon D3100|
|Nikon D300S« »||++||82/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799||-||Nikon D300S|
|Nikon D3000« »||+||72/100||4/5||3.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||599||-||Nikon D3000|
|Nikon D5000« »||++||75/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749||-||Nikon D5000|
|Nikon D60« »||80/100||++||4/5||o||4.5/5||Jan 2008||629||-||Nikon D60|
|Nikon D40X« »||79/100||++||4/5||o||4/5||Mar 2007||729||-||Nikon D40X|
|Nikon D300« »||++||++||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799||-||Nikon D300|
|Nikon D80« »||+||++||o||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999||-||Nikon D80|
|Notes: ++) highly recommended; +) recommended; o) reviewed; -) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, 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 comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods 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
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Specifications: Nikon D90 vs Canon 550D
|Camera Model||Nikon D90||Canon 550D|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Canon EF mount lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2008||February 2010|
|Launch Price||USD 1299||USD 699|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D90||Canon 550D|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.6 x 15.8 mm||22.3 x 14.9 mm|
|Sensor Area||372.88 mm2||332.27 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.4 mm||26.8 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12.2 Megapixels||17.9 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4288 x 2848 pixels||5184 x 3456 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.53 μm||4.31 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.28 MP/cm2||5.39 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||720/24p Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||200-3200 ISO||100-6400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||200-6400 ISO||100-12800 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED||DIGIC 4|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||73||66|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.7||22.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.5||11.5|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||977||784|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D90||Canon 550D|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||96%||95%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0 inch||3.0 inch|
|LCD Resolution||920k dots||1040k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D90||Canon 550D|
|Autofocus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||4.5 shutter flaps/s||3.7 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||100 000 actuations||100 000 actuations|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDHC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||no|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D90||Canon 550D|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Nikon D90||Canon 550D|
|Battery Type||EN-EL3e power pack||LP-E8 power pack|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||850 shots per charge||440 shots per charge|
132 x 103 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
129 x 98 x 62 mm
(5.1 x 3.9 x 2.4 in)
|Camera Weight||703 g (24.8 oz)||530 g (18.7 oz)|
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