Digital SLRs have become very popular over the past few years, thanks to the ready availability and comparatively low cost of good quality entry-level models. It's possible to get a decent DSLR with a standard zoom lens for under £300, less than the cost of some compact cameras. However these entry-level models are often quite limited, with only basic features and controls more like those of a compact.
As a result there are a lot of keen photographers out there who are starting to find their beginner's models a bit restrictive, and are looking to upgrade to something offering more versatility and control. The price level between £450 and £550 is hotly contested territory, with cameras like the Canon EOS 500D (review coming soon), the Olympus E-620 and the new Sony Alpha A380. Against this opposition Nikon has launched the D5000, a new mid-range 12.3-megapixel DSLR loaded up with every must-have feature that the camera industry has apparently decided we can't live without.
The D5000 fits into Nikon's range above the new entry-level D3000, but below the £630 D90. It manages to combine most of the D90's features into the lighter body it shares with the D3000, adding a flip-and-twist articulated 2.7-inch monitor. Although the body feels a lot smaller than the D90 there's actually not much in it. The D5000 is slightly narrower but a couple of millimetres taller and deeper. The body is strong plastic over a metal chassis, and the build quality and finish are of Nikon's usual high standard. It feels light but robust, and is a comfortable camera to hold. The right-hand side controls are sensibly placed, and in common with most Nikon DSLRs there is a row of buttons on the left of the monitor.
The D5000's flip-and-twist monitor is somewhat unusual. The hinge and pivot is at the bottom, and so the screen hinges downwards. It can be rotated so that it points forward underneath the camera, or twisted right around to protect it against the camera body. Somebody didn't think their cunning plan all the way through though, because with the camera mounted on a typical SLR-sized tripod - one time when a tilting live view monitor is particularly useful - the monitor hinge fouls the tripod mounting plate, and can't be tilted down by more than 90 degrees, which obviously limits its usefulness in this situation. A side-mounted hinge would have been a lot more flexible, but that would have meant a re-think of Nikon's traditional control layout.