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Nikon D90 versus Pentax K-1 II

The Nikon D90 and the Pentax K-1 II are two enthusiast cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2008 and February 2018. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D90) and a full frame (K-1 II) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 12.2 megapixel, whereas the Pentax provides 36.2 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 D90 vs Pentax K-1 II

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D90 and the Pentax K-1 II are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures 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 the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Nikon D90 vs Pentax K-1 II
D90 versus K-1 II top view
D90 and K-1 II rear side

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Pentax K-1 II is notably larger (11 percent) than the Nikon D90. Moreover, the K-1 II is substantially heavier (44 percent) than the D90. It is noteworthy in this context that the K-1 II is splash and dust-proof, while the D90 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

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. Hence, you might want to study the specifications of available lenses in order to get the full picture of the size and weight of the two camera systems.

Concerning battery life, the D90 gets 850 shots out of its EN-EL3e battery, while the K-1 II can take 670 images on a single charge of its D-LI90 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 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) 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 24.8 oz 850 no 2008 1,299discont. check
Pentax K-1 II (⇒ lft) 5.4 in 4.3 in 3.4 in 35.6 oz 670 YES 2018 1,999 latest check
Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 750 no 2007 1,299discont. check
Nikon D7500 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.4 in 4.1 in 2.9 in 25.4 oz 950 YES 2017 1,299 latest check
Nikon D7200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1110 YES 2015 1,199discont. check
Nikon D7100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 950 YES 2013 1,199discont. check
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 YES 2010 1,499discont. check
Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 18.9 oz 500 no 2009 599discont. check
Nikon D5000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 20.8 oz 510 no 2009 749discont. check
Nikon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 500 no 2008 629discont. check
Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt) 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 520 no 2007 729discont. check
Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 23.6 oz 600 no 2006 999discont. check
Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.8 oz 750 YES 2010 1,699discont. check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.5 in 3.9 in 3.4 in 25.6 oz 410 YES 2017 1,999 latest check
Pentax K-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.4 in 4.3 in 3.4 in 35.6 oz 760 YES 2016 1,799 latest check
Sony RX10 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.2 in 3.7 in 5.7 in 38.6 oz 400 YES 2017 1,699 latest check
Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 29.9 oz 490 YES 2016 3,199 latest check

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 D90 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 35 percent) than the K-1 II, 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 D90 vs Pentax K-1 II

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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 tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D90 features an APS-C sensor and the Pentax K-1 II a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the K-1 II is 131 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D90 and Pentax K-1 II sensor measures

With 36.2MP, the K-1 II offers a higher resolution than the D90 (12.2MP), but the K-1 II has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 5.53μm for the D90). Yet, the K-1 II is a much more recent model (by 9 years and 5 months) than the D90, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the K-1 II has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

Unlike the D90, the K-1 II has the capacity to capture high quality composite images by combining multiple shots after shifting its sensor by miniscule distances. This multi-shot, pixel-shift mode is most suitable for photography of stationary objects (landscapes, studio scenes).

D90 versus K-1 II MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-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
Pentax K-1 II (⇒ lft) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60i .. .. .. ..
Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.1 3888 2592 no 22.1 11.3 703 64
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
Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024 720/30p 21.6 10.5 519 56
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 20.2 5184 3888 4K/60p 23.9 13.0 807 77
Pentax K-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 36.2 7360 4912 1080/60i 25.4 14.6 3280 96
Sony RX10 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 1-inch 20.0 5472 3648 4K/30p .. .. .. ..
Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt) Full Frame 42.2 7952 5304 4K/30p 25.4 13.4 2317 92

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the K-1 II provides a better video resolution than the D90. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Nikon is limited to 720/24p.

Feature comparison: Nikon D90 vs Pentax K-1 II

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D90 and the K-1 II 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 table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D90 and Pentax K-1 II in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar 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
(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 3.0 920 fixed no 4000 4.5 17 no
Pentax K-1 II (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.2 1037 full-flex no 8000 4.4 no YES
Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 230 fixed no 8000 6.5 12 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
Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 920 swivel no 8000 5.0 13 YES
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) 3680 no 3.2 1620 swivel YES 8000 12.0 no YES
Pentax K-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.2 1037 full-flex no 8000 4.4 no YES
Sony RX10 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) 2359 YES 3.0 1440 tilting YES 2000 24.0 10.8 YES
Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt) 2400 YES 3.0 1229 full-flex no 8000 12.0 no YES

The K-1 II is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the D90 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). As a replacement in the same line of cameras, the D90 was succeeded by the Nikon D7000.

Review summary: Nikon D90 vs Pentax K-1 II

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Nikon D90 better than the Pentax K-1 II or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D90:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 307g or 30 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (850 versus 670) on a single battery charge.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (35 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2008).

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Advantages of the Pentax K-1 II:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 12.2MP), which boosts linear resolution by 72%.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • High quality composites: Can combine several shots after pixel-shifting its sensor.
  • Better image quality: Is equipped with a larger and more technologically advanced sensor.
  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/60i vs 720/24p).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 3.0") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1037k vs 920k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has full-flex screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More modern: Reflects 9 years and 5 months of technical progress since the D90 launch.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the K-1 II is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 6 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.

D90 06:12 K-1 II

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D90 or the K-1 II. 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 table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog 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
Pentax K-1 II (⇒ lft) - 79/100 4.5/5 .. 4.5/5 2018 1,999 latest check
Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec HiRec 4.5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 1,299discont. 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
Olympus E-5 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 75/100 4/5 - 4.5/5 2010 1,699discont. check
Panasonic GH5 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 85/100 Gold 4.5/5 5/5 5/5 2017 1,999 latest check
Pentax K-1 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 84/100 Silver 5/5 4.5/5 5/5 2016 1,799 latest check
Sony RX10 IV (⇒ lft | rgt) Rec 84/100 Gold 4.5/5 .. 5/5 2017 1,699 latest check
Sony A99 II (⇒ lft | rgt) - 85/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2016 3,199 latest check

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes 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 send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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