Body & Design
The D5000 is something of a departure for Nikon - it's bigger than the D40/D60 sized cameras but still smaller than the D80/D90 body style. And it's not exactly what we'd call pretty. From a conceptual point of view, the D5000 is most of a D90 shoe-horned into a D60 body with an articulated screen added to the back, and it looks as if the designers took that as an instruction for what it should look like. It's adorned with a profusion of bumps, lumps and nubs.
In many respects, the D5000 harks back to the D50 - it's a surprisingly large compared to its peers and, unlike recent little Nikons, has a feature set that will prompt many a debate about whether to buy this camera or the model above.
Side by side
The D5000 fits in well alongside its recently announced peers, the Canon EOS 500D and Olympus E-620. It has a flip-out screen like the E-620 and shares its pixel count, too. The Olympus is the smallest of the three, particularly in terms of depth, while the Nikon is considerably more bulky than either other camera.
In your hand
Thankfully, despite its rather haphazard appearance, the D5000 still fits comfortably into the hand. The hand grip is one of the best examples in this class of camera and the rear dial is easily accessible, making it very quick and easy to use. The AE-L/AF-L button and Exp. Comp. button are also within easy reach, and the desired autofocus point can be selected quickly and easily using the four-way controller. So, although the D5000's aesthetics aren't redolent of careful consideration, its ergonomics are a different matter.
The D5000 doesn't gain the lovely 920,000 dot screen that appears on the D90 and more expensive Nikons. Instead it gets a 2.7", 230,000 dot tilt and swivel LCD. This can help make the most of the camera's live view and video recording capabilities; however because, like the majority of DSLR live view systems, the D5000's live view AF is so slow, it's not as useful as the concept might suggest. Which isn't to say it's a complete waste of time, just that it'll be more of a benefit for a minority of users with quite specific needs (working on a tripod, for instance), rather than being a feature that every buyer will use regularly.
One problem with the D5000's bottom-hinged design, though, is that the screen movements can become severely restricted or blocked once the camera is attached to a tripod. Therefore, you well may have to think about where you want the screen to go before mounting the camera on the tripod. Even if you just have a quick release plate attached to the camera you'll find some positions become inaccessible - the shot below shows just how closely the screen needs to approach the tripod socket in order to cover its full travel. Overall, we prefer side-hinged designs to this bottom-hinged layout.