Nikon D5000 digital SLR camera

A fully featured Nikon D-SLR that's easy to use

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Nikon D5000
  • Nikon D5000
  • Nikon D5000
  • Nikon D5000

Pros

  • Excellent Live View implementation, useful scene modes and shooting hints, comfortable to use, fast shot-to-shot and burst mode performance

Cons

  • No dedicated aperture dial, no shortcut for ISO setting, videos were jumpy, no external microphone jack

Bottom Line

Nikon's D5000 is an easy-to-use digital SLR. It's not a big camera, so it won't be too hard to carry on outdoor adventures and overseas trips — unless you also pack plenty of lenses and accessories. We recommend it for anyone who wants to make the leap from a compact camera to a digital SLR.

Would you buy this?

Nikon’s D5000 is the most intriguing camera of the year so far. It’s an entry-level digital SLR that has plenty of advanced features, yet it also features shooting guides and in-built scene modes. It's a camera that can be tailored to any shooting situation, and inexperienced photographers should find it simple to use. Essentially, what you are getting in the D5000 is a camera that incorporates technology from the Nikon D90 (Live View) and marries it with user-friendly features from point-and-shoot and advanced compact cameras.

It has a compact body that is 12.5cm long, 8.3cm wide and 10.5cm tall, and it weighs 0.6kg without a lens. Inside, it has a 12.3-megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor and an EXPEED processor. It can be paired with any F-mount lens, but it's best suited to autofocusing AF-S and AF-I type DX-format lenses; you can attach anything from a fisheye to a 300mm lens. To get you started, Nikon supplies the D5000 in a single or a dual lens kit. The single lens kit has an 18-55mm image stabilised lens, while the dual lens kit has the 18-55mm lens as well as a 55-200mm image stabilised lens.

To really get the most out of the D5000, you will want to learn all about exposure settings and what effect changing the shutter speed, aperture and ISO will have on your photos. However, if you don't want to learn about them all just yet, you can use the 19 scene modes to good effect. They really do a good job at selecting the right settings depending on your environment. Also, if you choose to shoot in the semi-manual aperture priority or shutter priority modes, the camera has built-in hints that can let you know if a scene is too dark or too bright, allowing you to change your setting.

You can frame photos either by using the optical viewfinder or the 2.7in LCD screen (Live View). Live View is perfect for the times when you need to frame images at low or high angles: the LCD screen flips open and swivels so that you can take all sorts of angled shots and self-portraits with relative ease. It's a high quality screen, which helps with focusing. Because the screen flips out downwards instead of sideways, it doesn't hinder the position of your left hand while shooting.

The Live View implementation on the Nikon D5000 is excellent. It's better than what we've seen from Canon and is as good as what we've seen from Olympus. Automatic focusing functions are quick and clear on the screen and shot-to-shot performance is very quick (though the camera's shutter feels like it takes an eternity to close, even at high speeds). Because of the Live View mode, you'll have no problems using this digital SLR in the same way as an advanced compact camera.

The only problem you'll have is viewing the screen in very bright conditions; in these situations you'll want to use the optical viewfinder. Also, the battery will be drained much quicker if you use the LCD screen extensively. Because the Nikon D5000 does not have a dedicated window for displaying its settings (like a mid-range D-SLR has), you'll have to refer to the LCD screen more often than not in order to view and change settings.

The LCD screen and Live View need to be active when you want to use the camera's video mode, which can capture movies at a resolution of 720p. The captured files are in AVI format and can be viewed easily in Windows Media Player on your computer, or on your TV through the camera's HDMI port.

During our tests, video footage wasn't on par with a dedicated camcorder. It was jittery, and relatively fast panning made lines skew. It's as good as video taken from a typical digital camera, but it has a higher resolution. It's a useful feature to have, and the neat thing about it is that you can change lenses and get weird and wonderful perspectives.

As for the camera's still image performance — it's stellar. The focus system has 11 points and it focused very quickly. It can track objects in three dimensions within those focus points, which means you can take photos of moving objects without losing the focus point. The focus point can be changed by using the thumb control. Face detection is also available in Live View mode. The quality of your shots will depend on the lenses that you use. We used a Nikkor AF-S 60mm prime lens, which produced crisp images (it should given it's a prime lens) and virtually no noticeable chromatic aberration.

We shot in aperture priority, shutter priority and manual modes for the most part, but the scene modes are also useful if you don't know how to set the exposure manually. You can also play with the built-in filters and colour modes to manipulate your photos without even using a PC. The built-in D-Lighting effect can be used when shooting backlit images, and it does a good job of brightening up the foreground image without blowing out the bright part of the image. It's a useful feature if you have to shoot towards the sun, for example, or in partly shaded areas.

Because the Nikon D5000 is an entry-level digital SLR, it doesn't have many of the niceties of a more expensive camera (such as a dedicated aperture dial, a shortcut to ISO speed, a status screen, nor a depth of field preview button, for example), but it does pack some nifty features that make it a desirable model nonetheless.

It has built-in image sensor cleaning; an airflow system (vents) to clean dust off the low-pass filter; support for a GPS module; a hot-shoe; a reduced noise shutter (for example, when photographing a sleeping baby, you can snap the photo, hear the click, keep holding down the shutter button, walk away and release it so that the second click does not wake the baby); as well as a slew of built-in filters (such lens distortion, which does a decent job of straightening lines that have curved due to barrel roll). It also has a useful burst mode (it shot up to 39 frames before slowing down to write them to our Lexar Professional 133x SD card).

The Nikon D5000 is one of the most impressive digital SLR cameras on the market. Not only can it be used as a fully fledged D-SLR with manual settings, but it can shoot movies and also be used in a similar way to an advanced compact or a point-and-shoot camera. Its user-friendly features and built-in hints make it a very easy model to use, and it's also not a big camera, so it won't be too hard to carry on outdoor adventures and overseas trips — unless you also pack plenty of lenses and accessories. We recommend it for anyone who wants to make the leap from a compact camera to a digital SLR.

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