Nikon D80 or D40x? For the life of me, I cannot figure out which of these two cameras to buy. I realize for most people it is simply a matter of personal preference, but I was hoping to get a bit of help. I have held and tested both cameras in a store and am comfortable with both (although, as we all know, 10 min with a camera doesn't say much). I've read reviews, but still have no idea which way to go...
I consider myself an aspiring professional photographer. I love taking photos and don't leave the house without my camera(s). And now, after ending up getting an amazing shot of a whale jumping out of the water on a camera that didn't have good enough resolution to blow it up larger than 5X7, I am finally ready to take the plunge to a dSLR.
One possibly relevant piece of info about my camera use is that I take primarily family & pets, and wildlife & landscape photos (including frequent pictures at dusk and of sunsets/sunrises). Also, whichever camera I choose will be coming with me on a 12 day African safari.
Any recommendations regarding the D80 or D40x? I would also consider the D40 if I knew that I could crop and make enlargements up to 16x20". Thanks, your advice and opinions are very much appreciated.
I agree with Mr. McBean. I also have a D40. It's a great camera for newbies like myself who are just learning the ropes with DSLR. I've been taking photos with point and shoots for a very long time. I have to say, that in the two months that I've used my D40, I've learned so much about photography because this camera is so user friendly. The camera takes great pictures and the best part is they're only 6 megapixels each. You wouldn't think that 6 megapixels could stand to the latest (10 and 12 megapixels?), but it does. The quality of the image is not in the megapixels and Nikon made the right choice here. If you're a photoshop user, this is great because smaller files are easier to work with. They're faster to copy and you'll fit more in your SD card.
The downside to this camera, is that I've already outgrown it. I want to be able to be more creative with my pictures by using different lens. The D40 does not have an internal motor to drive most of Nikon's autofocusing lens. If you want auto-focusing lens, you have to purchase lens that have motors built-in. They did this to make the camera lighter and more affordable. So, what is normally an auto-focusing lens on other Nikon DSLR, is only a manual focusing one on the D40. To get auto-focusing, you have to buy lens with the AF-S label, which are very expensive and far and few amongst the vast collection of lens out there. Now, there's nothing wrong with manual focusing some of your shots, but if you have to manual focus a fast lens (2.8 or faster), you might find it hard to get the right shot. With its very small viewfinder, it's hard to tell what is and what isn't in focus until you preview the shot you just took in full size. There's an indicator light that tells you when your objects are in focus, but it doesn't work very well. Personally, i find it very difficult to manually focus with these prime lens. However, when I do get it right, the pictures look absolutely beautiful. If I had a D80, it would autofocus for me. This is a big deal when you want to, say, catch your baby's smile. If you had to manually focus for this short, precious moment, you'll miss the shot. This is the main reason why I'm planning to sell my d40 in favor of the d80.
If you aren't into the lens thing, want something light and affordable, that takes great pictures... then go for the D40. If you're a photo enthusiast, like myself, you are better off with the D80. I think it's smarter to buy the better camera so you can use more autofocusing lens than to buy the more affordable camera and be restricted to a handful of very expensive lens. (Keep in mind that you can still use non AF-S lens, you just won't get autofocus). You make the call, but if you go with the d40 or d40x you better have an AF-S lens on or you just might miss your whale because you're fumbling with the manual focus.
I really like both and I must admit, while I ended up going with the D40x, I do from time to time wish I waited and went with the D80. This is mostly due to the fact that the D40 series lacks an internal focus motor for those non AF-S/AF-I lenses. So that takes a little fun out of buying Nikon primes as I know that I'll ONLY be able to use manual focus with them.
I didnt have any older Nikon lenses prior to buying the camera so that wasnt a purchasing factor. I still went ahead and purchased the "frugal 50" Nikon AF-D 50mm f/1.8 prime and I absolutely love it even without autofocus on the D40x. It forces me now to practice manual focus and I know whenever I upgrade to another body, I'll still have a great piece of glass and be able to "get lazy" with autofocus, but all the practice will give me a more solid grounding for those times when autofocus doesnt cut it.
I really love the simplicity and portability of the D40x. Its a camera I can just pick up and go anywhere with without feeling like, or feeling the need to lug around a whole bunch of equipment. The D40 series seems to scream "Keep it simple!"
Ultimately, I'd say if you're really looking into growing with the camera and staying with a single body for some time, you cant go too wrong with a D80. But to me, aside from the focus motor and the added focus points of the D80, the D40x is the best buy entry DSLR and the next step up would be the D300, in which case the D40x will make a great backup body.
Some argue that the D40 is an even better buy than the D40x, stating that the extra megapixels and loss of 1/500 flash sync capability dont justify the higher price. You could get pretty nice 16x20"s with either IMHO.
Id still go with the D40x and a Nikon 24-120mm AF-S VR if I had it all to do over again.