However, these displays are more than just a collection of read-outs as they also have an ‘interactive’ element. Firstly, if a warning appears along the top of the screen, pressing the ‘?’ button brings up a fuller explanation of the problem and, more usefully, what to do about it. You are alerted to the availability of this by the appearance of a ‘?’ symbol in the lower left corner of the screen and it’s also available in the menu system so virtually every function and setting is supported with an explanation of what it does just the push of a button away.
As on the current Olympus D-SLRs, the D5000’s info display also provides direct access to a wide selection of camera settings. This is achieved by pressing the ‘i’ button and then it’s possible to navigate with the four-way controller (or “multi-selector” as Nikon prefers to call it). Again, the help function is available and, after selecting the desired function which is highlighted by the cursor, pressing the ‘OK’ key brings up the settings accompanied by a representative image.
Arrayed down the right-hand side of the display are the settings for image quality (size and compression level), white balance, ISO, drive mode (including the self-timer modes), AF mode, AF points selection mode, metering mode, the Active D-Lighting settings and the AEB settings. Along the lower edge are the adjustments for flash modes, exposure compensation, flash compensation and the ‘Picture Control’ modes. Turn the D5000 on its side and the two groups of settings are arranged at the bottom of the screen. In most cases, of course, this method of camera control is an alternative to using the menu system or the relevant hard keys, allowing for speedier on-the-fly adjustments. A couple of functions – notably the drive and metering modes – are exclusively set via this method, eliminating the need for hard keys which makes sense as spare real estate is at a premium on the D5000’s compact bodyshell.
The camera’s menu system is the same as Nikon has been using for quite a while now with a progressive click to the right taking to the submenus and settings with the ‘OK’ button serving as the enter key. There are six ‘chapters’ for playback, shooting (i.e. the capture settings), the custom functions, set-up, the editing functions and ‘Recent Settings’ which is a sort of selfrefreshing ‘My Menu’.
The D5000 is definitely one of the smaller D-SLRs on the market, but it still has a goodsized handgrip that feels very comfortable. The control layout is quite straightforward with a main mode dial, a thumb-operated input wheel and a trio of function buttons on the top deck; and the multi-controller plus the playback-related buttons on the rear panel. It certainly won’t phase the experienced SLR user and looks user-friendly enough for the D-SLR first-timer.
The bottom-hinged variable-angle LCD monitor screen works well in terms of permitted an unhindered two-handed grip and also makes the camera easier to handle in the vertical orientation. It’s great for both waist-level (or lowangle) and overhead shooting plus, of course, simply adjusting the screen to give the best viewing angle.
All of this applies to hand-held shooting, but problems may be encountered when the camera is on a tripod particularly if it has a quick-release mounting plate system of some sort. In some instances, most notably on many of the popular Manfrotto models, the quick-release lever or possibly even the plate itself will prevent the screen from being tilted – thereby preventing it being rotated too – when the camera is attached to the tripod.