Nikon D5000 Brief Review

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REVIEW SUMMARY

Specifications

  • 12.3 megapixel DX CMOS sensor
  • 720p HD D-Movie mode
  • 2.7-inch Live View LCD display, variable angle
  • Secure Digital memory storage (SD/SDHC)
  • Release Date: 2009-05-05
  • Final Grade: 88 4.4 Star Rating: Recommended

4.4 Star Rating: Recommended

Nikon D5000 Review
We know this review comes many months after the D5000's release, and it's been throughouly reviewed on many camera sites and in our comments sections. But it's a hugely popular product on Digital Camera HQ (top three as of late January 2010) and more importantly, many readers are curious to know how it stacks up to the Canon Digital Rebel T1i. Read on to find out.
By , Last updated on: 8/21/2014

Entry-level dSLRs are Nikon's bread and butter. Their higher-end dSLRs are great cameras, but overshadowed by Canon's heavy hitters. Their point-and-shoots are almost always subpar. But affordable dSLRs--that's where they really nail it.

The D5000 is another hit for them. They took the sensor and video mode from the well-received pro-sumer D90 and fit them into a new, more affordable package. It's no pro camera, but for such a reasonable price, it's one of the better choices for amateurs ready to make the step up from fixed-lens cameras.

Design

The D5000 is relatively hefty. It's smaller than the D90, but larger than the D40X and similar models from competing brands, like the Canon Rebel T1i or Pentax K-x. My hands are pretty big, and the body felt just about right for my grip--maybe a little bit too bulky for somebody with small hands.

The button layout, for the most part, is all peaches 'n' cream. My only gripe is that video mode isn't readily apparent (a quick scan through the manual reveals that you simply press the OK button at the center of the directional buttons).

This is the first Nikon dSLR (that I can find reference to, anyway) with an articulating LCD display. At 2.7 inches, it's smaller than the 3-incher on the lower-cost D3000, but that extra room goes to the D5000's superb tilt-and-swivel hinge. This feature has been on a number of Canon models for a few years now, including bridge models like the SX1.

The screen is marketed as a handy way to get a self-portrait or to take the guesswork out of a “point and pray” situation from around a corner or above a crowd. (Ashton Kutcher did all three while he crashed a fashion show in a TV spot around the holidays.) It's a nice touch and I found a few uses for it, but I had to look for them. It's worth noting that it's a bit too heavy to hold with just one hand at arms' length for an extended time, so get those awkward shots quickly.

Performance

Amateurs will find everything they need in the D5000. It's fast. Especially since a chunk of D5000 buyers will be first-time dSLR users, it'll seem really fast. Some measurements put the pre-focused shutter lag at 0.02 seconds and the burst mode can reach almost four frames per second for about six seconds.

The kit lens we tested (18-55mm) seemed pretty good for stock glass (though I'm not a big glass aficionado, so feel free to chime in with your own thoughts below). It bears the VR mark, so autofocus is a go. Picture quality is great as well--you'll get crisp, noise-free images with nice depth-of-field in fully automatic mode. The images are even passable at high ISO (1600 and 3200).

The viewfinder is OK, at 95 percent crop and 0.78x magnification, though it is pretty dim. The actual LCD display (disregarding the awesome hinge that we covered) is decent, though at 2.7-inches and 230k pixels, it's not quite as visually stunning as the T1i's 3-inch, 900k+ pixel display. As with any dSLR so far, LiveView hampers the autofocus tremendously, so I'd only recommend using it when the articulating hinge is a must.

Video mode isn't a highlight of the D5000--it's one of the main factors that puts it in a class below the D90, which has three HD video modes. Barrel distortion is an issue, but it'll get the job done. Just don't expect outstanding results.

Versus The Canon Rebel T1i

The D5000 competes most closely with the Canon 500D/Rebel T1i, that manufacturer's current-gen entry-level model. They're around the same price point, marketed toward the same segment of “serious amateur” enthusiasts, and have an HD video mode--a noteworthy feature that sets them apart form similar dSLRs by Sony and Olympus.

While both the D5000 and T1i provide fast performance and high quality photos for the price, some of the D5000's features are a notch below the Rebel, mostly minor details that average users may or may not notice (and probably won't miss if they haven't tried the Rebel). For example, the diopter adjustment has a smaller range than the T1i--not a big deal if your eyesight is OK, but it's something to consider. In Sports mode, the D5000 doesn't automatically switch to burst shooting, whereas the T1i does. Again, not a big deal, presets can be changed, but the small details add up to create notable differences between these products (many more of which are addressed in the comment section below). The general consensus, however, is that the image quality is nearly the same.

Conclusion

Most users won't be disappointed by the D5000; that could be because they don't know what they're missing compared to a higher-end dSLR, but even those who know what they're doing can find a lot to love for this price. Within its class, the T1i just edges out the D5000, but at a solid $75-100 cheaper, the D5000 might be worth the money saved, especially if you have old Nikkor lenses laying around. (And if price is really a concern, check out the Pentax K-x. It's in the $500-600 range, and DCHQ reviewer Ben Keough absolutely loved it.) Overall, this is a solid dSLR that will capture great pictures with relative ease of use.

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Nikon Reviews

Nikon has long been one of the top manufacturers in the industry, and their products are still solid options today. The camera giant is continuously releasing new products with enhancements in image quality and performance.

It's hard to go wrong with a Nikon DSLR. With a different model available for every skill level from beginner to professional, Nikon's DSLR's have always been top notch. Their latest DSLRs have seen improved noise reduction, enhanced video quality and upgraded designs over cameras from just a few years ago.

Nikon made an interesting move in the realm of mirrorless cameras—instead of pushing for bigger sensors, Nikon instead has focused on speed. The Nikon 1 line cameras use a 1” sensor, which is larger than your average point-and-shoot but smaller than the Micro Four Thirds options. While the 1 line doesn't have much resolution, their cameras boast speeds upwards of 15 fps—no other mirrorless line currently comes close to that level of speed.

Nikon's compacts aren't as much of a sure thing as their DSLRs—some of their smaller cameras are quite impressive, while others are beaten out by competitors. We liked their higher end consumer point-and-shoots like the COOLPIX S6500, but be careful with their budget compacts. They offer quite a range of compact cameras, just be sure to read the reviews on the individual camera first.

Nikon offers a full range of cameras from tiny budget models to professional DSLRs. More often than not, if you go with a Nikon, you're getting a solid camera.

We here at Digital Camera HQ offer unbiased, informative reviews and recommendations to guide you to the right camera. We're not an actual store; we're just here to help you find the perfect camera at the best price possible by using our camera grades. Let us know if you have any problems or questions, we're happy to help.