DigitalCameraReview.com
Round Up: 50D vs. D90
by David Rasnake -  8/30/2008

It's been a big week in the camera world, especially for those interested in the prosumer DSLR space. Back-to-back announcements of new high-spec, mid-tier DSLRs from Canon and Nikon show just how much technology has trickled down into relatively affordable territory within the market, and new point-and-shoot releases from Canon, Casio, Olympus, and Sony give the first concentrated taste of what's to come at Photokina next month.

There was lots of interest this week, but the latest gambits in the Canon/Nikon rivalry, the Canon EOS 50D and Nikon D90, have been some of the most interesting in awhile. With that in mind, here are a few thoughts on how things are shaping up between the two most prominent DSLR manufacturers this year.

Canon EOS 50D
Canon EOS 50D

First the numbers: if the admittedly unscientific "straw poll" of our pageview numbers is at all representative, Canon's logical, forward-looking update to its venerable mid-level offering attracted slightly more attention than Nikon's latest mid-level camera – which has seemingly been anticipated for eons. Chalk it up to Canon getting there first, keeping just a little (ok, a very little) more uncertainty about what the 50D's final form would be, and throwing in an all new 15 megapixel CMOS sensor with some impressive high-sensitivity numbers.

Nikon D90
Nikon D90

In large measure, I believe both manufacturers won this week with their new DSLR offerings, but given that they're both targeting the mid-tier DSLR market, comparisons are inevitable. And in spite of the fact that Canon pulled a little more initial buzz, from the editorial desk around these parts, the bigger winner at the end of the day may well be Nikon.

Here's why: Canon was almost certainly been feeling some pressure – mostly coming from Nikon's unequivocally good D300 – to really kick their 40D replacement up a notch, to make it something that could compete with the D300 on specs and beat it on price. To their credit, Canon did all of that and then some, with the 50D. The problem is, Nikon shuffled things up immediately with their new intermediate camera, the D90.

Sure, you can get a 50D – a camera that should go toe to toe with the D300 in image quality and performance – for a couple of hundred less than Nikon's most junior professional model, but then Nikon fires back a day later with a camera that does just about everything the D300 does for a couple of hundred less than the 50D. Oh, and by the way, it also meters a wide range of Nikkor's excellent legacy glass just like the big boys and did we mention it records HD video? Can you say fisheye home movies? I sure can, and moreover, I'm betting Nikon won't have a hard time attracting gadget savvy buyers on that feature alone.

Canon's update was what Canon update almost always are: logical, progressive, and highly competent. It may even hold on to the prize for absolute resolving power, noise performance, and image quality – areas where Canon has, per general consensus, tended to maintain a slight but clear advantage. But in my opinion, Nikon is continuing their strongest bid in several years to take bigger and bigger slices of Canon's market in their historic one-two rivalry with the D90.