Nikon D90 vs Olympus E-P5
The Nikon D90 and the Olympus PEN E-P5 are two enthusiast cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in August 2008 and May 2013. The D90 is a DSLR, while the E-P5 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on an APS-C (D90) and a Four Thirds (E-P5) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 15.9 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 PEN E-P5? 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.
The physical size and weight of the Nikon D90 and the Olympus E-P5 are illustrated 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.
The E-P5 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, white), while the D90 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-P5 is considerably smaller (38 percent) than the Nikon D90. Moreover, the E-P5 is substantially lighter (40 percent) than the D90. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D90 nor the E-P5 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 Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-P5). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-P5, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Nikon D90||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||703 g||850||n||Aug 2008||1,299|
|2.||Olympus E-P5||122 mm||69 mm||37 mm||420 g||330||n||May 2013||999|
|3.||Canon 40D||146 mm||108 mm||74 mm||822 g||750||n||Aug 2007||1,299|
|4.||Nikon D7000||132 mm||105 mm||77 mm||780 g||1050||Y||Sep 2010||1,499|
|5.||Nikon D3100||124 mm||96 mm||75 mm||505 g||550||n||Aug 2010||599|
|6.||Nikon D300S||147 mm||115 mm||81 mm||938 g||950||Y||Jul 2009||1,799|
|7.||Nikon D3000||126 mm||97 mm||64 mm||536 g||500||n||Jul 2009||599|
|8.||Nikon D5000||127 mm||104 mm||80 mm||590 g||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|9.||Nikon D60||126 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||500||n||Jan 2008||629|
|10.||Nikon D40X||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||520||n||Mar 2007||729|
|11.||Nikon D300||147 mm||114 mm||74 mm||925 g||1000||Y||Aug 2007||1,799|
|12.||Nikon D80||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||668 g||600||n||Aug 2006||999|
|13.||Olympus PEN-F||125 mm||72 mm||37 mm||427 g||330||n||Jan 2016||1,199|
|14.||Olympus E-M10 II||120 mm||83 mm||47 mm||390 g||320||n||Aug 2015||649|
|15.||Olympus E-M10||119 mm||82 mm||46 mm||396 g||320||n||Jan 2014||699|
|16.||Olympus E-M1||130 mm||94 mm||63 mm||497 g||350||Y||Sep 2013||1,399|
|17.||Panasonic GX7||123 mm||71 mm||55 mm||402 g||350||n||Aug 2013||999|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The E-P5 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 23 percent) than the D90, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D90 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-P5 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-P5 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-P5 offers a 4:3 aspect.
Technology-wise, both cameras are equipped with CMOS (Complementary Metal–Oxide–Semiconductor) sensors.
Despite having a smaller sensor, the E-P5 offers a higher resolution of 15.9 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 3.76μm versus 5.53μm for the D90). However, it should be noted that the E-P5 is much more recent (by 4 years and 8 months) than the D90, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently.
The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-P5 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-P5 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 17.3 inches or 58.5 x 43.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 13.8 inches or 46.8 x 35.1 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.4 x 11.5 inches or 39 x 29.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D90 are 21.4 x 14.2 inches or 54.5 x 36.2 cm for good quality, 17.2 x 11.4 inches or 43.6 x 28.9 cm for very good quality, and 14.3 x 9.5 inches or 36.3 x 24.1 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 PEN E-P5 are ISO 200 to ISO 25600, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-25600.
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"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
| DXO |
|2.||Olympus E-P5||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.4||895||72|
|13.||Olympus PEN-F||Four Thirds||20.2||5184||3888||1080/60p||23.1||12.4||894||74|
|14.||Olympus E-M10 II||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/60p||23.1||12.5||842||73|
|15.||Olympus E-M10||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||22.8||12.3||884||72|
|16.||Olympus E-M1||Four Thirds||15.9||4608||3456||1080/30p||23.0||12.7||757||73|
|17.||Panasonic GX7||Four Thirds||15.8||4592||3448||1080/60p||22.6||12.2||718||70|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the E-P5 provides a better video resolution than the D90. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/30p, while the Nikon is limited to 720/24p.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the D90 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the E-P5 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. That said, the E-P5 can be equipped with an optional viewfinder – the VF-4. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D90 and Olympus E-P5 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|14.||Olympus E-M10 II||2360||n||3.0||1040||tilting||Y||1/4000s||8.0||Y||Y|
One feature that is present on the D90, but is missing on the E-P5 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 Olympus E-P5 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The D90 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the E-P5 uses SDXC cards. The E-P5 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the D90 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
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 PEN E-P5 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
|14.||Olympus E-M10 II||Y||stereo||mono||-||-||micro||2.0||Y||-||-|
It is notable that the E-P5 offers wifi support, which can be a very convenient means to transfer image data to an off-camera location. In contrast, the D90 does not provide wifi capability.
Both the D90 and the E-P5 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D90 was replaced by the Nikon D7000, while the E-P5 was followed by the Olympus E-P7. 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 how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Nikon D90 or the Olympus E-P5 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Nikon D90:
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (850 versus 330) on a single battery charge.
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2008).
Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-P5:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (15.9 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 12%.
- Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/30p vs 720/24p).
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 920k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (9 vs 4.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- More compact: Is smaller (122x69mm vs 132x103mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 283g or 40 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- Easier file upload: Has wifi built in for automatic backup or image transfer to the web.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More affordable: Was released into a lower priced segment (23 percent cheaper at launch).
- More modern: Reflects 4 years and 8 months of technical progress since the D90 launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-P5 is the clear winner of the contest (16 : 4 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D90 and the Olympus E-P5 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D90 or the E-P5 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 provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.
|1.||Nikon D90||..||+ +||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2008||1,299|
|2.||Olympus E-P5||5/5||+ +||78/100||4.5/5||5/5||May 2013||999|
|3.||Canon 40D||..||+ +||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,299|
|4.||Nikon D7000||4/5||..||80/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2010||1,499|
|5.||Nikon D3100||5/5||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||599|
|6.||Nikon D300S||5/5||+ +||82/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||1,799|
|7.||Nikon D3000||..||+||72/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||599|
|8.||Nikon D5000||..||+ +||75/100||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|9.||Nikon D60||..||80/100||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Jan 2008||629|
|10.||Nikon D40X||..||79/100||+ +||4/5||4/5||Mar 2007||729|
|11.||Nikon D300||..||+ +||+ +||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2007||1,799|
|12.||Nikon D80||..||+||+ +||o||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999|
|13.||Olympus PEN-F||..||..||82/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jan 2016||1,199|
|14.||Olympus E-M10 II||4.5/5||+ +||80/100||5/5||5/5||Aug 2015||649|
|15.||Olympus E-M10||4/5||..||80/100||5/5||5/5||Jan 2014||699|
|16.||Olympus E-M1||5/5||+ +||84/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Sep 2013||1,399|
|17.||Panasonic GX7||4/5||+||79/100||5/5||5/5||Aug 2013||999|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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 a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
Specifications: Nikon D90 vs Olympus E-P5
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-P5|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||August 2008||May 2013|
|Launch Price||USD 1,299||USD 999|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D90||Olympus E-P5|
|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||15.9 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||4288 x 2848 pixels||4608 x 3456 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||5.53 μm||3.76 μm|
|Pixel Density||3.28 MP/cm2||7.08 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||720/24p Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 3,200 ISO||200 - 25,600 ISO|
|ISO Boost||200 - 6,400 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|Image Processor||EXPEED||TruePic VI|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||73||72|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||22.7||22.8|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||12.5||12.4|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||977||895|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D90||Olympus E-P5|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Viewfinder optional|
|Viewfinder Field of View||96%|
|Top-Level Screen||Control Panel||no Top Display|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||3.0inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||920k dots||1037k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Touch Input||no Touchscreen||Touchscreen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D90||Olympus E-P5|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/8000s|
|Continuous Shooting||4.5 shutter flaps/s||9 shutter flaps/s|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Image Stabilization||Lens stabilization only||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDHC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D90||Olympus E-P5|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||mini HDMI||micro HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||Wifi built-in|
|Body Specs||Nikon D90||Olympus E-P5|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||850 shots per charge||330 shots per charge|
132 x 103 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
122 x 69 x 37 mm
(4.8 x 2.7 x 1.5 in)
|Camera Weight||703 g (24.8 oz)||420 g (14.8 oz)|
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