Overall performance is quite good and the camera always feels snappy and responsive. Processor power and buffering have, compared to the Nikon D60 which itself wasn't a slouch, been further improved making the D5000, especially in the continuous shooting department, one of the fastest cameras in the 'entry level' segment. Even in raw mode the Nikon D5000 rarely gets in the way of the action.

Timings & File Sizes

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 4752 x 3168 JPEG Fine (approx. 6,600 KB per image).

The media used for these tests was:

  • 8 GB SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/s Edition SD card
Time, secs
(8 GB SanDisk)
Power Off to On *1   2.3
Power Off to Shot   <0.1
Shot to shot time (JPEG) *2 Live view 0.4
Shot to shot time (RAW) *2 Live view 0.5
Switch from live view   0.6
Power On to Off *3   <0.1


This is the time from turning the switch to the 'On' position to the status display appearing on the LCD monitor (as soon as you would be able to verify camera settings). By default sensor cleaning is activated at start-up. You can turn this feature off which reduces this figure to 0.5 sec.
As you can see from the 'Off to Shot' time this doesn't actually affect how quickly you can begin using the camera which is as good as instant.

*2 The live view screen 'blacks out' when taking images in quick succession.
*3 This is taken up with 'Sensor cleaning' at power off disabled (default). When enabled the power off time is approximately 2.2 seconds.

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/500 sec, F5.6), ISO 200. Measurements were taken from audio recordings of the tests. Media used were the same as above.

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate, this was always 4.0 fps (+/- 0.05 fps)
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held down after burst (buffer full)
  • Write complete - How long after the last shot before the CF lamp goes out

Burst of JPEG Large/Fine images

8 GB SanDisk
Frame rate 4.0 fps
Number of frames 100
Write complete ~ 1.2 sec

Burst of RAW images

8 GB SanDisk
Frame rate 4.0 fps
Number of frames 11
Buffer full rate 2.6 fps
Write complete 12.6 sec

The D5000's continuous shooting is a noticeable improvement on its smaller sibling (D60: 3.0 fps), despite the larger file sizes. The buffer size and speed have also improved. You can now shoot 11 RAW frames at full speed, after that the frame rate drops to a still quite useful 2.6 fps. Note that when you switch to RAW+JPEG you can only capture 5 frames in one burst and the buffer full rate also drops significantly. Enabling Active D-Lighting will also slow you down.

USB transfer speed

To test the D5000's USB speed we transferred approximately 500 MB of images (mixed RAW and JPEG) from a SanDisk Extreme III 30MB/s Edition 8 SD card (the same card used in the other readers). With the D5000 connected via USB cable, the only transfer method available is PTP - Nikon doesn't provide a simple 'mass storage device' feature in the camera (enabling the camera to act as a normal card reader). The D5000's 9.9 MB/sec is almost double the speed of the D60 but you're still better off using a fast card reader.

Transfer rate
Nikon D5000 USB 2.0 (PTP) 9.9 MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme III (using built in USB connector) 20.2 MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme III in USB 2.0 reader 11.3 MB/sec

Autofocus speed / accuracy

The D5000 has a pretty sophisticated AF system - it's the same as the system in the D90 which is, itself, a simplified version of the system that occurs in high-end Nikons. The camera locks focus quickly, even with the kit lens's relatively small apertures. We took over 600 real-life sample shots with the production D5000, using a variety of lenses and didn't have any issues with focus accuracy (Though I tend to use the center focus point). Focus performance in low light is good: it slows down as you should expect (and is more likely to hunt a bit) and the camera is a bit keen to make use of its AF illuminator but the result is that you still get nice sharp shots, so long as the subject hasn't decided to hide their face.

The AF-point selection modes are easy-to-understand and tend to do a good job of focusing where you'd expect them to, though we'd echo Nikon's comment that the 3D tracking mode is more useful for focus-and-recomposing than for trying to keep up with fast-moving action.

In live view and video mode the picture looks slightly different. The D5000's contrast AF is so slow that it's almost unusable. Don't expect to lock the focus on any fast moving objects while shooting a video or when in live view. To be fair though, this is not significantly better on any of the competition's models (the Panasonic G1 and GH1 are the only interchangeable lens cameras to be designed specifically to use contrast-detect AF, and it shows).

Battery life

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. According to the D5000 specs the battery should be good for around 510 shots (according to the standard CIPA testing methodology which doesn't necessarily reflect real-world figures but does allow comparisons between cameras) which is quite a bit less than you get for instance from the D90 battery (850) but should still easily take you through a normal day of shooting.