First some background on how I came to buy this kit. I found buying a Digital SLR a very confusing process given the huge numbers of very similar models available. It becomes clear pretty early on however that the choice is essentially down to Canon Vs Nikon. I was tempted, for example, by the Pentax K7 which is a semi-professional camera with a very high specification. But the Pentax has a limited range of lenses available compared to Canon or Nikon. I then started on a model by model comparison of Canon and Nikon, beginning at the higher end of their ranges with models like the Canon EOS5, which is also a semi-professional camera. However, these kinds of semi-pro models weigh a lot (900gms) and I concluded that I would be reluctant to take them out with me. That left me looking at the top end of the consumer ranges of each manufacturer, comparing the Nikon D90 with the Canon EOS 50D. To be quite honest there is nothing to choose between these cameras and it comes down to personal taste and how you like the handling. My preference was for the Nikon. At this point my camera dealer suggested I look also at the cheaper Nikon D5000. This has 90% of the features of the D90 and has the advantage (to my mind) that the LCD screen on the back of the camera swivels round so that it doesn't get scratched. My dealer told me that he hardly sells any D90s now that the D5000 is around.
I bought the body only and paired it with the Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 AF-S G VR II DX Nikkor Lens
. This is a fabulous combination. Not too heavy, physically compact and covers nearly every focal length you could reasonably want so that it is only necessary to carry one lens around. This lens costs the same as the camera but in my view is worth every penny. The standard lens that comes with the camera is its weakest link and you will significantly improve the quality of your photographs by upgrading it.
This is a very fine camera indeed. It sits nicely in the hand and the controls are pretty intuitive. Unlike the D90 one control covers both shutter speed and aperture and switching between them requires a button to be pressed simultaneously. I thought this would be horrible but in practice does not impede the ergonomics. Access to advanced functions through the LCD screen is pretty straightforward - certainly much simpler compared to my Canon S90 compact. So I haven't found myself standing over the camera wondering how to change settings such as ISO, exposure compensation, bracketing, flash functions etc. The viewfinder is nice and clear but if I'm honest not as good as my old Olympus OM1 - unless my memory is playing tricks. The information display on the LCD screen is first class with a choice of how information is displayed so that you can have visual symbols and/or numbers for shutter speed and aperture.
Start up is not always instant because sometimes the camera has a short cleaning routine for the image sensor. I tend to leave the camera on all day when I am using it and it goes into sleep mode from which it wakes up instantly. Shooting speed is terrific. It saves very quickly to the memory card (make sure you buy very high quality data cards to get maximum speed, these cost a lot more ). Burst shooting is also very quick at 3.5 to 4 frames per second. The semi-pro cameras are twice as fast as this but that seems like overkill for my needs. Auto focusing is quick and accurate in all normal circumstances and the exposure system gets it right 90% of the time. It can be fooled by subjects where there is a big range of light and dark (for example a sunset where the ground is dark and the sky is light) but these subjects don't have a 'right' exposure and the only answer is bracketing, which it can do automatically. There is a huge range of exposure options - manual, shutter speed priority, aperture priority, Programme, fully auto and various scene modes. The one that's missing is ISO priority but I think only Pentax offers that. On the subject of ISO the slowest on offer is 100, which, as someone used to Kodachrome 64 and 25, I think is a bit fast because sometimes I want to shoot blurred movement in daylight and need a very slow film speed. There is a compensation adjustment that slows the ISO down below 100 but it's a bit clumsy to access.
Not strictly relevant to the product featured here is my choice of the 18-200mm Nikon lens. This is just the most fantastic bit of kit. It handles superbly, balances on the camera delightfully and enables perfect framing of the photograph. The maximum aperture is f3.5 - 5.6, which is excellent for a lens of this type.
It almost goes without saying that the quality of the pictures is top notch, but that would have been true with the Canon or the Pentax. These cameras are all very very good and the differences are either ones of taste and fancy or visible at extreme magnifications, very fast ISO speeds or in test conditions. I haven't experienced any issues of consistent under or over exposure or colour casting.
Some software comes with the camera for editing and viewing pictures but I use iPhoto so have not tried the Nikon package. Nor have I tried movie mode on the camera as that is not what I bought it for (but it requires manual focussing so is not like a video camera). I dropped the camera onto a concrete floor about an hour after buying it. It seems to have survived without any problem, although I nearly had a heart attack.
Overall then I'm very happy with my purchase but I think that has as much to do with my choice of lens as the camera itself. I'm certainly pleased I didn't buy the more expensive and very heavy semi-pro models.