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Nikon D5000 DSLR Review
Date: Nov 30, 2009
Author: Jennifer Johnson

Consumer DSLRs with HD video capabilities are becoming more and more prevalent these days. As a result, manufacturers are constantly battling to find ways to differentiate themselves and their products from the others. Nikon's D5000 offers a few features that help set it apart from other options in the company's line as well as from the models offered by other manufacturers.

Like many DSLRs today, the D5000 offers Live View mode. It also has HD movie recording capabilities with the ability to capture up to 720p HD video at 24fps. While some cameras such as the Canon EOS Rebel T1i focus on a large, high-resolution display on the back of the camera, Nikon has gone a slightly different route and has opted to feature an articulating screen on the back of the D5000. This screen may not offer quite the size or resolution of some of its competitors' models, but it does give you a lot of flexibility when you're shooting in Live View mode or filming videos.

The D5000 resembles some of its predecessors in terms of looks, but it actually inherits many higher-end features such as those found in the Nikon D90. For starters, the D5000 uses the same 12.3 megapixel CMOS sensor that's found in the D90. As a result, you'll also get the same sensitivity range of ISO 200-3200 with Lo-1 (ISO 100) and Hi-1 (ISO 6400) options. To help combat dust and keep your images clean, the D5000 incorporates a vibrating low pass filter as well as Nikon's Airflow system.

Although the D5000's burst rate of 4fps is slightly slower than that of the D90's 4.5fps burst speed, it's important to remember that many DSLRs in the D5000's class offer burst speeds in the 3fps to 3.5fps range. This includes one of the D5000's biggest competitors, the Canon EOS Rebel T1i, with a burst of 3.4fps.

With a few good (and somewhat reasonably priced) DSLRs on the market today that can capture HD video, it can be tough for new users to decide which camera to choose. For users who are considering an upgrade from their current DSLR and who already own accessories or lenses, switching manufacturers may not be a good option. But just because you may be locked into a certain brand doesn't mean you're ready to pick up the company's latest and greatest. So is the D5000 the next greatest camera from one of the top DSLR manufacturers?

Read on as we take a closer look at the Nikon D5000 to see how it stacks up to the competition as well as whether it's worth the upgrade for current Nikon DSLR owners who want to use their current accessories and lenses.

Bundle & Specifications

The D5000 comes with the following:
  • EN-EL9a Rechargeable Li-ion Battery
  • MH-23 Quick Charger
  • DK-5 Eyepiece Cap
  • DK-24 Rubber Eyecup
  • UC-E6 USB Cable
  • EG-CP14 Audio Video Cable
  • AN-DC3 Camera Strap
  • Body Cap
  • BS-1 Accessory Shoe Cover
  • Software Suite CD-ROM

We tested the D5000 as a kit with an AF-S NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR lens. This is the most popular kit option, though some retailers may opt to create their own custom kits with other lenses. The D5000 is also available in a body-only configuration.

There are a number of accessories available for the D5000, including a GP-1 GPS Unit that can record the latitude, longitude, altitude, and time information for a photo.


Image Sensor Format


Image Sensor

CMOS, 15.8 x 23.6mm

Total Pixels

12.9 million

Effective Pixels

12.3 million

Image Area (pixels)

(L) 4288x2848
(M) 3216x2136
(S) 2144x1424

Continuous Shooting Speed

4 frames per second

LCD Monitor

2.7 inch Vari-angle color LCD monitor with 230,000 Dots

Shutter Speed

30 sec. to 1/4000 sec. in steps of 1/3, ½, 1 EV, bulb mode

ISO Sensitivity

200 to in 3200 steps of 1/3, 1 EV;

Lo-1 (ISO 100 equivalent)

Hi-1 (ISO 6400 equivalent)

Storage Media


File Format

JPEG, AVI, Compressed 12-bit NEF (RAW)

Exposure Modes

Programmed Auto (P) with flexible Program, Shutter-Priority Auto (S), Aperture-Priority Auto (A), Manual (M), Auto, Auto (flash off) Advanced Scene Modes

Advanced Scene Modes

Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Night Landscape, Party / Indoor, Beach / Snow, Child, Sunset, Dusk / Dawn, Pet Portrait, Candlelight, Blossom, Autumn Colors, Food, Silhouette, High Key, Low Key

Exposure Metering System

420 pixel RGB sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II, Center-weighted, Spot

Metering Range

0 to 20 EV (Matrix or center-weighted metering);

2 to 20 EV (Spot metering) (ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens, at 20 degrees C/68 degrees F)

Exposure Compensation

±5 EV in increments of 1/3, 1/2, 1

Exposure Bracketing

2 or 3 frames in steps of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1 or 2 EV

Shutter Release Modes

Single-frame [S] mode, Continuous Frame Shooting (Approx 4 FPS), Live View [LV] mode, Self-timer mode, Delayed remote, Quick response, Quiet shutter-release

Movie Modes

Movie with sound, Stop motion movie, D-Movie, HD 1280 x 720/24 fps VGA 640 x 424/24 fps QVGA 320 x 216/24 fps

White Balance

Sun, Shade, Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash, Preset, Auto

White Balance Bracketing

Yes, 3 frames in steps of 1

D-Lighting Bracketing

2 exposures

Live View Shooting



Hi-speed USB, NTSC, HDMI

Lens Mount

Nikon F bayonet mount

Compatible Lenses

AF-S or AF-I: All functions supported.
• Type G or D AF NIKKOR without built-in autofocus motor: All functions except autofocus supported. IX NIKKOR lenses not supported.
• Other AF NIKKOR: All functions supported except autofocus and 3D color matrix metering II. Lenses for F3AF not supported.
• Type D PC NIKKOR: All functions supported except autofocus and some shooting modes.
• AI-P NIKKOR: All functions supported except autofocus and 3D color matrix metering II.
• Non-CPU: Autofocus not supported. Can be used in mode M, but exposure meter does not function. Electronic rangefinder can be used if lens has a maximum aperture of f/5.6 or faster


-2.0 to +1.0 m-1

Viewfinder Frame Coverage

Approx. 95%

Viewfinder Diopter Adjustment

(-2.0 to +1.0 m-1)

Viewfinder Magnification

Approx. 0.78

Depth-of-field Control


Autofocus System

Nikon Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus module with TTL phase detection, 11 focus points (including 1 cross-type sensor) and AF-assist illuminator (range approx. 0.5-3 m/1 ft. 8 in.-9ft.10 in.)

Autofocus Sensitivity

-1 - +19 EV (ISO 100, 20°C/68°F)

Focus Modes

Single-servo AF (S), Continuous-servo (C), Manual (M) with electronic rangefinder, Live View (LV) autofocus, Face-Priority, Wide Area, Normal Area and Subject Tracking

Focus Lock

AE-L/AF-L button; Half press of shutter-release button (single-point AF in AF-S)

Picture Control

Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait, Landscape, Nine User-customizable Settings

In-Camera Image Editing

Trim, D-Lighting, Color Balance, Image Overlay, Filter Effects, Distortion Control, Monochrome, Stop Motion, NEF (RAW) Processing, Quick retouch, Straighten, Fisheye, Small picture, Red-eye Correction, Perspective Control, Color Outline

External Flash Shoe


Built-in Flash Distance

56 at ISO 200 ft.17 at ISO 200m

Dust-Off Reference Photo


Save/Load Camera settings


Nikon Creative Lighting System Compatibility

Yes, Built-in Commander mode not available

Flash Sync Speed

Up to 1/200

Flash Sync Modes

Front-curtain sync (normal), Slow sync, Rear-curtain sync, Red-eye reduction

Flash Control

1) i-TTL: TTL flash control by 420-pixel RGB sensor, built-in flash, SB-900, SB-800, SB-600, SB-400: i-TTL balanced fill-flash and standard i-TTL flash
2) AA (Auto Aperture-type) flash: Available with SB-900 and SB-800 used with CPU lens
3) Non-TTL Auto: Available with Speedlights such as SB-800, SB-28, SB-27, and SB-22S
4) Range-priority manual flash; available with SB-900 and SB-800

Flash Sync Terminal


Accessory Shoe



2, 5, 10, 20 seconds duration

World Time Setting


Battery / Batteries

EN-EL9 Lithium-ion Battery
EN-EL9a Lithium-ion Battery

Battery Life

510 shots (CIPA)

Approx. Dimensions

Width 5.0 in. (127mm)
Height 4.1 in. (104mm)
Depth 3.1 in. (80mm)

Approx. Weight

19.8 oz. (560g)

Features and Technology

As we suggested, the D5000's 2.7-inch Vari-angle LCD monitor helps to set the D5000 apart from some of its competition. Unlike some articulating screens we've seen in the past that hinge from the side, the D5000's LCD hinges at the bottom. All in all, the placement of the hinge is mostly personal preference, though we do want to point out if you're using this camera on a tripod, the tripod may restrict some of the angles of rotation. When you're transporting the camera, you can tuck the LCD against the camera back to better protect it.

The screen itself has 230,000 Dots, which isn't bad, but you definitely notice a difference in the screen and image quality if you compare the D5000's LCD to a camera that has a higher resolution display. Generally speaking, there's a tradeoff: In this class of cameras, you can have an articulating display or a high-resolution display. Take your pick, but right now, you're not likely to find both in a consumer-grade camera. If you rotate the camera, the D5000's LCD changes to portrait.

Click to enlarge

The D5000 offers four Live View autofocus shooting modes: Subject Tracking autofocus (AF), Face Priority AF, Wide Area AF, and Normal Area AF. Subject Tracking AF locks the focus on a moving subject. Even if that subject should leave the frame and return, the camera will maintain focus on the subject. This AF mode is particularly useful when capturing fast moving children as well as pets. As you will guess from its name, Face Priority AF uses face recognition technology to detect up to five faces in a scene and focuses on the closest subject. Wide Area AF gives you a large AF area and is ideal for hand-held shooting. Finally, Normal Area AF is useful when you're shooting with a tripod and desire pinpoint accuracy.

Like other DSLRs with HD video recording capabilities, the D5000 lets you use an assortment of AF-S NIKKOR interchangeable lenses with the video capture feature. This gives you a lot more versatility than you'd get with a traditional, fixed-lens camcorder. In addition, if you're capturing video with a NIKKOR VR lens, you'll also get the added benefits of Nikon VR image stabilization which helps you get a sharper image that's more stable. VR image stabilization also works to extend the D5000’s performance in low-light situations. The D5000 records movie clips in Motion JPEG AVI files. A small microphone on the front of the camera records sound.

Users who are upgrading from a point and shoot digital camera will likely appreciate the D5000's 19 automatic Scene Modes. Some of these modes include Sports, Portrait, Candlelight, Silhouette, and Autumn Colors.

Click to enlarge

The D5000 also offers a handful of in-camera editing features to avoid post-processing time after pictures are uploaded to your computer. The D5000's newest editing features include a Soft Filter effect, Perspective Control, and Color Outline. Other editing features include a straighten option, red-eye correction, image overly, and more. Anytime you edit an image on the camera, the D5000 will save the new image as a separate JPEG file to preserve the original image.

Behind the scenes, the D5000 uses Nikon’s EXPEED image processing system and a 12.3-megapixel CMOS sensor. The D5000’s normal ISO range extends from ISO 200 to 3200. For hard to get shots, the D5000 also offers two ISO expansion settings—Lo 1 for ISO 100 or Hi 1 for ISO 6400. Nikon’s 3D Color Matrix Metering II works with the camera's EXPEED image processing system to evaluate the exposure elements in a scene and provide the best exposure.

To help the D5000 deliver spot-free images, Nikon has included its Integrated Dust Reduction System which incorporates both an electronic sensor cleaning as well as the Airflow Control System which helps to direct dust away from the sensor.

Body Design and Feel

If you're familiar with Nikon's Dxx line, you'll immediately notice some similarities with the D5000's controls and layouts. For users who prefer to get information about the picture settings at a glance, the D5000's detailed rear screen provides the information you're looking for, including ISO, white balance, image quality, focus mode, metering, and much more.

When we initially picked up the D5000, we noticed that the camera's grip seemed a tad on the small side. This bugged us at first because we felt as if we might lose our grip on the camera and drop it. Thankfully, that never happened and we became accustomed to, and even comfortable with, the grip.

The D5000's body measures approximately 5.0 x 4.1 x 3.1 inches and weighs about 1 pound, 4 ounces without the battery, memory card, or body cap. The build quality of the body feels solid and sturdy.

Click to enlarge

Looking at the front of the D5000, you'll see the AF-assist illuminator / self-timer lamp / red-eye reduction lamp nestled between the camera's grip and the flash. An infrared receiver resides on the grip itself. On the other side of the lens mount, you'll find a flash mode button, microphone (located just above the D5000 emblem), self-timer / function button, and lens release button.

Click to enlarge

On the top of the camera near the grip, you'll find the D5000's mode dial, information button, and exposure compensation button. The D5000's power switch is located below and around the shutter release button. A built-in flash and accessory shoe sits near the top center of the D5000.

On the side of the camera with the grip, you'll find a sliding door that provides access to the D5000's SD card slot. On the other side of the camera, you'll find the connector cover. Beneath this cover, you'll find the accessory terminal, combination USB connector and A/V connector, and the HDMI mini-pin connector.

Click to enlarge

The articulating 2.7-inch LCD takes up a large portion of the back side of the D5000. The monitor opens outwards 180° and can be rotated 180° left or 90° right. To the left of the LCD, you'll find the playback, menu, thumbnail/playback zoom out, playback zoom in, and information edit buttons. Just above the playback button and to the left of the viewfinder, you'll find the delete button. Near the upper-right corner of the LCD, there's an AE-L/AF-L button as well as the camera's command dial.

On the other side of the LCD, there's the Live View button as well as the multi selector with an OK button in the center. Below the multi selector, you'll find the camera's speaker and a memory card access lamp.

Click to enlarge

The underside of the camera has a traditional tripod socket as well as the camera's battery chamber.

Click to enlarge

Controls/Functionality, Response, and Menus

The D5000's menu system consists of six main panels (playback, shooting, custom settings, setup, retouch, and recent settings) with various options available in each one. Use the multi selector and the OK buttons to navigate the camera's menus.

Nikon doesn't build image stabilization into the body of the D5000, so you'll need to buy a lens with image stabilization if you want to take advantage of this technology. Thankfully, Nikon's kit lens for the D5000 includes image stabilization which helps to reduce the effects of camera shake on an image.


To change the settings for any of the items located on the display while shooting, press the information edit button near the lower left corner of the display and then use the multi selector and OK buttons to navigate through the options. Some options can also be adjusted using the command dial or dedicated camera buttons.

The D5000's LCD shows a graphic to give you a visual indication as to whether you're using a large or a small aperture as well as how fast of a shutter speed you are using. When you're in the Scene shooting mode, use the command dial to scroll through the various predefined scene modes.


You can access and use Live View mode in any of the camera's shooting modes. When shooting in Live View mode, the D5000 lets you half-press the camera's shutter button to focus, just as you would on a point and shoot camera. The focusing itself takes a little time, but it's no worse than other DSLRs with Live View that that focus without interrupting the Live View. (Some manufacturers offer a quick focus mode that interrupts the Live View display but focuses faster.)

To record a movie, press the Live View button, frame the opening shot, and then press the shutter release button halfway to focus. You won't be able to shoot until the camera has focused. Autofocus is not available after you've started recording so you'll need to use manual focus to adjust during recording. To start recording, press the OK button. While recording, you'll see a recording indicator in the upper left portion of the screen and information about the remaining time available in the upper right corner. To stop recording, press OK again.

If you want to end recording and take a still picture in the mode currently selected, you can press the shutter-release button all the way down. Movies can be up to 2GB in size. Nikon says the maximum length for movies with a frame size of 1280 x 720 is five minutes. You can record for 20 minutes using either the 640 x 424 or 320 x 216 quality modes.


When looking through the D5000's viewfinder, you’ll see 11 AF-points.

Using the D5000's default settings, the camera will vibrate the low-pass filter covering the image sensor to remove dust when the camera is turned on or off. You can also activate this cleaning option manually or disable it. If visible dust remains even after using the clean image sensor option, Nikon provides instructions in the user's manual to clean the filter manually.

Sample Images

A camera’s controls and features are obviously very important, but the quality of images that the camera can produce is crucial as well. To give you a better feel for quality of images the D5000 can capture, we've included a few sample images here. Overall, we were pleased with the images we captured using the D5000. Colors were accurate and focusing was crisp. All of our test shots were captured using the AF-S NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR kit lens.

Click to enlarge
Sample Images - ISO settings

Like the Nikon D90, the D5000 supports a standard ISO range of 200 to 3200 with high and low expansion options. Even though these expansion settings and a wide ISO range are available, it's still best to use a low ISO setting whenever possible to avoid noise. Here’s a closer look at each of the ISO settings.

















Click to enlarge

Images were practically noise-free up to 500, then artifacts began to appear, but images were still very usable. Even images at 1600 weren’t too bad, though there was definite noise.
Sample Videos

Obviously one of the major attractions of the D5000 is its ability to capture high definition video. Check out our sample clips below or download the full versions to view the videos without compression. As you'll see, the 720p clip plays back smoothly and has more detail.

Nikon D-5000 640x480 Video Sample

Nikon D-5000 720P Video Sample


In all, the Nikon D5000 was a joy to use during our tests. The layout and controls were easy to use and the camera captured excellent images. Another major benefit of the D5000 is its ability to capture HD videos, even if those capabilities are limited to 720p. Although no DSLR today is going to fully rival the recording capabilities of a full-fledged digital camcorder, the D5000 offers respectable video capabilities for a DSLR.

Click to enlarge

We wished the D5000 would have had a higher resolution display, but it's generally a trade-off between high-resolution and an articulating screen currently. There are a number of shooting situations in which the ability to rotate the screen is very useful, so it's easy to make the argument that an articulating display is more valuable to some users than a high-resolution display. At the end of the day, each user must decide which feature—a high resolution screen or an articulating display—is of higher priority.


The D5000's 12.3-megapixel sensor may offer a slightly lower resolution than some of the camera's competitors, but really, most people don't need more than 12.3 megapixels to obtain high quality shots. In addition, it's important to remember that the D5000's burst speed of 4fps trumps many of its competitors' burst speeds.

The D5000 borrows a number of features from a higher-end model in Nikon's range (the D90), but repackages those features in a more affordable form factor. With a current street price of around $750 for the body and the standard kit lens, the D5000 offers DSLR shoppers a good value and a number of high-end features for the money.

  • Articulating 2.7-inch display
  • Captures HD videos (24fps at 720p is the best option)
  • Price / feature balance
  • HDMI-out
  • Limited to 720p high definition video
  • Cannot continuously focus during video recording
  • No external microphone input

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