Canon 60D vs Nikon D90 – A Showdown Of Unlikely Rivals

canon 60d vs nikon d90The D90 is one of the oldest APS-C DSLRs that is still commercially produced by Nikon. Launched way back in 2008 the D90 replaced the even older D80 that was launched two years prior. The D80 was another successful mid-range camera. The D90 occupies a place of interest mainly among those who already own and use it. New camera buyers would prefer something like the D7000 if he is interested in a slightly better list of features, or if he is having a slightly better budget then the D7100. The D90’s archaic 12.9 megapixel sensor has been surpassed by even the cheapest entry level Nikon DSLRs since. But still this review takes into consideration the fact that there are thousands of users out there who still use this model and it happens to be one of the most clicked cameras around the world.

Comparatively the Canon 60D is a ‘recent’ model. But even then it was too launched sometime back (2010 to be precise). It is one of the most popular mid-range DSLRs produced by Canon yet and features a Pentaprism viewfinder, 18 megapixels sensor and a tilting flipping monitor. Much water has gone down the Thames since the launch of these two DSLRs. Even these two cameras have a healthy 2 year gap between them which reflects in their sensor technology, video shooting capabilities and design ergonomics. This discussion pits this two unlikely rivals against each other in a showdown of archaic DSLR bodies. If you are looking for some priceless inputs as to which DSLR you should buy this course that we have might just be what you have been waiting for. Or else you could also check this course that gives more than just DSLR buying tips and could actually help you to get started in photography.

Sensor Size, Megapixels and Crop Factor

The 60D has an 18 megapixels APS-C sensor of dimensions 22.3 x 14.9mm, capable of shooting large fine jpegs of size 5184 x 3456 pixels. The Nikon on the other hand has a 12.3 megapixel sensor of size 23.6 x 15.8mm and it shoots large fine jpegs of size 4288 x 2848 pixels. The 60D wins the megapixel race hands down. Both the sensors are crop. The Nikon has a 1.5x crop factor and that of the Canon is 1.6x.

Body, Dimension and Build Quality

In as much as weight is concerned the 60D is slightly heavier than the D90. 675 grams compared to 620 grams. The dimensions are also bigger in favor of the 60D. It measures 144.5mm x 105.8mm x 78.6mm compared to the D90 which measures 132mm x 103mm x 77mm. Look and feel of the D90 is almost identical to that of the older model which it replaced, the D80. However, underneath the hood the changes are more than just superficial. Both the D90 and the 60D has all the buttons, dials, bells and thistles that make a mid-range DSLR what it is. However, there are a number of differences. Main among them is the monitor at the back of the camera. The monitor of the 60D is an articulated one while that of the D90 is a fixed one.


Both the D90 and the 60D has a single storage card compartment that is compatible with SD cards. But while the 60D is compatible with all SD, SDHC and SDXC type cards the D90 is only compatible with SD and SDHC cards. Evidently, the older D90 loses out to the newer 60D in this respect.

Viewfinder and Frame Coverage

Both the D90 and the 60D has Pentaprism based viewfinders and both of them have only 96% frame coverage. If you are looking for precise viewfinder based composition you will need to be extra careful when shooting. You are going to get more than what you have composed in the final images. Being Pentaprism based DSLRs the image coming through the viewfinder is brighter and clearer compared to entry level and pentamirror based DSLRs from both Nikon and Canon.

The Monitor

The LCD monitor at the back of the camera is going to be more than just for review of the pictures that you shoot. With a 100% frame coverage you could simply switch to live view and compose when the viewfinder is not suitable. The monitor is also necessary for the purpose of shooting videos. The mirror flips up and the view that you get on the LCD monitor is straight what the sensor sees.

The D90 boasts a 3” non-articulated monitor with 920,000 dots resolution. Impressive by 2008 standards especially when you consider that the latest D3300 has only a 921,000 dots resolution (launched in 2014). Comparatively the 60D has a 3” LCD monitor as well but with 1040,000 dots resolution. However the differentiating point is the tilting flipping properties of the 60D’s monitor which makes it extremely convenient when shooting videos and or when photographing from a very low angle.

Shutter Speed

So far as maximum shutter speed is concerned the 60D is slightly faster compared to the older D90. The maximum shutter speed of the D90 is 1/4000th of a second and that of the 60D is 1/8000th of a second.

Movie Mode

Hands down the 60D is a much better video shooter than the D90. The Nikon shoots only 720p (progressive) HD whereas the 60D shoots in full HD (1920 x 1080p) at 25, 24 and 30 fps. But what that statement belies is that the D90 was the first DSLR ever to have HD video shooting capabilities (and for that matter any type of video shooting). As you can imagine a lot has changed in the two years that video shooting was first introduced into DSLRs. Nevertheless, the shutter speed in the D90 can be manually adjusted and so is aperture. It records sound in mono mode only. In fact the 60D also shoots in mono but it has a vastly improved video mode and additionally allows sound input via a 3.5mm external mic input. Clearly the D90 is not your clear favorite for video shooting. If you are looking for tips and suggestions on how to improve your DSLR video shooting prowess this film course can really help.

AF Points

The D90 has a total of 11 AF points, the same as some of the other entry level Nikon DSLRs such as the D3100. It has a single center cross-type AF point. It, however, has 3-D tracking to cover if the subject you are trying to photograph is moving about. The 60D on the contrary has a 9-point AF system all of which are cross-type. The center AF point is a dual cross-type which ensures better focusing. With some of the latest DSLRs featuring 39-point and 51-point AF systems this is not a spec which one would be impressed reading in 2014. Between the two though, the 60D has a far superior focusing system compared to the D90.

Continuous Shooting Speed

At 5.3 fps the 60D is not your favorite in terms of continuous shooting either. But having said that the D90 shoots at only 4.5 fps. None of the modes are particularly good if you are planning to photograph sports or fast action.


The D90 is one of the models that is on the threshold of being called archived. A look at the Nikon USA website will inform you that it has already been archived. However, you can still it some of the online retailers for just under $900 with an 18-105mm kit lens. The 60D is more in the available zone and you could get it with a kit 18-135mm lens for a tag less than $1000.

Closing Up

Sitting in 2014, between the two cameras the 60D is definitely the better buy. You could still buy the D90 for your collection, but in that case you could buy a used one eBay for less than $500. One would argue that either way the camera is not important for shooting better photography, and he would be right in saying that. Photos are made by photographers and not cameras.