Canon's high-end EOS 5D Mark II successfully blurred the line between the camcorder and the still cam with its HD video-recording capabilities. Now, even entry-level cams like Nikon's D5000 are also getting some of that hardcore HD lovin'.
Twisty Live View LCD
The first thing anybody would notice about the D5000 is the Vari-Angle LCD screen. The name speaks for itself - the LCD twists and turns in several directions, letting you shoot in unusual positions.
Couple the twisty screen with Live View, and the D5000 can be used like a regular compact cam or like an old film camera where you stare down at the viewfinder.
Activating Live View isn't as confusing compared to Canon cams, as a dedicated button with the letters "LV" sits atop the four-way directional pad. Once the LV button is pressed, the mirror goes up and voila! You get an instant electronic viewfinder.
Icon see it
The D5000 doesn't pretend to be a top-tier camera. The illustrations and graphics on the LCD menus are not-so-subtle signs of it being an amateur cam.
Icons are displayed all throughout the screen - numbers and other values are displayed on the right, and to the left is a graphic representation of your lens' shutter speed and aperture settings.
Shooting is simple and generally sweet. The lens is smooth but slow to focus in poorly lit indoor rooms even with the Focusing Assist lamp turned on. Shooting products with strobe lights using the Low ISO mode revealed cooler-than-usual-photos with whites looking a little bluish.
With the automatic shooting modes, shooting couldn't be simpler. We particularly liked how easy it is to choose a particular scene mode. Once the mode dial is set to Scene, turning the command dial then scrolls across the 19 shooting modes - each with a photo of what the scene may look like.
As mentioned, the D5000 is also an HD video shooter. While it is capable of capturing 720p footage, it splits videos into five-minute chunks. Auto-focusing is also non-existent, and you need to keep one hand on the lens to maintain focus. This makes shooting moving objects nearly impossible. Video and audio quality aren't particularly stellar, either, but they're comparable to other HD video-capable compacts. At the very least, the videos look nothing like those captured from Aiptek's camcorders.
Keep in mind also that HD videos, regardless of quality, eat up a lot of space. A minute and a half of 1280x720p footage taken with the D5000 eats up around 115MB of precious storage space.
Physically, the D5000 isn't really imposing. It looks deceptively small especially because it's quite heavy. The hand grip doesn't go deep enough for you to get ahold of the camera nicely. Fatigue will set in after around 20 minutes of continuous use. If you plan to use bigger lenses other than the stock lens (18-55mm VR), you'll need both hands to properly support this baby.
Also worthy of note with the D5000 is the HDMI (Type C) port that allows you to tether the camera to an LCD TV. This effectively replaces the composite cable of yore that was used for old CRTs.
For the outdoor chronicler, an optional GPS unit that geotags photos is also available. The receiver is designed to sit on the hot shoe and connect to a special port just above the HDMI port.
The D5000 is a little overpriced especially now that the slightly less capable and older D60 now only sells for P38,000. Yes, it shoots HD videos, but having such an ability isn't a dealbreaker for SLRs yet.
At the end of the day, picture quality is still king, and there are cheaper alternatives that can do the job just the same.