The Nikon D40 DSLR owes more to the entry enthusiast-level D80 than the entry-level D50 it succeeds. Our Nikon D40 review tests it out...
Nikon D40: Features
Nikon D40 Review – the D50 Sensor
Although the Nikon D40 shares many features with the Nikon D80, the sensor isn’t one of them – with the D40 using the same 6.1mp DX format CCD as the Nikon D50. And although it doesn’t contain as many pixels as the Nikon D80, the D40’s 23.7×15.6mm imaging chip still produces images up to 3008×2000 pixels in size; so you can expect a 10×6.6in print at 300ppi, or a full-bleed A4 print at roughly 250ppi. Both Raw and JPEG capture is possible with the Nikon D40 – with a simultaneous Raw and ‘basic’ JPEG option – and the resulting files are whisked away to SD or SDHC media.
Nikon D40 Review – Lens Compatibility, which lenses have
For the Nikon D40’s focusing, Nikon’s MultiCAM-530 module provides a basic 3-point AF configuration with closest subject, dynamic and single area AF options, although to keep the size (and perhaps price) of the camera to a minimum there’s no autofocus motor in the body. So, unlike previous models, the Nikon D40 only provides automatic focusing using AF-S and AF-I lenses – as these types have a focus motor built-in to the lens itself. While you can readily fit older ‘G’ and ‘D’ F-mount lenses to the Nikon D40 these will be limited to manual focus only, which also means you have to be careful buying third-party optics – only Sigma’s HSM lenses will provide AF functionality for the Nikon D40, for example.
However, some lens-related things remain unchanged: the Nikon DX format sensor still, in effect, applies a 1.5x focal length factor to lenses – so a 50mm lens gives a 75mm equivalent viewing angle.
Nikon D40 Review – AF Modes
Provided that you have a compatible lens plugged in to the Nikon D40, both single-shot and continuous AF is possible. For sports/action photographers the Nikon D40’s continuous AF can be used in conjunction with the continuous drive to deliver 2.5 frames per second for up to 100 large, fine JPEGs; dropping to 1.7fps when noise reduction is activated, and one frame per second when you select the Hi-1 ISO setting. High ISO is a welcome inclusion on the Nikon D40, in effect adding an ISO 3200 equivalent to the ISO 200-1600 range.
Because the Nikon D40 is aimed at the ‘first time’ or entry level DSLR user the emphasis is clearly on ease of use – and this is reflected by the shooting modes, which include a fully automatic option as well as eight preset Digital Vari-program settings for landscape, portrait, sport and the like. In addition to this the Nikon D40 offers a new ‘auto flash off’ setting, delivering ‘point and shoot’ simplicity, but increasing the ISO in low-light conditions rather than popping up the flash and potentially destroying an otherwise atmospheric shot.
Yet, despite the Nikon D40’s ‘entry level’ status the camera provides a lot of growing room, so as you gain experience you can dabble with the PASM modes (program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual) found on professional cameras and take your photography to the next level.
Nikon D40 Review – Image Processing
To help ensure you aren’t disappointed with your Nikon D40’s results a host of processing technology has been shipped in from the Nikon D80, with the same 420-pixel RGB sensor used for white balance and exposure. Exposures are determined using either 3D Colour Matrix Metering II, centreweighted or spot patterns and with the addition of ±5EV compensation in 1/3 EV steps, there’s no reason why you should get your exposures wrong, regardless of the lighting. Nor should you suffer from the wrong colours in an image, with the D40’s automatic white balance augmented by six preset values (which can be fine-tuned) and a custom WB option. In both cases there are again ‘simple’ and ‘advanced’ options to exploit as your knowledge grows.