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Nikon D5000 Review

June 2009 | By Richard Butler


Review based on a production Nikon D5000

The recent boom in DSLR sales has seen all the major manufacturers adding bulked-up or stripped-down entry level models, repositioning their offerings to make sure that anyone willing to put up with the size and weight of a DSLR will look at one of their models. The whole thing has often left existing DSLR owners a little lost - 'why isn't there a direct replacement for my camera?' - but has undoubtedly meant there are many more attractive, accessible cameras on the market just waiting to entice first-time DSLR owners.

And its into this maelstrom of DSLR proliferation that Nikon launches its latest baby DSLR, the D5000. Nikon's recent strategy of inexpensive, simplified models caused a lot of confusion. The D40, D40X and D60 removed the autofocus motor, making them smaller and less expensive but limiting the choice of lenses that could be autofocused. Despite this oft-criticised move, the cameras sold very well, prompting the major third-party lens makers to create versions of their popular budget lenses that would focus on these baby Nikons. However, it appears Nikon has again decided that simply replacing models isn't the best way to address the market. So here we have a camera that genuinely seems to sit above the D60 (rather than continuing in parallel until the stock runs out), and below the D90. Like the baby Nikons, the D5000 doesn't have an autofocus motor built into the body but does gain a tilt-and-swivel LCD.

The idea of an upper-entry-level DSLR (for want of a better term), that sits below the 'enthusiast' grade D90 (with its twin control dials, big battery and pentaprism viewfinder), is hardly a radical one - the Canon EOS 500D and Olympus E-620 seem to cater to a similar market. So what does this new Nikon have to offer either the tech-savvy first-time DSLR buyer, or the owner of an older entry-level model wanting newer features but unwilling to slavishly follow the manufacturer's 'upgrade path'?

Nikon D5000 Key Features

  • 12.9 megapixel DX-format CMOS sensor (effective pixels: 12.3 million)
  • 2.7" tilt and swivel LCD monitor (230,000 dots)
  • Movie capture at up to 1280 x 720 (720p) 24 fps with mono sound
  • Live View with contrast-detect AF, face detection and subject tracking
  • Image sensor cleaning (sensor shake)
  • 11 AF points (with 3D tracking)
  • IS0 200-3200 range (100-6400 expanded)
  • 4 frames per second continuous shooting (buffer: 7 RAW, 25 JPEG fine, 100 JPEG Normal)
  • Expeed image processing engine
  • Extensive in-camera retouching including raw development and straightening
  • Connector for optional GPS unit (fits on hot shoe)
  • New battery with increased capacity
  • 72 thumbnail and calendar view in playback

Nikon D5000 vs D60: Key Differences

The D5000 could easily be seen as a D60 with a tilting screen added, and most of a D90 stuffed into it. As such it offers quite a few feature improvements over its little brother:

  • 12.3 MP CMOS sensor (D60: 10.2 MP CCD)
  • Tilt/swivel screen
  • Live View with contrast detect AF
  • Movie Mode
  • Wider ISO range
  • 11 point AF system with 3D tracking (D60: 3 point AF)
  • Control of Active D-Lighting intensity
  • Automatic correction of lateral chromatic aberration
  • Choice of JPEG quality in RAW+JPEG shooting
  • Extra retouching options
  • More scene modes
  • Faster continuous shooting
  • Exposure bracketing

Compared to the Nikon D90 and D60: major feature and specification differences

As you can see from the table below the D5000 offers many of the features of the D90 and certainly represents a major step up from the D60.

 

Nikon D90

Nikon D5000

Nikon D60
Sensor • 12.3 million effective pixels
• 23.6 x 15.8 mm CMOS (DX format)
• 12.3 million effective pixels
• 23.6 x 15.8 mm CMOS (DX format)
• 10.2 million effective pixels
• 23.6 x 15.8 mm CCD (DX format)
Image sizes • 4,288 x 2,848 (12 MP)
• 3,216 x 2,136
• 2,144 x 1,424
• 4,288 x 2,848 (12 MP)
• 3,216 x 2,136
• 2,144 x 1,424
• 3872 x 2592 (10.0 MP)
• 2896 x 1944
• 1936 x 1296
Sensor cleaning • Image Sensor Cleaning
• Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX 2 software required)
• Image Sensor Cleaning
• Airflow control system
• Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX 2 software required)

• Image Sensor Cleaning
• Airflow control system
• Image Dust Off reference data (optional Capture NX 2 software required)

Autofocus • 11 area TTL
• Nikon Multi-CAM1000
• 11 area TTL
• Nikon Multi-CAM1000
• 3 area TTL
• Nikon Multi-CAM530
In-body focus motor • Yes • No • No
AF area modes • Single point
• Dynamic area
• Auto area
• 3D Tracking (11-points)
• Single point
• Dynamic area
• Auto area
• 3D Tracking (11-points)
• Single point
• Dynamic area
• Auto area (closest subject priority)
Live view AF modes • Face priority
• Wide area
• Normal area
• Face priority
• Wide area
• Normal area
• Subject tracking
N/A
Sensitivity

• ISO 200 - 3200
• ISO 100-6400 with boost

• ISO 200 - 3200
• ISO 100-6400 with boost

• ISO 100 - 1600
• Up to ISO 3200 with boost

Continuous • 4.5 fps
• 25 / 7 frames (Fine JPEG / RAW)
• 4 fps
• 63 / 11 frames (Fine JPEG / RAW)
• 3 fps
• 100 / 9 frames (Fine JPEG / RAW)
Viewfinder type • Pentaprism • Pentamirror • Pentamirror
Viewfinder magnification • 0.94x • 0.78x • 0.8x
Viewfinder Frame coverage • Approx. 96% • Approx. 95% • Approx. 95%
LCD monitor

• 3.0" TFT LCD
• 920,000 pixel TFT (RGB x 3 colors)
• Removable protective cover

• 2.7" TFT LCD
• 230,000 pixel TFT
• Articulated
• 2.5" TFT LCD
• 230,000 pixel TFT
Dimensions 132 x 103 x 77 mm (5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in) 127 x 104 x 80 mm (5.0 x 4.1 x 3.1 in) 126 x 94 x 64 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in)
Weight • No battery: 620 g (1.4 lb)
• With battery: 703 g (1.6 lb)
• No battery: 560 g (1.2 lb)
• With battery: 611 g (1.3 lb)
• No battery: 471 g (1.0 lb)
• With battery: 522 g (1.2 lb)
Image processing engine • Expeed
• 12 bit
• Expeed
• 12 bit
• Expeed
• 12 bit
Active D-lighting Can be selected from Auto, Extra high, High, Normal, Low, or Off Can be selected from Auto, Extra high, High, Normal, Low, or Off On/Off
Automatic chromatic aberration correction Yes Yes No
In-camera retouching

• D-Lighting
• Red-eye reduction
• Trimming
Monochrome & filter effects
• Color balance
• Small picture
• Image overlay
• NEF (RAW) processing
• Quick retouch
• Straighten
• Distortion control
• Fisheye

• D-Lighting
• Red-eye reduction
• Trimming
Monochrome & filter effects
• Color balance
• Small picture
• Image overlay
• NEF (RAW) processing
• Quick retouch
• Straighten
• Distortion control
• Fisheye
• Color outline
• Perspective control

• D-Lighting
• Red-eye reduction
• Trimming
Monochrome & filter effects
• Color balance
• Small picture
• Image overlay
• NEF (RAW) processing
• Quick retouch
• Straighten
• Distortion control
• Fisheye

Movie mode Yes Yes No
Live View Yes Yes No
Bracketing Yes Yes No

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / recommendation / ratings are based on the opinion of the author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.

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