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- Nikon D5000
Nikon D5000 Digital Camera Review$729.95
Buttons & Dials
Nikon chose to keep the number of dedicated buttons and dials to a minimum in the D5000 design. Often we see a four-way controller consisting of a group of separate buttons that let you access white balance, ISO settings or other functions when not used for navigation purposes, but Nikon gave us a round pivoting multi-selector instead (it doesn't rotate, by the way, just pushes in four directions). Given the relatively small camera size, there really isn't a lot of real estate for a plethora of dedicated button controls, but this sparse system does mean you'd better get comfortable quickly with using the LCD information display to control shooting settings, because there aren't a lot of shortcuts available elsewhere.
In fact, the flash button and programmable function button have both been shoved off the camera back entirely and onto the left side. We're fine with that arrangement for the flash control, but the function button feels out of the way and inconvenient in its lefty location.
As with most SLRs today, Nikon provides two different ways to get at settings adjustments while shooting: a single-screen menu that provides quick access to all the key settings, and the traditional in-depth menu system accessed by pressing the MENU button.
The single-screen system takes the LCD information display and makes it interactive by pressing the Information edit button (at the bottom left on the back of the camera). The color scheme changes and a cursor appears, which is maneuvered using the four-way controller. Whether you've chosen the default Graphic version of the LCD display or the more traditional Classic version, the menu system uses the Classic layout, as shown below.
Unlike other cameras we've tested, the command dial isn't an option when navigating the D5000 menu system, requiring multiple presses of the four-way controller to get where you want to go. There's no way to change settings directly from the quick menu either. Instead, you have to find the setting you want, then press OK to reach a submenu of relevant choices. It's certainly better than no quick-access menu at all, but it could be streamlined further.
As for the main menu system, Nikon hasn't strayed from its tried-and-true design. That's mostly fine: it will be instantly familiar to experienced Nikon users, and the text is perfectly legible and well organized. Our only beef here is the fact that several menus are too long for a single screen, meaning choices are hidden until you've scrolled down to reveal them.
The D5000 user's manual is a substantial document in every way, a 236-page book with unusually large 8.25 x 5.75-inch pages — great for legibility, less great for portability. The introductory section is particularly well done, catering to users who have never shot with an SLR before. Most camera manuals just toss in a list of scene modes, for example, while this one devotes five pages to explaining how each scene mode works, with an accompanying photo sample. The pages aren't crammed too full of information, and well stocked with images and diagrams, making it very browsable. That's good, because the one significant failing we found is the mediocre index. which often left us trying to come up with synonyms for the feature we were attempting to find, when the apparently logical term wasn't listed. The other problem, again per standard industry practice, is the lack of documentation for the included software, requiring users to rely on the always inconvenient program help system to figure out how the programs work.
You can download a PDF copy of the Nikon D5000 from the company's web site by clicking here.
In addition to the manual (in both English and Spanish), the camera come with a decent one-page Quick Start Guide that offers just the right amount of handholding for new owners. Even better, it points you to a nicely produced set of online audio-video presentations covering everything from initial setup to shooting settings for stills and movies, image editing and playback options, with nice coverage of potentially confusing topics like D-Lighting and Picture Controls. If we were Nikon we'd toss a separate sheet promoting this feature into the camera box instead of merely mentioning it in the manuals, because it's genuinely useful and very well done. You can check it out by clicking here.