Nikon D5000 Review

June 22, 2009 | Zoltan Arva-Toth |

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12.3 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

During the review, the Nikon D5000 captured photos of very good quality. Colours were usually spot on, and the automatic white balance system worked quite well.  Active D-lighting managed to squeeze most of the dynamic range captured by the sensor into the JPEGs the camera produced. Resolution at base ISO proved enough for some seriously big prints. Noise, while detectable if you deliberately looked for it, did not pose a real problem until you went above ISO 1600, and even then it remained low enough to to allow small to mid-sized prints to be made. Red-eye was not a common occurrence with the built-in flash, and when we did encounter it, it was very moderate and easily cured by setting the flash to red-eye reduction mode. The camera also proved very well suited to night photography, with no hot pixels appearing in night shots with long-exposure noise reduction turned on. Curiously, matrix metering proved somewhat less accurate than with the D90, prompting us to use exposure compensation much more often - despite the fact that the two cameras use essentially the same metering system.


The base sensitivity of the Nikon D5000 is ISO 200, but you can go down to ISO 100 using the expanded sensitivity setting of L1.0. At the other end of the scale, you can dial in ISO 3200, or even 6400, the latter of which also comes as an expanded setting, called H1.0. The ISO speed can be adjusted in 1/3 EV increments. The 100% crops below are from photos taken at “full” ISO speeds from ISO 100 through ISO 6400, with High ISO NR turned off.

Although in some cases, you can detect some shadow noise even in photographs taken at relatively low ISOs, it does not have much of an impact on the final output up to, and including, ISO 1600. From then on, noise starts to limit the maximum print size at which the pictures still look good, but even an ISO 6400 shot should be OK for prints of at least 13x18cm. Colour saturation is also well maintained up to ISO 3200, though it does drop noticeably beyond that.

The Nikon D5000 also has ISO Sensitivity Auto Control, activated from the shooting menu. If set to On, the camera will automatically adjust the sensitivity if proper exposure cannot be achieved at the value chosen by the photographer. The user can put a limit on the maximum sensitivity selectable by the camera.



ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)


ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

File Quality

The file quality settings available on the D5000 include Basic, Normal and Fine for JPEGs, plus you can also store your photos in Nikon's proprietary raw format (NEF).  Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.

Fine (100% Crop)

Normal (100% Crop)


Basic (100% Crop)

RAW (100% Crop)


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can also change the in-camera sharpening level to suit your tastes by changing the Picture Styles.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)



The pop-up flash on the D5000 has several settings including Auto, Fill-in flash, Red-eye Reduction, SlowSync, Red-eye Reduction with Slow Sync, Rear-curtain Sync and Off. The mode of operation can be TTL, Auto or Manual, and there is Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC) available as well. Note however that unlike the D90, the D5000 cannot control wirelessly slaved system flashes. These snaps of a white ceiling were taken at a distance of 1.5m using the kit zoom.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (27mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (27mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (82.5mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (82.5mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. The built-in speedlight caused only a minor red-eye effect in this test, which could be fully eliminated by setting the flash to red-eye reduction mode.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Nikon D5000 lets you dial in shutter speeds of up to 30 seconds and has a Bulb mode as well for exposure times of practically any length, which is very good news if you are seriously interested in night photography. There is an optional long-exposure noise reduction function that can be activated to filter out any hot pixels that may appear when extremely slow shutter speeds are used. Do note that this works by way of dark frame subtraction, which effectively doubles the exposure time. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 10 seconds, aperture of f/11 at the L1.0 (ISO 100) sensitivity setting. We've included a 100% crop for you to see what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Image Stabilisation

The Nikon D5000 does not offer body-integral image stabilisation, but the kit lens bundled with the camera features Vibration Reduction, Nikon's proprietary lens-based optical stabilisation system. This allows you to take sharp hand-held photos at slower shutter speeds than with lenses that lack this function. To illustrate this, I took two photos at the long end of the zoom, with VR turned on and off. At a shutter speed of 1/15 second - which is rather slow for this focal length - the photo taken with VR was still commendably sharp, but the one without VR was decidedly blurred, as the 100% crops below clearly show.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Image Stabilisation Off (100% Crop)

Image Stabilisation On (100% Crop)

1/15th / 82.5mm


D-lighting is Nikon's dynamic range optimisation tool that attempts to squeeze  the full dynamic range of the sensor into JPEGs. The available settings are Off, Auto, Low, Medium, High and Extra High. The following examples demonstrate the difference between the two extremes, Off and Extra High.

D-lighting Off

D-lighting Off (100% crop)


D-lighting On

D-lighting On (100% crop)