After more leaks than a post-iceberg Titanic, we’ve finally been hands-on with the Canon EOS 90D – the official replacement for the EOS 80D, long regarded as the heptathlete of the manufacturer’s DSLR line-up for its versatility and capability across a number of categories.
While still pitched as a mid-range DSLR, it’s fair to say that the EOS 90D has upped its game in so many areas that it’s now a firm decathlete – and it’s such a peak performer that it’s pipping its supposedly senior models to the post in key categories from megapixel count to 4K video capability.
Indeed, its 32.5-megapixel sensor has higher resolution than any other Canon camera shy of the full-frame EOS 5DS/R, packing an unprecedented amount of pixels into an APS-C sensor.
• Canon EOS 90D vs Canon EOS M6 Mark II: how do you choose?
Furthermore, it offers 4K video recording at 30 frames per second without any crop factor whatsoever – something else that no other Canon DSLR or mirrorless camera can do.
Except, that is, for the similarly just-announced Canon EOS M6 Mark II, which we’ve also been hands-on with. And what’s really interesting about these two new models is that, internally, the technology is virtually identical; the differences are almost entirely in terms of how Canon (and, thus, the photographic public) regards the roles of DSLR and mirrorless systems.
In fact, were it not for a couple of physical handicaps, the M6 Mark II is actually a superior camera to the 90D. Thanks to some ‘careful’ design choices, however, the 90D has a few tricks that its mirrorless sibling lacks…
Canon EOS 90D: Specifications
Sensor: 32.5MP APS-C CMOS sensor
Image processor: Digic 8
AF points: Dual Pixel CMOS phase detect, 45 AF points / 5,481 AF positions
ISO range: 100 to 25,600 (expandable to 51,200)
Max image size: 6,960 x 4,640
Viewfinder: Optical, 100% coverage, 0.95x magnification
Metering modes: Evaluative, partial, center-weighted, spot
Video: 4K UHD up to 30fps, 1080p FullHD up to 120fps
Memory card: 1x SD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS-II compatible)
LCD: 3-inch articulating touchscreen, 1.04m dots
Max burst: 10fps continuous / 11fps continuous in live view
Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, USB Micro-B, Micro HDMI,
Size: 140.7 x 104.8 x 76.8mm
Weight: 701g (body only, with battery and SD card)
Canon EOS 90D: Build and handling
There was plenty of speculation leading up to the launch of the 90D, with the prevailing chatter that it would merge and succeed both the Canon EOS 80D and 7D Mark II. While the official word from Canon is that it’s a replacement for the 80D, the rumors certainly make sense since the 90D introduces a joystick – a definite amalgamation of features from the two lines.
It retains the 80D’s fully articulating screen, along with the dedicated microphone and headphone jacks, making the 90D just as geared towards video – ideal for the newly uncropped 4K mode, which records to the entire image sensor.
The body feels familiar in both operation and build quality. It’s not an all-weather camera, and doesn’t have the feel of a high end body, but neither does it feel like a flimsy entry level camera – particularly with the addition of the joystick.
This does, however, cause a slight juggling of buttons from the 80D, which is guaranteed to confuse your muscle memory. The joystick now occupies the spot where the Q button used to be – the Q button replaces the Play button, just above the control dial, while the Play button now sits where the Trashcan button used to live, just to the right of the LCD (the Trashcan button is now slotted to the right of its former home).
Once you’ve got over the annoyance of pressing all the wrong buttons, you’ll note that size-wise the 90D is incredibly similar to the 80D, which measures 139.0 x 105.2 x 78.5mm. However, it’s substantially lighter – 29g lighter, to be precise, than the 80D’s 730g fighting weight.
In the hand, then, it’s much like wielding a lighter 80D – an 80D without a battery, almost. Which is interesting, as Canon has done anything but take the battery away…
Canon EOS 90D: Performance
While the 80D was CIPA-rated to 960 shots from a full battery, the Canon EOS 90D has improved this to an impressive CIPA-rated 1,300 – from the same battery, the LP-E6N. However, Canon tells us that informal testing yields as many as 1,830 shots per battery – something that’s all the more relevant for the target market, since the company is pitching the 90D squarely at sports and wildlife shooters.
This is where the aforementioned identical innards of the Canon EOS 90D and Canon EOS M6 Mark II becomes even more fascinating, since the 90D – the camera that Canon feels is more appropriate for capturing fast action – maxes out at 10 frames per second (or 11 with fixed AF). The M6 Mark II, by contrast, hits 14 frames per second.
It’s a bizarre narrative, whether driven by Canon or merely in reaction to public perception, that DSLRs are the superior tool for capturing action.
Regardless, it takes nothing away from the 90D’s ability to capture fast-moving subjects. We put the camera through its paces on a fast-moving indoor go karting circuit; while we were impeded from optimal shooting thanks to the horrendously low light, we were nonetheless impressed by the body’s ability to crank out frames faster than even a 5D Mark IV (and with more resolution, to boot).
The lighting-fast focus acquisition and image output is due in large part to the latest Digic 8 processor, a huge step up from the Digic 6 featured in the 80D, which also provides the horsepower for the impressive Eye Detection AF that provides tracking in both stills and video mode.
An electronic shutter ups the shooting speed to 1/16,000 sec (above the 1/8,000 mechanical shutter) to facilitate wider apertures while shooting action. The 90D has also learned a neat trick from the Canon EOS RP: focus bracketing. This enables you to shoot a predesignated series of images at incrementally changing focus positions, which can be ‘stacked’ in post production to extend depth of field – ideal for macro shooting.
Canon EOS 90D: Early verdict
The Canon EOS 90D is a heavyweight replacement for the trusty old 80D. Packing a ridiculously pixel-dense new sensor and hiccup-quick continuous shooting, it’s an ideal camera for enthusiasts – and beyond – who demand resolution, speed and handling.
Particularly with the crop factor of the APS-C format, which increases the effective focal length of lenses by 1.6x, it makes the 90D a compelling camera for wildlife and sports shooters looking to capture fast action.
If that’s really your focus, though, the Canon EOS M6 Mark II is actually a better bet, since its 14fps shooting eclipses the 90D’s 10fps. However, if you’re a vlogger or videographer, the 90D is more capable in the filmmaking stakes, since it offers a fully articulating screen and a headphone jack, both of which are absent on the mirrorless model.