The AF system, as already seen in the successful D90, is impressive. Single-point focusing is fast and accurate in almost all conditions and the 3D tracking mode is quite impressive for this level of camera. When switching to live view mode the focusing relies on a contrast-detect system, instead of the dedicated focus sensor module. This is significantly slower to lock on but does still give a choice of modes, including an effective face-recognition AF. ยป

The 3D Matrix metering proves itself more than capable in most situations, providing an even exposure. The centreweighted and spot modes are useful, however, for trickier lighting situations such as backlighting or high-contrast scenes. Generally the metering tends to slightly underexpose rather than overexpose but, by incorporating the D-Lighting system, no detail was lost and it actually meant that bright skies were controlled much more proficiently than in some competitor models.

The continuous shooting speed of 4fps is impressive and takes a lead on its competition. Using a SanDisk Extreme III 1GB SD card it kept shooting for up to 100 Fine JPEG images, 11 Raw images, or seven Raw plus Fine JPEG images. Write times for a single shot were just 1sec for Fine JPEG, 1.5sec for Raw, and 2sec for Raw plus Fine JPEG.

The LCD screen has huge benefits for live view or movie shooting, thanks to its vari-angle bracket, making it easy to view from waist-level or at awkward angles, but the size and resolution are less impressive. In general use the screen is plenty bright enough and is definitely large enough for composition and review but when compared directly to newer 3in models with 900,000+ dots, the D5000's 2.7in 230,000-dot screen falls down slightly. Whether I'd give up the vari-angle screen for a bigger more-resolution one is another matter.

As regards the movie mode, the lack of full 1080P HD is a slight disappointment but as the Canon 500D only offers this at a slow 20fps, it's not a huge issue - especially as you'd need to be viewing the results on at least a 32in screen to see any difference at all between 720P and 1080P. However, the EOS 500D does shoot 720P at 30fps compared to the 24fps from the Nikon D5000, and this drop in frame rate is more noticeable. Producing an effective and quiet autofocus for a DSLR movie mode still seems to be an issue for all models so Nikon's decision to leave it off is not losing it points; at least until the new Panasonic GH-1 hits the shops. One benefit users may find for this movie mode is the file format. It saves into .AVI format which seems from our experience to be supported more readily than the Quicktime .MOV format, though modern

FLASH The built-in flash unit, with a guide number of 13m, works well as a fil to make your subject stand out from the background, even in bright conditions. Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6,28mm, f/8, 1/200sec,AWB (flash fired)

editing software should support both.

The built-in flash unit gives a fairly standard guide number of 13m, though this equates to 18m at the D5000's native ISO 200 value. Generally though, it offers good coverage and decent results for a flash of this type.

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