Review: Canon 90D DSLR

Sample gallery After shooting with the Canon EOS 90D for a couple of weeks, I’ve chosen a selection of photos across different scenarios and the lenses I had for...

I’ve used and owned DSLRs for more than a decade and over that time, there’s been some serious improvements to image quality, features and performance. One of the biggest brands in the industry is Canon and after spending time with their latest 90D DSLR it’s time to break down what’s on offer and if you should buy one.

Thankfully Canon included a few great lenses with the 90D body, the fast EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, the very capable EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and the zoom lens, the EF 70-200mm f/4L USM. In reality, the real strength of DLSRs over our rapidly improving smartphone cameras, is their customisability with interchangeable lenses.

The camera carves out a great position in the market. It’s unlikely to be your first DSLR, but is a great option for Prosumers right through absolute professionals. The offers 32.5 megapixels from an 8th gen DIGIC image processor. This combines with a great autofocus system to help you capture amazing photos. The rear touchscreen is a 3″ display that offers a great chance to review your work and confirm you landed the perfect shot, arranged in a 3:2 aspect ratio. This combined with the mobile capture app, shooting with this camera is not only easy, it’s light, portable and feels great in the hand.

So now let’s break down the design and features on offer, before looking at the price tag and the overall take aways.

DESIGN

Curves in all the right places

The body of the 90D is surprisingly light, making it easier to carry and use for extended shoots. This reduced weight, will likely mean you’ll take it with you to more places. In terms of design, it’s a very familiar layout if you’ve ever used any Canon before.

Previous experience in cameras matters a lot to how quickly you can get comfortable with this camera. The grip, battery, SD Card location and lens system are all very familiar. In terms of driving the camera, it feels like there’s 3 ways to manage that.

Shooting a DLSR often starts in Auto mode, but you’ll quickly progress to increasingly manual modes of operation to achieve that perfect shot. This means  you’ll want to monitor and adjust camera settings like aperture, shutter speed and ISO.

Canon offers a display of your camera settings through the viewfinder, the LCD panel on top, as well as on the foldable LCD display at the back.

For a new photographer, or someone stepping up from the entry level range, to prosumer, there’s an awful lot of buttons to control the camera. Online tutorials can be really helpful in explaining where to start, or if you’re looking at leveraging the 90D for a business application, a full photography course wouldn’t be a bad idea to really become an expert. The big takeaway is that virtually all the configuration you could want is there, it’s just a matter of understanding what combination works best for which environment.

Sample gallery

After shooting with the Canon EOS 90D for a couple of weeks, I’ve chosen a selection of photos across different scenarios and the lenses I had for review. As you can see the camera provides the opportunity to capture some truly stunning photos. It is important to know that all of these photos are straight out of the camera, no editing in Photoshop, simply resizing to reduce file sizes from around 11Mb to just under 1MB. Of course not all of these are perfectly exposed and they could definitely be enhanced from good shots to great shots. 

FEATURES

Stand out features of this camera.

The features of a camera is one of the greatest determiners of which DLSR you’ll buy, along with image quality and price. Canon have done a great job of loading the 90D with a great set of features for the price point, making it a seriously compelling camera for those stepping up from casual consumer use, into the professional world of photography.

Frame rate

Taking great photos is definitely part art, part science, and while Canon can’t help you with the artistic side of photography, they can give you the right equipment that makes capturing the right sot easier. The means a lot engineering has gone into producing a camera that’s amazingly capable and diverse in its abilities, to transform to accommodate even the most complex shoot. One of the best tools on offer is the ability for the EOS 90D to fire off frames at an amazing rate of 10FPS.

When you have a fast moving subject, like a sporting event, wildlife, a vehicle or 2 year old, timing the shutter release perfectly is almost impossible due to human limitations. This means the safest bet is to leverage the virtually free storage and just fire at will. Thanks to an autofocus tracking mode, your subject is likely to stay in focus even through the movement.

I have to say, there are few things in life more satisfying than holding down the button on a fast DLSR and the 90D is excellent for that. You do need to be aware that you’re generating about 120MB/s of files, or twice that if you shoot RAW+JPG. The real reason you want that speed is to ensure you capture that magic frame with everyone’s eyes open (not blinking), smiles on their faces and the right parts of the shot in focus, with scenes that can’t be setup, or repeated, you often get 1 shot at capturing it and FPS matters a lot for that.

Optical viewfinder

When you’re taking a handheld photo with a DSLR, using live view for framing shots means you have to awkward hold the camera out in front of you, while the optical viewfinder provides a great way to get your framing set and position the camera comfortable in front of your eye.

If you do have a tripod, then the live view screens works great and can be flipped out to rotate to almost any angle, great for those shots where the camera is above your head (like over a crowd), or low to the ground, say taking a shot of a car from ground level to give perspective.

The great thing about the 90D is that you can switch between the two rapidly and quickly and use the best for each photography situation. I also love the ability to turn off the LCD display completely, to avoid ambient light from getting in your eyes when using the optical viewfinder. It is also appreciated that the optical viewfinder offers the same framing as the rear display, which isn’t necessarily the case on all DSLR, this avoids any unintended cropping.

The optical viewfinder also includes basically every piece of data you’ll need to hit the right shot, including autofocus.

Sturdy build

A professional camera like the 90D needs to be a workhorse. It’ll be with you through many different environments, and will go through countless cycles of being put into a bag, out of a bag, lenses changed, batteries switched out, cables, adapters, modes changed etc. This means the DSLR needs to be robust and reliable and the 90D really does feel sturdy giving you confidence you’re holding a real camera that’s ready when you are.

The most impressive thing about this ruggedness is that it doesn’t weigh much. This isn’t a cheap plastic toy, but its also not a brick, Canon have found a really great balance between confidence-inspiring capability, with a portability that makes it really appealing.

An example the benefit of this portability is a family walk I took on Easter Sunday, down the river, for some exercise, but carrying the camera during the few km walk and back was no struggle at all, even with a decent bit of glass hanging off the front of it.

Battery life

I’ve purchased battery grips for DSLRs before and having 2x the battery capacity, really gave me the confidence to go away for a weekend without a charger. The new LP-E6N has its battery capacity is increased to 1865mAh for even longer performance. While you still may go for the battery grip accessory, it’s not something you’ll need day 1 of owning this camera, I shot a lot over the course of the first week on a single charge, the battery life is seriously impressive out of the box.

Naturally the number of photos or minutes of video depends on a number of factors, but one of the best things you can do is to minimise the shot review duration after pressing the shutter.

Movie mode

Try and find a camera that just does photography, good luck. Almost every camera now needs to do dual roles as a video camera as well. The 90D shoots 4K video at 25fps. I really wish this was 4K60, but understand that Canon has to hold off some of their features for their flagship cameras. If you’re still publishing in HD, you can get smooth slow-motion 120fps. There’s no doubt the 4K footage that comes from this camera, is amazingly sharp, detailed and has great colours. It does however lack the crazy stablisation we’re used to in something like the GoPro Hero 8’s Hypersmooth.

If you have the camera locked down on a tripod and can have the action take place in front of the lens in a controlled environment, you can have some amazing depth of field in your video, with amazing resolution.

Mobile app

The 90D features WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity and that is leveraged to connect and control the camera from your phone. In years gone by I had connected DSLRs to my laptop via USB cable. Thankfully that whole process is dramatically simplified and setup is really simple, something that many devices get wrong. After using the Canon Camera Connect app, it feels like you have the same control over the camera, as if you were holding it in your hand.

Of course you can’t switch lenses remotely, but virtually everything else is on the table. This opens up big opportunities, like being out of an environment while capturing it. This can help avoid those tricky subjects that respond to another human, regardless how kind and gentle you are as a photography. From photos to video, this remote operation is really nicely executed.

The other aspect of shooting with the app I really enjoy is the ability to capture a photo then share it on social instantly, thanks to the cellular connection in your phone. This has been one of the biggest downsides of a DSLR, that the workflow between taking a photo and sharing it, had a serious friction to it. The mobile app really removes a lot of that friction.

ISSUES

Not everything’s perfect

Ok now for the not so hot parts of this camera. Canon offers a top display on a number of their cameras and I really don’t know why. The top display is absolutely redundant. While it provides some extra icons, like WiFi on/off, I just found that I never looked at it.

While the video from this camera can be amazing, the lack of video stablisation can be an issue when you have to shoot handheld. I would hope that future revisions, we see some stablisation in-camera, regardless of which lens is attached.

Some people have commented that the 90D only has a single storage card (full sized SD), but personally I don’t have a problem with this. After more than a decade of shooting, I’ve never had a card fail, so having redundancy isn’t something I’ve needed. Storage sizes of SD cards are also getting to insane levels.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY

How much and when can you get one ?

The Canon EOS 90D is available now from Canon.com.au directly, or many canon resellers. The Canon EOS 90D costs A$1,799.00 (inc GST). At that price, it’s around 3x more than the entry level EOS 1500D, but significantly less than the flagship EOS 1D X Mark III at A$11,299 just for the body. This places the 90D at a great prosumer level and for what’s on offer, represents great value.

Once you pickup the body, the next question will be which set of accessories will you purchase to compliment that camera. The three lenses I had, the EF 50mm f/1.4 USM, the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM and EF 70-200mm f/4L USM are obvious choices, but you may also want to consider the Battery Grid BG-E14 for the 90D.

You’ll also want a great camera bag to protect your equipment when travelling or even just throwing it in your car. This should be big enough to house the camera body, any lenses you get, the charger, a bunch of SD cards and probably a HDMI cable to connect the camera to your laptop, monitor or TV.

Canon’s first look video for the EOS 90D actually provides a really great summary of the tech-on board, showing you something I can’t, inside the camera. If you’re serious about purchasing, it really is worth a watch.

You can get the full specs of the Canon EOS 90D or purchase it, at Canon.com.au.

OVERALL

Final thoughts

The Canon EOS 90D represents a camera that takes amazing photos, probably the biggest attribute you need from a camera. On top of that, the feature list is extensive and my experience with the 90D over the past few weeks has actually reminded me of why I enjoy DLSRs. In a world where smartphone cameras are continuing to produce increasingly amazing results, I had almost written off DSLRs as the big heavy camera you never take, versus the one that’s always connected and in your pocket.

Instead, I once again look at big cameras as an opportunity to take amazing photos. Yes, you have to work for it, they won’t automatically be perfect every time and yes, you’ll likely have to spend more than the price of the body on lenses, but if you’re goal is to leverage a camera like this to make paid content, that’s a fairly easy ROI to justify.

The camera features a hot-shoe on the top for a light or shotgun microphone. This means it could also make a decent vlogger camera, especially given the light weight and the extended battery life.

Overall this is one of my non-full frame cameras and the combination of lenses provided really provided an opportunity to showcase the cameras features. If your budget can stretch to pickup this who package, you’ll be very happy you did.

9.2
Review: Canon 90D DSLR
The Good
  • Photo quality
  • Speed
  • Smartphone app
The Bad
  • No stabiliation
  • Design
    8.8
  • Performance
    9.0
  • Features
    9.8
  • Value
    9.0
Categories
GeneralReviews

Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis.
3 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply

  • B Ware
    14 April 2020 at 10:39 am

    Nice review of the 90D. Just one question, does it have GPS? I currently have to use the Canin GPS unit in the hot shoe. Thanks!

    Leave a Reply
    • Jason Cartwright
      15 April 2020 at 11:19 am

      Thanks very much, no the camera does not contain a GPS unfortunately.

      Leave a Reply
  • Dhruv
    24 April 2020 at 5:00 am

    Brief and good write. I really liked the pictures you have taken of model 3 and the cover photo is top notch.

    Leave a Reply
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