Hands-on with the Nikon D5000: Everything except the kitchen sink

We've had a play with the Nikon D5000, and while we think it's pretty tasty, we're not sure who it's aimed at. Just how entry-level is an £800 dSLR?


Richard Trenholm

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As promised, we've spent the morning fiddling with the new Nikon D5000 dSLR camera. It's full of all kinds of fun and games, not least high-definition video.

The D5000 is positioned between the D90 and D60. As the popular D40 reaches the end of its life, the D60 becomes the entry-level model, effectively raising the expected standard of the baseline dSLR.

This leaves us in two minds about the camera. On the one hand, it's a reasonably priced, tasty little dSLR with something for everyone. On the other, that very price and feature set place it higher in the food chain than Nikon seems to think. Promotional materials show care-free kiddies gambolling around an adventure playground with the D5000, but how many parents are going to gamble £800 for HD kidcam footage? Give the little cherubs an indestructible £170 Flip Video MinoHD and let them see if they can break that.

Pricing doubts aside, the D5000 is a pick'n'mix of all sorts of Nikon goodness. It has the same sensor as the D90, a 12.3-megapixel CMOS, with an Expeed processor doing the thinking. There's an 11-point autofocus system and, like the D90, 720p video.

We weren't able to shoot any test shots with the pre-production models, but we were able to get to grips with the controls. There are a number of different status displays available on the screen, each simpler than the last. Scene modes and other shooting options display with sample images to show what the effect will be and how your photo will turn out.

This has freed Nikon to add more complicated scene modes and options, which can be explained simply to new users by the sample image. The idea is to inspire dSLR newbies to explore the more technical-sounding of the 19 scene settings, such as high and low-key lighting modes.

Other features include a variety of fun things to make and do when you've snapped your snap. Picture-editing options include a soft focus mode that detects faces and smoothes skin tones while blurring the rest of the picture in a pleasing manner. Perspective outline makes a line drawing out of your image, and perspective control corrects, er, perspective. Again, we weren't able to test these on the sample model, but look out for our forthcoming review, in which we'll be testing the chuff out of them.

One thing that could be simpler is the video function. While Canon has added a dedicated video button to the EOS 500D, Nikon still makes you lock focus and hit the OK button, which isn't that intuitive as far as we're concerned.

What you do get is a neat twist on the live view screen. Click through our photos for more.

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Settings and live view are shown off on this 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD screen.
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The D5000 includes 19 scene modes. We're still confused by the absence of video on the mode wheel.
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Instead, you point the camera at what you want to shoot, hit OK and choose video. Oh, but only in live view mode. Got that?
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You can manually adjust focus while filming, as well as tweaking exposure compensation and white balance.
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The screen folds away when you're using the viewfinder...
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...or flips out for multi-angle viewing.
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The screen twists at different angles to avoid glare, or for shooting with the camera held above you or down low.
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The Nikon D5000 will be available on 1 May for £720, or £800 with the 18-55 VR kit lens.

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