Nikon D5000 Digital Camera Review$729.95
Lens & Sensor
The kit lens is an AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR. The shots below were taken at the widest-angle, middle and highest-telephoto settings.
The D5000 uses a 23.6 x 15.8mm CMOS sensor with a gross pixel count of 12.9 million and an effective resolution of 12.3 million. The DX format sensor produces a 1.5x lens magnification effect, so the kit 18-55mm lens shoots like a 27-82mm would on a 35mm camera.
The low-pass filter in front of the sensor vibrate to remove accumulated dust, a process than can be performed automatically when the camera is turned on or off, or triggered manually. In addition, its possible to take a reference photo to identify stubborn dust spots for use with the optional Capture NX2 software.
The viewfinder is an eye-level pentamirror with approximately 95% coverage horizontally and vertically, and a magnification factor of approximately 0.78x. There's a sliding diopter control lever on the left side of the viewfinder, providing an adjustment of -1.7 - +0.7m-1. We found the viewfinder reasonably easy to use, even while wearing glasses, though the use of a pentamirror instead of the pentaprism used in higher-end Nikons does produce a dimmer view. The information display at the bottom is bright yellow and visible without losing sight of your subject.
There is an optional viewfinder grid overlay, available through the custom settings menu, that superimposes a 16-section grid on the optical display. Nikon used a light hand here — the lines are clear enough but not intrusive — and we found ourselves using the grid frequently, particularly when shooting buildings and cityscapes.
The LCD isn't the largest (at 2.7 inches) or the highest-resolution (230,00 dots) screen that Nikon offers, but it is one of the most flexible, and unusual. Most cameras with screens that pivot (including the recently reviewed Olympus E-620) have an articulated hinge on the left side, allowing the screen to fold out horizontally, then pivot vertically. Nikon took a different approach, attaching the screen to the bottom of the camera back. It moves up to 180 degrees downward (i.e., flush with the camera back) and pivots from side to side up to 270 degrees. The means you can hold the camera off to either side, down below your waist or over your head when shooting in Live View mode and still frame your shot accurately. You can even turn the screen to face forward and frame an arms-length portrait, though mounting the camera in a tripod will obscure your view of the screen from the front. You can also turn the LCD 180 degrees and click it into place back-side outward, protecting the LCD screen from smudges and the elements.
After shooting with it for a few weeks, we're inclined to favor the side-mounted articulated screen approach. Nikon's logic was to keep the LCD in line with the lens for more intuitive framing of your shots, but we didn't find either orientation particularly superior for framing purposes, and miss the option of tripod-mounted self-portraits with the Nikon approach. Still, even if we don't consider the innovative positioning a step forward, we do like the freedom of an articulated screen, and the D5000 version is a nice alternative to a standard stationary display.
The LCD information display can be set to one of two different styles, as shown below. By default, the Graphic style is used, with a large serif typeface readout of aperture and shutter speed and a graphic on the left that illustrates the current aperture size and indicates shutter speed. The alternative Classic display recreates the look of a traditional monochrome LCD readout (albeit in your choice of three designer colors). We're inclined to favor the Classic approach, partly because we find the larger type easier to read at a glance, and partly because the screen doesn't change when you switch from information display to the interactive menu mode, which uses the Classic layout no matter which style you've chosen for information display purposes.
LCD brightness can be adjusted in seven steps. An interactive on-screen grayscale chart is a helpful guide here.
Like most consumer-oriented SLRs, the Nikon D5000 lacks the monochrome LCD information display on the top of the camera, a feature that's particularly useful when shooting on a tripod. Instead, the same information is displayed on the main LCD while shooting.
The built-in flash pops up about 3.25 inches (80mm) above the center of the lens, a large enough distance to discourage red-eye when shooting in dark settings. Nikon gives the flash range as 3 ft. 3 inches to 39 feet 4 inches (1.0 - 12m) at ISO 200, with a maximum sync speed of 1/200 second. Flash exposure compensation is available in a -3 EV to +1 EV range.
Ordinarily you'll want to use the default TTL flash metering option, but it is also possible to set a manual flash output level between full and 1/32 of full power.
We tried shooting a blank wall from several feet away and were pleased to see a flat, even illumination pattern, with only modest falloff on the left and right edges.
When shooting in auto mode and all but one of the scene modes, the flash pops up automatically when needed. In program, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, manual and the Food scene mode, you have to raise the flash manually if you want it to fire.
The D5000 supports the Nikon Creative Lighting system, meaning the SB-900, SB-800, SB-600, SB-400 and SB-R200 are fully compatible. Other Nikon flash units will work in non-TTL and manual modes. The SU-800 accessory can be used for wireless flash control — the built-in flash doesn't include this capability.
Three I/O ports are located under a tight-fitting protective cover on the left side of the camera.
The D5000 is compatible with Nikon's GP-1 GPS unit ($265), which can store geographical positioning data with photos you shoot. The unit connects via the top jack shown above.
Next down is the proprietary port used for both USB output and standard-def video out. Below that is the mini HDMI port that allows direct connection to a high-def TV for both video and photo viewing.When shooting in Live View, connecting to a TV via HDMI displays live output on the big screen, the most squint-free shooting experience imaginable, especially for still life subjects.
The D5000 uses the EN-EL9a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery rated at 1080 mAh. According to Nikon, the battery is good for approximately 510 shots based on CIPA standard testing, which will obviously fall drastically if you shoot regularly in Live View mode.
The D5000 accepts SD and SDHC memory cards. It also supports Eye-Fi wireless network cards, allowing direct upload from the camera via a Wi-Fi network.