Nikon Launches D5000 – Thoughts

Well, a day has come and gone, and Nikon’s D5000 (along with a 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 lens) is now official. While it was widely expected to be a D40/60 update initially, after the leaked specifications appeared, it was pretty clear this thing couldn’t be priced in the same region of existing entry-level DSLRs. The press releases confirmed this, with the Canadian MSRP for the 18-55mm VR kit version set at $1059. Like Canon, whose recent T1i comes in at $1099 with a 18-55mm IS lens, Nikon’s not looking to win the race to the bottom of the entry-level market.

Nikon D5000 DSLR

However, at around $1000, there is still a significant gap down to the D60, which sits at around $600 with the same 18-55mm VR lens. There are some serious improvements to be had by moving to a D5000 from a D60 (the 12.3MP CMOS sensor, derived from the one in the D90/D300, is excellent), but I feel $400 or 2/3rds of the cost of the D60 itself will be a difficult upsell for most salespeople at the likes of BestBuy and Future Shop. Chances are if the customer is looking at the D5000, the D90 will be an easier upsell.

The rumours were right on most of the major features – swivel display, video mode, increased resolution. That said, it’s some of the bullet points buried deep in the feature list that caught my eye.

  • Exposure and white-balance bracketing
  • Viewfinder grid
  • Multi-CAM 1000 AF module (as with D90)
  • 4 FPS continuous shooting
  • In-camera CA correction

All told, we’re looking at a slightly stripped down D90 feature set stuffed into an entry-level body, which is not really any smaller than the D90. But with a similar sensor, video, a swivel display, and most of the features of the D90, some are questioning the viability of the D90 going forward. After a cursory comparison, here are some of the key features the D90 still has over the new D5000.

  • AF motor in-body
  • larger, brighter viewfinder (pentaprism vs. pentamirror)
  • And extra command dial
  • Commander mode for CLS (Creative Lighting System)
  • Better battery life and optional battery grip

For some, any one of these features alone could be worth looking at the D90 instead of the D5000. In Canada, the difference in price for the D5000 and D90 bodies will be around $200. Not a significant premium to pay for the added features, if they’re at all useful to you.

Now, for beginner users, the lack of the AF motor in-body is likely not a big concern. Nikon’s recently launched lenses have all been AF-S, with in-lens motors and relatively few new users will go and buy second-hand or exotic lenses without in-lens motors. Even third party lens manufacturers have been refreshing their product lines with in-lens motors for the Nikon system. Indeed, I think the removal of the in-body motor will only percolate up the product chain. Some people were disappointed Nikon didn’t bring back an in-body motor to the larger D5000, but it’s business after all. Nikon wants you to buy the somewhat more expensive (and most likely higher margin) AF-S lineup of lens.

The key features that I’m sure will get highlighted in every big-box store advertisement are HD video recording and the articulating display. Now, I’m not going to comment on the video mode; there are plenty of other articles that address its benefits and limitations. However, I am disappointed Nikon decided to go with a smaller, lower resolution articulating display as opposed to a fixed, higher-res one like Canon in the newly released T1i. The articulating display is designed for use with the Live View mode. Unfortunately, if the implementation on the D90 is any indication, Live View will still be very slow (much slower than even a decent compact digicam), making the usefulness of the swivel monitor questionable for most situations. Meanwhile, Nikon claims the flip-down swivel allows the user to comfortably hold the camera with two hands, in contrast to the side-flip articulating displays used by the Olympus E-620 and Panasonic G1. However, the place where Live View would be most useful (in my opinion), on a tripod, the downward swivel would interfere with most mountings. Quite unfortunate.

Don’t get me wrong, the D5000 looks to be a very capable DSLR from Nikon. However, the focus seems not to be on pushing the boundaries of image quality, but instead cramming headline-grabbing features into the camera, pushing its price to a higher level than is necessary. If a user really wants video, they can look at the D90. I think most customers who buy the camera will realize that the features they were enticed by, video and the display, turn out to not be worth the incremental cost. The $400 over a D60 is a large chunk of change to swallow (both figuratively and literally). What does give me cause for hope are rumours of a ‘D4000’ (I know, already, huh?), which would be a  stripped down version of the D5000, perhaps without video and the articulating display. If the same excellent 12.3MP CMOS sensor were kept but the price cut by a couple hundred dollars, I think we’d see the real king of entry level DSLRs.

Disclosure: With all this said, I think it would be only fair to note that I currently use a Nikon D90.

2 thoughts on “Nikon Launches D5000 – Thoughts”

  1. I recently bought a Sony DSLR – the A200.

    Now it might not have all the features but it’s price point is truely entry level.

    I’ve found it to be pretty good so far not that I have a lot to compare it to, my last SLR was a Nikon FA…

  2. The A200 is a great camera, especially at the very attractive prices they’ve been on sale for. At the entry-level, it has one of the more upscale feature sets, actually, such as image stabilization and a much more advanced AF module than the D40/60.

    The D5000 may be better, but at more than twice the price, it really shouldn’t be compared with the A200.

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