The most advanced entry Nikon DSLR yet with HD video as a bonus. (July 17th, 2009)
Product Manufacturer: Nikon
Price: $730 (body-only), $850 (18-55mm kit)
- Swiveling LCD.
- Compact design; a good beginner/travel camera.
- Good image quality and ISO levels.
- Relatively fast 4FPS burst shooting.
- Inexpensive for HD video.
- A bit too small; buttons crowded and reduced.
- Dark viewfinder, no top-mounted LCD.
- HD video still exhibits "wobble."
- Reduced options for remote flashes.
I have been shooting with Nikons for my entire professional career. This started with the advanced amateur Nikon FM while a college student back in 1977, and progressed through a succession of F series cameras as well as the N8008 and N90. In digital, I've progressed through the D1, D1h, D1X, D2h and D200, finally culminating at the D300; virtually every pro-level Nikon has passed through my hands. But now, Nikon is hoping that a person who started with a Coolpix point-and-shoot will eventually move upstream and progress through the complete product line. Wishing isnít necessarily going to make that true. But in the case of the Nikon D5000, it could.
The hierarchy at Nikon is hoping that it can catch lightning in a bottle with the D5000 introduced in the spring of this year. A 12.3 megapixel offering, it effectively becomes the bridge camera between the simpler compacts in the sub-$400 range and prosumer rigs in the above-$1,000 price point -- and also the least expensive DSLR to produce HD video at the same time. However, is it priced right or left wanting?
Everythingís included, which should be a major comfort for those who are graduating from fixed-lens cameras into the kingdom of the SLR. The Quick Start Guide will get the average user up and running in no time. Nikonís Software Suite DVD makes another appearance and has image browsers, Raw converters, Nikon Transfer, NikonViewNX and other utilities that help assist in viewing and editing photos. Additionally, youíll find a Nikon strap, an EN-EL9a Li-ion battery and a quick charger, an AV cable to connect to HDMI input on televisions (new to this end of Nikon's lineup) and a USB cable to connect to a computer or printer.
The D5000 uses SD and SDHC memory cards and stores images as JPEG, NEF RAW or a combination of the two, NEF RAW+JPEG. Some might bemoan the lack of CompactFlash, but in this class the speed and expense won't be worthwhile.
design and controls
Letís call this new D5000 a Nikon-lite. Weíre not trying to take anything away from it. It's impressive what Nikon has managed to squeeze into the package. Sometimes, though, certain things get left behind in an effort to make a new design as feature-laden as possible. To a longtime user of DSLRs, the swiveling LCD is initially disarming: it looks as though Nikon took away the option for reviewing shots. In truth, the 2.7-inch panel is initially turned around for protection from scratches or other damage. Longtime Nikon users will be extremely happy to see this function show up on an interchangeable lens camera, however. Swiveling the screen suddenly makes many shots possible that weren't before: a ďHail MaryĒ over-the-head photo is now an option, for example, as is shooting below eye level by looking down. It's not completely new as some Sony Alphas now use the feature, but it's a first among the heavyweight contenders in the camera industry.
One caveat: because the hinge is mounted on the bottom, it potentially interferes with the tripod mount just a short distance away. We'd recommend setting the display to its ideal angle before mounting the camera in place. It's not a fatal flaw by any means, but it's one that side-hinged displays don't usually have to contend with.
Those used to other, more advanced Nikon DSLRs may be shocked at the absence of a sub-command dial near the shutter button. In the past, it controlled the aperture while the larger command dial located under the userís thumb controlled shutter speed. With a bulk of the controls disappearing, others are now doing double duty. Case in point: the exposure compensation button is also the button pushed to change the aperture while turning the rear command dial.
At the top of the camera, the mode dial takes the place of the LCD screen found on the D90. It features all the exposure modes familiar to existing Nikon users. Add to that an auto mode that essentially mimics the point and shoot mode that a buyer would most likely have experienced with their previous camera. There are typical icons that depict portrait, cloudy, macro, action, backlit and nighttime photography. Finally, a scene mode provides a variety of other options including food, high key, silhouette, low key, night landscape, party/indoor and other functions that are controlled by the command dial resting under the userís thumb.
Even with the absence of a top-mounted LCD on the D5000, Nikon has done a nice job of incorporating the function menus into the one main screen, which also doubles as the image monitor. The catch is that there's an overabundance of small buttons located around the back. Some are well placed, while others tend to find themselves under our thumbs in short order. At some point, a camera with all these functions just becomes a little too small, and those used to larger DSLRs may seek a slightly larger grip and more spread-out controls.