I bought a D5000 with the 18-55 VR lens from Amazon last Friday (Black Friday). I paid about $200 less than a friend who bought the same camera a few months ago. AND... It is NOT part of the recall! My biggest initial concern was getting caught up in the recall. I am very happy to say that Amazon seems to be beyond those serial numbers - at least with the kit (camera and 18-55 VR lens).
I'm upgrading from a D50 I bought 4 or more years ago. There are a number of reasons why I chose THIS camera. First, I like Nikon over other brands because they are easier to use/better menus for those of us who aren't experts. I also think that Nikon makes the best lenses. Even their cheapest kit lenses have great optics and take great pictures. Not all manufacturers can say that.
The second thing I want to address is this camera's lack of an internal motor to auto focus a lens. In other words, you need Nikon's AF-S lenses with this camera. (Note: almost all of Nikon's lenses work with this camera and auto focus.) I would only think it is a concern for someone who has really old lenses, a non-Nikon lens like Sigma or Tamron without an auto focus motor built-in, or possibly some specialty lens that won't auto focus on its own. For me, I have purchased 4 different lenses over the last 4-5 years. They all work just fine. While it is something to be aware of, I think most people who are looking at this camera will be fine too. The lack of an internal motor means the D5000 is slightly smaller and lighter than the next step up - cheaper too. This makes the D5000 easier to hang around your neck and carry around all day. This camera is not targeted at a pro, though it is very capable of taking pro pictures. Pros are more likely to opt for the D90 or above.
Third - My D50, the D40, D60, D70 and D80 are all Generation 1 cameras. (Actually the D40 & D60, may be called Generation 2, but are more Generation 1.5) Nikon's current lineup, the D3000, D5000, D90 and D300s, are all Generation 2 cameras. What the reviews say is that the Generation 2 cameras take better pictures. They see things more the way the human eye sees things. I am at that point where I am trying to learn more about photography and take better pictures. I did my research. The D3000 is a light camera that you can carry around all day without getting neck cramp. The problem with the D3000 for me was that all the reviews said how much noise (little purple dots that look like film grain) showed up in photos at the higher ISOs. The D90 is a great camera with numerous features that appeal to someone who has some idea what ISO and F stops mean and how they affect the quality of the photo. The D5000's problem, until recently, has been that it was too closely priced to the D90. There was just no reason not to take the extra step up to the D90. Now that Nikon and Amazon have dropped the price of the D5000, it is a much better value. The D90 with the same 18-55 VR lens is about $300 more expensive than the D5000 as of this writing. The D5000 uses the same sensor (and some other parts) as the much more expensive D90 and D300s. It is a newer camera than the D90. I would think, but don't have actual knowledge, that this would have a positive effect on some of the advanced features in the D5000. I say this because the software in the D5000 is newer. It does NOT have the noise problems of the D3000. If you cannot afford the D5000, I suggest you consider the D40 (while supplies last) over the D3000. The D40 takes better pictures and costs less.
Video - Do NOT buy a DSLR to shoot videos. NO DSLR from any manufacturer does this really well. The technology is too new. Video on a DSLR is a goof, something neat/fun to play with and not something to take too seriously. DSLRs are designed to take really good photographs. If you need good video, buy a camcorder!
In my opinion, the D5000 is THE camera for folks new to DSLRs who need something simple, but with great capabilities and those, like me, who want to take a step up in features/capabilities without having to spend over $900 dollars for the D90 and a lens. While Live View has its limitations, the articulating screen (it swivels - very cool feature) on the D5000 will make it easier for me to take those occasional hard to get photos.
I really think I made the right choice and got what I feel is a heck of a deal! I hope this information is useful to those of you who are still trying to decide which camera is best for you.
One last thought... Nikons seem to hold their value. I plan to sell my D50 - AND - there seems to be a market for it. Once I learn what ISO and F stops are (I have some idea, but am still learning.), I will likely sell my D5000 and buy whatever the next step up is. I think this is a great added value to buying a good name brand camera like Nikon. All the best...
**Update 1/3/10** Well, I've had a chance to shoot a few hundred photos with my new D5000. I did a direct comparison with about 150 photos between my old D50 and the new D5000. The output of my old D50 and the new D5000 are remarkably close. These side by side comparisons were shot with the same lens (Nikkor 16-85mm VR and Nikon NC filter), the built in flash and the Nikon SB 800 flash. I took some shots in "Auto" and many shots in "P". I used every ISO and color controll the D5000 had and tried to tweak them up and down (sharpness, saturation and hue). I've decided to return the D5000, and then decided to keep it, and here's why.
The added megapixels of the D5000 seem to have very little effect in the amount of detail in the photos as compared to my D50. The D50 has a 6 megapixel sensor. (I DID tweak the settings of my D50 to get better output. I will tweak the settings of the D5000 too.) And, the D50 seemed to have a slightly more reliable/consistent meter when shooting in auto white balance. All this really surprised me. I guess I was expecting more of a difference between the two cameras. The D50 probably has one of the most accurate meters in any Nikon digital camera - better than the D40 and D60. In the thousands of photos I took over 4-5 years, it got the white balance spot on every time.
In defense of the D5000, it does have features far beyond those of the D50. It is these features that have made me decide to keep the D5000. The software in the D5000 allows you to adjust many more aspects of how the camera operates and takes pictures than what my D50 had. This allowed me to tweak any settings that I was not completely happy with. It also has numerous preset scene modes for those who want to treat the D5000 more as a really good point and shoot. I guess this camera gives the user enough features where even prosumers could be happy with the creative flexibility the controls give.
The D5000 has a number of other advantages over the D50. The first is a time saver for me. Its auto distortion controll seems to handle lens distortion "in camera" when the pictures are taken. Having the camera address lens distortion saves me from having to fix it after the photos are taken. I shoot quite a bit with a 12-24mm lens that tends to twist things some. I also took several test photos of a very square surface with a 70-300mm lens at different focal lengths. You could see the lens distortion through the view finder. Big bonus... The auto distortion control really seems to work! Additional features include much better low light performance (The D50 and many other cameras will never touch the D5000's low light performance.), ADR (it will capture detail inside shadows rather than just turning the shadow black.), a larger-articulating screen that is much easier to see and read (the D5000 displays the camera settings on the rear screen instead of an LCD on top of the camera.), live view (I recommend using this only for those hard to get photos when you just can't use the view finder. It can take 3 to 8 seconds to focus in live view.) auto focus with 3D tracking for photographing subjects that are moving, and a smaller and lighter form factor than the D50.
The bottom line for me was that my old D50 took really good photos in good conditions. The D5000 takes only slightly better pictures than my D50 in good conditions. In less than perfect conditions, the D5000 seems to take much better photos than my D50. If you're upgrading like me and none of these added features mean anything to you, keep your current camera. Otherwise, while not completely perfect, the D5000 can be a good upgrade or a very capable first dslr that is easy to use AND will give you the room and controls to expand your skills and your creativity as you learn.
I did play with a variety of settings in my new D5000. The "One Change" that seemed to make the biggest improvement in the quality of the photos was to adjust the sharpness settings in the Picture Controls menu. I have turned the sharpness settings way up over the factory defaults. The factory settings ranged from 2 to 4 (on a scale of 1 to 9). I greatly prefer setting the sharpness more in the 5 to 8 range. You can adjust the sharpness for the different modes - 5 for images you want to be softer like portraits, and 6, 7 or 8 for everything else. If you shoot in "auto mode", these changes won't work. You will need to move to "P" or some other setting to take advantage of this. If you try it, I think you will be pleased at how much sharper and how much more detail you get in your photos over the factory settings.
The information I share comes in part from personal experience and in part from reading reviews and information all over the web - not because I'm some pro photographer. For anyone who cares to read more, I recommend checking out Ken Rockwell. You can Google him. He rates ALL of these cameras and provides useful information like tips on how to setup your D5000 once you buy it. Note: The guide to setting up the D5000 is burried in the site. If you click the "Nikon" link, then go down to "Plain English User Guides", you will find it. His guide to setting the camera up is separate from the review of the D5000 on his site. If you follow his suggestions when adjusting the saturation levels (color), you should know that you CAN really get some wild colors - colors that are not natural. I didn't get this the first time and got some really crazy output from the camera. I decided to leave most of the color settings set at the factory defaults. I saved two custom settings with the saturation level turned up one notch for pictures taken outside and in good sunlight. If you screw up the settings on the camera, it is easy to restore the factory default settings. So, don't be affraid to try different things. Ken recommends setting the sharpness settings to 5. As I said before, I prefer to go even sharper and use settings that range from 5 to 8. Ken's only beef with the D5000 was that Nikon started with it too closely priced to the D90. The D5000 shares the same sensor and A LOT of other parts from the more expensive D90. This makes the D5000 a fantastic camera and a great value at its current price point. Amazon lists the link to the DPReview review on the D5000 page or you can Google it. People may want to read the DPReview of the D5000 before reading Ken Rockwells Guide to setting up the D5000. DPReview tells you whats wrong with the factory default settings on the D5000. Ken Rockwell tells you how to adjust the factory settings to get even better photos! I know I'm rambling a bit here. I'm going to so much effort here only because the reviews on Amazon have provided me so much helpful information in the past. I am just trying to give something back. Oh, I DID sell my D50 for $350! I was very happy to get this kind of money for a camera that was 4 or 5 years old. All the best...**End of Update**