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D5000 Digital SLR Camera

The D5000 is Nikon's first digital SLR camera to use the Vari-angle monitor. Freedom and fun in taking photos has been vastly enhanced with the ability to alter the shooting angle. We talked with personnel in charge of product development and marketing about the qualities of the D5000, which offers the same high resolution and performance of a mid-range digital SLR while being simple to use.

Masashi Tazawa
Executive Staff, Marketing, SLR & Interchangeable Lenses, Marketing Department, Marketing Headquarters, Imaging Company
PROFILE:
When Masashi Tazawa first joined Nikon in 1986, he was in charge of mechanism design and started work on the QV-1000C, Nikon's first-generation electronic camera. After that, he was involved in the design of film transmission devices and film scanners. In 2002 he moved to the Marketing Department where he became overall product manager for the D5000. Mr. Tazawa is a sporty type who enjoys mountain climbing, golf and snowboarding.
Masao Ohnuki
Executive Staff, Design 1, 1st Design Department, Development Headquarters, Imaging Company
PROFILE:
Masao Ohnuki joined Nikon in 1989 and started out in the electronic imaging section. He was engaged in the design of digital circuits for the early COOLPIX models and the D1 digital SLR camera. He was put in charge of the D5000 in 2008, his 20th year with Nikon, and was in charge of the electrical aspects of the camera. Mr. Ohnuki's hobbies are cooking, traveling and baseball.
Tsuyoshi Watanabe
Junior Executive Staff, Design 3, 1st Design Department, Development Headquarters, Imaging Company
PROFILE:
Tsuyoshi Watanabe has been engaged with the mechanisms of SLR camera bodies since he joined Nikon in 1993. He started with film cameras and later turned his attention to digital cameras, including the D200 and D300. For the D5000, he was overall supervisor of mechanisms. Mr. Watanabe's hobby is astrophotography, a passion he has had for 30 years. His favorite camera these days is, of course, the D5000.
Saeko Samejima
Development 2, 1st Development Department, Development Headquarters, Imaging Company
PROFILE:
Saeko Samejima joined Nikon in 2005. At first she was involved with element development for camera functions, but since 2007 she has been in charge of imaging design. For the D5000, Ms. Samejima studied product specifications and played an active role in the design of images. In her free time, she is usually traveling somewhere in Japan or overseas, and particularly enjoys exploring city streets.

An entry model based on the high performance of the D90 and designed to enable users to experience the essence of good photography with an easy-to-use camera.

It's already well known that the D5000 is the first Nikon digital SLR to have the Vari-angle monitor, but could you first give us an overview of the D5000?

Mr. Tazawa describes the D5000 concepts, its performance that rivals higher-level SLRs, and how simple it is to use.

Tazawa:

The D5000 is positioned as an entry model. Our aim in designing it was to have as many general users as possible experience how wonderful and how much fun it is to take photos with a digital SLR camera. The next step up from this camera is the D90, and although the D90 offers excellent performance, it is rather difficult for general users to get used to it. So we focused our efforts on developing a camera that offered the same level of performance but in a more accessible way. The D5000's image sensor and AF sensor are basically the same as those of the D90. The D5000 concept has thus been, “Let's enjoy real photography in a simple, straightforward way.”

So you're targeting entry-level users. What's your focus then with the D3000 that was released after the D5000?

Tazawa:

The D3000 is also an entry-level digital SLR, but it is designed more for beginners in photography. Our target users for the D5000 already have some knowledge of taking photos, but may feel some difficulty with mid-range digital SLRs. With the D5000 we are also targeting D40 and D60 users who want to switch to a camera with higher performance.

I see. So function-wise, the D5000 would be an upgrade from the D40 or D60. What then are the specific features of the D5000?

Tazawa:

Well, the biggest feature is of course the Vari-angle monitor. Live View had also been incorporated into digital SLR cameras, and the D90 was the first digital SLR that could shoot video (D-Movie), so our aim in adding the Vari-angle monitor was to make these features easier to use. It's extremely difficult to take low-angle or high-angle shots through a viewfinder, but those sorts of photos are surprisingly refreshing. The Vari-angle monitor makes it easier to enjoy that sort of fun with photography. Another big feature is the vastly improved selection of Scene modes. Originally there were only six modes, but now there are 19. Our aim with this improvement has been to make it easier for entry-level users to achieve optimum photographic results. Those are the two main features of the D5000.

Mr. Watanabe, who oversaw the design, first focused on the simplicity of framing. There were a number of advantages to having the LCD monitor open downward.

What sort of focus on mechanisms did you have with the Vari-angle monitor?

Watanabe:

In the area of layout we focused on the direction in which the monitor would open. We first had to decide whether to have it open downward or to the side. One big reason we decided to have it open downward was that the shot was easier to frame when the optical axis of the lens was aligned with the center axis of the LCD. Another reason was that we wouldn't have been able to put any operation buttons on the left side of the body if the monitor opened to the side. We wanted to make the camera easy to use for existing Nikon users as well, so in the end we had the monitor open downward. In addition, to give a sense of uniformity with the body when the monitor was stowed, we beveled the rear of the monitor slightly. This also made it easy to slip the camera in and out of a bag.

What have you done in the area of image quality?

Samejima:

We received a lot of feedback from both experts and general users concerning the D90, which was the first digital SLR to offer D-Movie, and we incorporated this feedback into the D5000 with Live View and D-Movie. We improved detail in the green foliage of trees, for instance, and images now look more natural and realistic.

Ideas for capturing innovative shots with the Vari-angle monitor

What has been the reaction to the Vari-angle monitor since the D5000's release?

Mr. Ohnuki, who was involved with designing the digital circuitry, talked about how he enjoyed using the D5000 in his private life.

Tazawa:

Some 80% of the people we have heard from thus far who bought the D5000 said they bought the camera mainly because of their interest in the Vari-angle monitor. Some have said it was extremely easy to take low-angle shots of flowers, and others have said they could get some good shots of children or pets at eye level.

Ohnuki:

There was a TV program about taking photos of trains with a digital camera and the camera that was used in the program was a D5000. Some impressive low-angle shots of trains and vehicles can be taken with the Vari-angle monitor, so it seems there is a fair bit of demand in this area, too.

As photographers, do any of you have ideas on how to enjoy eye-level shooting, or do you have any interesting points to share from shooting experiences of your own?

Watanabe:

I enjoy photography as a hobby, and when I mount a camera at a high position on a tripod, it's hard to view the scene on the screen. So it's extremely helpful to be able to tilt the screen and get a better view. While it can't really be called low-angle, even when taking shots at waist level, the Vari-angle monitor is extremely effective for Live View photography as it is easier to frame shots when my posture is more comfortable.

Samejima:

Once when I was traveling with the D5000, I went to a place with a wonderful mural relief, but there were a lot of people around and it was hard to take a picture of it. Since I'm not very tall, I'd have got the tops of people's heads in the picture if I took it the usual way, but with the Vari-angle monitor, I could take a high-angle shot and thus avoid shooting heads. This was one instance where I felt the D5000 was really useful.

Are there any advantages to having an SLR when you take low-angle or high-angle shots?

Ms. Samejima, who enjoyed using the D5000 on her travels, spoke about how comfortable it was for her to use.

Watanabe:

Well, subjects like flowers against a bokeh background, for instance. You need an SLR with a macro lens to take low-angle photos like that. An interesting high-angle shot from straight up would be using a fisheye lens to take scenes of kids looking up. With the oversized children's faces, it would make a distinctive picture. I think it's both convenient and innovative to be able to take the sorts of shots that professionals would normally use a tripod for.