The D5000 is another hit for them. They took the sensor and video mode from the well-received pro-sumer D90 and fit them into a new, more affordable package. It's no pro camera, but for such a reasonable price, it's one of the better choices for amateurs ready to make the step up from fixed-lens cameras.
DesignThe D5000 is relatively hefty. It's smaller than the D90, but larger than the D40X and similar models from competing brands, like the Canon Rebel T1i or Pentax K-x. My hands are pretty big, and the body felt just about right for my grip--maybe a little bit too bulky for somebody with small hands.
The button layout, for the most part, is all peaches 'n' cream. My only gripe is that video mode isn't readily apparent (a quick scan through the manual reveals that you simply press the OK button at the center of the directional buttons).
This is the first Nikon dSLR (that I can find reference to, anyway) with an articulating LCD display. At 2.7 inches, it's smaller than the 3-incher on the lower-cost D3000, but that extra room goes to the D5000's superb tilt-and-swivel hinge. This feature has been on a number of Canon models for a few years now, including bridge models like the SX1.
The screen is marketed as a handy way to get a self-portrait or to take the guesswork out of a “point and pray” situation from around a corner or above a crowd. (Ashton Kutcher did all three while he crashed a fashion show in a TV spot around the holidays.) It's a nice touch and I found a few uses for it, but I had to look for them. It's worth noting that it's a bit too heavy to hold with just one hand at arms' length for an extended time, so get those awkward shots quickly.
PerformanceAmateurs will find everything they need in the D5000. It's fast. Especially since a chunk of D5000 buyers will be first-time dSLR users, it'll seem really fast. Some measurements put the pre-focused shutter lag at 0.02 seconds and the burst mode can reach almost four frames per second for about six seconds.
The kit lens we tested (18-55mm) seemed pretty good for stock glass (though I'm not a big glass aficionado, so feel free to chime in with your own thoughts below). It bears the VR mark, so autofocus is a go. Picture quality is great as well--you'll get crisp, noise-free images with nice depth-of-field in fully automatic mode. The images are even passable at high ISO (1600 and 3200).
The viewfinder is OK, at 95 percent crop and 0.78x magnification, though it is pretty dim. The actual LCD display (disregarding the awesome hinge that we covered) is decent, though at 2.7-inches and 230k pixels, it's not quite as visually stunning as the T1i's 3-inch, 900k+ pixel display. As with any dSLR so far, LiveView hampers the autofocus tremendously, so I'd only recommend using it when the articulating hinge is a must.
Video mode isn't a highlight of the D5000--it's one of the main factors that puts it in a class below the D90, which has three HD video modes. Barrel distortion is an issue, but it'll get the job done. Just don't expect outstanding results.
Versus The Canon Rebel T1iThe D5000 competes most closely with the Canon 500D/Rebel T1i, that manufacturer's current-gen entry-level model. They're around the same price point, marketed toward the same segment of “serious amateur” enthusiasts, and have an HD video mode--a noteworthy feature that sets them apart form similar dSLRs by Sony and Olympus.
While both the D5000 and T1i provide fast performance and high quality photos for the price, some of the D5000's features are a notch below the Rebel, mostly minor details that average users may or may not notice (and probably won't miss if they haven't tried the Rebel). For example, the diopter adjustment has a smaller range than the T1i--not a big deal if your eyesight is OK, but it's something to consider. In Sports mode, the D5000 doesn't automatically switch to burst shooting, whereas the T1i does. Again, not a big deal, presets can be changed, but the small details add up to create notable differences between these products (many more of which are addressed in the comment section below). The general consensus, however, is that the image quality is nearly the same.