- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 15, 2009

What’s the greatest feature of the new Nikon D5000? For starters, it can handle just about any task you throw at it, from landscapes to portraits to close-ups. Its built-in metering and autofocus features complement a 12.3-megapixel capacity, fast shutter speed and excellent image stability.

In my opinion, it’s well worth the $729 estimated selling price Nikon USA lists on its Web site for the camera body. (Even better, you probably won’t have to pay that price: Amazon.com offers it for about $60 less.)

The D5000 is a lightweight, digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera that offers a wide variety of shooting modes, including HD movies at 720p, that should satisfy most of us who are out there taking pictures. During a recent outing at the Cloisters branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in upper Manhattan, I put the camera through its paces and was delighted every step of the way.

The versatility of the D5000 was apparent. Shooting nearly 150 pictures, I got great images of the structure and its contents, both of which are part of the legacy of oilman and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller. The Cloisters are a showplace of medieval art and architecture, with the result being a lot to photograph. Overlooking the Hudson River and with a view of New Jersey and the George Washington Bridge, the scenery and the gardens at the Cloisters offered some great photo opportunities, as well.

Mixing indoor and outdoor photography with close-ups — literally — of birds and bees as well as a few shots of my spousal unit, as the Census Bureau now defines a wife (or husband), the D5000 proved its power. Sitting across the courtyard from a roof of terra cotta tiles on which two small birds had perched, I was able to zoom in (with a 55-200mm Nikkor lens from my “old” D40x outfit), and get a nice shot. Using the 18-55mm lens, supplied with the D5000 for review, I got a number of other good shots.

The movie capability was quite nice; I shot a brief HD movie of a water fountain, and the camera picked up the “native” audio of water flowing into the basin quite nicely. HD picture quality was quite good, too.

In my hands, the D5000 felt solid, but was light enough to carry without worry. The 2.5-inch (diagonal measure) LCD display screen, which can be used as a super-large viewfinder, for playback of images, and, of course, to display a myriad menu options, flips out and folds down, for a host of viewing angles.

My greatest “difficulty” — and I use that word advisedly — came when switching lenses; the new one was set to manual focus mode. A quick switch to autofocus, or AF, mode, and everything was, suddenly, clear. Moreover, the facial and scenic recognition features of the camera made it difficult, in AF mode, to get a “bad” shot.

There are enough modes and overrides to satisfy the most ambitious photographer. For those of us who prefer to let the camera do the heavy lifting, automatic modes capture things quite nicely. The camera can shoot up to four frames per second, helpful when a tiny bird doesn’t want to wait for you to get the best angle, or when you want to squeeze off a round of pictures quickly.

Battery life for the camera is quite good. That’s nice. I also like the SD card capacity of the unit: You probably can go with a 4 gigabyte card; the 2 GB card I used was good for a couple hundred photographs and one short video and still had plenty of capacity remaining.

Preferences for cameras are somewhat subjective things: Canon, of course, has its legion of fans, as does Nikon. My overall experience with Nikon’s digital SLRs, going back six years, has been consistently superb. They know what they’re doing, and that makes this avowed amateur feel confident I know what I’m doing. The D5000 earns my highest recommendation.

Details on the camera can be found at www.nikonusa.com, and it’s well worth investigating.

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