Nikon D40 Review

People are going to have the opinion that Nikon is either silly or insane for releasing a new digital SLR camera with only 6 megapixels, and those people are going to exist. After all, Nikon’s competitors and Nikon itself both sell cameras with 10 megapixels that are within the price range of average consumers.

On the other hand, that might just be a reflection of how caught up in the megapixel battle we all have gotten. After all, image quality doesn’t depend exclusively on megapixels. Based on our tests, the most recent 10-megapixel models appear to have an inherent level of sharpness that is marginally superior to that of a 6-megapixel SLR, but not by a significant amount. Because of the smaller pixels, there appears to be an increase in noise that is roughly proportionate to the size of the increase.

All of this suggests that we shouldn’t immediately dismiss digital single-lens reflex cameras with 6 megapixels of resolution just because of the fact that there is a tendency to get caught up in the numbers game.

The D40 is not simply a scaled-down or “refreshed” version of the D50. It is an entirely different camera with a body that is a lot smaller. The change in size isn’t noticeable until you put the two cameras next to each other and look at them side-by-side.

The decrease in body height is an unfortunate side effect of the size reduction. This indicates that you can only wrap three of your fingers around the grip on the right hand. It is the same criticism that we leveled against the Canon EOS 400D, but the trade-off for such a small and lightweight body is that you sacrifice some functionality.

The status panel that was located on the top plate of the D40 has also been removed. Instead, all of the shooting information is shown on the new 2.5-inch LCD that is located on the back of the camera. And it does seem quite sophisticated indeed. You have the option of selecting a graphical display that features a circular aperture/shutter speed indicator that looks fantastic but is not especially practical.

It seems that the goal is to provide a swift visual representation of the parameters that are now being utilized. For example, the aperture diaphragm will either contract or expand depending on the aperture setting that you’ve selected on the camera. In actuality, though, you may discover that your gaze is drawn immediately to the numerical readouts that are presented alongside; consequently, after some time, you may find that you barely notice this picture at all.

Keeping this in mind, it is possible that the “traditional” interface will prove to be more beneficial in the long run. This then changes to larger numerical numbers and icons to indicate things like the number of shots left, the focal point, and the image mode, among other things. Both displays appear to be of extremely high quality, and Nikon appears to have learned something from Olympus’ playbook by incorporating an interactive element into its own display.

You can still make adjustments to the ISO, white balance, and other settings by going through the menus, but now you can make these adjustments by pressing a ‘Setting’ button on the back of the camera and using the navipad to navigate to the option you want to alter. After you have chosen an option and have it highlighted, pressing the “OK” button will bring up a menu with further choices for that item.

Not so dumb

It has a pleasant tone, but the execution is quite sluggish. The problem is that after each shot you take, the information display turns off, and in order to get it back up, you have to hit the button labeled “Info” which is located on the top of the device. There are other cameras, such as the EOS 400D, that depend on the back LCD for shooting information; however, these cameras keep the LCD turned on at all times.

I have one more complaint. The information display is rather sluggish in its response to changes. If you don’t give yourself a couple of seconds to examine whether or not the on-screen display has fully responded to your input, you run the risk of accidentally overshooting the setting you planned to use and taking a picture with the wrong exposure settings.

Be wary of falling prey to the misconception that the D40 is a watered-down version of the D50. In-camera retouching capabilities are identical to those available on the more expensive D80 model, and the image optimization settings have been expanded to include the helpful Vivid Plus and Black-and-White modes.

The LCD is just 2.5 inches in size, but it boasts a resolution that is twice as high, a viewing angle that is three times as broad, and colors and tones that are significantly more accurate.

The EN-EL9 battery that comes with the D40 is a lot more compact and svelte than the EN-EL3 batteries that come with other Nikon digital SLRs, but it is still capable of 470 shots on a single charge (though maybe this has been achieved by powering down the LCD after each shot).

It’s interesting to note that Nikon has limited the number of focus points on their cameras to only three. But the vast majority of people have no problem with this. There are likely to be a great number of people who are enamored with sophisticated multi-point systems who are going to be let down, but there are also likely to be a great number of photographers who are going to find a welcome respite in the D40’s three-point system’s simplicity and clarity. In addition, the viewfinder of this camera is substantially larger compared to those of other non-Nikon competitors.

In the end, picture quality is, without a doubt, the most important factor to consider. And in this regard, the D40 shows itself to be very comparable to the D50, since it possesses an above-average definition for a sensor with 6 megapixels, very low noise, and excellent control over exposure and white balance.

There is obvious chromatic aberration around the frame’s edges, as well as fringing around the forms that are silhouetted. Even though there have been no changes made to its specifications, the 18-55mm kit lens appears to be a fresh version. However, considering the price point, it is to be expected that the performance is merely satisfactory.

Despite this, the price may serve as a potential barrier to some degree. This is due to the fact that the D50 kit has been available for less than £400 for a considerable amount of time. Even though the price of the D40 is just 450 pounds, this represents a significant increase in cost for a camera that isn’t demonstrably superior.

Quality of the Image

The image quality and the type of files that can be saved are of the utmost significance for any digital camera. We found that the D40 did a great job of carrying on the proud Nikon legacy in this respect. For an entry-level SLR, it produced photographs with a quality that belied its tiny 6-megapixel resolution, which was one of the things that impressed us most about the D40.

As was the case with the D80, the photographs produced by the D40 look fantastic right after they have been taken, with the level of sharpening that has been performed producing only very few artifacts while still producing prints that look good up to 13 by 19 inches in size.

Nikon has also done wonders with their noise suppression (we suspect that the D40’s sensor is unusually “quiet” to begin with), producing really impressive results at ISO 1,600, with surprisingly usable images at ISO 3,200 as well. These results were produced by producing really impressive results at ISO 1,600.

Nikon D40 Specifications

Body colorBlack or Silver
Sensor• 23.7 x 15.6 mm CCD sensor
• Nikon DX format (1.5x FOV crop)
• 6.1 million effective pixels
• 6.2 million total pixels
• RGB Color Filter Array
• 12-bit A/D converter
Image sizes• 3008 x 2000 (Large, 6 MP)
• 2256 x 1496 (Medium, 3.4 MP)
• 1504 x 1000 (Small, 1.5 MP)
Image quality• NEF (12-bit compressed RAW)
• JPEG fine
• JPEG normal
• JPEG basic
• NEF (RAW) + JPEG basic
Color space• IIIa (sRGB – more green for colourful landscapes) default
• Ia (sRGB)
• II (Adobe RGB)
Lens mountNikon F mount (with AF contacts)
Lens compatibilityType G or D AF Nikkor• AF-S, AF-I
• Other Type G or D AF Nikkor
• PC Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D• Other AF Nikkor*2/AI-P Nikkor• Non-CPU• IX Nikkor- All functions supported
– All functions supported except autofocus
– Can only be used in mode M; all other functions supported except autofocus
– All functions supported except autofocus and 3D Color Matrix Metering II
– Can be used in mode M, but exposure meter does not function; electronic range finder can be used if maximum aperture is f/5.6 or faster
– Can not be used
Autofocus *• Three area TTL phase detection
• Nikon Multi-CAM530 autofocus module
• Only with AF-S or AF-I lenses
• Detection range: EV -1 to +19 (ISO 100 equivalent, at normal temperature)
Lens servo• Single-servo AF (AF-S)
• Continuous-servo AF (AF-C)
• Automatic AF-S/AF-C (AF-A)
• Manual focus (M)
AF Area mode• Single Area AF
• Dynamic Area AF
• Closest Subject Priority Dynamic Area AF
Focus trackingPredictive focus tracking automatically activated according to subject status in continuous-servo AF
Focus area *One of three areas can be selected
Focus lockFocus can be locked by pressing shutter-release button halfway (single-servo AF) or by pressing AE-L/AF-L button
AF AssistWhite light lamp
Exposure mode• Digital Vari-program
    – Auto
    – Flash off *
    – Portrait
    – Landscape
    – Child
    – Sports
    – Close up
    – Night portrait
• Programmed auto (P) with flexible program
• Shutter-priority auto (S)
• Aperture priority auto (A)
• Manual (M)
MeteringTTL full-aperture exposure metering system
• 3D color matrix metering II
• 420 segment RGB sensor
• Center-weighted: Weight of 75% given to a 8mm circle in center of frame
• Spot: Meters 3.5 mm circle (about 2.5% of frame) centered on active focus area
Metering range• EV 0 to 20 (3D color matrix or center-weighted metering)
• EV 2 to 20 (spot metering) (ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens, 20 °C)
Meter couplingCPU coupling
Exposure compen. *• +/- 5.0 EV
• 1/3 EV steps
AE LockExposure locked at detected value with AE-L/AF-L button
AE Bracketing *None
Sensitivity• Auto
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600
• ISO 3200 equiv. (HI 1) *
Auto ISO options *• On/Off
• Maximum ISO (400, 800 or 1600)
• Minimum shutter speed (1 to 1/125 sec)
Shutter• Combined mechanical and CCD electronic shutter
• 30 to 1/4000 sec (1/3 EV steps)
• Flash X-Sync: up to 1/500 sec
• Bulb
White balance• Auto (TTL white-balance with 420 pixels RGB sensor)
• Six manual modes with fine-tuning
    o Incandescent
    o Fluorescent
    o Direct sunlight
    o Flash
    o Cloudy
    o Shade
• Preset white balance (immediate or from photo)
WB fine tuningYes *
Image parameters• Preset modes: Normal, Softer, Vivid, More Vivid, Portrait, B&W *
• Sharpening: Auto, 6 levels
• Tone: Auto, 5 levels, Custom curve
• Color mode: Ia (sRGB), II (Adobe RGB), IIIa (sRGB)
• Saturation: Auto, 3 levels
• Hue: -9° to +9°
Viewfinder *• Optical fixed eye-level
• Penta-mirror type
• Built-in diopter adjustment (-1.7 to +0.5 m-1)
• Eyepoint: 18 mm (at -1.0 m-1)
• Frame coverage 95% (approx.)
• Viewfinder magnification approx. 0.8x with 50mm lens at infinity; -1.0 m-1
• Focusing screen: Type B BriteView clear matte screen Mark V with superimposed focus brackets
Viewfinder informationFocus indications, AE/FV lock indicator, Shutter speed, Aperture value, Exposure/Exposure compensation indicator, Exposure mode, Flash output level compensation, Exposure compensation, Number of remaining exposures, Flash-ready indicator
LCD monitor *• 2.5″ TFT LCD
• 230,000 pixel
Built-in flash *• Auto pop-up in Auto, Vari-program modes
• Manual pop-up in P, S, A or M modes
• Guide number approx. 17 at ISO 200
Sync contactX-contact only; flash synchronization at shutter speeds of up to 1/500 sec
Flash control *• TTL flash control by 420-segment RGB sensor. i-TTL balanced fill-flash for digital SLR and standard i-TTL fill-flash for digital SLR available when CPU lens is used with built-in flash, SB-400, SB-800, and SB-600
• Auto aperture with SB-800 and CPU lenses
• Non-TTL auto with SB-800, 80DX, 28DX, 28, 27 and 22s
• Range-priority manual with SB-800
Flash mode *• Auto, Portrait, Child, Close-up: Auto, auto with red-eye reduction; fill-flash and red-eye reduction available with optional Speedlight
• Night portrait: Auto, auto slow sync, auto slow sync with red-eye reduction; slow sync and slow sync with red-eye reduction available with optional Speedlight
• Landscape, Sports: Fill-flash and red-eye reduction available with optional Speedlight
• P, A modes: Fill flash, rear-curtain with slow sync, slow sync, slow sync with red-eye reduction, red-eye reduction
• S, M modes: Fill flash, rear-curtain sync, red-eye reduction
Flash compensation• -3 to +1 EV
• 1/3 steps
Nikon Creative Lighting systemSupported with built-in flash, SB-400, SB-800, and SB-600; Advanced Wireless Lighting supported with SB-800 or SU-800 as Commander.
Shooting modes• Single frame shooting (S) mode
• Continuous shooting (C) mode: approx. 2.5 frame per second (1 fps with HI 1 sensitivity)
• Self-timer/remote control mode.
Continuous buffer *• JPEG: Limited only by storage
• RAW: Approx. 9 frames (shooting continues at a slower rate)
Self-timer• 2, 5, 10 or 20 sec
Remote control• Remote Control ML-L3 (optional, Infrared)
• Camera Control Pro software (optional)
Text inputUp to 36 characters of alphanumeric text input is available with LCD monitor and multi-selector; stored in EXIF header
Playback functions• Full frame
• Thumbnail (4 or 9 segments)
• Zoom (magnified)
• Slideshow
• Histogram indication
• Shooting data
• Highlight point display
• Auto image rotation
Orientation sensorYes
Storage *• Secure Digital / Secure Digital HC
• FAT / FAT32
• Supports firmware update via SD card
Video outputNTSC or PAL selectable
Connectivity• USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed)
• Mass storage / PTP selectable
• Video out
• DC-IN (optional AC adapter and adapter connector)
Languages *Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish
Power *Lithium-Ion battery pack EN-EL9 (7.4 V, 1000 mAh)
Working environment• 0 to 40°C (32 to 104°F)
• Less than 85% humidity
Dimensions *126 x 94 x 64 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in)
Weight (no batt) *471 g (1.0 lb)
Weight (inc. batt) *522 g (1.2 lb)
Supplied accessories *Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL9, Quick Charger MH-23, USB Cable UC-E4, PictureProject, Rubber Eyecup DK-16, Camera Strap, Body Cap BF-1A, Eyepiece Cap DK-5, Accessory Shoe Cap BS-1
Optional accessoriesWireless Remote Control ML-L3, Capture NX, Camera Control Pro, AC Adapter Connector EP-5, AC Adapter EH-5, Video Cable EG-D100, Semi Soft-Case CF-DC1, Speedlight SB-800/600/T041/R1C1


It is possible that Nikon’s D40 digital SLR camera is one of their most significant models. It is without a doubt their most compact and lightweight model, as well as their most economically friendly option, and it comes standard with one of their more respectable kit lenses. Notable, however, is the fact that this is the company’s first digital SLR camera that does not support autofocus for its extensive lineup of lenses, many of which do not have AF motors built in.

This was a move that, in the larger scheme of things, was not unexpected, and although frustrating to some, it is unlikely to be of too much concern for the typical person who buys a D40 camera (those with more specific lens requirements are expected to go for the D80).

When we tested the D80, one of the aspects that particularly struck us was how responsive it was; it gave the photographer the impression that there was an instant link between themselves and the camera.

So you can imagine how pleased I was to discover that the priority placed on responsiveness has been maintained even in the more cost-effective D40. In point of fact, the D40 doesn’t really feel any slower to operate, and for some tasks, it is actually faster thanks to smaller files, with the exception of a very slightly slower viewfinder blackout and presumably slower auto-focus (although these factors were not measured).

When you make a digital SLR, you are also effectively designing the ‘film’ that will be permanently locked into it (we have seen very few firmware updates that actually improve image quality; this is primarily because the ‘heavy processing’ has to be done in hardware, not software). Nikon has obviously worked to ensure that no corners were cut in image processing.

The image quality was sufficient to call into question any purported benefits of an eight-megapixel digital SLR and was arguably the best of any contemporary six-megapixel digital SLR.

Nikon D40 Price

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Who needs eight megapixels with such a high level of clarity, excellent resolution, and picture quality?
  • Excellent performance while in use, with very quick response times, a short black-out period, and very quick media write speeds.
  • The quality of the kit lens exceeds that of many other lenses.
  • Extremely portable and light (particularly when coupled with the included lens), without sacrificing usability.
  • Surprisingly high-quality construction, clean and precise lines
Need Improvements
  • There is no status LCD panel located on the top of the camera (we hate to see these go)
  • Because there is no lens motor in the body, non-AF-S/AF-I lenses can only be focused manually.
  • It’s disappointing that the RAW+JPEG setting simply records JPEGs of basic quality.
  • There is no bracketing for exposure or white balance.
  • There are no fixed buttons for ISO or white balance (unless the settings are customized).
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