The 10.2-megapixel Nikon D40x is intended to bridge the gap between the entry-level D40 and enthusiast-level D80, and as such takes a bit from both models.
Features And Design
As suggested, there are a couple of key differences between the D40x and the D40. The inclusion of a 10.2mp CCD and a shutter unit lifted straight from the D80 are the two prime variations, with the new shutter allowing the continuous frame rate to be increased to 3fps (frames per second) compared to the D40’s 2.5fps. At the same time this reduces the flash sync time (using either the built-in unit or a compatible hotshoemounted flash) from a class-leading 1/500sec to a more modest 1/200sec.
The D40x’s sensor also seems to have been influenced heavily by the D80, matching it perfectly in both physical size (23.6×15.8mm) and resolution (10.75MP total/10.2MP effective). Yet whether this is exactly the same unit as that fitted in the D80 is uncertain – Nikon remains tight-lipped. Either way, it means that the D40x can generate a maximum image size of 3872×2592 pixels (a 13×8.6in print size at 300ppi). Aside from this, little else separates the D40x and D40. As with the older model, images can be recorded in either Raw (.NEF) or JPEG format, with the option to record simultaneous Raw and ‘basic’ JPEG files. All file types are subsequently transferred to either an SD or an SDHC memory card.
The AF system is also taken from the D40, giving the user a respectable, but hardly earth-shattering, 3-point AF system offering single area, dynamic area and dynamic area with closest subject priority focusing. The MultiCAM-530 AF system used requires a motor in the lens to pull focus, so this model will only provide autofocus with AF-S and AF-I lenses. While this might not be an issue for first-time buyers purchasing it as part of a kit, it does mean some older AF optics are incompatible. While they may fit the camera they can only be focused manually. This is worth bearing in mind if you expect to be plundering the second-hand market for lens bargains, or anticipate looking at third-party lenses from the likes of Sigma and Tamron.
However, this is really the only downside – and it is only slight – as on the photographic side of things Nikon has stuffed the D40x with a comprehensive set of features. Automatic and ‘scene-based’ shooting modes are there to hand-hold novice DSLR-ers as they take their first steps, with pASM options when you want to take more control.
To determine the correct exposure Nikon’s 3D Colour Matrix Metering II takes care of most general metering situations and is backed by a centreweighted pattern that concentrates 75% of the metering ‘power’ on an 8mm circle in the centre of the frame. For even greater precision there’s a spot meter that reads from a 3.5mm circle (roughly 2.5% of the frame) which can be linked to the active AF point to deal with off-centre subjects. The D40x caters just as well for a wide range of lighting situations, with an ISO range extending from 100-1600 in full stop increments (the D40 had an ISO 200 minimum), plus a ‘Hi1’ setting that delivers an ISO 3200 equivalent setting for ultra low-light photography.
At the same time as the light intensity can change, so too can the colour temperature, and again the D40x has the tools you are most likely to need. As well as an automatic white balance system there are six preset values to match daylight, tungsten and cloudy conditions etc, plus the ability to set a custom white balance based either on an existing photograph, or by shooting a grey (or white) card as a reference.
We could cover the D40x’s design in a single sentence; it’s the same as the D40. However, if you haven’t read that particular test or would just like a refresher, what this means is the D40x is a compact and lightweight, plastic-shelled DSLR. It’s not the smallest or lightest on the market, but not far off. Aside from size, one of the biggest differences between the D40x and the D80 is its compatibility with accessories – it cannot take a battery pack/grip, for example; the D80 can. Yet even without the battery pack – which some would call a comfortable addition, but others an unnecessary bulk – the diminutive D40x has an ergonomic finger grip on the right, with a shooting mode dial, power and shutter release on the top-plate. Even in my large hands it still feels like a camera rather than a ‘toy’.
As the D40x essentially targets the novice market the controls on the rear are kept to a minimum to avoid over-complicating things, to the point that the D40x has a mere 17 control points. This may sound like quite a lot of buttons and dials, but given the D80 has a total of 26 it doesn’t take that long to familiarise yourself with the newcomer.
Indeed, with so few buttons on the back the D40x’s 2.5in LCD screen dominates the back of the camera and in use provides a clear, high-resolution view of either your recorded images, the ‘traditional’ menu listings or the ‘head up’ display when you’re in shooting mode.
This ‘head up’ display basically relays all the current camera settings, and pressing the info button at any time while this information is displayed turns the LCD screen ‘live’ to allow you to change items such as the ISO, white balance and image quality. As with the D40 you also get a useful ‘help’ screen whenever you select an option to guide you towards which setting you should use, when and why.
Like the controls on the outside, the menu system is organised to be as clear as possible, with five separate ‘files’ categorising the various options into playback, shooting, custom settings, setup and retouch. I have no real gripes with the way in which this information is ordered or displayed and the fact that it is displayed on a large LCD makes it easy to read the screen, even for those with less-than-perfect eyesight.
Similarly there are few complaints with the D40x’s viewfinder, as again, it’s the same unit found in the D40. As such you get a respectable 95% coverage of the scene, and a clear viewfinder display in all but the brightest of conditions.