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Nikon D5000 versus Nikon D90

The Nikon D5000 and the Nikon D90 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in April 2009 and August 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 12.2 megapixel. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D5000 vs Nikon D90

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D5000 and the Nikon D90. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the D5000 – represents 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Nikon D5000 vs Nikon D90
D5000 versus D90 top view
D5000 and D90 rear side
Body view (D5000 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D90 is somewhat larger (3 percent) than the Nikon D5000. Moreover, the D90 is markedly heavier (19 percent) than the D5000. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D5000 nor the D90 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the D5000 gets 510 shots out of its EN-EL9a battery, while the D90 can take 850 images on a single charge of its EN-EL3e power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D5000 (⇒ rgt) 127 mm 104 mm 80 mm 590 g 510 no 2009 749discont. check
Nikon D90 (⇒ lft) 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 703 g 850 no 2008 1,299discont. check
Canon XSi (⇒ lft | rgt) 129 mm 98 mm 62 mm 524 g 500 no 2008 799discont. check
Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 108 mm 74 mm 822 g 750 no 2007 1,299discont. check
Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 125 mm 98 mm 76 mm 480 g 600 no 2013 799discont. check
Nikon D5200 (⇒ lft | rgt) 129 mm 98 mm 78 mm 555 g 500 no 2012 749discont. check
Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 128 mm 97 mm 79 mm 560 g 660 no 2011 749discont. check
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 132 mm 105 mm 77 mm 780 g 1050 YES 2010 1,499discont. check
Nikon D3100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 96 mm 75 mm 505 g 550 no 2010 599discont. check
Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 126 mm 97 mm 64 mm 536 g 500 no 2009 599discont. check
Nikon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt) 126 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 500 no 2008 629discont. check
Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt) 124 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 520 no 2007 729discont. check
Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt) 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 no 2006 999discont. check

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The D5000 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 42 percent) than the D90, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.


Sensor comparison: Nikon D5000 vs Nikon D90

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 1.5. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.

Nikon D5000 and Nikon D90 sensor measures
Sensor size

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 12.2 megapixel. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the D5000 and the D90 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the D5000 is a somewhat more recent model (by 7 months) than the D90, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time.

D5000 versus D90 MP
Sensor resolution

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for most cameras. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Nikon D5000 (⇒ rgt) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 720/24p 22.7 12.5 868 72
Nikon D90 (⇒ lft) APS-C 12.2 4288 2848 720/24p 22.7 12.5 977 73
Canon XSi (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 12.2 4272 2848 no 21.9 10.8 692 61
Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.1 3888 2592 no 22.1 11.3 703 64
Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60p 24.0 13.9 1338 83
Nikon D5200 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 24.0 6000 4000 1080/60i 24.2 13.9 1284 84
Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 16.1 4928 3264 1080/30p 23.5 13.6 1183 80
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 16.1 4928 3264 10800/24p 23.5 13.9 1167 80
Nikon D3100 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 14.2 4608 3072 1080/24p 22.5 11.3 919 67
Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.0 3872 2592 no 22.3 11.1 563 62
Nikon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.0 3872 2592 no 22.5 11.4 562 65
Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.0 3872 2592 no 22.4 11.4 516 63
Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt) APS-C 10.0 3872 2592 no 22.1 11.2 524 61

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (720/24p).

Feature comparison: Nikon D5000 vs Nikon D90

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D5000 and the D90 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Nikon D5000, the Nikon D90, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Nikon D5000 (⇒ rgt) optical no 2.7 230 full-flex no 4000 4.0 17 no
Nikon D90 (⇒ lft) optical YES 3.0 920 fixed no 4000 4.5 17 no
Canon XSi (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 230 fixed no 4000 3.5 13 no
Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 230 fixed no 8000 6.5 12 no
Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.2 1037 swivel no 4000 5.0 12 no
Nikon D5200 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 921 swivel no 4000 5.0 12 no
Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 921 swivel no 4000 4.0 12 no
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical YES 3.0 921 fixed no 8000 6.0 12 no
Nikon D3100 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 12 no
Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 3.0 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 12 no
Nikon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 12 no
Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 17 no
Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 230 fixed no 4000 3.0 13 no

Both the D5000 and the D90 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D90 was replaced by the Nikon D7000, while the D5000 was followed by the Nikon D5100.

Review summary: Nikon D5000 vs Nikon D90

So what is the bottom line? Is the Nikon D5000 better than the Nikon D90 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Arguments in favor of the Nikon D5000:

  • More flexible LCD: Has full-flex screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 113g or 16 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (42 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 7 months after the D90).

Reasons to prefer the Nikon D90:

  • Easier setting verification: Has a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 230k dots).
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4.5 vs 4 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (850 versus 510) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2008).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D90 emerges as the winner of the match-up (6 : 4 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision.

D5000 04:06 D90

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D5000 or the D90 handle or perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites. The full reviews are available, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
.com
dp
review
.com
ephoto
zine
.com
imaging
resource
.com
photography
blog
.com
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Nikon D5000 (⇒ rgt) 88/100 HiRec 75/100 HiRec 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2009 749discont. check
Nikon D90 (⇒ lft) 89/100 HiRec HiRec 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 1,299discont. check
Canon XSi (⇒ lft | rgt) 88/100 HiRec HiRec 4/5 5/5 4.5/5 2008 799discont. check
Canon 40D (⇒ lft | rgt) 90/100 HiRec HiRec 4.5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 1,299discont. check
Nikon D5300 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2013 799discont. check
Nikon D5200 (⇒ lft | rgt) HiRec 79/100 Silver 4.5/5 4.5/5 4.5/5 2012 749discont. check
Nikon D5100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 86/100 HiRec 76/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2011 749discont. check
Nikon D7000 (⇒ lft | rgt) - 80/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2010 1,499discont. check
Nikon D3100 (⇒ lft | rgt) 84/100 HiRec 72/100 Silver 4.5/5 5/5 4.5/5 2010 599discont. check
Nikon D3000 (⇒ lft | rgt) 80/100 Rec 72/100 HiRec 4/5 3.5/5 4.5/5 2009 599discont. check
Nikon D60 (⇒ lft | rgt) 80/100 HiRec 4/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2008 629discont. check
Nikon D40X (⇒ lft | rgt) 79/100 HiRec 4/5 reviewed 4/5 2007 729discont. check
Nikon D80 (⇒ lft | rgt) 86/100 Rec HiRec reviewed 4.5/5 4.5/5 2006 999discont. check

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.


Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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