I bought a D5000 this week at Costco. It was meant to replace our D40 as a family / throw in the backpack kind of camera. I was looking forward to being able to shoot some video of our kids, as well as having the newer features like CA control, distortion control, ADL, etc.
Well, after comparing the pictures side by side to the D40, using the 18-55 kit lens on both, I returned the D5000. I was a bit sad since I really liked the D5000 and it's features, but in the end the decision was very clear. At base ISO 200, the D5000 files have more noise in the shadows in practically every scene. Also, there is hardly any extra resolution, despite the sensor being 12MP vs. 6MP. With the kit lens anyway. Yes when I mounted one of my fancier lenses, I could take advantage of the extra resolution, but that is not how I was going to use it. For serious pictures, I still take my D700. Also, I prefer the colors I get from the D40. I was able to tweak the picture control on the D5000 to get close but the D40 is still much more consistent. And there were situations when the D5000 AWB was way off, putting a green cast onto a scene, while the D40 delivered the same scene in natural colors. And finally, the videos from the D5000 are not all that great. I get better video from my 4 year old Sony P+S.
All this does not mean that the D5000 is a bad camera, far from it. But it is just not a worthy upgrade for me from our D40, and I would not even do a straight swap for it. It just goes to show how good the D40 is. It would have been great if Nikon had kept the 6MP sensor, perhaps improved it even further, and just added the extra features.
Thanks for the report. I still use the D40 but had a scare earlier this summer that made me think I might have to replace it. I never did make a decision as I was able to get it working again. It got wet in my day pack and showed errors unitl it dried out. For the next month I had problems with the camera not shutting off and found it was due to a false reading from the fn button. I worked it by pushing the button dozens of times and seems to be working correctly now. Whew.
#2. "RE: D5000 vs. D40" In response to Reply # 0 Mon 17-Aug-09 06:33 AM by MotoMannequin
Livermore, CA, US
The D40 is an excellent camera, and for your purpose, probably either D40 or D5K would be fine. I agree it probably isn't a worthwhile upgrade for your stated purpose.
Regarding the issue of noise, similar issues were hotly discussed over a year ago, comparing D300 to D50 (again a 12MP camera compared to 6MP camera). In casual snaps, the D50 looked superior, but when we actually got down to doing well-controlled tests, the D300 won by a large margin. You can probably dig up the old threads in the D300 forum if you like.
If you were shooting with ADL on, then that explains the poor shadow noise performance. ADL underexposes the image to protect highlights, then applies d-lighting to raise shadows in post processing. If you do this in any camera, you've got a recipe for shadow noise, and that's precisely the effect. This may be a contentious statement, but I don't find ADL useful for anything but casual snapshots.
thanks for the explanation! When I reviewed the images again, yes the shadow noise in the D5000 files was exactly due to the ADL. Apparently the ADL had been on by default. If I perform similar post processing on the D40 files (which lacks ADL), I get about the same noise. In any case, for over $700 I was looking for something much better than the D40, and this wasn't it. It may be a different story for somebody buying a first camera and looking to get the D5000 features, it's a very nice camera.
I like the D5000 a lot, and I think the articulating screen could be really cool for ground-level macro shooting, but yes I'm in the same boat as you: My D50 performs perfectly well as a backup to my D300 so there's really no motivation at this time to make that purchase.