Nikon D5000 Conclusion
By Mike Flacy
Nikon's latest entry-level dSLR model (as of 6/2009), the D5000 has inherited many of it's powerful features from the larger and more expensive Nikon D90. The D5000 also replaces the D60 from last year as Nikon's consumer or entry-level model for 2009. The advanced features of this new camera include the same 12.3-megapixel DX format image sensor and EXPEED image processing system found on the D90, an 11-point AF system, 3D Color Matrix Metering II with 420 pixel RGB sensor, a Large 2.7-inch Vari-angle LCD, powerful built-in flash unit, Active D-lighting, Live View mode, broad sensitivity range (IS0 200 - 3200 + Hi/Lo settings in 0.3/0.7/1.0EV steps), increased burst capabilities (up to 4fps in JPEG Fine), ability to capture 720p HD (1280x720) video with sound at 24fps, HDMI video output, etc.
While labeled an entry-level dSLR, the D5000 is a very robust camera that offers a great deal of control over the exposure process. The novice users, and those who are new to the dSLR world, will appreciate settings like Auto and Program AE as well as the various Advanced or standard scene modes on this camera. For those who are more experienced, the D5000 also includes Shutter/Aperture priority and full Manual modes. There are also 23+ Custom Settings that allow you to customize the D5000's operation specifically to your shooting style or needs.
The D5000 is among several "compact" dSLR models from Nikon (D40, D40x, D60, etc.), which are much smaller and lighter than the higher end D-series models, like the D300 and D700. I found the D5000's size and weight to be very comfortable, and I had no problem carrying it around all day while visiting our local zoo to capture some nice photos. The control layout is very similar to its predecessor, with only a few changes to button location and operation. Overall, the various buttons and controls of the camera are well placed, all with in reach of either you finger tips or thumbs. One new feature that I especially liked about the D5000 was the 2.7-inch (230k pixel) Vari-angle LCD. While it doesn't offer as much resolution as many of today's displays, I found the screen still offers a nice clear image. The ability to rotate and tilt this display adds a great deal of versatility for shot composition, especially when using the Live View feature to shoot stills or movies. You can shoot over a crowd, from waist level, of off your tripod with ease. In fact, I favored using the LCD to frame when using the D5000 on my tripod. Another benefit of using the LCD to frame is you see 100% of the captured image, compared to 95% on the OVF or Optical ViewFinder.
The menu system is similar to past models, and the logical organization allows you to quickly find/change settings. The Shooting Information display was also a pleasure to use. This screen display acts much like the data LCD found on amateur and professional dSLR models, with icons indicating exposure mode, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering, etc. This is also a shortcut menu that will allow you to make changes on the fly, without having to enter the full menu system. Nikon has updated the Retouch menu on the D5000 with several new image correction tools. Not only can you use D-Lighting, remove Red-eye from your flash portraits or add filter effects, but the D5000 also allows you to straighten an image, make a smaller image from an original file, adjust the color balance as well as process NEF (RAW) images right in the camera. This useful menu will likely appeal to those who have just made the jump into a dSLR, but don't want to spend much time post-processing images later on their PC/Mac.
The D5000 utilizes a pentamirror type viewfinder, similar to that found on the D60. This eye-level unit offers approx. 95% frame coverage with a 17.9mm eyepoint and -1.7-+0.5m-1 diopter adjustment. I found the OVF was very comfortable, even when shooting for long periods with the camera up to my eye. There is a wealth of exposure information along the bottom, and those who are accustomed to the EVFs (Electronic ViewFinders) found on higher end consumer digicams, will appreciate the optical thru-the-lens view that does not go blank while following a subject in burst mode.
The D5000's shooting performance results were very impressive for an entry-level dSLR. From power-on until capture of the first image took only 8/10 of a second. Shutter lag, the time delay between depressing the shutter and capturing an image, was less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and between 3/10 and 7/10 of a second with autofocus, depending on the degree of focus change required by the attached lens. In single-shot mode, I was able to capture images at 6/10 of a second intervals without flash, and between 9/10 of a second and 1.5 second intervals with flash, depending on subject distance.
When it comes to burst capture, the D5000 blows away the competition in this price range. There is only one burst mode setting, which allowed me to capture 20 images in just 4.7 seconds (4.25fps), before the buffer filled. This surpassed Nikon's claim of 4fps in continuous capture mode. Once the buffer filled with about 20 JPEG Fine images, the camera then slowed down to about 1.9fps. Although you can only capture about 20 frames before the camera starts to slow down, the average user should still be able to capture the shot they were looking for with this frame depth. This was done using Auto mode with the ISO set at Auto, and raising the ISO manually to 800 did allow the camera to perform a bit faster (about 4.4fps), however the frame depth seemed to be limited to about 10 frames before it slowed down. This was most likely due to the in-camera High ISO noise reduction process slowing the camera down.
When shooting NEF (RAW) images in single exposure mode, I was able to capture 17 NEF images at 6/10 of a second intervals, before the camera slowed down due to a full buffer. It then slowed to about 1 second between frames. When using the burst mode setting, the D5000 performed at the same speeds as above, just the frame depth changed with a max of about 9 NEF images. Once the buffer filled, it took about 17 seconds to completely flush the memory. When switching the camera to RAW+JPEG/Fine mode, the D5000 captured 7 images in 1.3 seconds, and the buffer flushed in about 21 seconds. All of our shooting performance tests were done using an OCZ Class 6 4GB SDHC memory card, Auto mode, ISO Auto, the kit 18-55mm lens, flash off, preview on, and all other settings at the factory defaults; unless noted. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, media used, camera settings, etc.
The quality of the D5000's 12-megapixel JPEG images is very similar to the D90's; excellent. I was able to capture pleasing photos in a variety of shooting environments, including dim lighting indoors. The 11-point autofocus is a welcomed upgrade over the 3-point system used on past models. It was able to quickly lock focus on my subjects, even in lower lighting, helping the D5000 produce nice sharp images throughout the zoom and aperture ranges. When shooting in a dim room, the system is aided by an AF assist lamp that offers an effective range of approx. 1.64 - 9.8 ft. (0.5 - 3 m). The exposure and white balance systems complement each other well, producing accurate exposures and true colors. The D5000's image quality results when using it's high ISO capabilities are very impressive. This camera's High ISO NR algorythms handle noise very well, and detail is maintained even at the higher settings, like ISO 2500 for example. Even our Hi 1.0EV (6400) example looks very usable for small to mid sized prints. It does suffer from some detail loss, and an obvious decrease in saturation, however I still feel you can create a usable photo from this image. Overall, the D5000 has some of the best high ISO capabilities I have seen thus far from a dSLR in this category (as of 6/2009).
The D5000 also delivers when shooting portraits. The built-in flash worked rather well, whether I was shooting indoors or using it outside as a fill-in. Our portrait examples turned out great in my opinion, especially when you consider all we had to shoot with was the standard kit lens. You can see for yourself how well the D5000 performed by looking at our Samples page.
Live View seems to be a feature that is here to stay on dSLRs. While almost everyone is offering this feature, not all models are created equal when it comes to performance and ease of use. That said, I found that the Live View function on the D5000 worked well, depending on what type of photos you are trying to capture with it. To activate this feature, you simply press the LV button located on the back. The camera then quickly turns the LCD into a live viewfinder with 100% frame coverage. The mirror only moves a total of two times, once when you enter this mode, and again when you fully press the shutter release to capture an image; no two button business. Like we found with the D90, the D5000's AF system in Live View is a bit slower than I would like to see. I was glad that Nikon added a Subject Tracking AF mode for Live View, however it too was not that impressive. It would take the camera at least a second to lock onto a subject, and once locked, did a decent job of stating on target. Once you press the shutter release again to capture a shot, the AF system will try to refocus, which again takes at least a second. So, I still don't see to many photographers using the Live View function for any type of sports shooting. If you're wanting to capture action, you're better off using the D5000's burst or video capture capabilities.
The D5000 offers the same movie mode options that we first saw from Nikon on the D90. You can record movies at 24fps with sound at three different resolution settings; 1280x720, 640x424 or 320x216. We used the HD (720p) setting for all of our tests, and overall found the D5000 captures nice video. Even though these modes feature a slower than average frame rate, I found video playback was nice and smooth both in-camera and on my PC. The exposure system did well in bight outdoor conditions, and the microphone produced good audio. I was impressed at how well it handled extremely loud noise, like that of the Nascar Craftsman truck series vehicles. I also found that the mic is very sensitive, as it picked up a lot of background noise. The only other issue I had with the movie function was AF. In order for the camera to capture a sharp movie, you have to first half-press the shutter release to acquire focus (focus box turns green), then you have to press the OK button to start recording. I first noticed this issue when using the D90. After I retuned home to view some videos on my PC, I found that all of the videos I had taken were out of focus, even thought they looked good on the LCD at first. As I stated in our Canon EOS 5D Mark II review, at first I was not too sure about dSLRs that offer movie mode. I felt that this feature was something that belonged on consumer digicams, not dSLRS. In comparison to the 5DMK2 and D90, after using the D5000's HD video feature, I have come to enjoy this option. The body of these cameras are much easier to keep steady compared to tiny digicams, therefore, increasing your chances of capturing nice steady hand-held video. Not to mention the quality is also much better.
Software is very important with any dSLR, allowing you to quickly edit your photos, especially when using NEF (RAW) mode. The included Nikon Software Suite offers plenty of editing options, even for NEF files. For even more control, you can download Nikon's Capture NX2 software. This very useful tool offers a wealth of adjustment options for NEF files as well as JPEG and TIFF formats. Nikon allows you to "try out" Capture NX2 for 60 days, giving you ample time to get comfortable with the software and see if it will fit your needs, before you commit to purchasing it.
The D5000 uses Nikon's 7.2v 1080mAh EN-EL9a Li-ion battery pack. They claim you can capture up to 510 shots on a single charge using CIPA testing methods. I found battery life was excellent, capturing over 450 still images, several short HD video clips, and concluding our usual tests with extensive image review in playback mode, all with a little juice left to spare. If you are the occasional shooter, one pack will surely serve you well. However, I still recommend that those who plan on using the D5000 as a tool in their business or those who are going on vacation pick up at least one spare pack.
Bottom line - Nikon has impressed us yet again with a Well rounded consumer dSLR model. With excellent still image and video quality, class leading burst abilities, and loads of user-friendly exposure settings, the Nikon D5000 is sure to please most any photographer, whether this is your first SLR, or you're picking up a lighter backup unit. Following closely in the D90's foot steps, I suspect the D5000 will be a very popular model, and have no problem giving it our highest recommendation. With a street price of about US$800 for the D5000 & 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX Zoom- Nikkor lens kit, we feel this model offers and outstanding value for the level of performance, versatility, and features you are going to receive.
Nikon has announced a Service Advisory for the D5000 dSLRPer Nikon's Website:
July 16, 2009
Notice to users of the Nikon D5000 Digital SLR Camera
Thank you for choosing Nikon for your imaging needs.
While Nikon takes great measures to assure high quality in its imaging products, it has come to our attention that an electronic component related to power control in some Nikon D5000 digital SLR cameras does not meet factory specifications and may, in certain circumstances, prevent the camera from turning on, thus preventing operation of the camera.
Indications of this issue include:
2. The camera cannot be operated with the EH-5a AC Adapter connected through the EP-5 Power Connector and the power switch on.
Is your D5000 affected?
If your serial number indicates that your D5000 requires service: Beginning July 23, 2009, This Page will include easy-to-follow instructions for customers whose D5000 cameras have been identified (by serial number as noted above) as needing service related to this Advisory. The instructions will include shipping tips and a shipping label generator will be provided. Using the Nikon-generated label is both convenient and relieves you of the expense of shipping your camera to Nikon.
We apologize for any inconvenience that Nikon customers may experience as a result of this issue. Nikon remains committed to providing only the highest quality photographic products and hopes that you will continue to choose Nikon for your imaging needs.
For additional information, please see Nikon's Frequently Asked Questions - D5000 Service Advisory page.
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