Ask J.D. – Nikon D5000 or Canon 500D?

One of my favorite professors, Muthu, is taking an extensive trip this summer and he has been looking for a new DSLR to take with him. There is a related post discussing Canon 500D vs. Panasonic GH1, but the GH1 doesn’t look like it will be released in time for his trip. So today Muthu emailed me the following question:


Need your opinion.

Nikon and Canon have released their DSLR with video capabilities. Any
suggestions or recommendations? The pricing is about the same. I am not
sure when the Panasonic will be out.

Nikon D5000

Canon 500D


Hi Muthu,
My preference is the Nikon D5000. I think you would be very happy with the D5000’s image quality and the quality of the kit lens. Plus the articulated LCD screen is a nice touch too. I am basing most of my recommendation on the fact that the D5000 has much of the imaging capabilities of a D90 put into a D60 size body.

Likewise the Canon 500D is somewhat an improved 450D, and while it has very high resolution (15MP) I believe it will suffer from more noise in its images than the D90/D5000, especially at high ISO settings. I like to be able to shoot at a high ISO in circumstances where a flash would be annoying or obtrusive.

The D90 has exemplary image quality and excellent high-ISO performance which the D5000 should inherit. Regarding the articulated LCD screen, I find that I sometimes use it on my Panasonic G1 to get photos that would otherwise be difficult or obtrusive to obtain (i.e. you can “shoot from the hip” by keeping the camera low, and facing the LCD screen up at you).

Samantha had a D40-precursor to the D60, D5000, etc.-and she took very many pleasing photos with it. Likewise Samantha’s mom has had a D70 and now a D200 and the photo quality from those cameras has been excellent.

This is a great time to be buying a camera, no matter which you choose (Nikon/Canon) you should end up with a quality camera. Have a splendid trip!


SAMPLE IMAGES: Here are some D5000 sample images from

PS NIKON LENS NOTE: be aware that since the D5000 lacks an in body focus motor, you will be somewhat limited in which Nikon lenses that you can use:

To achieve auto focus, you must have an AF motor somewhere. The early Nikon AF lenses have no motors inside the lens, so if you one of those lenses, there must be an AF motor in the body to have AF. Most of the newer Nikon AF lenses have a motor inside the lens; they are called AF-S (and some olders ones from the 1990’s are called AF-I, but those are uncommon). In other words, if you use a non-AF-S lens on the D5000, you must focus manually. Source:

I am sorry that I can’t find a more concise and intuitive reference for lens compatibility, but as long as you stick to Nikon lenses “designed for digital” then you should be fine.  If, however, you have a desire to use older or more exotic Nikon lenses then you may encounter difficulties.  Official D5000 lens compatibility page.

Best regards,

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