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Nikon D5000 Digital SLR Review

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Category: Digital SLRs
Product: Nikon D5000
Price: £450.00
Rating: 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5

Nikon D5000 Digital SLR Review - After retiring the D40, Nikon have replaced it with the D5000. What does the new model do that the other didn't and is it worth upgrading?

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Placed in between the D90 and D60, the new model is aimed at families, hobbyists and consumers interested in both stills and video.
 
Nikon D5000Nikon D5000: Specification
  • Resolution: 12.3Mp
  • Sensor size: 23.6x15.8mm
  • Sensor type: CMOS
  • Max. image size: 4288x2848
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Focus system: MultiCAM 1000 with TTL phase detection
  • Focus points: 11
  • Crop factor: 1.6x
  • Lens mount: Nikon F mount with AF contacts
  • File type: JPEG, RAW (NEF)
  • Sensitivity: ISO200-3200 (expandable to ISO100 & ISO6400 equivalent)
  • Storage: SD, SDHC
  • Focus types: Single, Dynamic, Auto, 3D tracking
  • Metering system: TTL exposure using 420px RGB sensor
  • Metering types: 3D Colour Matrix II (G & D lenses), Colour Matrix II (other CPU lenses)
  • Exposure compensation: +/- 5EV in 1/3 or 1/2 step increments
  • Shutter speed: 30sec-1/4000sec, bulb
  • Frames per second: 4fps
  • Flash: Built-in, external hotshoe (Guide no. 12 at ISO100)
  • Flash metering: i-TTL
  • Image stabilisation: Lens based VR (Vibration Reduction)
  • Integrated cleaning: Image sensor cleaning, Image dust off software (optional), airflow control
  • Live view: Contrast-detect AF
  • Viewfinder: Eye-level pentamirror 95% coverage
  • Monitor: 2.7in Vari-angle 230,000dot polysilicon TFT LCD
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Power: Li-Ion
  • Size: 127x104x80mm
  • Weight: 560g (without memory card, battery or body cap)
Ending the D40 tour of duty sees the beginning of the D5000 which is a shame as it would boost the range to eight and compare nicely against Canon. As it happens, it now sits slightly in the middle of the EOS 1000D and the EOS 450D but the EOS 500D has video capability as well.
 
Nikon D5000
This side view illustrates the articulated screen which is hinged at the bottom.
Nikon D5000
The shutter release sits hanging over the grip giving the camera a familiar Nikon feel.
Nikon D5000: Features
Probably the most notable change on the D5000 is the vari-angle screen which can rotate through to 90 degrees in one direction and 180 degrees in the other. This is useful for high or low angle shooting as well as self-portraits and, as Nikon like to point out to us, for shooting round corners.

Of course an articulating screen isn't anything new in the photographic industry and on the surface this seems to ring true through the other features as it uses the same 12.3Mp sensor as the Nikon D300 and D90. I asked Simon Coleman, General Manager for Nikon UK, if he thought that this would affect sales of the higher placed models and he confirmed that he thought it would. “There's going to be people who may have got a D90 and will now get the D5000 because it fits their needs better” but when I asked if this could spread the sales too thinly across the range he denied it stating “I don't think that will happen, the D40 is at the end of its life now so the D60 is the first in the range. There's still only seven DSLRs in total. Spreading sales across the range is predicted and always happens so it doesn't worry us.”

Ironic that Nikon should take the D40 away just as Canon release the EOS 500D, expanding their range to eight. It means that there's still no exact like for like model for comparisons meaning consumers continue to have a hard time when wanting to intelligently buy.
Nikon D5000
Design of the top plate comes from the lower model as there's no LCD info screen.
Nikon D5000
The HDMI port is on the side of the camera adjacent to the rear button controls.
Nikon D5000
The front has the unusually located self timer and function (fn) button. Flash compensation is integrated into the flash activation button.

More features taken from the higher models include the EXPEED processor, Active D-lighting and sensor cleaning. Most notable in the latter is the airflow control found in the D60. It works using a small hole in the bottom of the mirror chamber and when the mirror flips up, it creates a small flow of air that swirls dust around the chamber and the hole directs the dust into it. This in turn uses no extra power but removes dust with every picture taken. Add this to the vibrating low-pass filter and (optional) Image Dust Off software and you should have a pretty good army of dust reduction features.

The Nikon D5000 uses 11 AF points incorporating the MultiCAM 1000 module first seen in the D200 and used in the current D90. The four focus modes are Single, Dynamic, Auto and 3D tracking. In this latter mode, you select the subject you wish to focus on and the camera will track the subject using all the focus points. It also uses four templates in case the subject moves direction or angle. The camera continuously updates these templates meaning that the camera is less likely to lose the subject.

Nikon recently released a GPS unit to attach to DSLRs and the D5000 is fully compatible along with some notable improvements. The camera uses Google Maps to locate your images and then uses Wikipedia to suggest suitable keywords for tagging. This is extremely beneficial if you like to tag your pictures but can't be bothered with thinking of them. The downside is that Google Maps and Wikipedia are notorious for their unreliability.

Onboard editing systems include picture controls that Nikon are touting as film simulations. It's the usual breed of standard, mono vivid, natural, portrait and landscape which can be added before taking pictures as well as during playback. The great thing is that they're still non-destructive which means that a new file is written with each change you save.

Auto scene modes have been added to and include unusual options such as Blossom mode, Autumn, High key, Low key, Silhouette and a more useful perspective correction. This latter option is for adjusting the perspective caused when photographing up buildings. I asked James Banfield, UK professional Support and Training,  if it used interpolation to do this and he confirmed it did. “Of course it's only at the top of the frame” he continued, “correction doesn't need doing at the bottom of the frame but needs more at the top.” I asked if there could be a problem with interpolation not being entirely accurate and he replied “that's true and there may be cases when it doesn't get it 100% correct but the market that we're aiming this camera at will not really notice.”

Who Nikon have aimed the camera at was covered a lot and I think they really wanted to make it clear to me that it's not for a professional or even really for a serious enthusiast.
Nikon D5000
The right side takes the SDHC memory card. Nikon confirmed they'll be at the forefront with new technology such as USB 3.0 and SDXC.

That's where the video feature comes in. The Nikon D5000 uses the same video capability of the D90 so runs at 720p HD. The film simulations can be added to the video before shooting commences but changes during recording aren't possible.

Focusing is manual because it's too loud despite camcorders managing to do it for decades. The mic is mono sound as though we're living in the dark ages and there's no offering of a separate Mic In port because Nikon don't see it as necessary for the market. An HDMI socket is available for linking directly to a HD ready TV and Nikon believe that all these options will help users transition from compacts to DSLRs.

Nikon D5000: Build and handling
In this current economic climate, it's fair to say that we'll all use a camera for longer. Nikon have built the D5000 out of a steel frame and polycarbonate surround while the shutter has been tested to 100,000 cycles.
 
Nikon D5000
The GUI is customisable and you can even add a wallpaper. Nikon think it's important to have the 1/ with shutter speeds so people know it's a fraction of a second.
Surprisingly, the resolution of the screen is 230,000dots instead of the 307,000dots found on other models. I think that the brighter screens would be a much bigger benefit especially with video.

A new feature present on the Nikon D5000 is a quiet shooting option that dampens noises made by the camera to aid in night shooting or wildlife photography. It works by operating the mirror in the same way that some kitchen doors have buffers to stop you accidentally slamming them. It snaps up at the usual speed then slows as it reaches the top. It's a slower process and because of this the shutter can't be dampened so that makes the usual noise. Overall it is a much quieter action and Nikon have really done well to think of that idea that could help a lot of photographers.

Nikon D5000: Performance
The Nikon D5000 is pretty responsive for a lower class model and the the new lens is quiet and smooth. I fitted the 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor AF D lens only to find out that the focusing doesn't work as it's not compatible with the new camera.

I asked James Banfield if this could cause a problem with existing owners and he said: "Like the D60, the D5000 does not support non AF-S lenses as the airflow control system occupies the space required for an AF motor. Nikon has an extensive selection of AF-S lenses available, with focal lengths ranging from 10mm right through to 600mm. AF lenses are supported by D90 cameras and above as these have integrated AF motors."

The D5000 is low enough in the classification to be aimed at the new comer and therefore they possibly wouldn't have all the older lenses but that doesn't mean that a hardcore Nikon user wouldn't want a simple DSLR to use and its those people, however few, that are being missed out.

Focusing in manual is easy enough unless the item doesn't have fine detail or is quite far away in the distance. Using live view helps to a degree as you can zoom in on the subject on the monitor but it gives fuzzy edges making it difficult to see if it's sharp.

Nikon D5000All the colours on the colour test chart have come out nicely with a particularly interesting boost to the pastel colours down the left side of blue, orange and brown. In fact all the colours on the board are rich and balanced nicely including the skin tone which doesn't have too much warmth in it. I think the red could probably be a little more boosted but it's by no means unpleasant.

This shot of the vintage Agfa Billy Compur 4.5 was taken in the studio and is a perfect example of why making some older lenses incompatible with the camera means a struggle to get fine focus as this one shot took me fifteen minutes just focusing. I prefer the RAW file as it offers more contrast but that's the D-Lighting kicking in so it's to be expected in JPEG. You can see the RAW file by following the link below to the download page.

Nikon D5000 RAW detail image
 
Nikon D5000
The detail shot shows the front of the lens nicely but it took a while to get the focus right.
Nikon D5000
Manual white balance has helped but still looks cool. There's a nice skin tone which was expected after the colour chart image.
For the portrait image, I selected a manual white balance and despite a slightly cooler tone, the background is still a little blue. Still, there's a good amount of depth of field and I really like the exposure. Detail in the hair is pretty good which doesn't start to break up as I zoom into the image despite a comparably low resolution. I say comparable as the Canon EOS 500D is the nearest DSLR with video capability and it offers 15Mp.

Nikon D5000: Noise test
I wouldn't expect anything less than an excellent result in the low ISO area of the Nikon DSLRs these days. The new sensor and EXPEED processor has pretty much secured this expectancy so lord forbid if they ever did let us down.

Although mild distortion is starting to creep in at around ISO400, it doesn't get in the way and it's not until ISO1600 that it starts to annoy me and aggravate the detail of the petals. Of course at this stage there's a noticeable amount of coloured blobs appearing and they only get worse as the settings get higher.

ISO6400 is an equivalent setting and is called ISOhi on the camera. It's not a true representation of the setting because it's a software system and is open to discrepancies. Small purple spots can be seen dotted all around the image but this can only really be seen at full magnification. At 25% viewing on a monitor you can't notice it.

Nikon D5000 ISO100 equivalent RAW image
Nikon D5000 ISO6400 equivalent RAW image
Nikon D5000
The ISO100 equivalent test.
Nikon D5000
The ISO200 test.
Nikon D5000
The ISO400 test.
Nikon D5000
The ISO800 test.
Nikon D5000
The ISO1600 test.
Nikon D5000
The ISO3200 test.
Nikon D5000
The ISO6400 equivalent test.


DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.

Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Nikon D5000.

Nikon D5000: Verdict
My only concern with this camera is that there's little that appears to be new in it. It's the same sensor as the D300 and D90, same processor, same video system as the D90 and this makes me wonder whether costs have been cut to ensure company longevity.

Of course this is no bad thing on one hand but if it's compromising the company's integrity then it shouldn't be done. I asked if the camera had been designed to keep costs down to help margins and aid retailers. The issue was skirted around but I got the idea that Nikon are doing what they can to ensure they weather the storm and help out retailers at the same time.

It doesn't look like a bad camera for the right person it's just a shame that established Nikon users won't be able to use older AF lenses and for that I've marked down the handling.

Nikon D5000: Plus points
Good build quality
Quiet shooting system
Airflow dust reduction system
Good colour rendition
Nice noise performance
Built in perspective correction

Nikon D5000: Minus points
No auto controls in video mode
Not full HD quality
Incompatible with certain AF Nikon lenses

FEATURES

HANDLING

PERFORMANCE

OVERALL



The Nikon D5000 costs around £629 with the 18-55mm lens and is available at Warehouse Express here:

Nikon D5000 & 18-55mm lens


 


Lexar memory was used in this review.

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Comments

daviek
daviek  12
11 Jun 2009 - 12:04 AM

Matt, I tested the 500D and D5000 for the BJP (Canon actually requested me not to use any of my results from the 500D for any other publication even after the BJP had published). Though I own a usable 75-300mm IS Canon lens, and had no suitable Nikon lenses, I bought the D5000 after making detailed comparisons of videos from the 5D MkII, D90, 500D and D5000.

Though you clearly didn't find this, the encoded video from the D5000 is not the same as the D90. It is far less compressed, frame by frame - and much less than either Canon. Detail is retained, albeit only a 1280 x 720 image, to about the same standard as a Normal JPEG while the Canon codec removes nearly all textural detail in favour of a very smoothed/edge-sharpened result. The D90, I found, was not showing individual hairs or blades of grass where the D5000 renders these exceptionally well. My final decision was made after enlarging 720p D5000 video to 1080p size and comparing it with 500D 1080p. It certainly has much higher noise levels, and you can tell you are watching an enlarged version - but it proves pretty much as sharp as the Canon at native size.

I have put up a small gallery of pBase images showing details from the frames:

Link removed by ePHOTOzine staff

Hopefully the captions are self-explanatory. I also valued the ability to control both the aperture (directly) and the shutter speed (via the aperture and ISO starting-point) allowing things like my sequence of horse racing to have each 24fps frame captured at an effective 1/640th, and therefore usable as a still frame.

The sound quality is awful, which is sad, and the articulated screen is almost useless for forward-facing self-shooting. I tried one guitar demo video of myself, and even with a special bracket made up to hold the camera on a tripod with the screen not obscured, having it below the camera means you can't see it anyway!

I have one short film made the day the (non-test, purchased) D5000 arrived:

Link removed by ePHOTOzine staff

There are other D5000, 500D vids on my YouTube. With the 5D MkII I neglected to shoot anything decent - it was a new thing, and I had not really got my head round the type of video best shot with DSLRs. With the D90 I did a fair number of clips, but all feature people (photographer colleagues etc!) and can't be posted on YouTube. Same for a very impressive short clip I shot with the 35mm f/1.8 on the D5000. When I can afford one, that's my next purchase.

As a pretty dedicated Sony/Minolta user I didn't think I would find myself buying into Nikon and wondering what lens to get next Smile

David

Last Modified By MattGrayson at 12 Jun 2009 - 10:50 AM
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3 Oct 2009 - 9:51 PM

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EleanorMaw
3 Oct 2009 - 9:51 PM

I bought the D5000 for it's simplicity and size for using it as a snapshot SLR, I normally use a Nikon D200 and this is fitted with a Battery Pack, so it's quite heavy, but the D5000 is a good bet for taking out for a fun day out, although I bought the D5000 for it's simplicity, it's amazing if you want that the D5000 is also very versatile when you want it to be, I love it.

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