Let's start with the positives. Give the Nikon Coolpix P90 a perfect sunny day and nearby, colourful subjects and you'll be delighted with the images you end up with. Saturated colours are replicated brightly and there's a lot of detail in the 12Mp images.
The almost imperceptible shutter lag means you'll usually capture exactly the shot you intended to take. However, if getting the perfect moment is imperative, then the Nikon Coolpix P90 can take up 45 successive shots at a rate of 15 frames per second. These, though, are snapped at only 1,920x1,080 (around 2Mp each).
A pre-cache feature kicks in when you half-depress the shutter and retains the last 10 images before you fully press it.
Shots from further away using the telephoto end of the 24x lens look good through the camera's viewfinder and screen, but after opening them in Adobe Photoshop and zooming in, we found a lot of softness where other cameras gave us detail.
Telephoto shots are prone to lens distortion on all cameras with large zooms. Nikon compensates for this with a distortion correction feature based on the known characteristics of the lens and focal length. It works well enough, but the Nikon Coolpix P90 has to pause to render this between shots.
Wander into darker areas and the Nikon Coolpix P90's central flaw becomes apparent. At ISO settings of 200 or higher, only Pentax's X70 recorded more noise than the P90 - and you'll get few usable low-light shots. One way round this is to use the P90's BSS (Best Shot Selector) functions, which takes 10 shots and automatically picks the best.
Another concern is the lack of manual control buttons on the P90's Spartan chassis. Whereas the Canon the PowerShot SX10 IS and Panasonic Lumix F28 are laden with options, you get only the basics here. We weren't sold on the Nikon's plastic casing either. However, we can't argue with Nikon's provision of a generous 3in LCD screen that sits on a double-hinged arm.
Given plenty of light, we were able to achieve bright, detailed shots with the Nikon Coolpix P90. We also liked its large LCD screen and innovative distortion correction and Best Shot Selector. We were less keen on the results when lighting conditions were imperfect or when we wanted to make full use of its 24x zoom.