Nikon D90 vs Olympus E-400
The Nikon D90 and the Olympus E-400 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2008 and September 2006. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D90) and a Four Thirds (E-400) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 10 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 D90 and the Olympus E-400? 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.
An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Nikon D90 and the Olympus E-400 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 size 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 Olympus E-400 is notably smaller (13 percent) than the Nikon D90. Moreover, the E-400 is substantially lighter (38 percent) than the D90. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D90 nor the E-400 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D90) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-400).
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|
|Olympus E-400||5.1 in||3.6 in||2.1 in||15.3 oz||500||n||Sep 2006||699|
|Canon 40D||5.7 in||4.3 in||2.9 in||29.0 oz||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|Nikon D7000||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||27.5 oz||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D3100||4.9 in||3.8 in||3.0 in||17.8 oz||550||n||Aug 2010||599|
|Nikon D300S||5.8 in||4.5 in||3.2 in||33.1 oz||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Nikon D3000||5.0 in||3.8 in||2.5 in||18.9 oz||500||n||Jul 2009||599|
|Nikon D5000||5.0 in||4.1 in||3.1 in||20.8 oz||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D60||5.0 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||500||n||Jan 2008||629|
|Nikon D40X||4.9 in||3.7 in||2.5 in||18.4 oz||520||n||Mar 2007||729|
|Nikon D300||5.8 in||4.5 in||2.9 in||32.6 oz||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799|
|Nikon D80||5.2 in||4.1 in||3.0 in||23.6 oz||600||n||Aug 2006||999|
|Olympus E-420||5.1 in||3.6 in||2.1 in||15.5 oz||500||n||Mar 2008||599|
|Olympus E-410||5.1 in||3.6 in||2.1 in||15.3 oz||500||n||Mar 2007||699|
|Olympus E-510||5.4 in||3.6 in||2.7 in||19.0 oz||750||n||Mar 2007||799|
|Olympus E-500||5.1 in||3.7 in||2.6 in||16.9 oz||750||n||Sep 2005||599|
|Panasonic L10||5.3 in||3.8 in||3.1 in||19.6 oz||450||n||Aug 2007||599|
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.
The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The E-400 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.
The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D90 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-400 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-400 is 40 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the D90 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-400 offers a 4:3 aspect.
With 12.2MP, the D90 offers a higher resolution than the E-400 (10MP), but the D90 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.53μm versus 4.74μm for the E-400) due to its larger sensor. Moreover, the D90 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 11 months) than the E-400, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.
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 inches or 54.5 x 36.2 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 17.2 x 11.4 inches or 43.6 x 28.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 14.3 x 9.5 inches or 36.3 x 24.1 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-400 are 18.2 x 13.7 inches or 46.3 x 34.7 cm for good quality, 14.6 x 10.9 inches or 37.1 x 27.8 cm for very good quality, and 12.2 x 9.1 inches or 30.9 x 23.2 cm for excellent quality prints.
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 Olympus E-400 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).
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"). The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
|Olympus E-400||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||..||..||..||..|
|Olympus E-420||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.5||10.4||527||56|
|Olympus E-410||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.1||10.0||494||51|
|Olympus E-510||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.2||10.0||442||52|
|Olympus E-500||Four Thirds||8.0||3264||2448||none||..||..||..||..|
|Panasonic L10||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.3||10.8||429||55|
Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The D90 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the E-400 does not. The highest resolution format that the D90 can use is 720/24p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D90 and the E-400 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 E-400 (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 0.46x), 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 D90 and Olympus E-400 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
One feature that is present on the D90, but is missing on the E-400 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 E-400 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-400 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D90 only has one slot.
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 Olympus E-400 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
Both the D90 and the E-400 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-400 was replaced by the Olympus E-410, 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 and Olympus websites.
So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D90 or the Olympus E-400 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D90:
- More detail: Offers more megapixels (12.2 vs 10MP) with a 13% higher linear resolution.
- Better image quality: Features a larger and more technologically advanced imaging sensor.
- Richer colors: The sensor size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
- More dynamic range: Larger sensor captures a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
- Better low-light sensitivity: Larger sensor produces good images even in poorly lit environments.
- Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 720/24p movies.
- 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 0.46x).
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 215k dots).
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (850 versus 500) on a single battery charge.
- More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year and 11 months after the E-400).
Advantages of the Olympus E-400:
- More compact: Is smaller (130x91mm vs 132x103mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 268g or 38 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (46 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2006).
If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D90 is the clear winner of the match-up (14 : 5 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 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 D90 and the Olympus E-400 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 remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D90 or the E-400. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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.
|Nikon D90||+ +||+ +||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|Olympus E-400||85/100||..||4/5||..||4/5||Sep 2006||699|
|Canon 40D||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|Nikon D7000||..||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|Nikon D3100||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||599|
|Nikon D300S||+ +||82/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|Nikon D3000||+||72/100||4/5||3.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||599|
|Nikon D5000||+ +||75/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D60||80/100||+ +||4/5||o||4.5/5||Jan 2008||629|
|Nikon D40X||79/100||+ +||4/5||o||4/5||Mar 2007||729|
|Nikon D300||+ +||+ +||5/5||o||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799|
|Nikon D80||+||+ +||o||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999|
|Olympus E-420||85/100||+ +||4/5||o||4.5/5||Mar 2008||599|
|Olympus E-410||86/100||+ +||4/5||o||4.5/5||Mar 2007||699|
|Olympus E-510||89/100||+ +||3.5/5||o||4.5/5||Mar 2007||799|
|Olympus E-500||76/100||+ +||..||..||..||Sep 2005||599|
|Panasonic L10||85/100||+||3.5/5||o||4/5||Aug 2007||599|
|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. 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. 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 are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make your choice using the following search menu. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
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- Nikon B500 vs Olympus E-400
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- Nikon D90 vs Olympus E-620
- Nikon D90 vs Olympus E-M1
- Nikon D90 vs Panasonic LF1
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- Olympus E-400 vs Panasonic GF7
- Olympus E-400 vs Panasonic S1H
Specifications: Nikon D90 vs Olympus E-400
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 D90||Olympus E-400|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2008||September 2006|
|Launch Price||USD 1,299||USD 699|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D90||Olympus E-400|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Four Thirds Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.6 x 15.8 mm||17.3 x 13.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||372.88 mm2||224.9 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.4 mm||21.6 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||12.2 Megapixels||10 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4288 x 2848 pixels||3648 x 2736 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.53 μm||4.74 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.28 MP/cm2||4.44 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||720/24p Video||no Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 1,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||200 - 6,400 ISO||no Enhancement|
|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 D90||Olympus E-400|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||96%||95%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||2.5inch|
|LCD Resolution||920k dots||215k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D90||Olympus E-400|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||4.5 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDHC cards||CF or XD cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D90||Olympus E-400|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||no HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Nikon D90||Olympus E-400|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||850 shots per charge||500 shots per charge|
132 x 103 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
130 x 91 x 53 mm
(5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)
|Camera Weight||703 g (24.8 oz)||435 g (15.3 oz)|
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