The ‘Active D-Lighting’ function has an additional ‘Extra High’ setting (as on the D90) for dealing with extreme contrast. ADL analyses the image for brightness and contrast and then adjusts the exposure level accordingly, brightening the shadows where necessary.
All the white balance settings – which includes 11 presets – can be fine-tuned in the blue-to-amber and green-to-magenta ranges
The information display can be varied in design and colour scheme. It also provides direct access to a wide selection of camera/capture settings and displays ‘plain English’ warnings such as the one shown here.

The D5000’s “3D Color Matrix Metering II” – which is a down-specced version of the 1005-pixel system on the pro cameras, but in reality no less capable – is supplemented by centre-weighted average or spot measurements, the latter representing just 2.5 percent of the total imaging area. Although everybody does it, it’s hard to make a convincing argument for continuing with the averaging meter (after all we spent decades trying to find a better system), but the spot mode can be a very effective way of dealing with the challenges of exposure control with digital capture.

Better Balance

The Matrix metering’s RGB sensor also performs the white balance measurements and the D5000 boasts an impressive list of 12 presets of which six deal with the different types of fluorescent lighting that are becoming more common as incandescent sources are phased out. So, for example, there are presets for sodium vapour lamps, mercury vapour lamps and four types of fluoro tubes. Nikon is the only D-SLR manufacturer offering this range of settings on its lower-level models and it’s to be commended because it reduces the need to make a custom setting.

Of course, there is a custom measurement function (which can be based on a captured image), but all the presets – and the auto WB for that matter – can be fine-tuned in both the blueto- amber and green-to-magenta colour ranges. There’s also a WB bracketing function with an adjustment in the blue-to-amber range of up to plus/minus three levels.

Autofocusing is performed by the same 11- point system that’s used in the D90 and which employs a central cross-type array surrounded by a combination of either vertical or horizontal line arrays. The focus points can be manually selected, but there’s also a back-up in the form of the ‘Dynamic Area’ and ‘3D Tracking’ AF modes which will automatically switch points if the subject subsequently moves. Of course, there’s also a standard auto point selection mode which uses all 11 points and bases its deliberations on closest-distance priority.

Switching between the single-shot and continuous AF modes can also be performed either manually or automatically, and the latter has a predictive function to compensate for shutter lag.

In general terms the D5000 has a pretty extensive features list, but it’s curious to see what Nikon decided to omit – depth-of-field preview, for example, or the ability to fit an optional battery grip (both of which the EOS 500D has) – and include; a variable-delay selftimer, on-demand grid lines (in both the optical viewfinder and with live view), compatibility with Nikon’s optional GPS unit and RGB histogram displays. Obviously part of this is the need to create sufficient differentiation with the D90, but it also makes the D5000 a bit of contradiction in terms of who its potential appeal either to firsttimers or to more experienced D-SLR users.

In The Hand

Being a compact D-SLR, the D5000 concentrates all its external displays in its LCD monitor screen with a choice of designs and colour schemes.

The standard ‘Classic’ display is the conventional arrangement of alphanumerical read-outs, but the ‘Graphic’ display employs icons to provide a visual representation of the aperture and shutter speed settings. The former is, not surprisingly, represented by an opening and closing diaphragm while the shutter speed is indicated by a series of LCD bars around its perimeter – more bars equates to a faster speed. A graduated background colour – the choices are black, blue or orange for the ‘Classic’ and green, black or brown for the ‘Graphic’ – and large, well-fined icons make both displays very easy to read. The orientation is automatically switched when the camera is held vertically, and you can also configure the display format to match the camera’s exposure mode… for example, ‘Graphic’ when the scene modes are selected and ‘Classic’ when the standard exposure modes are selected.