Offering a great entry level SLR experience, Nikon's D40 is a well priced unit that is clearly designed to compete with Canon's own low-end SLR, the EOS 400D. It captures clear, precise images and performs excellently in low light. We were also impressed with the speed and design, all of which combine to make a great overall package for the budding photographer.
- Great pictures, speedy, comfortable to hold, great low light performance
- Some slight chromatic aberration issues
The Nikon D40 is a great entry level SLR, and a good competitor to Canon's EOS 400D. It captures high quality pictures, has speedy operation and great low light performance, making it a wonderful choice for the budding enthusiast.
Price$ 899.00 (AUD)
As expected, the quality of the pictures produced by the D40 was largely excellent. Despite only having a 6 megapixel sensor, compared to the 10 megapixel sensor on Canon and Sony's latest offerings, it achieved a sharpness score of 1762 in Imatest, which is on par with the competition. This is an excellent result, and was reflected in our test shots, which were sharp and had crisp, clean edges.
However the D40's chromatic aberration performance was a little disappointing. It achieved a score of .096% in Imatest's chromatic aberration score, which is a little higher than most other SLRs. We noticed some minor fringing in some parts of our shots, and a little blue haloing around areas of high contrast towards the edges of the pictures. It isn't high enough to be a major concern, but these factors will be evident if you are interested in making big enlargements.
Colour performance was about on par with other SLRs, with Imatest awarding the D40 a score of 9.76. Colours were quite strongly saturated, with reds and blues in particular highlighting this issue. Those after exciting, vibrant shots will be pleased with the colour balance, but image purists may need to do a little correct before they are satisfied.
On the other hand, noise performance and low light shooting was an area the D40 excelled in. It achieved an Imatest score of .35% for image noise at ISO 200 (the lowest setting available), which is one of the best results we've seen. Our shots were clean and completely speckle free. Furthermore, even at higher sensitivities, the impact was minimal, with both ISO 800 and ISO 1600 producing very usable photographs (With scores of .65% and .91% respectively). It isn't until you use the ISO HI setting (ISO 3200) that noise becomes prominent, but this is to be expected. We were extremely impressed with the overall performance of the D40 in this regard.
The D40 also comes with noise reduction, which can be switched on and off in the menu. As with most noise reduction algorithms, it resulted in a noticeable loss of clarity at higher sensitivities, but did a reasonably good job of cleaning up our shots. As the D40 performs so well without this option running, we'd recommend leaving it turned off, but if you really need to shoot at high sensitivities and a clean shot is more important to you than a detailed one, then you'll find it useful.
All the other usual functions are also on offer, including manual and preset white balance modes, ISO sensitivities up to 3200 (ISO HI) and shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 1/4000th of a second, plus a bulb mode. There are several auto focus modes, as well as centre, dynamic and spot metering, and a 3fps continuous shot mode. The flash sensitivity can be adjusted as usual, and you can even tweak the individual white balance presets if you aren't happy with them. Most of the features an amateur photographer would want are present on the D40, and while it obviously isn't a professional level camera, it is ideal for those looking to take their first steps into the world of SLR cameras.
The other thing about the D40 that really stands out is its speed. This is one of the quickest, smoothest cameras we've ever used. Auto focusing takes a split second, and is performed with precision and accuracy, while a shutter lag of just .07 of a second, .9 seconds of power up time, and .5 seconds between shots means the D40 is fast enough to keep up with all but the most demanding user.
The D40 design is slightly smaller than most other SLRs on the market. It has the same jutting right hand grip as previous Nikon units, complete with a tactile, rubberised finish. It feels great in the hand and is a pleasure to use for the most part. Our only complaint is that we sometimes found the hot shoe digging into our forehead a little when looking through the viewfinder, but this depended on the angle we held the camera, and wasn't a big issue.
The controls are all laid out in a standard fashion, with a function wheel on top, a string of buttons to the left of the display, a five-way directional pad and a single scroll wheel for changing settings. We tend to prefer the dual scroll wheel setups found on some more expensive devices, but the single of the D40 isn't all that bad to use. Nikon has forgone the inclusion of a second screen, as seen on the previous entry level models, instead using the main display to show all the necessary settings and information. This setup works well, and we didn't find ourselves missing the monochrome LCD at all.
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