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Viewfinder

The D5000 gets a slightly modified pentamirror viewfinder, downsized a fraction when compared to the D40/D60 but still bigger than on the old D50 and D70. It offers 0.78x magnification and 95% coverage in each dimension. It's not up to the standards of the D90's pentaprism (which is one of the best reasons to plump for the more expensive model), but it's better than most cameras in its class. It gains optional grid lines.

Autofocus

11 area AF Wide zone center focus point

The D5000 acquires the 11-point AF system from the D90. It's a pretty sophisticated setup for a camera at this level. Most notably, like the more expensive Nikons, the system can track objects by color and distance as they move across different AF points. As with the D90, Nikon recommends the use of this feature for situations in which you focus on one object, then recompose the photo, rather than attempting to keep up with rapidly moving sports as can be done with the 51-point system in the D300/D700/D3 and D3X.

1 Focus achieved 10 Exposure compensation indicator
2 Exposure lock indicator 11 Bracketing indicator
3 Program shifted 12 ISO / Auto ISO indicator
4 Shutter speed 13 Card space/Buffer indicator/Exp Comp value/
5 Aperture (f number)   Flash comp value/Mode indicator/ISO setting
6 Exposure scale / focus rangefinder 14 Over 1000 shots remain
7 Battery indicator 15 ISO compensation indicator
8 Flash compensation indicator 16 Flash-ready indicator
9 White balance bracketing indicator 17 Warning indicator

 

Viewfinder size

One figure hidden away in every SLR's spec is the size of the viewfinder (often in a format that makes comparison between competing models impossible). The size of the viewfinder is a key factor in the usability of an SLR - the bigger it is, the easier it is to frame and focus your shots, and the more enjoyable and involving process it is.

Because of the way viewfinders are measured (using a fixed lens, rather than a lens of equivalent magnification), you also need to take the sensor size into account, so the numbers in the diagram below are the manufacturer's specified magnifications divided by the respective 'crop factors'. As you can see, the result is that the D5000 has a viewfinder a fraction smaller than the Canon EOS 500D but larger than the competing Four Thirds or Sony models. The other camera we've used in our comparisons (later in this review), the Olympus E-620, has a noticeably smaller viewfinder.

The diagram below shows the relative size of the viewfinders of the Nikon D5000, the Canon EOS 500D, Olympus E-620 and - for reference - the EOS-1Ds Mark III (currently the biggest viewfinder on the DSLR market).

Nikon D5000's viewfinder is slightly smaller than the Canon EOS 500D's (though the difference is impossible to see). Both are slightly larger than the E-620's viewfinder, thanks mainly to the wider aspect ratio they use.

Viewfinder crop

Most cameras at this level crop the frame slightly when you look through the viewfinder - in other words you get slightly more in the final picture than you see through the viewfinder. In common with most of its competitors the D5000 only shows 95% (vertically and horizontally) of the frame.

Nikon D5000: 95% viewfinder.

Battery, Compartment and Charger

The D5000 uses a revised version of the battery from the D40 and D60. It's backwards compatible and can be used in the older cameras and with the same charger. The new EN-EL9a ups its capacity to 7.8Wh, rather than the 7.2 of the non-'a' version. The battery should be good for around 510 shots, rather than the D90's 850, Nikon says.

GPS unit

Like most recent Nikons, the D5000 has a socket for accepting a signal from the GP-1 GPS attachment.

Secure Digital Compartment

The SD card compartment door is located on the rear right edge of the hand grip and opens cleanly revealing a standard SD slot (push to insert, push to remove). The camera does not power down if you open the SD compartment. Like most recent DSLRs, the D5000 is quite happy to accommodate higher capacity SDHC cards.

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