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Canon EOS 50D, Nikon D90 & Sony Alpha A500 Digital SLR Review

Canon EOS 50D, Nikon D90 & Sony Alpha A500 Digital SLR Review - We test three DSLRs that give professional standard picture quality at affordable prices

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Category : Digital SLRs
Product : Nikon D90
Price : £468
Rating :
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Features and handling
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Canon EOS 50D, Nikon D90 & Sony Alpha A500 stacked up
We try three DSLRs designed for the enthusiast but offer professional image quality. Test by Matt Grayson

If you want professional standard performance without spending the earth, have a close look at these three popular mid-priced DSLRs. Many of the features on offer are pared down versions of what is available on their more expensive relations. For example, the Nikon D90 has the same sensor as the D300 but only 11 AF points powered by the MultiCAM 1000 focus system. The Canon has a lower resolution than the bigger brother full frame EOS 5D MkII. It has an APS-C crop sensor which gives 1.6x magnification but features 6.3fps continuous shooting.

Sony are lucky as a relative newcomer to the scene because it means they're starting from scratch with the Alpha A500. This camera features an articulating screen for high and low level shooting.

Mid range DSLR comparison: Features
Canon decided to focus on the performance of the EOS 50D and upgraded the sensitivity to a maximum of ISO12800. They also upgraded the card format to accept UDMA Compactflash cards and improved the screen to a 920,000dot version.

Canon EOS 50D held out
A good sized DSLR that fits well in the hands without being overbearing.
Canon EOS 50D inserting the card
The EOS 50D is the only camera in this test to accept Compactflash cards.
Canon EOS 50D top view
On the back plate, you will find Canon's easy to use command dial.
Canon EOS 50D screen
The screen has been improved and gives brighter, punchier colours.

When the Nikon D90 was released, it was the first DSLR to feature high definition video capability and some people were up in arms about it. Since then, things have calmed down and more  and more cameras are  coming out with movie modes, even including top-end models such as the £4K Nikon D3S.

The newest model of the three on test comes from Sony. It has plenty of innovative features including an improved D-Range Optimiser and a new HDR feature that takes two consecutive images at different exposures and merges them to create one image with higher dynamic range.

Sony Alpha A500 held out
Sony's body design and control layout are pretty traditional.
Sony Alpha A500 inserting the card
A dual slot is available to accept SD and Memorystick pro.
Sony Alpha A500 top view
There are a lot of buttons on the top plate and this can seem confusing at first.
Sony Alpha A500 screen
The function menu is snazzy with nice colours and is easy to navigate.



Nikon D90 held out
The Nikon is the smallest in this group but still handles well.
Nikon D90 inserting the card
A protector keeps your LCD scratch-free and a nicely laid out back awaits.
Nikon D90 top view
Like the Canon, the D90 has an LCD screen on the top plate.
Nikon D90 screen
The menu is vast and can seem intimidating, but it's easier to navigate than it looks.

Nikon and Sony share a similar resolution setting of around 12Mp and they may be on to something with these cameras because there are more models at this classification coming out with the same resolution. Canon have opted for a slightly higher pixel count at 15Mp. 3Mp difference has not really made much difference in the past with upgraded cameras and that could be Canon's downfall in the test or it could make it a winner.

Handling
Canon DSLRs have always been easy to use and even with the revamped menu system, the camera works well with all buttons and dials laid out in a design that works. A large thumbwheel on the back helps with selecting shutter speeds in manual mode or for zooming through the menu system.

Nikon have opted for the buttons option on the back of the D90 and it still works well for the newcomer to the company while loyal users will still see a familiar layout. Because the D90 is the first DSLR to feature movie mode, they've installed a one button video to stills option so you can get back to shooting after a clip of video footage has been shot.

The Sony is more cluttered with buttons and switches all over it, but has the added advantage of a tilting screen. This is especially useful for low level shooting if you like macro photography, or high level shooting for getting over people's heads in a crowd.

Mid range DSLR comparison: Performance
All three cameras were put through their paces in a variety of conditions and tests. All pictures were taken at exactly the same time to ensure fairness and were taken in RAW/JPEG where possible.

Click on any of the thumbnails to open the full size images.

Exposure
The Sony Alpha A500 handles varied lighting well although does give a brighter image than I really like to see even when pattern metering is used. Shadow detail is good and white is white despite a cooler tone to the overall image. With sun directly in the frame, the A500 will burn out clouds in the sky unless they're particularly heavy but it can retain a decent amount of detail in foreground areas that are backlit.

Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90
Sony Alpha A500
Canon EOS 50D station
A darker, warmer shot from the Canon.
Nikon D90 station
The Nikon gives the most balanced result.
Sony Alpha A500 station
The Sony has a cooler tone that borders on too blue.

Click on any of the thumbnails to open the full size images.

Canon's attempt at varied lighting produces dark results and a warmer tone to pale subjects. When this happens, whites tend to take on a slight orange cast to them, which is a shame. While shadow areas have detail in them, I think if the camera had managed a brighter exposure, that would bring more light into those darker areas. The EOS 50D retains more sky detail with backlit subjects as well as keeping plenty of detail in the ground.

The Nikon D90 produces nice images in varied lighting in terms of exposure and adding warmth. Pale subjects get a boost without affecting whites too much but I feel the camera eradicates mild shadows a bit too much. The Nikon works well with backlit subjects, keeping detail in the clouds and foreground areas.

Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90 Sony Alpha A500
Canon EOS 50D direct sunlight
Good results from the Canon with detail in the foreground.
Nikon D90 direct sunlight
The Nikon has given a better result retaining more cloud.
Sony Alpha A500 direct sunlight
The Alpha A500 has blown the highlights to keep detail.

Click on any of the thumbnails to open the full size images.

Out of the three, Nikon has produced the best metering and exposure result with the D90. It kept more detail in the cloudy areas when shooting directly into the sun and warmed pale subjects nicely without affecting whites or the blue of the sky. The Alpha A500 produced some very cool images, the pale subject was nearly blue while shooting into the sun lost all the warmth of the sunset.

The lenses
Typical lenses that would be bought with the camera have been used to see how they compare.

The lens used on the Canon EOS 50D was the 17-85mm f/3.5–5.6 and has a level of softness at 17mm when using f/3.5 and f/22. Its optimum all-round best performance was at f/11 when the lens is at its sharpest. This is a similar case at 50mm although the wide and narrow settings are less soft than at the wide angle. At the longest focal length, the Canon produces sharper images at f/5.6 and f/11 but f/22 is still soft. It seems that this lens works better with the camera at full zoom or keeping to around f/11 to get the sharpest results. The focus point was set in the centre throughout the test and not changed.
The lens suffers from chromatic aberration, although not by a lot. In low contrast scenarios, it doesn't come up too harsh, but the starker the contrast gets, the more it shows as purple or green strips.

Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90 Sony Alpha A500
Canon EOS 50D chromatic aberration
Mild chroma comes out in the branches of this tree.
Nikon D90 chromatic aberration
A better exposure but chroma remains.
Sony Alpha A500 chromatic aberration
A similar result to Canon from the Sony.

Click on any of the thumbnails to open the full size images.

The Nikon D90 was fitted with the 18-105mm f/3.5–5.6 and its weakest performance comes at the wider end of the focal length range. It does perform better at the wider aperture settings and f/3.5 is softer than f/11 or f/3.5 and moving up to 50mm shows the same problem for the lens at smaller apertures. At full telephoto, f/5.6 is the widest aperture available and this starts to drift out of sharpness while f/11 retains a good level but f/22 still keeps a degree of softness to it. Chroma appears with middle to high contrast but doesn't have a problem in lower contrast settings.

Sony provide the 18-55mm f/3.5–5.6 with the Alpha A500 and frankly, they could put something much better with it. Images are really soft at wide angle and, unusually look better at the wider apertures rather than f/11 or f/16. The smallest aperture is f/22 and this is very poor which is really unfortunate.

Moving the lens to the mid range focal length of 35mm shows a big increase in sharpness and again this is better seen at f/4.5 than at f/11 which I'd expect more. At 55mm, there's little difference between f/5.6 and f/11 but f/22 still shows a lot of softness to it. There's a good chroma performance from the Sony with no sign of colour in low contrast areas but, like the Canon, has a tendency to suffer in the high contrast images.

There's an advantage to the Sony lens if you're going to use wider apertures, but even here the sharpness is not that impressive. The Canon and Nikon lenses show a degree of consistency at least. with reasonable all-round performances. 

I think the best results from the three lenses came from the Nikon with sharper images at the wider apertures making the lens more versatile.

Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90 Sony Alpha A500
Canon EOS 50D 17mm f/4
Canon 17mm f/4
Nikon D90 18mm f/3.5
Nikon 18mm f/3.5
Sony Alpha A500 18mm f/3.5
Sony 18mm f/3.5
Canon EOS 50D 17mm f/11
Canon 17mm f/11
Nikon D90 18mm f/11
Nikon 18mm f/11
Sony Alpha A500 18mm f/11
Sony 18mm f/11
Canon EOS 50D 17mm f/22
Canon 17mm f/22
Nikon D90 18mm f/22
Nikon 18mm f/22
Sony Alpha A500 18mm f/22
Sony 18mm f/22
Canon EOS 50D 53mm f/5.6
Canon 53mm f/5.6
Nikon D90 50mm f/5
Nikon 50mm f/5
Sony Alpha A500 35mm f/4.5
Sony 35mm f/4.5
Canon EOS 50D 53mm f/11
Canon 53mm f/11
Nikon D90 50mm f/11
Nikon 50mm f/11
Sony Alpha A500 35mm f/11
Sony 35mm f/11
Canon EOS 50D 53mm f/22
Canon 53mm f/22
Nikon D90 50mm f/22
Nikon 50mm f/22
Sony Alpha A500 35mm f/22
Sony 35mm f/22
Canon EOS 50D 85mm f/5.6
Canon 85mm f/5.6
Nikon D90 105mm f/5.6
Nikon 105mm f/5.6
Sony Alpha A500 55mm f/5.6
Sony 55mm f/5.6
Canon EOS 50D 85mm f/11
Canon 85mm f/11
Nikon D90 105mm f/11
Nikon 105mm f/11
Sony Alpha A500 55mm f/11
Sony 55mm f/11
Canon EOS 50D 85mm f/22
Canon 85mm f/22
Nikon D90 105mm f/22
Nikon 105mm f/22
Sony Alpha A500 55mm f/22
Sony 55mm f/22

Click on any of the thumbnails to open the full size images.

Focusing
Canon's single point focusing system is the easiest to use by pressing the focus point button on the right shoulder of the camera. Using the thumbwheel on the back will then scroll through the various points until you land on the one you wish to use. If you scroll through the full range of points, all points will be selected. It's a really easy system that has remained the same for years in a “if it isn't broken, don't fix it” philosophy.

The Sony's focusing system allows you to change between AF-S (single), AF-C (continuous) and AF-A (all) which uses both the previous settings and decides which is the best to use at the time. You can also select from wide area, selectable spot and centre spot. The 18-55mm lens has a new feature added called SAM (Smooth Autofocus Mode) and has had some of the motors put into the lens from the camera body to speed the process up and it is faster, but noisy.

Nikon's focusing options are the same as Sony with AF-S, AF-C and AF-A but it's in the custom menu that the D90 is most impressive. In the AF area mode, you can choose from single point, dynamic area, auto area and 3D tracking. Dynamic area will focus on the subject and if the subject leaves the focus point, the camera will adjust the focusing by analysing surrounding focus points. This is different to 3D tracking which will follow the subject using the other focus points if a moving subject tracks across the frame.

It's difficult to give a definite verdict on the focusing systems of any of the cameras because they all found focus quickly and all three cameras have a good amount of options. Canon have the added advantage of USM (Ultra Sonic Motor) lenses which are widely available and make focusing faster and quieter. Nikon's Silent Wave motor offers quiet focusing but this technology is generally limited to the brand's more pricey optics,

Colour and sharpness
The Canon has recorded a good range of colours although I think the primary blue could be more saturated in JPEG. Red is nicely warmed up as are the other warm tones such as orange and yellow. Standard greens come out more pale than what I'd expect as have the earth tones. Pastel tones have been given a gentle boost to ensure they're discernible, which I like. Portraits are recorded brilliantly with lovely, even tones and a nice warmth to the skin. One thing I'd like to see is a sharper image. Despite focusing on the eyes in my portrait test, they're not as sharp as I'd like them to be.

Nikon's colour reproduction on the D90 is more saturated with quite deep reds and a punchy yellow. Blue is bright and even but not as deep as I've seen in the past from Nikon. Not to say that it's unpleasant, just that it doesn't follow past Nikon values. Subtle pastel colours get a nice boost and can clearly be seen in pictures and the camera has no problem with contrasting colours. With portraits, the D90 produces rich skin tones with a nice, warm glow to the skin. Plenty of detail is recorded in fine detail areas such as hair and with a little sharpening in an editing suite, the eyes can be tack sharp.

Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90 Sony Alpha A500
Canon EOS 50D portrait
Nice flesh tones came from the Canon EOS 50D
Nikon D90 portrait
The Nikon has brightened the image and warmed the skin.
Sony Alpha A500 portrait
The Sony has given a rather pale complexion

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Chloe Bleackley model portfolio

Click on any of the thumbnails to open the full size images.

The Sony has given a lot of priority to the more subtle tones while saturated colours sit in the background, looking for attention. Primary blue is ok, though, but the warmer tones could do with a little push. Flesh tones are probably the most balanced of the three in this test but the portraits show a different story with skin paler. However, the camera has recorded the sharpest of the three and I'm really impressed with it.

Cooler tones and pastels are given more priority by the Sony while warmer colours are preferred by the Canon. Nikon records good skin tones and has given a good overall result. The Alpha A500 took the sharpest shots straight out of the camera, but the Nikon wasn't far off and nothing a little sharpeniing couldn't solve.

Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90 Sony Alpha A500
Canon EOS 50D colour test
The Canon prefers warmer colours opting to boost reds.
Nikon D90 colour test
The Nikon copes well with contrasting colours.
Sony Alpha A500 colour test
The Sony has saturated blues more than reds.

Click on any of the thumbnails to open the full size images.

Noise
The Canon EOS 50D has a sensitivity range from ISO100 – 12800 including expanded settings with the true settings getting capped at ISO3200. Low ISO settings are good with plenty of detail in all areas and a smooth image overall. Noise doesn't start to show until around ISO800 and isn't a problem until ISO1600 where the image starts to break down. At the final true setting, coloured pixels are starting to invade the image quite dramatically and the problem only exacerbates through to the later stages which aren't governed by ISO rules.

Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90 Sony Alpha A500
Canon EOS 50D ISO100 test
Canon ISO100 test
Nikon D90 ISO100 test
Nikon ISO100 equivalent
 
Canon EOS 50D ISO200 test
Canon ISO200 test
Nikon D90 ISO200 test
Nikon ISO200 test
Sony Alpha A500 ISO200 test
Sony ISO200 test
Canon EOS 50D ISO400 test
Canon ISO400 test
Nikon D90 ISO400 test
Nikon ISO400 test
Sony Alpha A500 ISO400 test
Sony ISO400 test
Canon EOS 50D ISO800 test
Canon ISO800 test
Nikon D90 ISO800 test
Nikon ISO800 test
Sony Alpha A500 ISO800 test
Sony ISO800 test
Canon EOS 50D ISO1600 test
Canon ISO1600 test
Nikon D90 ISO1600 test
Nikon ISO1600 test
Sony Alpha A500 ISO1600 test
Sony ISO1600 test
Canon ISO3200 test
Canon ISO3200 test
Nikon D90 ISO3200 test
Nikon ISO3200 test
Sony Alpha A500 ISO3200 test
Sony ISO3200 test
Canon EOS 50D ISO6400 test
Canon ISO6400 equiv.
Nikon D90 ISO6400 test
Nikon ISO6400 equiv.
Sony Alpha A500 ISO6400 test
Sony ISO6400 test
Canon EOS 50D ISO12800 test
Canon ISO12800 equiv.
  Sony Alpha A500 ISO12800 test
Sony ISO12800 test

Click on any of the thumbnails to open the full size images.

Nikon have also added equivalent settings to the D90 and the true settings range from ISO200-3200 with expandable options of ISO100 and ISO6400. Noise is controlled well on the D90 with a softening of the image occurring at ISO800 but actual image degradation doesn't start until around ISO3200 and becomes uncomfortable at the top setting of ISO6400. Even at that setting, I find it a completely acceptable image.

Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90 Sony Alpha A500
Canon EOS 50D ISO100 studio test
Canon ISO100 test
Nikon D90 ISO100 equivalent studio test
Nikon ISO100 equiv. test

Canon EOS 50D ISO200 studio test
Canon ISO200 test
Nikon D90 ISO200 studio test
Nikon ISO200 test
Sony Alpha A500 ISO200 studio test
Sony ISO200 test
Canon EOS 50D ISO400 studio test
Canon ISO400 test
Nikon D90 ISO400 studio test
Nikon ISO400 test
Sony Alpha A500 ISO400 studio test
Sony ISO400 test
 
Canon EOS 50D ISO800 studio test
Canon ISO800 test
Nikon D90 ISO800 studio test
Nikon ISO800 test
Sony Alpha A500 ISO800 studio test
Sony ISO800 test
Canon EOS 50D ISO1600 studio test
Canon ISO1600 test
Nikon D90 ISO1600 studio test
Nikon ISO1600 test
Sony Alpha A500 ISO1600 studio test
Sony ISO1600 test
Canon EOS 50D ISO3200 studio test
Canon ISO3200 test
Nikon D90 ISO3200 studio test
Nikon ISO3200 test
Sony Alpha A500 ISO3200 studio test
Sony ISO3200 test
Canon EOS 50D ISO6400 studio test
Canon ISO6400 test
Nikon D90 ISO6400 equiv. studio test
Nikon ISO6400 test
Sony Alpha A500 ISO6400 studio test
Sony ISO6400 test
Canon EOS 50D ISO12800 studio test
Canon ISO12800 test
  Sony Alpha A500 ISO12800 studio test
Sony ISO12800 test

Click on any of the thumbnails to open the full size images.

Sony's range of ISO on the Alpha A500 is ISO200 – 12800 with no expandable settings. Performance like this is usually reserved for the top end cameras, so it's great to see it in a mid-range DSLR. Noise is controlled brilliantly although it's worth noting at this stage that the Sony Alpha A500 doesn't have a way of turning off the noise reduction unless shooting in RAW. The image does get slightly softer as the settings increase but it's not an issue until a lofty ISO6400 with the top setting getting invaded pretty aggressively.

White balance
The Nikon works well with daylight white balance, warming colours such as green that have been cooled due to daylight's naturally blue cast. It overcompensates with settings such as fluorescent giving a pinkish hue, although the setting can be adjusted in the menu system and the D90 has seven fluorescent options to choose from. Stronger casts, such as tungsten, are handled quite well, although some cast still comes through on the preset.

The Sony Alpha A500 works well on milder settings although, like the Nikon, also overcooks the fluorescent settings and gives a pinkish tone. Where the Sony has excelled is the tungsten settings. Colours are the most balanced I've seen in any test. A really good result for Sony in the white balance test.

The EOS 50D also handled daylight well with cooler tones warming up. A similar result to the other cameras on test has occurred with the Canon, giving a pinkish hue to the fluorescent setting. The fluorescent lights used were standard so it's best to check for this if you're in the same situation. Using the tungsten preset has cooled the image down substantially, but not enough to eradicate the cast left by the strong lights.

Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90 Sony Alpha A500
Daylight    
Canon EOS 50D auto white balance daylight
Canon auto wb daylight
Nikon D90 auto white balance daylight
Nikon auto wb daylight
Sony Alpha A500 auto white balance daylight
Sony auto wb daylight
Canon EOS 50D  white balance daylight
Canon wb daylight
Nikon D90 white balance daylight
Nikon wb daylight
Sony Alpha A500 auto white balance daylight
Sony wb daylight

Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90 Sony Alpha A500
Fluorescent    
Canon EOS 50D auto Fluorescent white balance
Canon auto wb fluorescent
Nikon D90 auto Fluorescent white balance
Nikon auto wb fluorescent
Sony Alpha A500 auto Fluorescent white balance
Sony auto wb fluorescent
Canon EOS 50D Fluorescent white balance
Canon wb fluorescent
Nikon D90 Fluorescent white balance
Nikon wb fluorescent
Sony Alpha A500 Fluorescent white balance
Sony wb fluorescent
Tungsten    
Canon EOS 50D auto white balance tungsten
Canon auto wb tungsten
Nikon D90 auto white balance tungsten
Nikon auto wb tungsten
Sony Alpha A500 auto white balance tungsten
Sony auto wb tungsten
Canon EOS 50D white balance tungsten
Canon wb tungsten
Nikon D90 white balance tungsten
Nikon wb tungsten
Sony Alpha A500 white balance tungsten
Sony wb tungsten

Click on any of the thumbnails to open the full size images.

Integral flash modes
All three cameras have a built-in flash as well as supporting external flash with a dedicated hotshoe.

The Alpha A500 has an exclusive hotshoe system that needs an adapter to fit accessories that aren't Sony branded, such as wireless transmitters for studio flash. With a guide number 12 at ISO100, the built-in flash also benefits from +/- 2EV flash compensation as well as rear sync and a shutter speed sync of 1/160sec.

The built-in flash on the EOS 50D has a guide number 13 at ISO100 and features a recycle time of three seconds, rear curtain sync and a shutter speed sync of 1/250sec.

Nikon's D90 has a guide number 12 at ISO100 and offers rear curtain sync, slow sync and flash compensation of +/- 3EV. It also has a sync speed of 1/200sec.

The Canon has the highest guide number of 13 but in practice there is little difference in power output while the Nikon has an extra stop of compensation. Sony's flashgun seems to pop up quite hard, so the hinges could work loose over time.

Battery life
All three cameras take a lithium ion battery for longer life. Sony have taken this a step further by using the Infolithium technology which gives a the battery's condition as a percentage. This means you have a clearer idea of when the battery will run out and if you do prefer the older version of a battery icon slowly depleting, there's one of those too.

By the end of the test, the Sony's battery was showing the biggest sign of depletion as it displayed 75% until recharging was needed. The test was conducted with and without live view on all cameras, looking at the images on the screen after shooting and looking through the menus on a regular basis. Power consumption generally was pretty good and there is no reason why a full battery shouldn't last for a full day's photography.

Mid range DSLR comparison: Verdict
Nikon D90 group winnerAll three cameras have performed really well through the test and I think the Nikon has shown the most consistency throughout the test.

While the Canon EOS 50D is a great camera, it had trouble in the varied lighting test and the portraits were slightly soft thanks to the kit lens. The ISO performance is good when viewed on its own, but compared poorly with the Sony.

Nikon D90 front view group winner
Sony's Alpha A500 had exposure problems. It lost detail in backlit subjects, cooled images way too much in varied light and produced pale portraits. It's a shame, because the noise tests were very positive and the preset white balance works beautifully.

Noise performance isn't the best on the Nikon D90, but it simply produces better colours. It also has a vast menu of features, is built really well and has the longest range kit lens. It gave good exposures in tests with varied lighting and produced a warm and bright portrait. The Nikon D90 produced the most consistent performance and that is why it wins this group test.




Mid range DSLR comparison: Pros
Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90 Sony Alpha A500
Great build
Fast frame rate
Live view
Large thumbwheel
Clear, bright screen
Smallest body
Longest lens range
Good noise control
Live view
Punchy colours
Brilliant noise control
Articulating screen
Live view
Mid range DSLR comparison: Cons
Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90 Sony Alpha A500
Underexposes in difficult light
Lens could be sharper
High ISO loses out to Sony
Soft images at wide angle Lost detail in backlit shots
Overexposes in difficult light
Dedicated hotshoe system
Pale flesh tones


  Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90 Sony Alpha A500
FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
PRICE VALUE
OVERALL

The Canon EOS 50D & 17-85mm IS lens costs around £984 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Canon EOS 50D & 17-85mm IS

The Nikon D90 & 18-105mm VRII lens costs around £784 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Nikon D90 & 18-105mm VRII

The Sony Alpha A500 & 18-55mm DT lens costs around £544 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Sony Alpha A500 & 18-55mm DT


Mid range DSLR comparison: Specification
  Canon EOS 50D Nikon D90 Sony Alpha A500
Resolution: 15.1Mp 12.3Mp 12.3Mp
Sensor type: CMOS CMOS CMOS
Image size: 4752x3168 4288x2848 4272x2848
Sensor size: 22.3x14.9mm 23.6x15.8mm 23.5x15.6mm
Autofocus points: 9 11 9
Crop factor: 1.6x 1.5x 1.5x
Lens mount: Canon EF/EF-S DX AF, Type G and D AF Nikkor full compatibility Sony/KonicaMinolta A lens
Metering system: 35-zone TTL TTL using 420px RGB sensor 40-segment honeycomb-pattern SPC
Drive: 6.3fps (UDMA) 4.5fps 5fps
Sensitivity: True ISO100-3200 True ISO200-3200 True ISO200-12800
Expandable ISO: ISO6400 & 12800 ISO100 & 6400 None
Screen size: 3in 3in 3in
Card format: CF, Microdrive, UDMA compliant SD/SDHC SD, SDHC, Memorystick
Battery model: BP-511a EN-EL3e NP-FM500H
Weight: 450g 620g 597g
Size: 145.5x107.8x73.5mm 132x103x77mm 137x104x84mm
Autofocus system: TTL-CT-SIR Multi CAM 1000 with TTL phase detection TTL phase-detection system
Screen resolution: 920,000 dots (307,000px) 920,000 dot (307,000px) 230,400dot (76,800)
File formats: JPEG, RAW JPEG/RAW JPEG/RAW
Connectivity: USB2.0 USB 2.0 USB 2.0
Flash type: Integral, hotshoe Integral, hotshoe Integral, hotshoe
Flash metering: E-TTL II i-TTL ADI TTL flash metering
Flash sync speed: 1/250 1/200sec 1/160sec
Image stabilisation: No, lens based USM system No, lens based VR system Yes
Integrated cleaning: Yes Yes Yes
Live view: Yes Yes Yes
Shutter speed: 30sec - 1/8000sec 30sec - 1/4000sec 30sec - 1/4000sec
Viewfinder coverage: 95% coverage 96% coverage 95% coverage
Movie mode: No Yes  No



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Photographs taken using the Nikon D90

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Comments


mcgovernjon 5 138 United Kingdom
20 Nov 2009 3:54PM
Just looking at the test shots the D90 results look far better than the opposition

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tuhin 8
21 Nov 2009 3:26AM
I look this Camera's image. Nikon D90 is Batter.
Thankyou.
Tuhin Bose
konu 6 31 United Kingdom
21 Nov 2009 12:54PM
Nice quick but up to the point comparison, and I'm happy that my camera won Smile.

Though I use Nikon 55-200mm VR lens as I bought the camera body only.
VidB 5 11 United Kingdom
22 Nov 2009 1:03PM
It is obvious that the test was conducted by an avid Nikon fan as from the first word’s of the article Nikon had come top. The lens fitted to the Nikon must be some lens as at 28-105mm can take test shots at 18mm. Sorry the only way to test a camera is to try it yourself and not let people with bias to on manufacturer sway you
davey_griffo 5 213 165 England
22 Nov 2009 1:35PM
I'm happy that the Sony won where it counts, in picture quality. It's no good having all the fancy bells n whistles, & the top brand name on it if the picture quality isn't up to scratch.

This is the 2nd comparison test I've seen against the D90, & in the 1st (Digital Photo mag, compared to the a550), it also came out better for image quality. Inevitably, the Nikon using reviewer prefered the handling on the D90, but that was no suprise.

I'm going to order the better a550, & now with even more confidence. I'm just a bit miffed that they slightly altered the grip so that it doesn't fit properly, & I have to buy another.
I have a D50, and after reading this review feel that I made the right choice for me.

I find for me the only weakness I find in daily use is the auto-focus. Some shots come out slightly out of focus. Besides that I have taken some great shots with the camera.
MattGrayson 7 622 3 England
22 Nov 2009 9:43PM

Quote: It is obvious that the test was conducted by an avid Nikon fan

Actually I'm not a Nikon user, but I'm aware of the kind of cameras they produce and the seemingly "ferocious" loyalty that Nikon owners have which constantly amazes me as I don't see it with any other comparable manufacturer.


Quote: as from the first word’s of the article Nikon had come top. The lens fitted to the Nikon must be some lens as at 28-105mm can take test shots at 18mm.

The lens I used was the 18-105mm, you can see it on the top view product shot. I see that I made a typo and it's now been corrected, sorry about that.

Quote: Sorry the only way to test a camera is to try it yourself and not let people with bias to on manufacturer sway you

I don't have a bias and it disappoints me that you'd think that. The last mid range DSLR test I did, Sony won and other companies have won in the past. Sony are certainly showing themselves as a formidable opponent. I don't think you'd get much chance to test three cameras to the same extent, but thanks for your thoughts. Smile
ZakBlack 6 105 14 England
23 Nov 2009 10:23AM
Its interesting to see what each camera chooses to do with each scene but if a camera has a tendency to over or under expose in certain situations then the user will get used to dialing in the correct adjustment, so it doesnt bother me too much. What i want to know is which is best when the cameras are under the full control of the user. Regards....
MattGrayson 7 622 3 England
23 Nov 2009 10:54AM
It's an interesting idea. Of course that leads the cameras to be as good as the user and could be problematic on tests.
cameracat 10 8.6k 61 Norfolk Island
25 Nov 2009 10:53AM

Quote: It is obvious that the test was conducted by an avid Nikon fan as from the first word’s of the article Nikon had come top. The lens fitted to the Nikon must be some lens as at 28-105mm can take test shots at 18mm. Sorry the only way to test a camera is to try it yourself and not let people with bias to on manufacturer sway you

If your going to make a sour grapes comment, Because the review did not please your brand choice, It would be a great idea to actually read it first, Then you would not have made so many incorrect observations, Worse still put them into print, So we can all see them....Smile

The interesting result is that here we have 3 cameras, That record images with slightly different results, Seems to me that its the hallmark of the engineers/software writers from each respective brand, Not unlike the variations we had from different film types.

That said if your shooting RAW, It hardly matters..Wink


Quote: I'm happy that the Sony won where it counts, in picture quality. It's no good having all the fancy bells n whistles, & the top brand name on it

So Sony are not a top brand name then.? I just love all the reverse snobbery that crawls out of the woodwork where cameras are concerned....Sad

Its not the cameras that take great photographs, Its the monkey standing behind them...Wink
cameracat 10 8.6k 61 Norfolk Island
25 Nov 2009 11:08AM

Quote: I'm going to order the better a550,

Says it all really....Wink
FrankRobinson 4 84 2 United Kingdom
26 Nov 2009 1:33PM
I am mystified by the inclusion of the 'kit lens' testing. Surely people buying cameras at this level are likely to understand the importance of having decent glass?

Really - the quality of the kit lenses in no way reflects on the quality of the body and to suggest otherwise seems... difficult to understand.

Handling and Features are such personal things, I would also query their value here. For instance if I want to shoot video, I will use my (Sony) camcorder, so FMV on the D90 is a waste of space (and may explain the hefty weight increase?) but the 6.3fps of the Canon, now that's useful for wildlife shots. Personal perspectives, completely subjective...
Snapper_T e2
10 848 United Kingdom
28 Nov 2009 10:19AM

Quote: I am mystified by the inclusion of the 'kit lens' testing. Surely people buying cameras at this level are likely to understand the importance of having decent glass?

Really - the quality of the kit lenses in no way reflects on the quality of the body and to suggest otherwise seems... difficult to understand.



You may have someone who can afford this level of camera and no real experience with SLR's, so I would imagine these tests are made on what you get as an off the shelf item, and shows that with some manufactures have better kit lenses than others. So if you buy a package with a decent kit lens, you won't have to fork out for a better lens for a while, that is if your happy with the results.

All in all a good review, being a Sony user its good to see the high ISO noise performance is improving.

Trev
MattGrayson 7 622 3 England
29 Nov 2009 1:13AM

Quote: I am mystified by the inclusion of the 'kit lens' testing. Surely people buying cameras at this level are likely to understand the importance of having decent glass?

Really - the quality of the kit lenses in no way reflects on the quality of the body and to suggest otherwise seems... difficult to understand.

Manufacturers aren't stupid. I think if people never bought the kits, they'd stop releasing them.


Quote: Handling and Features are such personal things, I would also query their value here. For instance if I want to shoot video, I will use my (Sony) camcorder, so FMV on the D90 is a waste of space (and may explain the hefty weight increase?) but the 6.3fps of the Canon, now that's useful for wildlife shots. Personal perspectives, completely subjective...

True, it is subjective which is why it's not as important in the review anymore and only gets a few hundred words. It's important to know how the camera feels and a performance test won't tell you. Smile
Tcoat 7
3 Dec 2009 12:12AM
DSLRs eh...?!
Flapping mirror box anarchisms I say.
The markets moved on to interchangeable lens compacts, or larger sensor compacts. I mean that is where the growth sector of the market will be. Canon, Sony, Nikon and Pentax have yet to respond.
So this is the second time 50D has lost, the first time was to the Sony A700, and now to the D90. Then again, the Nikon 300 lost to the A700 too.
davey_griffo 5 213 165 England
8 Dec 2009 12:19PM

Quote: So Sony are not a top brand name then.? I just love all the reverse snobbery that crawls out of the woodwork where cameras are concerned.

Don't you read reviews? They may be a top brand in other areas, but as far as D-SLRs go, they're still very much playing catch-up.

I'm going for the 550 as I already have a 350 & several lenses. I can't afford to junk the lot and start again with Nikon, or whoever, so it has nothing to do with brand snobbery, just economics.

For better or worse, I've bought into a brand, & I'm stuck with it. It's just encouraging to see that I didn't buy a 3 legged donkey in this particular horse race. Smile
2 Jan 2010 4:05AM
Hi Matt,
I found your review VERY useful. I think each photographer, having a minimum of experience can understand and use a lot of information you gave us to make the right choice. As for the beginners it is useful even if they will take the result for granted, without balancing it too much. The only observation - minor one - is that I'll like you to remind people that this kind of cameras have huge possibilities to adapt to your style or needs, so the results should be taken in this context. If one would prefer a faster camera they will probably choose the Canon, for the price (of the system, including lens) probably Sony. It will be very easy to just adjust the exposure or color rendering a.s.o. to their needs or tastes. After reading your review the only thing is to go and take each camera in your hands. If you just feel comfortable with your choice just buy it. Using the site Wink! I wait for your future contribution and I appreciate you answered the comments of the readers.
Thank you
2 Jan 2010 4:56AM
Hi there
I would like to include a comment about brands in the DSRL or high end photo market
Is Sony a major brand?
I think that it is more then obvious. They bought in Minolta and added their respected experience to Sony's own - which in digital photography was not minor.
They still produce and sell to other brands most of the sensors. When they saw that CMOS are better than CCD (at least for DSRL) they invested and developed those sensors. A550 has the second generation - I think - of CMOS sensors from Sony and the results are there, much, much better high ISO results. Each and every step Sony took was right - up to know. And just think that from the begging of the digital photo they signed agreements with Zeiss which position them now for the next step - pro cameras. Without Sony I am not sure that Zeiss would have survived.
Canon who had an almost monopoly on DSRL 2 1/2 years ago lost the grip being late in changes and treating some respected photo journalists and (even more stupid) their own clients badly - see the EOS D-1 Mark II story. Nikon - and that explain the nikonists attitude - put on the market what people wanted, the right lens the right cameras at the right moment, recovering from a late start.
Now the future of Nikon is not obvious for me. It will depend of Sony who sells them the sensors. Up to now there was a good and apparently fruitful cooperation between Sony and Nikon. Sony didn't abuse it's position and benefited from Nikon recommendations (and specifications). Will they be as smart in the future? I think so, but who knows.
Do we need Nikon? Who will dare to say no? I do not own a Nikon, rather I have a Canon (D30) - when I bought my camera the only Sony in town was the A100. Today is a very different situation, isn't it?
I think the next investment will be in Sony, but I didn't make my mind, I will let it for the next generations of cameras.
Why Sony? Well, because of Minolta Grin ! They were smart enough to put the stabilization INSIDE the camera. It will pay off, like many other things developed by Minolta.
Canon was in reaction mode for the last 2 years and it is still now. Any new camera or lens was a reaction to Nikon - most often- and Sony. The only exception it looks to me is the EOS 7D which tries to change the Canon strategy against Nikon.
What do you think?
Will we have a 3 major brands market (Canon, Sony, Nikon)?
Will Pentax and the 4/3 alliance succeed to be a major brand in the high end photo market?
Will we loose Nikon? Or Sony? What about Samsung?
Thank you for reading

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