Nikon has just announced the new Nikon D5000, so I decided to post a quick comparison between the Nikon D5000 and Nikon D90 in this “Nikon D5000 vs D90” article.
The new Nikon D5000 is a new generation DSLR that sits between D60 and D90, which can be classified as an “upper-entry-level DSLR”. It features exactly the same sensor that is found in Nikon D90 and Nikon D300/D300s, which is much different than the D60 that hosts a smaller resolution 10mp sensor. The Nikon D5000 is also the first Nikon DSLR that has a tilt and swivel LCD, which is supposed to be helpful for capturing video and images at different angles.
Here are some differences between Nikon D5000 and D90:
- D90 has a top-mounted information display that provides useful information such as shutter speed, aperture, etc., and D5000 does not have this feature. It is unfortunate, because the top display is very useful and I personally use it all the time.
- Unlike D90, D5000 does not have a “flash commander” mode, which means that you cannot control remote flashes like SB-600/Sb-900. This is a problem for those who have a single external flash, since you cannot use it in a remote mode and would need at least two flashes or a flash+SU-800 commander for off-camera flash.
- D5000 has an added “Airflow Control System”, which is supposed to keep the dust out every time the shutter snaps.
- D5000 has no internal focus motor, which means that older lenses (such as Nikon 50mm f/1.4 AF-D) without the focus motor on the lens will not work. This is not a big problem, as most newer lenses have an internal motor. But if you do own a really old Nikon lens, this might be a problem for you.
- D5000 is a little slower than D90 – it can capture 4 frames per second, while D90 can capture 4.5 frames per second (not a big difference).
- Viewfinder type and magnification on D90 is much better compared to D5000 (D90 has a “pentaprism” viewfinder with 0.94x magnification, whereas D5000 has a “pentamirror” viewfinder with only 0.78x magnification). For those who use manual focus lenses, this might present a problem, as you would not be able to see as clearly inside the D5000 viewfinder.
- The LCD monitor on the back of the D90 is better than on D5000. D90 has a full 3.0″ LCD with 920,000 pixels, whereas D5000 has a 2.7″ LCD with 230,000 pixels.
- D5000 has a larger buffer compared to D90, since it can record up to 63 JPEG and 11 RAW images in continuous mode, compared to 25 JPEG and 7 RAW images in Nikon D90.
- D5000 is a smaller camera that measures 127 x 104 x 80 mm, whereas D90 is 132 x 103 x 77 mm. It is also lighter than D90 (560g vs 620g).
- There is a new “Q” (Quiet Release Mode) in D5000 that is absent in D90.
- D5000 allows 8 programmable buttons for the function button, whereas D90 has 10.
- There are 23 custom functions in D5000 vs 41 in D90.
- You cannot get a vertical grip for D5000, while you can get an MB-D80 grip for D-90.
- D90 has “EN-EL3e” type batteries, whereas D5000 has “EN-EL9a”.
Here comes the big question: would I recommend D5000 over D90? If your budget is small and you do not have the need to use the “flash commander” mode for off-camera flash, then I would say absolutely! When it comes to image quality, both cameras produce exactly the same quality images, so the only differences are in features. D90 is definitely a more robust camera that stands above D5000 both in terms of features and price, but if you need a camera for family portraits and occasional landscape photography, then the D5000 would deliver the same quality images as the D90. I wish that D5000 had a top display like the D90 since I use it a lot, but I could see the same information on the back LCD of the camera by pressing a button, so it is not a big deal.
Nikon D5000 is currently selling for approximately $650 for body only, whereas the D90 is selling for $900, so there is about a $250 difference. If you do not need the extra features above, get the D5000 and invest in better quality lenses instead!
Firstly thanks Nasim for an excellent site. Your tutorials are wonderfully clear and concise. This seems like a relevant place to share my experiences with the D5000 over the last year.
The positives :
1. Great price. You can pick one up here in Europe now for about 300 Euros. It’s an excellent camera to start out with.
2. The battery lasts for ages. I do have a spare battery but rarely need it. If I shoot every day for a few hours I can go for up to 10 days without charging the battery.
3. 12 megapixels. I think many cropped sensor cameras have too many mega pixels. You don’t get the same low light performance on the Canon 600d (also more expensive) for example because with a few megapixels more and roughly the same size sensor, it’s not capturing as much light. I’m not knocking the 600d though. I think that is a great camera too.
4. The swivel display has proved invaluable to me. When I got the camera I thought the swivel screen was a bit of a gimmick but I now use it all the time. It’s fantastic for taking shots on or close to the ground or hovering over the surface of a lake. Even if you were to lie down on the ground to take these shots you wouldn’t be able to get as low as you can with the d5000. A great feature!
1. No ISO button. This is my biggest problem with the camera. If it’s a cloudy day and I am out shooting birds for example, i will often have the camera in manual mode at 1000th of a second with a high ISO. Then the sun comes out for a few seconds and I’d like to be able to quickly drop the ISO down to 500 or 250 without missing some action. I can’t…i have to open the LCD, go into the menu, click down to ISO, change my setting etc etc. by which time the sun may have gone in again. Maybe if you live in California this isn’t a problem but for me it’s a real pain.
2. Useless kit lens (at least useless to me). I really think that for a newbie photographer a standard kit lens should at least go to 80mm. I know Nikon want to keep the price down but a good budget all round 24-105 or something like that would be great for any entry level user to get a feel for different types of photography before they decide which lens to go for when they upgrade.
I’m stopping now as this post is too long as it is. I’m also struggling to find more negatives to say about what is essentially an excellent entry level affordable camera.
I am new to your website and instantly became a fan. Very helpful for promising photography enthusiasts like me. I have been searching you web site but I seem to can’t find any d90 reviews or d5100 vs 590 articles. Are they even worth comparing? :D
Any advice to someone who has not owned DSLR before?
I am looking forward for articles like the ones I mentioned above.
More Power to you!
that should be *d5100 vs d90 articles.
Hi will my D5000 lenses work with the D90? Thinking of upgrading. Thanks.
Yes, if the lens works on the D3000/D3100/D5000/D5100, it will work on D90 or higher segment cameras as well.
Help!! I am so confused. I am an very old school photographer (from before the days of auto anything) I own a Leica R4 and a Canon AE-1. I have not used either in about 20 plus years. I love shooting landscapes but ran out of time and money to deal with film so I am looking at upgrading to digital but do not know where to begin. I want to be in the under 600 range. So please advice is the D5000 right from me?
Now to add to my confusion I have found the D3100 at about the same price. So now I am really confused. I used to play with my landscapes in the dark room to make them Ansel Adams like. but not sure which camera is for me? Please advise which you would buy for your first DSLR but not SLR?
if you have the choice of the D3100 and the D5000, go for the D5000, you wont be dissapointed :)
Hi, i have a D5000 right now and i have the opportunity to upgrade to the D90 for 100 $ is it worth the upgrade, and will the pictures that i take make that much of a difference in the photo’s i take?
The D90 uses the same sensor as the D5000, the same AF and metering as well. The defaults may differ and the low-pass filter might also be different, but overall the image quality between a D90 and D5000 would be pretty much identical, JPEG output differing due to differences in default/user selected settings.
don’t think … go for it.. D90 is much more flexible to work with. more than worth to upgrade.
Why is it much more than a upgrade though, what can i do with it?
For $100, it’s a no-brainer. get the D90! More dedicated buttons so you don’t have to hunt through menus, top screen really helps, AF motor, two scroll wheels, ability to use off camera flash easily.
But i lose live view, and Video capabilities, along with the twisting screen. So is it really worth it?
The D90 has video as well as Live View. I never use the twisty screen on my D5000, but I can see how it may be useful.
Is there something you find lacking in the D5000? What the D5000 lacks over the D90 is essentially the AF motor, second control wheel, mirror viewfinder instead of prism and no flash commander more, and the top LCD. There are few more features but those are not as critical, such as WB options, bigger battery, availability of vertical grip, slightly higher continuous shooting frame rate, some more options in settings to control noise reduction and stuff like that.
It’s worth the switch if you are interested in any of these : more manual control , need to use AF lenses as the D5000 needs AF-S to autofocus, want a brighter and bigger prism viewfinder or find the in-built flash commander mode useful.
just to say i LOVE my D5000, if you dont need all the fancy extras, get a D5000. if you want to explore things and get a bit lost in jargon, get a D90. i have taken over 60,000 photos in 6 months with my D5000 and not had any problems at all. all the photos come out excellent and without any need for extra touches. i mainly shoot sports events, outdoors and indoors, gym work, fitness classes. so as you can see i have people moving all the time. 4 frames a second is great, not much difference over the D90 with 4.5! i use the standard 18-55 Nikor lens, as well as the 18-200 Nikor and 70-300 Tamron. i have a friend with a D7000 and i get just as good quality, if not sometimes better than he does! its also great in the studio and with my home made light box for product photography.
Thanks Nasim! Wonderful information.
I have a D5000 as well as a D90. I love them both (recently got the D90 in order to carry two cameras/lenses).
Fall 2009: got the D5000 with kit lenses
Summer 2010: 35mm f1.8 lens
Fall 2010: 70-200 f2.8 VRII lens
March 2011: D90 (body only… drastic price drop)
May 2011: 12-24 f4 Ultra-Wide lens
kit lenses stay at home
I carry the D5000 with the 70-200 and the D5000 with the Ultra-wide (easier to push the buttons to set it up for HDR shots).
I’m sure the D7000 is wonderful, but I’m extremely happy with what I have. Next body will be a major step up… but that won’t be for awhile.
I would also suggest using really good editing software. I use Aperture with Nik Software plugins. Amazing results, even with so-so images. Shoot RAW.
Looking forward to more of your posts.
Oops, i meant that I have the Ultra-wide lens on my D90
I think I had send you N EMail earlier today from my work wondering should I upgrade my camera or not. I own a D5000 but want to get into FX side of nikon, shooting is just a hobby at the moment but I also invested in some lenses like 10-24 Tamron wide angle and 18-200mm Tamron zoom lens. So not sure if I should go for D90 (which is still a DX but got internal motor for 50mm f1.8 which is another lens in my arsenal) Just wondering if I go for a FX nikon now; would I be able to use my lenses or its not worth it. I am into portraits and landscape both and want to invest in Nikon 35mm F1.4 which is priced more than my D5000 at the moment. please advise me if it`s ok to buy a FX first or keep shooting with D5000 but should go for lenses as I love the sharpness and clarity of the nikon 35mm f1.4. please help my stuck mind at the moment,,I am a big fan of yours forums. God bless you and your family…
Both the Tamron 10-24 and Nikkor 18-200 are DX lenses ( not sure about the Tamron, but very likely), so they will only work in crop mode on FX bodies. An FX body would certainly be an upgrade, but weigh your budget carefully as you will need to buy FX lenses to with it. Upgrading to another DX, I’d suggest the D7000 over the D90 ( which uses the same sensor as D5000) . But I’d suggest you upgrade only if you are constrained by some limitation of the camera or have used it long enough to understand what benefit you get from the upgrade and make use of the additional features/capability of the next model , DX or FX.
If you want to explore the various settings and want to try a more hands on/manual control way of shooting, get the D90. If you just want to shoot good photos without much thought toward how to make better images, and don’t want to bother with technical aspects of photography, get the D3100.
It allows quicker ways to change settings and has an AF motor so you can use cheaper AF-D lenses, giving you more options to choose among lenses. The D90 also has bigger brighter prism viewfinder, and its built-in flash can act as flash commander to trigger off-camera flashes, useful if you like flash photography. The D90 also gets a higher resolution LCD, at 920k pixels while the D3100 makes do with 230k pixels , and can shoot stills at max 4.5 fps compared to D3100’s max of 3 fps.
The D3100 has a touch better noise levels at high ISO, and has more video options ( 1080p at 24fps, 720p at 30fps/24fps), and is smaller/lighter.
Hi Nasim, I’m so confused right now. I don’t know which camera will I buy. I’m torn between D3100 and D90.
hi nasim, i’m from Malaysia. i just got my Nikon d5100 yesterday. is’t okey for a beginner like me?
The D5100 is perfectly fine for beginners, slightly less so for enthusiasts , but it’s the best entry level DSLR right now.