Its bitter rival Canon has just wowed the photography world with the EOS 500D, the first affordable HD video DSLR, so what does Nikon do? Launch its own mid-range, mid-priced movie machine called the D5000.
No full HD
Okay, so on paper the Canon EOS 500D might seem the superior snapper for HD video enthusiasts: it supports full HD 1080p while the Nikon D5000 is limited to the slightly inferior 720p resolution.
But squint at the small print and things are a bit tighter. Canon’s 1080p mode is limited to a paltry 20fps, which is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard; you need to drop the quality to 720p for a ‘proper’ 30fps speed, which puts the Canon on a level footing to the Nikon.
Video quality is excellent, although as with stills it’s heavily influenced by whatever lens you mount on the camera. Using a high-aperture lens can deliver some eye-popping results, with only a small part of the frame in focus and the background smoothly blurred out – an effect usually reserved for pant-wettingly expensive camcorders, and certainly beyond any standard consumer camcorder in the D5000’s price range.
Mono mic only
That said, the Nikon D5000 is far from a perfect video capture machine. As with the Canon EOS 500D, the built-in microphone is mono only, and has a habit of picking up unwanted noise – lens components moving as you zoom, for instance.
There’s no option to connect an external mic to the camera either. It’s also tricky to hold for long periods of filming, making a tripod almost essential.
Yes, this is still a stills camera at heart, and a cracking one at that. Nikon has clearly pitched the D5000 at the amateur end of the shutterbug spectrum, with six scene modes on offer for those who don’t feel up to tweaking the settings manually.
The 2.7in rear screen (which is fully articulated for tilting and swivelling) displays a diagram to demonstrate how the aperture closes down – something that novices might find handy when trying to get their heads around f-stops and depth of field.
The viewfinder is reasonably bright and big, and there are 11 auto focus points, all of which quickly fix on whatever you’re aiming at.
There’s a decent maximum continuous shooting speed of 4fps too, which is quicker than most rivals. Photo quality is very solid, with the bundled kit lens delivering sharp, colour-rich results and good, low-noise performance at higher ISO settings.