Nikon D5000 review
Nikon D5000 tone and exposure
Images have a great tonal range, and especially benefit from the D-lighting system to maintain shadow and highlight detail. In bright conditions the metering causes images to be slightly underexposed but this is more often preferable to overexposure and for instant results can be counteracted using the exposure compensation.
However, for the most part exposure is very even around the mid-tone using the evaluative 3D Matrix mode, and gave equally impressive results from centre-weighted and spot modes.
Nikon D5000 white balance and colour
For the most part the Auto White Balance setting produces bright, zingy colours without going over-board and appearing fake.
However, at higher ISO settings results tended to become slightly cooler. The Auto setting dealt with indoor and outdoor conditions equally well and rarely needed altering, though the wide range of white balance presets and the fine-tuning available for each mode mean that, should you wish, you could tailor your settings precisely to your liking.
200ISO (first image) 6400ISO (second image)
Nikon D5000 noise
Low-light capability has been one of Nikon's strong points over its recent models and the D5000 doesn't let the side down. Despite a relatively stunted range of 200-3200, the results remain well detailed and free of colour noise, only suffering slightly in terms of warmth.
At the expanded Hi-1 setting, equivalent to ISO 6400, noise does start to become more apparent, especially in the shadows but even so this is still a decent performance.
Raw (first image) JPEG (second image)
These 700x700 pixel sections of the same image show the difference between the Raw and JPEG files - with the Raw file giving a crisper result.
Nikon D5000 Raw/JPEG
Both sets of images perform very well, even down to 300% magnification, and both appear sharp to the pixel. The Raw files do have a certain extra level of crispness though, perhaps helped by a greater level of darker tones to bolster the blacks, and smother tonal gradation as shown in the histograms.
The main advantages of the Raw file are that in their unprocessed form they allow a much great degree of adjustment and sharpening without degrading the image - should they need it. The camera comes with the View NX software for basic Raw conversion but for fine tuning the more advanced Capture NX2 is available at an extra cost.
Nikon D5000 sharpness and detail
The level of detail in the images is very impressive even at high magnification. For low-light it was possible to raise the ISO comfortably to ISO 800 without any significant loss in detail or sharpness. This combined with the vibration reduction motors in the 18-55mm kit lens made shooting hand-held, without risking camera shake, easy in all but the darkest environments.
Nikon D5000 D-lighting
The D-lighting system works to increase the dynamic range by boosting the shadow areas and holding back the highlights. The result is a more evenly toned image with greater detail, closer to as we would see it with our own eyes. The D5000 offers various levels of D-lighting, which can be selected manually, alternatively it can be set to Auto or turned off completely.
Nikon D5000 Movie mode
Shooting video on this camera can produce results far superior to most consumer camcorders. At up to 720P high definition and 24fps you can capture blisteringly sharp images. However, standards of video capture have been set very high in recent DSLRs and it would have been nice to see a full 1080P setting, or at least 30fps shooting speed. A lack of autofocus here, mainly due to potential noise to the microphone, means that you must pre-focus or use the manual lens ring.