- Image quality
- Ease of use for a beginner
- Are all the features you want included
- Ratings of current users
The first three factors can be easily found by checking a couple of the more reliable camera review sites. Two excellent sources are dpreview.com and imaging-resource.com.
The final factor can be checked by going to the places where cameras are sold, such as amazon, B & H Photo, or Adorama, where there are reviews by those who have purchased the cameras. Camera buyers are extremely honest in their opinions. After all, what do they have to gain by fabricating a false review?
How does the Nikon D5000 entry level DSLR stack up?
First, the image quality is excellent. DPReview has given its highest rating to the Nikon D5000 - "Highly Recommended" - with this one recommendation. You should shoot your pictures in RAW mode rather than in JPEG mode. This is because the in-camera software processes the images without as much sharpening as Canon's Rebel T1i. To the average viewer, this would not be obvious without it being pointed out. Suffice it to say that the Nikon D5000 produces excellent image quality.
Second, the ease of use of the D5000 is also excellent. The camera controls are well placed and easy to navigate. They are quite intuitive even for a beginning DSLR user.
The third factor could be the deciding one. Nikon has included two very desirable features that are not on the less expensive Nikon D3000 or the Canon Rebel XSi. The first is HD video similar to the more professional Nikon models. This being said, if you are buying a camera expecting the same video capabilities as a dedicated camcorder, you will need to look elsewhere. But the quality of the D5000 video is excellent when compared to other DSLRs.
Finally, checking the users' ratings of the Nikon D5000 on Amazon shows that consumers are very impressed with their purchase. They have given the D5000 an average rating of 4.13 out of 5. And at B & H Photo, the users are just as happy with their purchase. They have rated the D5000 at 4.25 out of 5. (These ratings would actually be higher, except there was a recall of the initial release due to a faulty chip, but that has been resolved.)
Finding the best DSLR camera for beginners is not an easy task, but if you have good information, it will make your choice much easier. See a side-by-side comparison of the Nikon D5000 with its younger sibling, the Nikon D3000 at http://www.digital-photographic-resources.com. Once you make your decision, you will be on your way to a rewarding hobby or career.