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Nikon introduces D5000 digital SLR with vari-angle LCD, 720p video
Monday, April 13, 2009 | by Rob Galbraith
The club of video-capable digital SLR cameras has a new member. Nikon has unveiled the D5000, an entry-level digital SLR that features a 12.21 million image pixel CMOS sensor, 4fps still photo shooting rate, 2.7in (diagonal) vari-angle rear LCD and 720p video capture in a lightweight body that's expected to sell for US$729.95 in the U.S. when it ships later this month. The D5000 offers pro photographers in the Nikon camp a way to try their hand at digital SLR video, at a price that's even lower than the D90.

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Budget Video: Views of the Nikon D5000. Click either photo to enlarge (Photos courtesy Nikon)

The Nikon D5000, in brief

The main features of the D5000 include:
  • A 12.21 million image pixel DX Format CMOS sensor (with self-cleaning function)
  • 12-bits per colour EXPEED processing
  • A 2.7in (diagonal), 233,000-dot vari-angle rear LCD
  • 1280 x 720 pixel (720p) D-Movie video capture at 24fps, with mono audio
  • LiveView, with four autofocus mode options including Face Priority AF
  • An extended ISO range of 100 - 6400
  • 4fps maximum still photo shooting rate
  • 11-point autofocus with 3D Focus Tracking
  • 420 pixel 3D Color Matrix Metering II plus Scene Recognition System
  • 100,000-cycle shutter
  • Compatibility with the Nikon GP-1 GPS Unit
Nikon D5000 feature highlights

Sensor and image processing The D5000 contains the same 12.21 million image pixel sensor as the D90. At 15.8 x 23.6mm, the sensor is DX Format with a 1.5X focal length cropping factor relative to 35mm. At full resolution, D5000 files are 4288 x 2848 pixels.

The D5000's image processing engine utilizes Nikon's EXPEED processing technology, but without some of the capabilities of pricier EXPEED cameras. Its analog-to-digital (A/D) converter is 12 bits per colour, like the D90, as is subsequent digital image processing; the D3, D700 and D300, by comparison, offer 12 or 14 bit A/D and 16 bit digital processing. The D5000 sensor package includes a four frequency ultrasonic self-cleaning mechanism.

The D5000 offers a single NEF type: compressed (visually lossless, 40-55% compression rates). The camera includes Nikon's now-standard Picture Control menu for customizing the colour look of JPEGs coming from the camera, as well as NEFs processed through Nikon conversion software. Picture Control options include Standard, Neutral, Vivid, Monochrome, Portrait and Landscape. Each setting can be customized, and it's possible to store up to nine custom Picture Control combos as well.

D-Movie mode and the vari-angle rear LCD The D5000 is Nikon's second digital SLR to incorporate a video capture mode.

D-Movie mode offers three movie sizes: 1280 x 720 pixels (equivalent to 720p HD resolution), 640 x 424 pixels and 320 x 216 pixels, all at 24 fps. The compression format is Motion JPEG. Movie files emerge from the camera with an .avi extension (and can be imported directly to an editor like iMovie without an additional conversion step).

The camera will record clips up to five minutes long at 1280 x 720 pixels (20 minutes at the smaller movie sizes) before recording is stopped to give the image sensor an opportunity to cool. The file size for a typical five minute, 1280 x 720 pixel clip is roughly 600MB. There's no control over the JPEG compression level. A mono mic on the front of the camera picks up audio. Sound quality, owing to a combination of the mic component and internal audio processing, is likely to be so-so. There is no provision for plugging in an external microphone. Other than turning the mic off, there are no audio options such as manual level adjustment or wind filtering.

Video capture can be started and stopped with the OK button at the centre of the four-way controller (capture is also automatically stopped by pressing the shutter button to take a still picture). The D5000 allows you to select the aperture prior to commencing, then it handles the adjusting of ISO and shutter speed automatically as needed to maintain video brightness as lighting conditions change during recording. To disable automatic exposure adjustment, it's possible to lock exposure prior to beginning the recording. While a movie is being recorded, Auto WB and autofocus are disabled.

If a lens with Vibration Reduction (VR) technology is attached, its VR stabilization will automatically kick in when recording commences.

The implementation of the D5000's D-Movie mode is in fact identical in all respects to the D90, says Nikon USA Senior Technical Manager Steve Heiner, except for the vari-angle rear LCD of the new model. If you're weighing the purchase of a D90 vs the upcoming D5000 for the purpose of learning more about digital SLR video, the rear LCD may well be the deciding factor.

As the photos below show, the screen stays centred along the lens' site line and can be swiveled into various orientations, including one suitable for self-portraits. If you've used a video camera with an adjustable screen like this, then you know it makes it much, much easier to keep things framed up while capturing handheld footage in particular.
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Twisted: The D5000's vari-angle LCD, in action. Click any photo to enlarge (Photos courtesy Nikon)

ISO range The D5000 has a standard ISO range of 200-3200, and an extended ISO range of 100-6400, all in 1/3 step increments.

Frame rate The camera tops out at 4fps for a Nikon-specified nine NEF frames. As of this writing, we don't yet have the full-resolution JPEG Fine burst depth specification, though it's likely to be similar to the D90's 25. The D5000 is the first Nikon digital SLR to have a quiet shooting mode that separates the shutter action from the resetting of the mirror. When in this mode, the shutter opens when the shutter button is fully depressed, but the mirror holds in its upright position until the shutter button is released. This means you can delay the mirror return part of the exposure sound until you've turned away or otherwise muffled the camera body.

Basic performance The D5000 has a shutter duty cycle rating of 100,000 frames, a top shutter speed of 1/4000 and top flash sync speed of 1/200. This camera isn't capable of FP High Speed Sync.

Autofocus The D5000 is the latest Nikon to be outfitted with their 11-area Multi-CAM 1000 autofocus system. The Multi-CAM 1000's centre AF point is cross-type.

Metering Ambient metering, flash metering and analysis by Nikon's Scene Recognition System technology all utilize a 420-pixel RGB sensor.

Built-in flash with i-TTL Automatic Flash Control The D5000 does not include a remote Speedlight Commander Mode.

Video out Digital Video out is through an HDMI port (using the newer, smaller Type C connector) with playback at resolutions up to 1080i (in addition to 480p, 576p, and 720p). Analog audio/video out is possible too, by connecting an included cable to the USB port.

Viewfinder The D5000 utilizes a 95% coverage pentamirror viewfinder with 0.78x magnification, similar to the D60.

SD/SDHC slot The D5000 accepts SD/SDHC cards in its single card slot. When an Eye-Fi card is inserted, an Eye-Fi menu comes to life on the D5000's rear LCD. From this menu the card's wireless function can be turned on and off, so as to enable when Wi-Fi is active and photos are transmitted. While transmitting, the D5000 will keep itself awake to enable the completion of an upload.

Connection options The D90 has USB 2.0, DC input (for use with the Nikon EH-5a AC adapter), GPS and HDMI (Type C) ports. It does not have a PC sync port.

The camera is compatible with the GP-1 GPS Unit, Nikon's compact GPS receiver that slips into the camera's hot shoe and attaches via an included cable to the D5000's dedicated GPS port.

On Location: The Nikon D5000 and GP-1 GPS Unit. Click to enlarge (Photo courtesy Nikon)

With the GP-1 attached, GPS time, latitude, longitude and altitude data are inserted into the associated photo's EXIF metadata.

Charged Up: The EN-EL9a (Photo courtesy Nikon)
Power The D5000 takes a 7.2V, 1080mAh EN-EL9a Rechargeable Li-ion Battery, and can also be powered by the EH-5a AC Adapter.

New Retouch Menu options In addition to the usual Retouch Menu suspects such as Red-Eye Correction and Image Overlay, the D5000 adds new Soft Filter, Perspective Control and Color Outline options.

The D5000 - a less expensive D90?

If you're familiar with the D90, a lot of the D5000's specifications and features will seem similar. They have the identical image sensor, autofocus, metering and D-Movie mode, plus a similar shooting rate. There are differences, however, ones intended to justify the D90's slightly higher price tag. The D90 has the following attributes not found in the D5000:
  • A larger, clearer viewfinder (the D5000's 0.78x magnification pentamirror viewfinder is likely to seem cramped in comparison to the D90's 0.94x pentaprism one)
  • Commander Mode for adjusting and triggering remote Speedlights
  • An in-body focus motor that can drive non-AF-S autofocus Nikkor lenses
  • A larger, crisper rear LCD (3.0in, 920,000 dot for the D90 vs 2.7in, 233,000 dot for the D5000)
  • 4.5fps maximum shooting rate
  • Depth of field preview
  • More Custom Settings options
  • Accepts the MB-D80 Multi-Power Battery Pack (no similar grip is planned for the D5000)
Offsetting these D90 advantages is the vari-angle capability of the D5000's rear LCD, which will be a real boon for video work especially.

Price and ship date

The Nikon D5000 is slated to ship in late-April 2009 at an expected street price of US$729.95 in the U.S., or US$849.95 for a bundle comprised of the D5000 and AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR.
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