Nikon D5000 is the latest mid-range consumer DSLR with high definition video and vari-angle screen.
Performance and value
Nikon D5000 review – Performance
Nikon D5000 autofocus system
The autofocus system, as already seen in the highly successful D90 is impressive. Single point focusing is fast and accurate in almost all conditions and the 3D tracking mode is quite impressive for this level of camera. When switching to live view mode the focusing relies on a contrast detect system, instead of the dedicated focus sensor module. This is significantly slower to lock on but does still give a choice of modes, including an effective face recognition AF.
Nikon D5000 metering
The 3D Matrix metering proves itself more than capable in most situations, providing an even exposure. The centre-weighted and spot modes are useful however, for trickier lighting situations such as back lighting or high contrast scenes. Generally the metering tends to slightly underexpose rather than overexpose but, by incorporating the D lighting system, no detail was lost and it actually meant that bright skies were controlled much more proficiently than in some competitor models.
Nikon D5000 shooting speed
The continuous shooting speed of 4fps is impressive and also takes a lead on its competition. Using a SanDisk Extreme III 1GB SD card it kept shooting for up to 100 fine JPEG images, 11 Raw images, or seven Raw plus Fine JPEG images. Write times for a single shot were just 1sec for Fine JPEG, 1.5sec for Raw, and 2sec for Raw plus Fine JPEG.
Nikon D5000 LCD screen
The LCD screen has huge benefits for live view or movie shooting, thanks to its vari-angle bracket, making it easy to view from waist-level or at awkward angles but the size and resolution are less impressive. In general use the screen appears plenty bright enough and is definitely large enough for composition and review but when compared directly to newer 3in models with 900,000+ dots, the D5000’s 2.7in 230,000-dot screen does fall down slightly. Whether I’d give up the vari-angle screen for more resolution and a bigger screen is another question.
Nikon D5000 movie mode
Just having a movie mode was enough to be sensational but now with Cameras such great movie functions now out there we need to know a little more about how this compares. Firstly, the lack of full 1080P HD is a slight disappointment but as the Canon 500D only offers this at a slow 20fps, it’s not a huge issue – especially as you’d need to be viewing the results on at least a 32in screen to see any difference at all between 720P and 1080P.
However, the EOS 500D does shoot 720P at 30fps compared to the 24fps from the Nikon D5000, and this drop in frame rate is more noticeable. Producing an effective and quiet autofocus for a DSLR movie mode still seems to be an issue for all models so Nikon’s decision to leave it off is not losing it points; at least until the new Panasonic GH-1 hits the shops. One benefit users may find for this movie mode is the file format. It saves into .AVI format which seems from our experience to be supported more readily than the Quicktime .MOV format, though modern editing software should support both.
Nikon D5000 built-in flash
The built-in flash unit gives a fairly standard guide number of 13m, though this equates to 18m at the D5000’s native ISO 200 value. Generally though, it offers good coverage and decent results for a flash of this type.
Nikon D5000 review – Value For Money
Based purely on recommended retail prices, this model is significantly cheaper than the new Canon EOS 500D and offers all the benefits of the more expensive Nikon D90 in a smaller body.
In many areas it doesn’t quite match up to the new Canon – resolution, ISO range, screen size and movie size are all lower – but the differences are minimal and for the price difference you can almost accept this.
Nikon fans will be faced with a tougher choice though between this and the older D90 – which can now be bought on the high street for cheaper than the D5000. There are benefits, the vari-angle nature of the screen among them, but against the larger body and the higher resolution LCD of the D90, it may be a tough choice.
It is slightly unfair however to compare the D5000 to discounted older models and within its market it offers a very competitive performance. In the last month the price of the Canon 500D has already dropped by £110 and we expect the competition between these two cameras to result in some great deals to be had.