In a lot of ways, the D5000 and the T1i represent Nikon and Canon at the top of their games. It’s easy to build a high-end product that you can toss everything into, with the mission to put together the best possible performance. When you are trying to keep the price under control, though, and in the case of these cameras, we’re talking less than $1000 with a lens, it challenges the designers to put together not necessarily the absolute best, but the most workable for the money. Both of these cameras are showpieces of great design. There are, however, significant differences in philosophy and priority that show up, and define the two DSLRs.
Probably the most marketed feature of the Nikon D5000 was the big, swiveling display. The Canon display doesn’t swivel, but is bigger, and has more than twice the resolution. We see differences in approach in the autofocus, metering, menu, controls and display functions. We even see big differences in the balance and feel of the cameras - truly the most subjective aspect of this review, but some very interesting contrasts, nevertheless.
These cameras are squarely aimed at the amateur photographer entering the DSLR market, but they are cameras that almost any pro would feel comfortable having in the bag as a backup with their superb file quality, very accurate color mapping, relatively fast autofocus and shooting, as well as HD video and live-view.
This may be one of the harder head-to-head face-offs we’ve done; it is tough to call out the overall winner. In each category we see pros and cons that seem to balance out, and the final call boils down to that one intangible question: which of the two do you like better? Do you side with Canon’s or Nikon’s philosophies and priorities?