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Nikon has done it again! It’s packaged up many of the most alluring features of a more advanced digital SLR (in this case, the Nikon D90), added 13 versatile new Scene modes, and stuffed them into a compact, highly affordable body called the Nikon D5000. Your new camera is loaded with capabilities that few would have expected to find in an “entry-level” dSLR. It has 12 megapixels of resolution, like the D90 (and even the semi-pro D300) combined with HD movie-making capabilities.

Yet, the D5000 retains the ease of use that smoothes the transition for those new to digital photography. For those just dipping their toes into the digital pond, the experience is warm and inviting. The Nikon D5000 isn’t a snapshot camera—it’s a point-and-shoot (if you want to use it in that mode) for the thinking photographer.

But once you’ve confirmed that you made a wise purchase decision, the question comes up, how do I use this thing? All those cool features can be mind numbing to learn, if all you have as a guide is the manual furnished with the camera. Help is on the way. I sincerely believe that this book is your best bet for learning how to use your new camera, and for learning how to use it well.

If you’re a Nikon D5000 owner who’s looking to learn more about how to use this great camera, you’ve probably already explored your options. There are DVDs and online tutorials—but who can learn how to use a camera by sitting in front of a television or computer screen? Do you want to watch a movie or click on HTML links, or do you want to go out and take photos with your camera? Videos are fun, but not the best answer.

There’s always the manual furnished with the D5000. It’s compact and filled with information, but there’s really very little about why you should use particular settings or features, and its organization may make it difficult to find what you need. Multiple cross-references may send you flipping back and forth between two or three sections of the book to find what you want to know. The basic manual is also hobbled by black-and-white line drawings and tiny monochrome pictures that aren’t very good examples of what you can do.

Also available are third-party guides to the D5000, like this one. I haven’t been happy with some of these guidebooks, which is why I wrote this one. The existing books range from skimpy and illustrated by black-and-white photos to lushly illustrated in full color but too generic to do much good. Photography instruction is useful, but it needs to be related directly to the Nikon D5000 as much as possible.

I’ve tried to make David Busch’s Nikon D5000 Guide to Digital SLR Photography different from your other D5000 learn-up options. The roadmap sections use larger, color pictures to show you where all the buttons and dials are, and the explanations of what they do are longer and more comprehensive. I’ve tried to avoid overly general advice, including the two-page checklists on how to take a “sports picture” or a “portrait picture” or a “travel picture.” Instead, you’ll find tips and techniques for using all the features of your Nikon D5000 to take any kind of picture you want. If you want to know where you should stand to take a picture of a quarterback dropping back to unleash a pass, there are plenty of books that will tell you that. This one concentrates on teaching you how to select the best autofocus mode, shutter speed, f/stop, or flash capability to take, say, a great sports picture under any conditions.

This book is not a lame rewriting of the manual that came with the camera. Some folks spend five minutes with a book like this one, spot some information that also appears in the original manual, and decide “Rehash!” without really understanding the differences. Yes, you’ll find information here that is also in the owner’s manual, such as the parameters you can enter when changing your D5000’s operation in the various menus. Basic descriptions—before I dig in and start providing in-depth tips and information—may also be vaguely similar. There are only so many ways you can say, for example, “Hold the shutter release down halfway to lock in exposure.” But not everything in the manual is included in this book. If you need advice on when and how to use the most important functions, you’ll find the information here.

David Busch’s Nikon D5000 Guide to Digital SLR Photography is aimed at both Nikon and dSLR veterans as well as newcomers to digital photography and digital SLRs. Both groups can be overwhelmed by the options the D5000 offers, while underwhelmed by the explanations they receive in their user’s manual. The manuals are great if you already know what you don’t know, and you can find an answer somewhere in a booklet arranged by menu listings and written by a camera vendor employee who last threw together instructions on how to operate a camcorder.

Once you’ve read this book and are ready to learn more, I hope you pick up one of my other guides to digital SLR photography. Four of them are offered by Course Technology PTR, each approaching the topic from a different perspective. They include:

Quick Snap Guide to Digital SLR Photography

Consider this a prequel to the book you’re holding in your hands. It might make a good gift for a spouse or friend who may be using your D5000, but who lacks even basic knowledge about digital photography, digital SLR photography, and Nikon photography. It serves as an introduction that summarizes the basic features of digital SLR cameras in general (not just the D5000), and what settings to use and when, such as continuous autofocus/single autofocus, aperture/shutter priority, EV settings, and so forth. The guide also includes recipes for shooting the most common kinds of pictures, with step-by-step instructions for capturing effective sports photos, portraits, landscapes, and other types of images.

David Busch’s Quick Snap Guide to Using Digital SLR Lenses

A bit overwhelmed by the features and controls of digital SLR lenses, and not quite sure when to use each type? This book explains lenses, their use, and lens technology in easy-to-access two- and four-page spreads, each devoted to a different topic, such as depth-of-field, lens aberrations, or using zoom lenses. If you have a friend or significant other who is less versed in photography, but who wants to borrow and use your Nikon D5000 from time to time, this book can save you a ton of explanation.

Mastering Digital SLR Photography, Second Edition

This book is an introduction to digital SLR photography, with nuts-and-bolts explanations of the technology, more in-depth coverage of settings, and whole chapters on the most common types of photography. While not specific to the D5000, this book can show you how to get more from its capabilities.

Digital SLR Pro Secrets

This is my more advanced guide to dSLR photography with greater depth and detail about the topics you’re most interested in. If you’ve already mastered the basics in Mastering Digital SLR Photography, this book will take you to the next level.

Family Resemblance

If you’ve owned previous models in the Nikon digital camera line, and copies of my books for those cameras, you’re bound to notice a certain family resemblance. Nikon has been very crafty in introducing upgraded cameras that share the best features of the models they replace, while adding new capabilities and options. You benefit in two ways. If you used a Nikon D40/D40x or D60 prior to switching to the latest D5000 model, you’ll find that that parts that haven’t changed have a certain familiarity for you, making it easy to make the transition to the newest model. There are lots of features and menu choices of the D5000 that are exactly the same as those in the most recent models, or even “big siblings” like the D90 and D300. This family resemblance will help level the learning curve for you.

Similarly, when writing books for each new model, I try to retain the easy-to-understand explanations that worked for the earlier cameras, and concentrate on expanded descriptions of things readers have told me they want to know more about, a solid helping of fresh sample photos, and lots of details about the latest and greatest new features. Rest assured, this book was written expressly for you, and tailored especially for the D5000.

Who Are You?

When preparing a guidebook for a specific camera, it’s always wise to consider exactly who will be reading the book. Indeed, thinking about the potential audience for David Busch’s Nikon D5000 Guide to Digital SLR Photography is what led me to taking the approach and format I use for this book. I realized that the needs of readers like you had to be addressed both from a functional level (what you will use the D5000 for) as well as from a skill level (how much experience you may have with digital photography, dSLRs, or Nikon cameras specifically).

From a functional level, you probably fall into one of these categories:

  • Professional photographers who understand photography and digital SLRs, and simply want to learn how to use the Nikon D5000 as a backup camera, or as a camera for their personal “off-duty” use.

  • Individuals who want to get better pictures, or perhaps transform their growing interest in photography into a full-fledged hobby or artistic outlet with a Nikon D5000 and advanced techniques.

  • Those who want to produce more professional-looking images for their personal or business website, and feel that the Nikon D5000 will give them more control and capabilities.

  • Small business owners with more advanced graphics capabilities who want to use the Nikon D5000 to document or promote their business.

  • Corporate workers who may or may not have photographic skills in their job descriptions, but who work regularly with graphics and need to learn how to use digital images taken with a Nikon D5000 for reports, presentations, or other applications.

  • Professional webmasters with strong skills in programming (including Java, JavaScript, HTML, Perl, etc.) but little background in photography, but who realize that the D5000 can be used for sophisticated photography.

  • Graphic artists and others who already may be adept in image editing with Photoshop or another program, and who may already be using a film SLR (Nikon or otherwise), but who need to learn more about digital photography and the special capabilities of the D5000 dSLR.

Addressing your needs from a skills level can be a little trickier, because the D5000 is such a great camera that a full spectrum of photographers will be buying it, from absolute beginners who have never owned a digital camera before up to the occasional professional with years of shooting experience who will be using the Nikon D5000 as a backup body. (I have to admit I tend to carry my D5000 with me everywhere, even if I intend to take most of my photos with another camera, such as my Nikon D300.)

Before tackling this book, it would be helpful for you to understand the following:

  • What a digital SLR is: It’s a camera that generally shows an optical (not LCD) view of the picture that’s being taken through the (interchangeable) lens that actually takes the photo, thanks to a mirror that reflects an image to a viewfinder, but flips up out of the way to allow the sensor to be exposed. Some dSLRs (like the Nikon D5000), also have a Live View option that flips up the mirror to allow a real-time display on the LCD.

  • How digital photography differs from film: The image is stored not on film (which I call the first write-once optical media), but on a memory card as pixels that can be transferred to your computer, and then edited, corrected, and printed without the need for chemical processing.

  • What the basic tools of correct exposure are: Don’t worry if you don’t understand these; I’ll explain them later in this book. But if you already know something about shutter speed, aperture, and ISO sensitivity, you’ll be ahead of the game. If not, you’ll soon learn that shutter speed determines the amount of time the sensor is exposed to incoming light; the f/stop or aperture is like a valve that governs the quantity of light that can flow through the lens; the sensor’s sensitivity (ISO setting) controls how easily the sensor responds to light. All three factors can be varied individually and proportionately to produce a picture that is properly exposed (neither too light nor too dark).

It’s tough to provide something for everybody, but I am going to try to address the needs of each of the following groups and skill levels:

  • Digital photography newbies: If you’ve used only point-and-shoot digital cameras, or have worked only with non-SLR film cameras, you’re to be congratulated for selecting one of the very best entry-level digital SLRs available as your first dSLR camera. This book can help you understand the controls and features of your D5000, and lead you down the path to better photography with your camera. I’ll provide all the information you need, but if you want to do some additional reading for extra credit, you can also try one of the other books I mentioned earlier. They complement this book well.

  • Advanced point-and-shooters moving on up: There are some quite sophisticated pocket-sized digital cameras available, including those with many user-definable options and settings, so it’s possible you are already a knowledgeable photographer, even though you’re new to the world of the digital SLR. You’ve recognized the limitations of the point-and-shoot camera: even the best of them have more noise at higher sensitivity (ISO) settings than a camera like the Nikon D5000; the speediest still have an unacceptable delay between the time you press the shutter and the photo is actually taken; even a non-interchangeable super-zoom camera with 12X to 20X magnification often won’t focus close enough, include an aperture suitable for low-light photography, or take in the really wide view you must have. Interchangeable lenses and other accessories available for the Nikon D5000 are another one of the reasons you moved up. Because you’re an avid photographer already, you should pick up the finer points of using the D5000 from this book with no trouble.

  • Film SLR veterans new to the digital world: You understand photography, you know about f/stops and shutter speeds, and thrive on interchangeable lenses. If you have used a newer film SLR, it probably has lots of electronic features already, including autofocus and sophisticated exposure metering. Perhaps you’ve even been using a Nikon film SLR and understand many of the available accessories that work with both film and digital cameras. All you need is information on using digital-specific features, working with the D5000 itself, and how to match—and exceed—the capabilities of your film camera with your new Nikon D5000.

  • Experienced dSLR users broadening their experience to include the D5000: Perhaps you started out with the Nikon D70 back in 2004, or a D100 before that. It’s very likely that some of you used the 6-megapixel Nikon D40 before the bug to advance to more megapixels bit you. You may have used a digital SLR from Nikon or another vendor and are making the switch. You understand basic photography, and want to learn more. And, most of all, you want to transfer the skills you already have to the Nikon D5000, as quickly and seamlessly as possible.

  • Pro photographers and other advanced shooters: I expect my most discerning readers will be those who already have extensive experience with Nikon intermediate and pro-level cameras. I may not be able to teach you folks much about photography. But, even so, an amazing number of D5000 cameras have been purchased by those who feel it is a good complement to their favorite advanced dSLR. Others (like myself) own a camera like the Nikon D300 and find that the D5000 fills a specific niche incredibly well, and, is useful as a backup camera, because the D5000’s 12-megapixel images are often just as good as those produced by more “advanced” models. You pros and semi-pros, despite your depth of knowledge, should find this book useful for learning about the features the D5000 has that your previous cameras lack or implement in a different way.

Who Am I?

After spending years as the world’s most successful unknown author, I’ve become slightly less obscure in the past few years, thanks to a horde of camera guidebooks and other photographically oriented tomes. You may have seen my photography articles in Popular Photography & Imaging magazine. I’ve also written about 2,000 articles for magazines like Petersen’s PhotoGraphic (which is now defunct through no fault of my own), plus The Rangefinder, Professional Photographer, and dozens of other photographic publications. But, first, and foremost, I’m a photojournalist and made my living in the field until I began devoting most of my time to writing books. Although I love writing, I’m happiest when I’m out taking pictures, which is why I took off 11 days just before I began writing this book to travel out West to Zion National Park in Utah, the Sedona “red rocks” area, and Grand Canyon in Arizona, and, for a few days, in Las Vegas (although I did a lot more shooting than gambling in Sin City). You’ll find photos of all these visual treasures within the pages of this book.

Like all my digital photography books, this one was written by a Nikon devotee with an incurable photography bug. My first Nikon SLR was a venerable Nikon F back in the 1960s, and I’ve owned most of the newer digital models since then.

Over the years, I’ve worked as a sports photographer for an Ohio newspaper and for an upstate New York college. I’ve operated my own commercial studio and photo lab, cranking out product shots on demand and then printing a few hundred glossy 8 × 10s on a tight deadline for a press kit. I’ve served as a photo-posing instructor for a modeling agency. People have actually paid me to shoot their weddings and immortalize them with portraits. I even prepared press kits and articles on photography as a PR consultant for a large Rochester, N.Y., company, which shall remain nameless. My trials and travails with imaging and computer technology have made their way into print in book form an alarming number of times, including a few dozen on scanners and photography.

Like you, I love photography for its own merits, and I view technology as just another tool to help me get the images I see in my mind’s eye. But, also like you, I had to master this technology before I could apply it to my work. This book is the result of what I’ve learned, and I hope it will help you master your Nikon D5000 digital SLR, too.

As I write this, I’m currently in the throes of upgrading my website, which you can find at, adding tutorials and information about my other books. There’s a lot of information about several Nikon models right now, but I’ll be adding tips and recommendations about the Nikon D5000 (including a list of equipment and accessories that I can’t live without) in the next few months. I hope you’ll stop by for a visit. I’ve also set up a wish list of Nikon cameras, lenses, and accessories on for those who want to begin shopping now. I hope you’ll stop by for a visit to

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