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.

Goodies Await my Return from Waterloo

It was the final day of lectures for the 3B semester at the University of Waterloo, and I now find myself writing this from the comfort of home sweet home, where I’ll spend the next week or so, studying for final exams.

With that in mind, I came home to a whole pile of goodies that demanded my immediate attention. It goes without saying, there was little in the way of studying this evening.

A whole pile of goodies await me

Deserving of an analysis which I’ll leave for another time, the 3G iPhone hasn’t impressed me much, with my horrendous luck with the hardware, awful device performance (third-party verified), and the piss-poor iTunes application, which is necessary for the management of the device. Everyone says it’s karma for my hatin’ on Apple… Regardless of the reason, it hasn’t been the most pleasing of devices to use. It’s no longer aligned with what I want in a smartphone.

Enter the Nokia E71. Long story short, Newegg.ca listed the E71-2 for a stunning $320CAD a short while ago. At about half the cost of a BlackBerry Bold (my other replacement consideration), I decided it was worth the risk to try a device on an unfamiliar platform. Worse comes to worst, I can sell a mint E71 on eBay, at least recouping my cost. Plus who doesn’t like new gadgets to play with? 🙂 I’m stretching the device out right now; hopefully I’ll have something to detailed to write later next week.

The Office 2007 Ultimate package came along with the book on designing forms for InfoPath from, you guessed it, Microsoft. My hiring manager at Microsoft kindly sent me some materials to help me get acquainted with the product I’ll be working on. That’s $1000 of software and textbook there…

Finally, the three CDs are from the marketing director for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, who contacted me after reading the post on my experience at last season’s performance of Holst’s The Planets. I gave her permission to use a quote or two for marketing purposes and was kindly offered a TSO Live CD. She sent three. 🙂 I’m looking forward to listening to them as I study this next week. If you’re reading this, thanks! It’s great to see every sort of organization keeping the pulse of the online community.

Garmin nüvi 755T

I picked up a Garmin nüvi 755T earlier today from Future Shop during its Web Deal of the Day. While the original $549 price was inflated, it was marked down to $249, which was a steal.

Garmin nüvi 755T

I’ve found my iPhone’s Google Maps and GPS capabilities to be two of its most useful, but really shouldn’t be used while driving. I’d been on the lookout for a GPS unit, but wasn’t impressed with the around $300 prices for a mid-end unit.

The 755T is a 4.3″ widescreen unit with built in FM traffic updates, although that apparently only works in Toronto and Montreal for the time being. Still, lane assist and a smooth user interface should make it more enjoyable to use than a lower end model.

iPhone 3G Is Mine

I broke. Not only did I shell out for an 8GB iPhone 3G this past Monday, I ended up getting the $30/month for 6GB data plan with Rogers. Rogers now owns me for another 3 years of bill-paying fun, and I’ve converted myself to just one more mindless Apple zombie.

And it sure feels good.

Apple iPhone 3G

The Apple iPhone 3G – now with… 3G

The device is certainly not without faults, it has plenty of them, but when all is said and done, it reaches a level of polish and integration I haven’t found on any of the devices I’ve owned or used.

I’ve had plenty of hands on time with the first generation iPhone; friends and classmates were quick to pick them up for unlocking. From day one, I was impressed with the interface and usability of the device, but never considered the device due to relatively slow wireless speeds and horrible Rogers data plans. I didn’t want to go through the hassle for a glorified iPod. It was the combination of the $30/month for 6GB data plan that Rogers started offering and 3G support in the iPhone that pushed me over the edge.

Apple iPhone 3G
A great screen. It has the uncanny ability to look like a printed picture.

Data performance is to the point that browsing is more than simply tolerable. Coupled with the Safari browser, I think this is about as good as it gets (currently) for HTML web on something this small. Google Maps gets a huge boost with the assisted GPS feature. Being able to whip out a map to search for anything without fear of a $100 overage bill at the end of the month is liberating.

Another enticing feature is the Apps Store. I’m certainly a tech/gadget enthusiast and didn’t shy away from searching out good software for my previous devices, but I’m finding my free time to do so is starting to dwindle. Having a ton of applications all available in one location is super convenient. Streaming radio from Last.fm? Yes, please (although I fear for the battery life consequences). Of course there’s the video and music capabilities of the iPhone, but I’m more inclined to carry around my Zune for that purpose. I hardly want to waste the battery life on that…

Apple iPhone 3G
Ooooooo, shiny.

Which leads me to the bads. Battery life is far from impressive. I’ve been spoiled by the awesome battery life of the BlackBerry Curve. Even with push email and moderate voice use, I can usually get through most of a work week. My initial testing of the iPhone has yielded far lower, to the tune of less than 2 days. The last time I had to recharge the iPhone (less than 10% battery warning), the usage counter in Settings showed that I had used the phone for 4 hours between charges, along with 1 day and 16 hours of standby. Granted I’m still in the introductory stage of trying out random features and generally taxing the device more than typical usage, it’s still disappointing. It’s going to have to be connected to a charger pretty much every day. I understand that 3G inevitably eats up more battery than EDGE/GPRS (as can be seen with other 3G phones as well), but with an all-in-one device, battery life is even more important.

The lack of push email is also mildly disconcerting, but understandable given I just switched from a BlackBerry. Without something like Exchange or MobileMe, the best one can do is to set the iPhone to poll for emails every 15 minutes. Of course, that isn’t very friendly on the battery, which ties into the previous point. Additionally, the vibrate notifier is terribly weak. Again, I’ve been spoiled by my BlackBerry’s veritable earthquake of a notification, but I’ve already missed calls because I simply didn’t realize the phone was vibrating. I almost always keep my phone on silent, given I’m in class and other discrete locations for much of my day, so this is a big deal.

I’d also be remiss not to clearly point out that this specific iPhone will be going back to Rogers for a replacement. Pieces of glue and rubbery material were flaking out from the right side of the screen when I carefully inspected it after I took the iPhone back home from the store. Rogers with its characteristically amazing service (note: I’m being sarcastic) led me to visit the physical store twice and call into customer care/relations/tech support/the physical store 4 times before finally arranging a replacement. I was passed back and forth like a soccer ball for 3 days on end before reaching some form of resolution to the issue.

But is it worth it overall? My current response is yes. I’m loving the almost ubiquitous (and more importantly, usable) data connection.

Amazon.ca Zune Sale

It’s finally coming to the end of a terribly hectic week and I wanted to quickly bring the Zune back into focus again. I know my promised review isn’t ready for consumption yet, but my main concern about recommending the device was price. Now, that barrier is gone. Amazon Canada is having a sale on all Zunes. Furthermore, with the coupon MAPNEWNCSAVE, you can save an additional $10. That works out to the following pricing:

Zune 80GB – $197.99

Zune 8GB – $141.99

Zune 4GB – $113.99

Pricing is before taxes, but coupled with free shipping, it’s a very good deal if you’re in the market for an MP3 player. At these prices, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the player.