Nikon D5000

Nikon D5000 Review

Nikon D5000 entry-level DSLR with tilt and swivel monitor: Video DSLR breaks through the 1,000 Euro sound barrier

When Canon introduces a new camera, Nikon doesn’t take long to respond. The answer to Canons 500D is Nikon D5000. Like the Canon, it is positioned in the entry-level range with a high fun factor, but knows how to differentiate itself positively from it. This is achieved not so much by the “modest” 12.3 megapixel resolution, but rather by the rotating and swivelling monitor with a joint at the bottom – a premiere not only for Nikon.

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Connection for GPS (even if it is expensive)
  • High range of functions with many adjustment and individualization options
  • Good video function (even if without autofocus and microphone connection)
  • Pivoting and folding screen

Cons

  • Slightly too shallow grip depth
  • Missing dimming function (depth of field preview)
  • Quite slow contrast autofocus in LiveView mode
  • Restricted swivel/fold mechanism for tripod operation

 

The D5000 is the first Nikon D5000 to incorporate a pan and tilt screen in a Nikon DSLR. LiveView and video function really come into their own with this. Unlike other mechanisms, the mechanism does not start at the camera side, but at the bottom, which has both advantages and disadvantages. But the DSLR can still score with much more, such as 12.3 megapixels resolution, a high scope of equipment and many individualization options.

This has never been the case with a DSLR before, but it has its advantages. The left row of keys Nikon is accustomed to could be retained, and the camera position is hardly disturbed by the joint at the bottom. Flexibility, on the other hand, is fully given, whether overhead, close to the floor, around the corner or in self-portraits – you always have the monitor with live image (including face recognition and AF subject tracking) in view. However, it “only” measures 2.7″ (6.9 cm) in the diagonal – there’s only more size at Panasonic. The resolution reaches the usual 230,000 pixels (320 x 240 pixels), and the viewing angle is around 170°.

With such a monitor you can sometimes forget the view through the viewfinder, which is not further tragic. This is because it is equipped with a magnification factor of only 0.78, whereby an image field of 95 % is covered. Dioptric compensation is also rather modest at -1.7 to +0.7. But the camera is also less aimed at the traditional photographer looking through the viewfinder than at newcomers who want to have fun with the camera (even though Nikon DSLRs are tools and not toys). It is positioned between the D90 and the D60, where Nikon has run out of numbers and so the four-digit designation has been used. The D90 inherited 11-point autofocus and the ability to record movies in HD quality (Motion JPEG in max. 1,280 x 720 pixels resolution at 24 fps) – but only with mono sound and manual focus adjustment. Nevertheless, DSLRs with video function become affordable for beginners, because the D5000 should only cost 750 EUR (without lens).

 

The D60, on the other hand, has an air-flow system that optimizes the air flows generated by the oscillating mirror and thus throws less dust onto the sensor. However, the built-in autofocus motor fell victim to this, so that only lenses with a built-in motor (now applicable to most Nikon lenses) on the D5000 as well as on the D40 and D60 have autofocus. Geophotographers, however, will be pleased that the D5000 has a GPS connection for the Nikon GP-1, it’s the same as in the D90, to which also the remote release cable can be connected.

The D5000’s image capture sensor has already proven its worth: it is the 12.3 megapixel CMOS chip with a sensitivity of ISO 200 to 3,200, which can be expanded to ISO 100-6,400. The camera can still record 4 frames/s in JPEG or NEF format (Nikon’s RAW format). The other features of the camera combine flexibility (flash shoe, manual setting options, numerous image processing functions, 19 scene mode programs, HDMI output, etc.) with simple operation for beginners.

 

Ergonomics and workmanship

The design of the Nikon D5000 takes a little getting used to. There are no straight edges or surfaces, everything is somehow “bulged”, as if someone had filled the camera with compressed air. One would think that this would make the camera nestle better in the hand, but the handle was a bit too small for that. The fingers bump earlier than you’d wish. But this should be especially suitable for small women’s hands. On the other hand, the workmanship of the case is impeccable. Although the housing material leaves a “plastic impression”, the plastic seems to be robust enough to withstand everyday photography.

The battery compartment or the cover on the underside of the camera is solid, the rather small battery with 7.2 V and 1,080 mAh EN-EL9a is sufficient for a good 510 photos according to the CIPA standard and has been in use at Nikon for some time already, so that the replacement shouldn’t be a problem. The compartment is conveniently located so far to the side that a tripod plate does not obstruct access; the power supply is provided by a rechargeable battery. Not the most beautiful, but a practical solution that saves a power supply socket – the cable is routed through a recess to the outside. On the left side of the camera, a flexible and not so nice plastic flap hanging from a rubber tab covers three interfaces: the combined USB and AV port, HDMI for high-resolution slideshows on flat-screen TVs and, listen and be amazed, a GPS interface. Of course, the matching GPS isn’t particularly cheap and tends to dangle from the cable at the camera, but resourceful accessory manufacturers offer corresponding solutions with angled plugs (see further links). If you want to connect a remote release cable, you can also do this at the interface marked GPS. The SD memory card compartment is located on the right in the handle, the D5000 is also compatible with SDHC cards, whereby you should use the faster models (from 120x or 15 MBytes/s or Class 6, better Class 10) to avoid unnecessarily slowing down the camera.

 

The most striking feature of the D5000 is the 2.7″ (6.9 cm) screen with a resolution of 230,000 pixels (approx. 320 x 240 pixels), which can be folded and pivoted via a joint on the underside. This joint usually sits on the side of other cameras. The Nikon solution looks more elegant, especially for ground level or overhead perspectives, as the monitor is not located on the side of the camera. When using a tripod, however, the radius of movement is inevitably restricted, if it is needed at all to the same extent. The mechanism itself looks solid and has a detent every 90°, and the screen can also be folded back against the camera for protection. The biggest problem of the monitor is its highly reflective protective screen and the poor readability in sunlight, which spoils the fun of the LiveView function somewhat.

For such cases, the D5000 has a genuine DSLR, an optical TTL viewfinder, whose image is directed to the viewer’s eye by means of a pentas mirror construction. But the fact that the seeker had qualitatively no priority, one notices him. With a magnification of only 0.78x, it is one of the smaller models, but its field of view of 95 % is fine. Less nice is the rather tight diopter correction with a range of only -1.7 to 0.7. In the viewfinder, not only the autofocus points are displayed, but also a lot of information in an information bar below the viewfinder image.

However, the D5000 does not have a “classic” status display. The monitor is used instead. Due to the lack of a proximity sensor, this can sometimes be a little annoying when using the viewfinder. The variety of information displayed is enormous; the individual parameters can even be changed directly by pressing the info button on the back of the camera. It is a bit confusing that the top of the camera also has an info button, which only switches the info display on and off. To change the parameters, the rear info button must be used. For newcomers to photography, Nikon has integrated a help function that provides information on warnings, settings and menu items at any time.

The remaining variety of adjustment knobs, the program selector wheel with 19 scene mode programs, creative programs and simple automatic, the 4-way rocker switch and the adjustment wheel are also exemplary for a camera in this class. Some of the buttons can be assigned individually, and in the menu you can even find possibilities to save and recall the current settings. The extensive menus are easy to read, but sometimes they are overwhelming, especially since it is not always clear why certain functions are grayed out, i.e. not selectable. Especially the fully automatic mode shows a lot of non-selectable menu functions, which doesn’t help the clarity for beginners.

Equipment

Nikon has put practically everything into this camera that can be used by beginners and advanced users: from automatic to image processing in the camera to extensive manual settings. The variety is already evident on the info screen, where you can navigate directly. The menus are even more extensive, but Nikon has managed to make them even clearer in view of the variety – they are also visually appealing and modern.

Depending on the program, the flash can either jump up automatically or be flipped up at the touch of a button. If you hold down the flash button, you can influence the flash function with the thumbwheel. From the forced flash (fill-in flash), a pre-flash to reduce red eyes in person shots, a long-time synchronization and a synchronization to the second shutter curtain, the flash offers everything your heart desires. In addition, you can set a flash exposure compensation to emphasize the flash portion of the image more or less. The setting range is from -3 to +1 EV. You can use accessory flashes via the system flash shoe, preferably those compatible with Nikon’s i-TTL. A wireless flash control, however, is not possible with the internal flash, you have to plug in an external one or at least a suitable control device.

Especially those who like to create individual JPEG images right in the camera will get their money’s worth. This starts with shooting profiles such as Standard, Black and White, Brilliant or Portrait and goes mainly with extensive editing options in the camera. Photoshop Light is built in. RAW images can also be developed directly and saved as JPEG. Nikon has provided the processing with its own menu with 16 functions. This includes color filter effects, image montages, the calculation of distortions, the digital flash “D-Lighting” for brightening dark image areas or the possibility to create stop motion films directly in the camera.

For recording, there are auxiliary settings such as face recognition, live histogram or fade-in grid lines, especially in LiveView mode. Nikon’s exposure metering is particularly mature, especially in conventional DSLR operation. An RGB light metering sensor not only takes into account the image brightness, but also the colour components and also the shooting distance in order to achieve a safe exposure with a 3D measurement. This makes the D5000 one of the cameras with the most balanced exposure that can hardly be out of step.

For safe, blur-free shooting in changing lighting conditions, the ISO automatic can be used and individually configured. Not only the setting range of the automatic, but also the longest tolerable exposure time can be set. The control range is 1/3 EV steps from ISO 200 to 3,200, with the extensions “Lo” and “Hi” sensitivity equivalents of ISO 100 and 6,400 respectively are achieved.

The D5000’s continuous shooting mode reaches almost 4 frames/s (see measured values in the table on the left), especially with JPEG the camera holds out for over 20 shots, after which the speed drops. The image buffer of the camera seems quite small, but appropriate for a camera of this class. It’s faster in video mode, so to speak. In HD resolution, the camera achieves 24 frames/s and also records the mono sound. The video is saved as AVI Motion JPEG. This is good for low-power computers and the easier and lossless video editing. However, you have to focus manually while shooting the movie, the zoom remains active – because DSLRs are mechanical anyway. Numerous productions for advertising and music videos, but also well-done amateur recordings on the Internet, show that a DSLR can be used to shoot sophisticated films, above all due to its ability to play with the sharpness and blur.

Lens

As a system camera, the D5000 offers a huge selection of connectable lenses. It features the Nikon F bayonet, which has been mechanically unchanged since 1977. However, there are a few limitations to lens compatibility, e.g. the camera has no built-in focus motor, i.e. if the lens does not have one, manual focusing is required. The space in the camera is needed for the air flow system instead of a focus motor. These special ventilation slots are intended to ensure that the air flow in the camera caused by the mirror impact is not directed in the direction of the sensor when the shutter is released. This should also reduce the amount of dust that gets onto them. If there are any, the cleaning system, which is supposed to shake the dust from the sensor, helps. Something unusual about the Nikon bayonet is that you have to turn the lens clockwise to remove it – i.e. exactly in the “wrong” direction and the other way round than with other camera manufacturers.

The set lens AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 G DX VR was available for the test. The DX in the name indicates that the lens is designed for APS-C sensors as used in the D5000. In the diagonal, the sensor is approximately 1.5 times smaller than a classic 35mm film, by the same factor, one has to extend the focal length in order to get the focal lengths used to the 35mm. Accordingly, the 18-55 mm is roughly equivalent to a 28-85mm 35mm lens. From wide-angle to light telephoto or portrait focal length, everything is covered.

Mechanically the lens makes a less good impression. The plastic bayonet, which could also be regarded as a predetermined breaking point, is particularly striking. If the lens should break off in a fall, this would be the cheapest part to replace. With its thick back and narrow front, the lens looks a bit funny. This does not interrupt the function, the rotating front lens does. It is annoying if you want to use gradient or polarizing filters. Manual focusing is also almost impossible not only because of the narrow focus ring, but also because one eighth turn is enough to adjust it from infinity to the close-up limit of 28 cm (measured from the sensor plane marked on the camera above the thumbwheel).

The switch from manual to autofocus is made by a switch on the lens. It automatically focuses quite quietly thanks to the ultrasonic motor, but not particularly fast. 0.55 to 0.74 s were measured in the laboratory test. This is at best a compact camera level and goes much faster with better lenses. However, the 18-55 mm is not so bad to start with, especially as you can approach your preferred focal lengths and later add better lenses to the 18-55 mm. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that such cameras quickly reach the camera price. After all, the 18-55 mm still has a small trump card: a built-in optical image stabilizer that can be switched on and off at the lens. It effectively compensates for camera shake and also ensures a steady viewfinder image, which even benefits the autofocus. This works well even in low light, but if it gets too dark, the camera can switch on a white AF auxiliary light, which is built into the camera. It is quite bright and not very discreet, but can also be deactivated via the menu. In any case, it is positive to note that no “flashlight storm” is used as an AF auxiliary lamp as is the case with some competitors.

Also “hidden” in the menu is the continuous autofocus, which tracks subjects and always tracks the focus point. The best way to do this is to select the automatic focus point, because together with the exposure meter, the camera can see quite well where the main subject is moving. However, it is also possible to select each of the eleven measuring points manually.

Picture quality

With 12.3 megapixels, Nikon uses a very good compromise of high resolution and pixel density. The sensor is built in CMOS technology, which is not only more energy efficient than CCD, but in the case of DSLRs is also able to generate a live image, which is also used for video recording. If Nikon is already betting on “only” 12 megapixels, one would expect them to be used well. I’m afraid that’s not the case. Only about 60 % of the possible resolution is reached, which is not only due to the rather cheap set lens. This shows a very low edge waste due to the generally rather low resolution. If you fade down a bit, the resolution increases slightly overall, the edge drop remains practically unchanged.

If the resolution is low, only small artefacts of fine structures can usually be produced. Accordingly, the D5000 is almost exemplarily good here. Also the sharpening is very reserved, which should please in particular those, who would like to work on the pictures gladly at the computer further. Unnecessarily strong sharpening would rather worsen the conditions here. This excellent tuning is further underlined by the fact that the sharpening in the mid-tones is somewhat stronger, which above all increases the visual-subjective impression of sharpness.

The tonal value curve of the output dynamics is also amazingly linear. It is almost linear and therefore not only very neutral, but also easy to image process. Only the shadows are a bit soft, the camera doesn’t reach a deep black. For image editors, this is a click in the histogram correction, an automatic contrast optimization helps as an alternative. The input dynamics, i.e. the ability to reproduce high-contrast scene modes with bright lights and deep shadows, are rather mediocre. However, it is also at this level at higher sensitivities, so that you don’t have to expect any restrictions from ISO 100 (8.8 f-stops) to 1,600 (8.6 f-stops). Only at ISO 3.200 does the dynamic range decrease slightly, at ISO 6.400 still 7.6 f-stops are achieved.

Also the noise is hardly visible over a wide sensitivity range. Up to ISO 3.200 it is at a constantly low level, even at ISO 6.400 it is so low that there is nothing to complain about. Other image quality defects are caused by the lens, such as distortion, which reaches 2.7% of a ton, especially in the wide-angle range, and thus offers poor conditions for architectural photography. At medium and long focal lengths, however, distortion is negligible. This also applies to vignetting if you have dimmed something. With an open aperture, on the other hand, edge darkenings are visible that are still the strongest at wide angles, but they are not too strong overall and have a soft and thus inconspicuous course.

Only medium and high quality compression is recommended. At lower compressions, the Nikon compresses so strongly that clear compression artifacts become visible. In the normal setting, almost none appear, and the highest quality is visually lossless. Practical experience such as the very reliable exposure (whether with or without flash) and the usually very good white balance hardly give cause for criticism of the D5000. Only incandescent light leads to a slight warm tint. If you want neutral images under such light conditions, you should use the corresponding presetting or manual adjustment.

Bottom line

With the D5000, Nikon has put together a coherent overall package. It is a beginner to amateur mirror reflex camera with few weaknesses, but many strengths. This includes the balanced image quality with somewhat lower resolution, but also low noise in the entire sensitivity bandwidth. The swivelling and folding screen, the fast processing speed and the high scope of equipment including video function are suitable for a variety of scene modes like hardly any other DSLR.

Fact sheet

Fact sheet
Manufacturer Nikon
Model D5000
Price approx. 750 EUR**
Sensor Resolution 12.3 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 4.288 x 2.848
(aspect ratio) (3:2)
Lens AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3,5-5,6 G DX VR
Filter threads 52 mm
Viewfinder Pentas mirrors
Field of vision 95%
Enlargement 0,78-fold
Diopter compensation -1.7 to +0.7 dpt.
LCD monitor 2,7″
Disbandment 230.000
rotatable yes
swivelling yes
as viewfinder yes
Video output PAL/NTSC
,HDMI
as viewfinder yes
Program automation yes
Aperture priority yes
Aperture priority yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long-term exposure yes
Scene modes
Portrait yes
Children/Babies yes
Countryside yes
Macro yes
Sports/Action yes
more 14 other scene modes
Exposure metering Multi-field, Centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Guide number 12,5
Flash connection System flash shoe
Remote release yes
Interval shooting
Storage medium SD/SDHC, MMC
Video mode yes
Size AVI
Codec Motion JPEG
Resolution (max.) 1.280 x 720
Frame rate (at max. resolution) 24 images/s
Sensitivity
automatic 200-1.600
(adjustable)
manually ISO 100-6.400
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Light bulb yes
Other Shadow, Flash
Manual yes
Autofocus
Number of measuring fields 11
AF auxiliary light whitely
Speed approx. 0.55-0.74 s
Languages Yes, many
more 16 languages available
Switch-on time 0,8 s
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
Weight
(Ready)
611 g (body only
)887 g (with lens**)
Continuous shooting function*
Number of series images 23 (JPEG
)10 (RAW)
Frequency
(frames/s)
3.9 (JPEG
)3.9 (RAW)
Endurance run
(frames/s)
1.9 (JPEG
)1.1 (RAW)
with flash
Zoom
Zoom adjustment at lens
Zoom levels continuously variable
Time WW to Tele
Memory speeds*
JPEG 1,3 s (10,5 MByte)
RAW 2,0 s ( MByte)
Triggering during
.Save as possible.
yes
Battery life approx. 450 pictures
– not available”
* with Panasonic 4 GB Class 10 SDHC memory card**
with lens AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3,5-5,6 G DX VR

Short evaluation

Pros

  • Connection for GPS (even if expensive)
  • High range of functions with many adjustment and individualization options
  • Good video function (even if without autofocus and microphone connection)
  • Pivoting and folding screen

Cons

  • Slightly too shallow grip depth
  • Missing dimming function (depth of field preview)
  • Quite slow contrast autofocus in LiveView mode
  • Restricted swivel/fold mechanism for tripod operation

Nikon D5000 Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor APS-C 23.6 x 15.8 mm (crop factor 1.5
)12.9 megapixels (physical) and 12.3 megapixels (effective)
Pixel pitch 5.5 µm
Photo resolution
4.288 x 2.848 pixels (3:2)
3.216 x 2.136 pixels (3:2)
2.144 x 1.424 Pixel (3:2)
Picture formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.21), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 24 p
640 x 424 (3:2) 24 p
320 x 216 (3:2) 24 p
Video format
AVI (Codec n.a.)
Audio format (video) WAV

Lens

Lens mount
Nikon F

Focusing

Autofocus mode Phase comparison autofocus with 11 sensors
Autofocus Functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light
Focus control Live view

Viewfinder and Monitor

Reflex viewfinder Reflex viewfinder (95 % image coverage), 17 mm interpupillary distance, diopter compensation (-1.7 to +0.7 dpt), replaceable focusing screens, grille can be faded in
Monitor 2.7″ TFT LCD monitor with 230,000 pixels

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement over 420 fields, spot measurement (measurement over 3% of the image field)
Exposure times 1/4,000 to 30 s (automatic
) bulb function
Exposure control Program automatic, Aperture automatic, Time automatic, Manual
Bracketing function Bracket function with maximum 3 shots, step size from 1/3 to 1/2 EV
Exposure compensation -5.0 to +5.0 EV with step size of 1/3 EV
Sensitivity to light ISO 200 to ISO 3.200 (automatic
)ISO 100 to ISO 6.400 (manual)
Remote access Remote tripping
Scene modes Flowers, twilight, various motif programs, candlelight, children, landscape, night landscape, night portrait, close-up, party, portrait, sunset, food, sports/action, beach/snow, animals, fully automatic, and more scene modes available
Picture effects Blue tint, skylight, warm tone
White balance Auto, White balance bracketing, Fine tuning, Manual
Continuous shooting 4.0 frames/s at highest resolution
Self-timer Self-timer with intervals of 2 or 20 s, special features: (manually adjustable)
Shooting functions Live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (hinged
)flash shoe: Nikon, standard center contact
Flash number Guide number 13 (ISO 100)
Flash functions Auto, Fill Flash, Flash On, Flash Off, Slow Sync, Flash On Second Shutter Curtain, Red-Eye Reduction

Equipment

Image stabilizer no optical image stabilizer
Memory
SD
GPS function GPS external
Power supply Power supply connection
Power supply 1 x Nikon EN-EL9a (lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.4 V, 1,100 mAh
)6 x AA (standard battery)
6 x AA (standard battery)
Playback Functions Red eye retouching, image index, slideshow function with music, zoom out
Voice memo Voice memo (WAV format)
Picture parameters Contrast, Saturation, Noise Reduction
Special functions Live view
Ports Data interfaces: USBUSB type
:USB 2.0 High Speed
AV connectors AV output: HDMI output Mini (Type C)
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod socket 1/4″
Features and Miscellaneous AF measuring range: LW -1 to LW 19AF Metering MemoryExposure Metering MemoryPlayback

ZoomHighlighting Auto
Image OrientationReal Time Noise ReductionFAT

16/32 Support SharpeningImaging ContrastImaging BrightnessColor SaturationColor Balance Simultaneous

Recording of JPEG and RAW/NEF Image Files Possible Manual
Text EntryColor Space Setting
(sRGB-Ia, AdobeRGB-IIa, sRGB-IIIa)
D-Lighting technology for camera-internal compensation between bright and dark image areasPicture Mount FunctionPicture Parameter Presets

Size and weight

Dimensions W x H x D 127 x 104 x 80 mm
Weight 620 g (ready for operation)

Other

included accessories Nikon BS-1 (Hot Shoe Cover
)Nikon Capture NX SoftwareNikon
DK-21 (Eyecup)
Nikon EG-D2 Audio- / Video CableNikon
EN-EL9a Special BatteryNikon
MH-23 Charger for Special BatteriesNikon
UC-E4 USB CableFinder Shell
DK-5Shoulder Strap
AN-DC2Camera Software
Nikon Picture Project
optional accessory Nikon EN-EL9a Special BatteryNikon
EP-5 Power SupplyNikon
MC-DC2 Cable Remote Trigger Removable Memory CardSB-900/800/600/400System FlashesML-L3
Infrared Remote ControlGPS Receiver
GP-1Nikon System Accessories
(Flashes, Lenses, etc.)
Previous articleFujifilm X-E2 Review
Next articlePanasonic LX100 II Review
Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.