Monday, April 13, 2009

Nikon D5000

Not much of a surprise, just as predicted, the Nikon D5000 dropped this evening. What is much more surprising are the specs. The Nikon D5000 is a D90 jammed into a D60 body. Whats more is that the D5000 adds an articulated screen. It's a little smaller than the D90 screen and has a significantly lower resolution, but it moves! This is perfect for using Live View and shooting video with he D-Movie feature.

The D5000 has most of the major features of the D90.

  • 12.3 MGP CMOS DX sensor.
  • D-Movie.
  • Live View.
  • 11 area Multi-CAM 1000 AF module.
  • Native ISO settings from 200 -3200.
  • Active D-Lighting with Auto, Extra High, High, Normal, and Low settings.
  • 12 bit EXPEED image processing.
  • GPS ability with the GP-1.
  • Image sensor cleaning.
Some of the things that D5000 lacks in comparison to the D90.
  • No focus motor. This means only AF-S lenses can autofocus with this camera.
  • No LCD Control Panel. The current settings can only be viewed on the main LCD by pressing the info button.
  • No vertical grip. The D5000 doesn't fit the MB-D80 grip and Nikon is unlikely to produce a grip for this camera.
  • 4 fps. This is down from the D90's 4.5 fps which isn't that big of a deal.
  • Sub-command dial. This is one of the things that I didn't like about the D60. When shooting in Manual or Programmed Auto it's more time consuming to change settings.
A few things the D5000 has that the D90 doesn't.
  • Articulated screen. This is a no-brainer. I've wondered why Nikon didn't do this sooner.
  • Airflow control system. This further helps to reduce dust on the sensor by channeling it away from the sensor when the mirror flips.
  • Subject Tracking. When using Live Mode the AF can track moving subjects.
  • Bigger buffer. The D5000 allows you to shoot 63 JPEGs or 11 NEFs before the buffer is full, the D90 gets 25 JPEGs or 7 NEFs.
  • 19 Advanced Scene Modes. The D90 only has the standard scene modes.
  • More in camera retouching options. The D5000 offers color outline and perspective control options.
Apparently the D5000 isn't replacing the D60, but it fits in right between it and the D90. I find this an odd choice for Nikon as it may cannibalize some sales from the D90. I mean if you can get all of D90's features in a smaller less expensive package, why pay more for the D90? Unless you've already got a bunch of non AF-S lenses the D5000 can do almost everything the D90 can, and in some instances such as Live View and D-Movie it can do it better in a smaller package. Personally, I like the idea of a smaller camera. The D60 was my favorite grab and go camera and I'm sure I'll like the D5000 even better if it can actually perform as well as the D90 in low-light.

Along with the D5000 Nikon has released their second new DX lens of the year, the Nikkor AF-S 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G. Nikon has been losing market share to the third party lens makers because they haven't been keeping up with the ultra-wide offerings. Currently Nikon's widest lens is the 12-24mm f/4. On a DX sensor 12mm is equivalent to 18mm, not ultra-wide and these days everybody has been swept up in the ultra-wide craze.

All of the major third party manufacturers offer lenses that are wider than 12mm, Sigma and Tamron both offer a 10-24mm and Tokina offers the 11-18. Nikon is losing a huge amount of sales to the third parties who are marketing to the ultra-wide crowd. With the 10-24mm lens DX users can get almost as wide as FX users with the 14-24mm (but not nearly as wide as the Sigma 12-24mm on FX).

I expect this to be a middle of the road lens performance-wise. It appears to be a plastic lens with a metal lens mount (thankfully). As with most lenses of this caliber there will be some barrel distortion at the wide end and the corners will probably have some softness. But then again, maybe Nikon will integrate some of the technology from the super-sharp and amazing 14-24mm f/2.8, which would make the Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G a great performer. All we can do is cross our fingers and hope that the Nikon 10-24 will be better than the any of the third party lenses which are all marginal performers.

Look for my Nikon D5000 Digital Field Guide coming soon from Wiley!


Anonymous said...

Mr. Thomas:

In describing the new Nikon ultra wide angle lens, you characterized the third party lenses as "mediocre". I am considering purchasing for My Nikon D90 a Tokina 11-16mm wide angle lens. It has garnered great reviews. I would be most interested if you have a contrarian view. Should I plop down the serious cash for the new Nikon 10-24mm wide angle lens instead of the Tokina? Thanks!

J. Dennis Thomas said...

Personally, I haven't seen any "great" reviews on this lens. For the most part this lens is considered a "good lens for the money".

Almost all of the third party lenses ultra-wide lenses perform marginally. Most of them are soft wide open and have pronounced vignetting at wide apertures and don't really perform excellently until f/5.6-8.

None of the third party lenses can compete with the Nikon 14-24 and if the 10-24 is even half as good as this lens it should outperform any of the third party lenses.

I can't really say whether you should spend the extra money on the Nikon at this time since I haven't had a chance to get my hands on the Nikon 10-24. Hopefully I'll get one this afternoon.

Additionally the Tokina 11-16mm has a much smaller zoom range than the 10-24mm making it a lot less versatile, which is something worth considering.

For most casual users any of the third party ultra-wides will work just fine. If you're not printing larger than 8X10 or most of your work is viewed on a computer screen you can get away with a lens that isn't a top-notch performer.

Whether the Nikon 10-24mm is top-notch remains to be seen and as soon as I get one I'll put together a more concise review.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Thomas:

Thank you for your detailed response to my question regarding an ultra-wide lens for my Nikon D90. I look forward to reading your review of the new Nikon 10-24 lens!

J. Dennis Thomas said...

No problem.

Unfortunately my Nikon 10-24mm didn't arrive today along with the D5000. Hopefully it will be here soon.