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D40 Review - 6.1 MP DX


I was lucky enough to get a hold of a D40 from a friend. In fact, I highly recommended that he got it. He of course wanted a camera that was much better than his junk point and shoot that he got for his birthday at some point. This camera is a great camera, and it's got some great respect behind it. There are many people stating that this camera is indeed better than it's predecessor the D70 and still is better in some regard to the newly released D3000.

Overall, the design of the camera is well built, but all plastic. One thing that notably surprises me is the "Mode" selector knob. It seems that is crafted much better than the D3000 and the D5000. The screen size is a mere 2.7" and the color saturation and sharpness of the screen is fine for previews. I wouldn't recommend using it for detailed information when zooming in -- take it to a computer.

Quality of the photos are indeed way beyond any point and shoot especially in the higher ISO ranges. Incredibly better than the D3000 at full resolution. The grain in the photos are much less apparent which results in a much better, fuller quality photo. The white balance can be off a little at times, but manually selecting your white balance is the best way to go. However, in sunlight or practically outside during the day, the camera does a pretty good job at taking care of the white balance issues.

My personal preference for ISO ranges are as followed with this camera:

100 - I wish it had this ISO setting...

200 - General purpose, works well to minimize blur and keep a decent shutter speed along with a crisp image. I can almost guarantee that you will be happy with your shots if you stay on 200 ISO.

400 (and up) - Either poorly lit indoor shots that have action and you can't use a flash, night photography, or taking aquarium shots (recommend: either 1600 or Hi-1 (3200)).

The other quite unique feature of this camera is the flash sync speed. It is 1/500, meaning it will work great for stopping motion using the flash. Most cameras have 1/250 for a sync speed, which ok, but the higher the better. However, I recommend getting a fast focusing lens like the Nikon 70-300 VRII lens if you plan on doing close up shots far away. When using the camera for sports or if you need continuous shots, the D40 only does 2.5 frames per second. Which isn't bad, but when I was taking photos of a college Cross Country meet, I found that I was somewhat limited.

Also, by keeping the AF mode to AF-A, it will do just fine. If you find yourself in a pickle and the camera isn't focusing to your liking, then change it. But AF-A should work 98% of the time. Just the same with the metering, keep in in the default Matrix metering. Spot metering or center weighted metering is only used in those rare instances where the camera is just not focusing correctly.

This camera has the average sound -- sounds like a regular DSLR. It's not going to be quiet like a point and shoot. Weight-wise, this camera only weighs in at 16.8 oz or 475 grams according to Nikon (which is stripped of lens, battery, etc). So it is a very light camera.

The menu architecture is the same general layout of any Nikon camera. It is sometimes confusing if you are unsure of the photography lingo, but it is far less cryptic than most point and shoot cameras and Canons. If you've never used it before, I highly suggest going through all the menus and having the manual next to you. There really is a lot that this camera can do. In fact, it can do everything a D300 that is far more expensive. So what's the catch? Well... there really isn't any! The only reason the D300 is better is because (not because of megapixels), is the ease of access to change variables like White Balance, Metering, ISO, etc with the flick of a switch or a push of a button, unlike with the D40 for example, where you need to tediously go through the menus to change those settings.

This camera is normally sold with as a "kit" meaning the body and a lens. The normal lens that is sold with it is the Nikon AF-S DX 18-55mm 3.5-5.6GIIED lens. This lens does not have VR. It is all plastic as with most of the newer lenses. This particular lens has 7 lens elements in 5 groups with one ED element and one aspherical element. This particular lens is ok for the average user that just stepped up from a point and shoot. However, I do notice that with the updated lens which is the Nikon AF-S DX 18-55mm 3.5-5.6G VR (never included with the D40), VR really helps out especially when using slow shutter speeds. When using this lens to take action shots, it actually does a pretty decent job as you will see below in some photos. I recommend just getting a simple UV filter and be done with it. Although, the focus ring is a bit skimpy and does rotate (be wary with circular polarizers), who really focuses an AF lens these days anyways?

There is minimal ghosting with this lens, but it can be fixed by simply using your hand to shield direct sunlight from getting into the lens at the wrong angles. The sharpness is very good in my opinion, especially outdoor photos will really show the true life of this lens. The pincushion and barreling of the lens is average for what it is. There is slight distortion at the wider angles which is less than 24mm which is to be expected from a cheaper lens and the way the elements are arranged.

My Conclusion:

It's a great camera for it's time. It offers way more than the D70, but yet it still rivals even some of the more expensive and newer cameras surprisingly. The kit lens that comes with the camera, is a decent lens, and it is great for beginners, or if you have the need for another cheap DSLR to keep your good ones home, it's a great travel companion. The menus are easy to go through and the manual offers excellent help on what each of those settings do.

Sample pictures to come... (I promise!)

This information can be used for education and non-commercial use ONLY.

Copyright �1999 - 2012 Chuck Hendricks