Price: 626 . 696
Pros: Excellent Live View implementation; useful scene modes and shooting hints; comfortable to use; fast shot-to-shot and burst mode performance
Cons: No dedicated aperture dial; no shortcut for ISO setting; videos were jumpy.
The LCD screen and Live View need to be active when you want to use the camera's video mode, which can capture movies at a resolution of 720p. The captured files are in AVI format and can be viewed easily in Windows Media Player on your computer, or on your TV through the camera's HDMI port.
During our tests, video footage wasn't on par with a dedicated camcorder. It was jittery, and relatively fast panning made lines skew. It's as good as video taken from a typical digital camera, but it has a higher resolution. It's a useful feature to have, and the neat thing about it is that you can change lenses and get weird and wonderful perspectives.
As for the D5000's still image performance — it's stellar. The focus system has 11 points and it focused very quickly. It can track objects in three dimensions within those focus points, which means you can take photos of moving objects without losing the focus point. The focus point can be changed by using the thumb control. Face detection is also available in Live View mode. The quality of your shots will depend on the lenses that you use. We used a Nikkor AF-S 60mm prime lens, which produced crisp images (it should given it's a prime lens) and virtually no noticeable chromatic aberration.
We shot in aperture priority, shutter priority and manual modes for the most part, but the scene modes are also useful if you don't know how to set the exposure manually. You can also play with the built-in filters and colour modes to manipulate your photos without even using a PC. The built-in D-Lighting effect can be used when shooting backlit images, and it does a good job of brightening up the foreground image without blowing out the bright part of the image. It's a useful feature if you have to shoot towards the sun, for example, or in partly shaded areas.
Because the Nikon D5000 is an entry-level digital SLR, it doesn't have many of the niceties of a more expensive camera (such as a dedicated aperture dial, a shortcut to ISO speed, a status screen, nor a depth of field preview button, for example), but it does pack some nifty features that make it a desirable model nonetheless.
It has built-in image sensor cleaning; an airflow system (vents) to clean dust off the low-pass filter; support for a GPS module; a hot-shoe; a reduced noise shutter (for example, when photographing a sleeping baby, you can snap the photo, hear the click, keep holding down the shutter button, walk away and release it so that the second click does not wake the baby); as well as a slew of built-in filters (such lens distortion, which does a decent job of straightening lines that have curved due to barrel roll). It also has a useful burst mode (it shot up to 39 frames before slowing down to write them to our Lexar Professional 133x SD card).
The Nikon D5000 is one of the most impressive digital SLR cameras on the market. Not only can it be used as a fully fledged D-SLR with manual settings, but it can shoot movies and also be used in a similar way to an advanced compact or a point-and-shoot camera. Its user-friendly features and built-in hints make it a very easy model to use, and it's also not a big camera, so it won't be too hard to carry on outdoor adventures and overseas trips — unless you also pack plenty of lenses and accessories. We recommend it for anyone who wants to make the leap from a compact camera to a digital SLR.