Nikon D5000 review: Nikon D5000

I do feel somewhat ambivalent about the D5000's design. Articulated LCDs are great, and definitely enhance the usability of Live View. But ultimately I find the flip-down version on the D5000 less useful than the flip-out versions on Olympus' SLRs: it's good for overhead and hip-level shooting, but not as comfortable for sideways. Of course, from that perspective it's far more flexible than Canon's fixed LCDs. But the D5000's LCD isn't very good. In addition to the aforementioned visibility problem in direct sunlight, it just seemed soft; I couldn't tell if my photos were sharp, and manual focus in Live View (and video recording) was nearly impossible. Furthermore, there's no way to keep the multi selector switch from accidentally moving the selected AF points, which I did, repeatedly. Finally, the viewfinder is small and dim, and the AF lock light is way down in the lower left corner where you have to strain to see it. On the upside, it has an optional grid display.

But the D5000 definitely comes through on performance and photo quality. It's fast, and generally outshoots the D90, most notably in low-light autofocus. It powers on and shoots in about 0.2 second, with shot lag as good as 0.3 second under good light and a still-respectable 0.7 second in dim. It shoots and saves JPEG files slightly faster than raw, though they both round out to about 0.5 second; adding flash bumps that just slightly to 0.9 second. Burst shooting clocks about 4 frames per second--same as the D90--putting it at the head of this class. The AF system is pretty good, too, and the whole thing is certainly fast enough to keep up with the typical shooting material of kids, sports, and pets. The battery lasts a relatively long time as well; it's CIPA rated at about 510 shots.

It also delivers excellent photo quality for the price, with solid exposure (though not as bright and straight-to-printer friendly as the T1i's) and great color. Its noise profile is very good up through ISO 1,600 and, for a variety of scenes, usable through its extended ISO 6,400 (Hi). The kit lens is above average as well: very sharp and able to focus quite closely. As with the D90, though, the video is a bit disappointing. The camera only shoots 24fps 720p, which isn't a fast enough frame rate to render quite as smoothly as we've come to expect and doesn't scale very well to full-screen playback. It's usable, and fine if you're interested in experimenting, but it doesn't look sharp or polished.

As long as you don't get as hung up as I did on its operational quirks or have high expectations of shooting video, there's plenty to like about the Nikon D5000--especially if you're most interested in its core aptitudes of a wealth of features, speedy shooting, and high-quality photographs for the money.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Raw shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim light)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Canon EOS Rebel T1i
0.2 
0.4 
0.6 
0.3 
Sony Alpha DSLR-A350
0.6 
0.9 
0.6 
0.3 
Nikon D5000
0.2 
0.5 
0.7 
0.3 
Olympus E-620
1.4 
0.5 
0.8 
0.4 
Nikon D90
0.2 
0.6 
0.9 
0.4 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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Nikon D5000 (with 18-55mm lens and 55-200mm lens)

Part Number: 9700 Released: Apr 29, 2009
Low Price: $559.99 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Apr 29, 2009
  • Digital camera type SLR
  • Sensor Resolution 12.3 Megapixel
  • Optical Zoom 3 x
  • Optical Sensor Size 15.8 x 23.6mm
  • Optical Sensor Type CMOS
  • Image Stabilizer optical