on December 12, 2006
I bought this camera as a compliment to my current professional system based on the Nikon D2X. It's a great "walking around" camera for a pro as it will do all the things that pros are used to asking of a camera, great nikon metering, kit lens is decent, programming and screen quality are par with the flagship D2X. All this makes it the perfect 2nd camera or "pro's snap shot camera". I would not consider doing pro work with it, that's the X is for, but as far as it shooting excellent quality, tough nikon build quality, superior metering and battery performance for, so far in my testing, over 600 shots! The downside is, and I say this as primarily a prime lens shooter, it will only AF with AF-S or AF-i lenses, or those with built in focusing motors. Yes, this kinda sucks, but really only to those who probably rely on AF too much anyways. The novices will probably only use AF-S lenses and the kit lens at that. As a pro, I tend to shoot the D2X full manual and often only turn on AF when needing a quick shot, the rest I still focus by eye. Most of the pros I know do this as well.
SO, if you are a pro and, like me, long for the days when you carried around that old tank of a film camera (FE2 for me!) but wish there was a digital equivalent that could do all it would do and more, then this is a perfect compliment to your system. If you are a beginner, and you started with this camera, it would open up a whole new world of professional digital photography for you and then you'd want to move up to the D80, D200, then possibly D2X or beyond (when available) but I guarantee you'd keep this one for fun even if you moved up.
The point is this camera is fun, advanced features for pros, ease of use for novices, and much more accessible, super lightweight camera for all.
Good job, Nikon! The D40 is an ideal entry level DSLR. It is aimed at persons who want better quality images than a point-and-shoot pocket camera can deliver, who are willing to put up with the somewhat extra bulk of a true SLR, but who do not want to spend a lot more money. The D40 is an outrageous bargain at its price point. Only a tad bit more money than the high-end point-and-shoots, the D40 will produce better images with the kit lens, and more importantly, enables the user to expand the capacity of the camera at will, by buying other Nikon and compatible lenses. Or by equipping the D40 with one of Nikon's superb outboard flash units, such as the SB400, SB600, or SB800. You cannot do that with point-and-shoots.
Thus, it is a mistake, in my opinion, to spend a lot of time comparing the D40 to other DSLRs, because its real competition is the top-end point-and-shoot cameras, which are pretty good these days. Nevertheless, I will point out some of the advantages and disadvantages of the D40 vis'a'vis other low-end digital SLR cameras.
First-price. The D40 gives a lot of bang for the buck compared to any other DSLR on the market. Particularly for folks for whom its price is a bit of a stretch, the D40 is a howling bargain, in my estimation.
Second-ergonomics. Nikon got the D40 just right. It fits in one's hand in a solid and agreeable way. This is a camera most people will not mind carrying around all day. It is small, but has a wonderful "quality" feel that Nikon seems to get right more often than other manufacturers. The menus are pretty good. Yes, I miss the top LCD display (the D40 uses the big rear LCD for this information, to cut costs) but once you get used to it, it is OK. The control layout on this camera will appeal to most users.
Downsides: the focusing system is less advanced than either the D70s or D50, with three focus points. This may annoy some purists, but the user group to whom the D40 is aimed will mostly not mind this. The other downside is that the D40 does not have the built-in bayonet mount motor, which means that it can only autofocus with the newer Nikon lenses which have the motor in the lens. The older lenses will be autofocus only. In reality I doubt that many will mind this, as the targeted user group for the D40 will likely not own any older Nikon lenses, and will simply confine their subsequent purchases to the newer lenses. Lastly, the D40 is 6 megapixels (in common with the D50 and D70s) rather than the 10MP of the superb D80 and D200. This is probably not going to be a big deal to many D40 owners. You can take awesome pictures at 6MP, the differences as between 6 and 10MP are subtle, and not likely to make a difference to most users.
The D40 is a wonderful choice for someone who wants to be able to take high-quality digital photographs and take advantage of the Nikon system of lenses and flashes, but does not want to spend the kind of money involved in the higher-end cameras. And the wonderful thing is, that if you buy a D40 and get hooked on photography, the D40 can grow with you for quite a ways, since it can use the high-end Nikon equipment. And if you do upgrade the camera body, all the extra lenses and flashes will work with the higher-end model. This makes the D40 an excellent choice for many.
Nikon put a lot of thought in the design of the D40, and by doing so they produced an excellent product for a bargain price.
on November 27, 2006
The Nikon D40 is a quite capable Digital SLR, that should deliver good picture quality, in a compact and affordable camera. It has all the basic features you'd expect (listed quite well by the staff at Amazon), so let me go into comparisons with other cameras.
First and foremost, the D40 lacks the focusing motor built into the body of the camera (like all previous Nikon DSLRs). Instead, it must have a motor built into the lens (Nikon calls these type "Silent Wave" or AF-S), otherwise, you lose autofocusing. While Nikon offers several AF-S lenses, they offer only a handful under $1,000. Additionally, the D40 will only be available in the US with the 18-55 kit, and most the other lenses under $1,000 over lap very much with this lens. Tamron and Tokina currently offer NO lenses with the motor built-in for Nikon cameras, and Sigma only offers a very few. If you want a zoom going to 300mm any time soon, be prepared to shell out about $600 for Nikon's new 70-300VR lens if you require autofocus. It promises to be a very nice lens, but you can get a basic Canon or Sony 75-300 for a bit over $200. Thus, if your considering the D40 because you have a bag full of Nikon AF lenses, then you might instead look at the soon to be disappearing D50.
Compared to other Nikon DSLRs, the D40 is much smaller, very similar to the Canon Digital Rebel XTi. While this results in a smaller, lighter camera, it also means it will have some of the same drawbacks that many Nikon owners have teased Rebel owners. The camera will have a smaller grip; a smaller, less powerful battery; will lose the top info LCD and use the rear 2.5" screen instead; and, the feature Nikon users typically point to when they refer to "ergonomics" is the viewfinder. While the D80 has a .94x viewfinder, the D40 matches the smaller .80x of the XTi.
The autofocusing points will also drop to 3, with 5 being the previous low on a Nikon DSLR.
The D40 will do very well, especially since Canon & Sony aren't currently offering a lower cost, 6 megapixel camera. The directly comparable camera would be Pentax's K110D, which retails for about $550 with lens and after rebate. It uses the same 6 megapixel sensor supplies by Sony as the D40. A bit heavier, is uses 4 AA batteries instead of the LithiumIon. I prefer the latter, but there are many fans of the inexpensive AA NiMH rechargables. The viewfinder is also larger, and has a very nice 11 point AF system. Pentax also offers the more popular K100D, which is the same as the K110D, but with SR ("Shake Reduction") built into the camera body. This retails, after rebate, for about $50 more than the D40.
So the D40 will be a very nice camera for the budding photographer, but not necessarily a good upgrade for current Nikon owners. Instead, they should look at the D50 (while supplies last), or consider the superb 10 megapixel D80.
on May 12, 2007
As a retired professional photographer who also has considerable experience with various digital cameras, I was somewhat reluctant to purchase a digital SLR that was meant to be used by 'First Time Digital SLR Users'. While it certainly can be easily used by novices in automatic mode, I soon realized that the camera has almost all the capabilities of higher-end Nikons, such as the D50, D70 and D80, but in a smaller and lighter version and even with some features the more expensive cameras are lacking.
Although light and relatively small, the D40 seems solidly built and the shape and controls are well thought out. The rear viewing screen is large and bright and the (through the lens) viewfinder is bright as well. When pressing the shutter button half way down you can clearly see when the subject is in focus. There is an extensive and well designed menu system
with which you can customize your camera and there is a "Help Button" that
brings up clear explanations as to what each menu item is for and what it does.
The camera takes excellent photos in all modes. What impresses me most is the lack of noise at high ISO settings. You get excellent results indoors without using flash at ISO 1600 and with very little noise. When using the pop-up flash, results are consistently good in macro and fill-in modes. Like all pop-up flashes, the range is limited and my next purchase will be a more powerful external flash. (Actually the range of the built-in flash is higher than most because of the high ISO usability.)
The kit lens is quite decent for most situations. A professional or serious photographer may want to invest in a more expensive lens, preferably one with 'Image Stabilization'. Unfortunately older Nikon lenses and even newer ones not designed for this camera cannot be used except possibly in complete manual mode, and that can be awkward at best. At under $600.- The Nikon D40 is a great value. While the camera sports only 6 megapixels, that is more than adequate for most photographers. Nikon just came out with the D40X camera that has 10 Megapixels which otherwise is almost identical to the D40. I personally wouldn't want to pay several hundred dollars more for it, however that is something you will have to decide.
on April 25, 2007
I purchased this camera some months ago instead of its slightly larger and more lens-friendly brother, the D50 (which I had coveted for over a year). Having had some time to play with it, it seems appropriate to provide a general review. More detailed reviews are readily available on the web; both Ken Rockwell and DPreview give well-balanced reviews.
In sum, the D40 is a terrific camera for general everyday photography. The D40 is probably not for you if you're looking to shoot more specialty shots, like sports or astronomy, due to contraints on the exposure time (max of 30s without accessories; see comments) and the comparatively slow 2.5fps speed. (The D200 shoots at 5fps, by comparison.) That said, I have taken some fairly decent shots with the kit lens in martial arts classes.
As noted in some other reviews, Nikon removed the mechanical AF servo in the D40 body. This means that older lenses generally won't autofocus. Those (like me) who are new to the world of Nikon won't really notice; the only lens I've particularly wanted to get for it that won't auto-focus is the Nikon standard 50mm f/1.8. For those who have older lenses, the D50 is probably a better bet, though the internals are a generation older.
My experience with the D40 has been extremely positive. The kit lens isn't professional, but it is fairly sharp, without overmuch distortion. It allows some fairly tight closeups. Shots are vibrant.
I generally don't use the camera out of the P (programmed auto) or M (manual) modes, but others may find the presets for action, portrait, and others to be more useful.
The controls are generally intuitive, though it might be nice to have more shortcuts to frequently-modified settings. (My function button is currently mapped to change the ISO.)
The image processing technology in the camera is excellent, and certainly one reason to opt for the D40 over the D50 or D70. As someone with a little experience in image processing, it's always nice to see enhancements on the algorithmic end of things, and Nikon's engineers seem to have done a pretty good job. Images tend to be a little over-exposed, but the exposure values are easy to change.
There are lots of images available online taken with the D40. It's usually best to try before you buy, just to make sure--so pick up an SD card and test-drive the D40 in your local camera store before buying one. For an avid enthusiast, it's hard to go wrong with the D40, especially with the new 55-200VR lens available.
on December 9, 2006
This is a great crossover product from a high end point-and-shoot to a low-end DSLR. It's exceptionally light and small for a DSLR. You can set it to "AUTO" and, without learning a thing about photography, be taking great pictures.
The single-screen readout of F-stop, shutter, aperture, ISO, and everything else is a handy way to get all the current settings at once. On the flip side, the UI is sometimes inconsistent. For example, pushing the "zoom" button repeatedly zooms in on an image you've taken. Pushing the "flash" button repeatedly does nothing - you have to push and hold the button, then turn the dial to change flash modes (for example to turn off the flash). That is unless you're in one of the manual modes, in which case pushing the button causes the flash to pop up. Hm.
There two non-obvious shortcomings as compared to a point-and-shoot that you may want to consider. First, most DSLRs (including this one) don't let you preview the shot on the LCD. You have to compose the picture through the viewfinder, then view the results on the (large and bright) LCD after you've taken the picture. Second, you have to manually put on & remove the lens cap. A minor thing that can become quite a pain, especially since Nikon didn't invest the $0.50 to include a little retaining strap - you're always mistplacing the cover.
On the whole, I'm delighted with this purchase after shooting with it for a few days. I can't wait to take it on the next family vacation.
on January 26, 2007
An excellent camera. The small size and weight make it easy to take with you. Even though it is small, I found the grip to be comfortable. Good performance, and at an excellent price point. Flash sync of 1/500th makes life easier on your flash when doing fill-flash on a sunny day.
The only reason it doesn't get five stars is the lack of flash exposure lock. This is where you can fire the preflash and lock the exposure values, so when you press the shutter it doesn't have to preflash. My wife blinks quickly, so every shot has her eyes closed. My solution was to get an SB-800 flash that can use an Auto-Aperture flash mode that doesn't need preflash, which works beautifully. It would have been nice to just use flash exposure lock, though. Other than that, though, I'm very pleased with this camera.
on January 2, 2009
The sheer quantity of excellent reviews already posted here for the D40 would leave me nothing to add were it not for the possibility that my perspective might be useful to a certain subset of possible buyers. I purchased the D40 as a first DSLR, but not as a first SLR. As a former film SLR shooter getting back into SLR photography after a long absence, I was convinced by the many very positive reviews of the D40 that it would provide an excellent entry point. Ken Rockwell's rave reviews, in particular, had a strong influence on my decision, as did many of the favorable reviews posted here.
In retrospect, for somebody in my position, I think that perhaps some of the D40's positives have been slightly overstated, and some of the negatives slightly understated. I would suggest that any prospective purchasers who feel they might aspire to any level of seriousness in their photography should give careful consideration to whether the D40 will be truly satisfactory to them beyond the short term. In my case I owned the D40 for about a month before deciding that the D90 would have been a better choice. I made the swap and find myself much better off for it.
Things to consider:
- Every review points out that the D40 can only autofocus using Nikon's latest (and most expensive) AF-S lenses. I optimistically underestimated the degree to which this would quickly become a handicap for me. Yes, these are Nikon's best lenses, but the reality is that in practice you will be able to do much more, much sooner, at much lower expense, if you are willing and able to use older "D" and "G" type AF lenses along with one or two of the newer AF-S lenses. As one example, perhaps the second or third lens most semi-serious shooters would want to buy for a DSLR is something along the lines of a 50mm f/1.8 prime. Cheap and excellent, Nikon's 50/1.8 will immediately give you creative options that don't exist in any AF-S lens, at any price. Other excellent lenses, like the 85mm f/1.4, 85mm f/1.8, 80-200mm f/2.8 zooms, 28-200mm "G" zoom, and various third-party and wide-angle options, either don't exist yet in AF-S form, or cost so much more to buy that a casual hobbyist like myself would have a very hard time justifying the expense.
- High ISO (low light) performance. One of the great advantages of digital over film is the improvement in light capture that has come along with it. Low light, hand-held photography can be done now that was really completely impossible just a couple of decades ago. The D40 did not really allow me to experience this benefit as fully as I'd expected. I found an ISO setting of 800 on the D40 to be the maximum "good quality" setting, and noticeably less clean than the "base" ISO of 200. My informal impression is that the D90 is between one and two stops better. Combine that with the D90's ability to use faster lenses at lower cost than the D40, and the practical reality is that I can shoot equivalent quality photos in one-quarter to one-eighth the light with the D90 than with the D40. That is a tremendous advantage and much more than I had anticipated prior to owning the two cameras.
- Availability of D-Lighting on D90-and-up Nikons. In my admittedly short experience D-Lighting is a feature of such tremendous value that by itself it might be enough to justify the extra expense of the D90. D-Lighting is able to control the contrast between light and dark areas in a scene, which has always been one of the primary difficulties facing any photographer. This feature might be of even more use to a less serious photographer than to a serious one since it will invisibly improve almost any casual picture made under sunlit conditions. On the D90, under harsh sunlight, I set D-Lighting to "Extra-High" and get very useable photos that would be throw-aways with the D40. In most other conditions I leave it turned on but set to "Auto."
- The lack of a second (front) control dial. Another surprise for me. One dial, as the D40 has, allows you to quickly set one parameter at a time, such as shutter speed or white balance. Two dials allow you to set two separate, usually related, parameters at once. I didn't realize how great an impact this would have on the camera's overall usability. For example, in setting white balance the rear wheel chooses the white balance preset (auto, sunny, cloudy, etc) while the front trims it (tweaks the basic setting to slightly warmer or cooler, six steps each way). Or, during image review the front wheel changes to the previous or next image, while the front wheel changes the display (one click to the right for an rgb-histogram, for example, then one click back to the left to return to the full-sized image). In almost every setting, display and shooting mode the second wheel adds significant flexibility and speed to the camera's handling.
- 6mp sensor. It is true, without a doubt, that excellent photos of almost any kind can be made with a 6mp sensor. I am happy with 6mp for 90% of my photograhy. However, I still found the jump to 12mp beneficial. One thing to keep in mind is that the flaws inherent in every part of the image capture and reproduction process add to one another, each only subtly, but the additive effect of cumulative imperfections makes all the difference in the quality of the eventual reproduced image. Although it's impossible to quantify, going from a 6mp to a 12mp sensor might be the equivalent of going from a good to an excellent lens, while at the same time raising the limits of what the excellent lens can produce. It is also much cheaper than the difference in cost between, say, a full complement of good, "consumer" lenses and first-rate "pro" lenses. The bottom line is that each step in the process is important and each step varies from perfection. Doubling the actual resolution with which the image is captured is worthwhile, and worth paying for.
By contrast there are a couple of features the D40 has that I miss on the D90. The most important is the D40's fast 1/500 flash sync speed, which makes it possible to use fill flash with larger apertures under brighter conditions, and to extend maximum flash range under many conditions. The D90 makes me choose between depth-of-field-isolation and fill flash when conditions are bright as I can't get both. Less important but also helpful is the D40's ability to be set so that the rear screen automatically comes on between shots. Simply tap the shutter (to wake the camera or cancel the review of the previous image, if active) and the display shows you all the camera's vital settings at the same time in one place, and lets you change most of them with just a couple more button-pushes. It is very intuitive and quick to use, and I wish the D90 had it.
In most regards I found the D40 to be a superb camera and every bit (more, really) as good as I had been led to expect. It feels wonderful to use and it makes excellent photos, or at least is capable of it (the rest being up to the user.) If it were not for the lack of a focus motor on the D40, I would still recommend it highly for even aspiring serious SLR users, as the other factors can all be worked around or are only of importance under certain conditions. However, the reality for any photographer serious enough to eventually acquire a variety of lenses is that, by the time they buy their third or fourth lens for the D40 they will have spent as much or more on their equipment than they would have had they started one rung up with a D90. Viewed from this perspective, the various functional advantages of the D90 come essentially without cost even though they do, at least for me, add significant value.
For casual photographers who will be satisfied with one or two lenses, or for more serious photographers looking for a second, lighter camera for part-time use, the D40 represents an excellent value and would be in my view a five-star camera. For people on a strict budget who are willing to wait patiently for the functionality that will come from additional lenses, the D40 could also be an excellent (and perhaps only) choice. Only people looking at the D40 as an entry point to an eventual comprehensive collection of SLR gear need to consider whether the D40's disadvantages outweigh its lower cost. These people might find themselves, as I did, better off paying more from the start for something along the lines of a D90 - or, alternatively, considering an older used D80/200, etc. as their entry point instead. Yes, the D40 is an upgrade compared to those cameras in some ways, but with a used D80 you can start getting the lenses you want right from the beginning, then upgrade the camera later.
on June 8, 2008
PROS - I have bought a couple point-and-shoot cameras over the years (Canon Powershot and Olympus SP-510UZ ultra zoom) and the Nikon D40 is by far a superior quality product and a step above a fixed-lens camera. So far, I have been very pleased with the sharp lens quality and excellent starter manual. This is a great camera for beginner SLR photographers who want to spend time learning more about aperture, shutter speed and various exposure settings to take quality photos. As a newbie in DSLR, I took the camera out of the box and began to shoot some quality images right away without really knowing what I was doing. It is a very user-friendly camera that anyone can use.
CONS- no depth-of-field preview button, no top LCD screen, and one must buy more expensive add-on lenses with the autofocus driver built into the lens itself because the camera body does not have the lens motor.
on March 27, 2008
I bought this camera because of the promotion that Amazon was having at the time. The promotion consisted of buy a Nikon camera kit + an extra lens and get $100 off. After my order Amazon decided that the promotion had been incorrectly coded and withdrew the offer. But because the camera had already been shipped, without the extra lens, I was given a very good deal on the just camera kit. Some snafus are a good thing.
Even without the deal I am tickled shotless with this camera. It is easy to use, takes accurate pictures and is compact for a DSLR. With the right lenses this can be a decent soccer Mom camera (nikon 55-200mm f/4-5.6G ED IF AF-S DX VR Zoom Nikkor Lens, just make sure it is the VR lens).