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Review: Nikon D5000

When I was shopping for a backup camera for my summer travels, I wanted a camera that met the following criteria. 1) The best image quality I could get for the lowest price. 2) It could fit in my camera bag that is already busting at the seams. 3) Had some video capabilities. 4) I’m a Nikon guy, and I wanted to stay in the family. I decided on the Nikon D5000. I have spent a summer with it and I am very pleased with the results. Thankfully, I have never needed it as a backup. My D700 hasn’t missed a beat. But I have enjoyed having a second body for those times when I am traveling light, or not wanting to change lenses. Here are my notes…..

Price Check: I bought mine as a factory refurb from B&H. You can usually find them under $500. Check their prices here.

Things I Like:

  • Same image guts as its big (D90) and bigger (D300s) brother.
  • Just like its bigger brothers, if gives you full control of the exposure. You can choose to work in both Aperture and Shutter priority modes, or you can go pro with full manual control. It also offers various scene and auto exposure modes.
  • Quiet shutter mode. It helped when shooting some street photos in France. Very stealthy.
  • It has video! It is 720, not full 1080p HD, but it is still pretty darn nice looking.
  • Super light and compact.
  • You can get the same image quality of a D300s, for under $500 (if you are willing to buy refurbished).
  • Articulating LCD – Much easier on the back when having to shoot in yoga poses.
  • HDR Photography – The D5000 will only allow 3 brackets, but the nice thing is you can bracket by 2 full stops. 2 stops is usually enough for most of my HDR work. For very high contrast scenes (think super bright light out the window of a room) you need more than 2 stops on either side of the anchor. However, for most of my bracket sequences, the D5000 is proving to be a very capable camera for HDR photography. If you need more than that, you can adjust the exposure manually.

Things To Note:

  • Unlike its bigger brothers, its body is not weather sealed. I have shot in some questionable conditions without a problem. However, if you are going to be facing sand storms and downpours, you might want to consider a pro body.
  • Unlike its bigger brothers, it doesn’t offer the same amount of external command dials and buttons. What does this mean? It means, if you want to change certain parameters like white balance, ISO, etc. you will need to dig into the menu. Its not too bad. I found that I normally shoot in Aperture Priority mode anyways, so I was fine with the one command dial setup to change my aperture values for quick access while I was shooting.
  • It doesn’t have an internal auto focus motor. That means, if you want your lenses to auto focus, you need to get Nikon lenses that have the motor built in. Nikon lenses that do this are labeled with an AFS in their product title. If your are interested in a good companion lens, I reviewed the Nikon 16-85mm VR AFS over here
Nikon D5000 Menu

D5000 Control Menu - Because the D5000 doesn't have as many external dials and controls as its bigger brothers, you have to set certain camera parameters via the menu. It's really not too bad. Just click the little 'i' button on the bottom right hand side of the screen. Then you can use the thumb pad to navigate around the screen to set parameters like ISO, white balance, etc.

Recommended Lenses:

Single Lens Kit: These are lenses that I would suggest if you are only going to get one lens.

  • Nikon 18-55 – This is the lens that comes with it if you buy it as a kit. It is actually a pretty good lens and if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, you can make some great images with it.
  • Nikon 16-85 VR – If you like wider angle shots.
  • Nikon 18-200 VR II – If you like to make images that require a lens with a longer range.

Two Lens Kit – If you are willing to buy two lenses to cover your focal range needs. You also need to be willing to change lenses. (Note: The images below were all made with either the 16-85 VR or the 70-300 VR II).

  • Nikon 16-85 VR – This will handle all your wide to mid range compositions.
  • Nikon 70-300 VR II – This is an awesome telephoto lens. Not to hard to carry around and the results are stunning.

Speciality Lenses – Here are a couple of lenses you might want to consider adding to your kit.

  • Nikon 50mm AFS 1.4 – This is the perfect portrait lens for a DX body. Because of its 1.4 aperture your can really make your subject stand out by blurring the background.
  • Nikon 10.5mm Fisheye – If you want to add a unique perspective to your images, this is the ticket.

Articulating Screen - The D5000 has a articulating screen that is pretty slick. I wasn't too sure about it at first, but now I have a hard time with out it. It folds out so you can compose images in positions like this without having to bend over an put additional strain on your back. Once you are done, you can fold it back against the camera like it was never there.

The True Test: It’s one thing if the camera meets my needs. It’s a whole other thing if it can meet my wife’s. She has a great eye and loves making images. However, she doesn’t want to be burdened with dials, menus, etc. Recently, on a trip to Alaska, I asked if she would put the D5000 through the paces. She agreed, so I enabled auto ISO feature and set the camera to program mode. Here are the images she came home with. I think it passed. Note: I handled the post production.

A Humpback Whale Captured With A Nikon D5000

On Otter's Wings

I Shall Call This One....Flowers



  1. I have been looking for a sturdy and more portable tripod and the one in your photo of your d5000 looks interesting. Can you go into some detail about it?



  2. Disregard previous message, just noticed your review of the Gitzo… d’uh.


  1. […] I decided to write a quick (MTF chart free) review. For the full review and more great images, clickhere. If you have any questions, just post a comment and I will try to get them […]

  2. […] of Angel’s Landing in Zion, NP. (These videos are not for the weak hearted) 1 – Camera: Nikon D5000 1 – Lens Nikon: 16-85 VR 100 – Seconds of time lapse footage 3,000 – Images used […]

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