Nikon D40: Small & Powerful DSLR Digital Camera

Nikon D40: Small & Powerful DSLR Digital Camera

by Monica Gregory
(New York, NY)

Hi. This is a review of the camera I use. It's a Nikon D40, bought it in December 2007 in NYC photo store (don't remember which one) for $450USD (camera body + 2 lenses: 18-55mm and 55-200mm). It's not being made anymore so if you want one you'll have to settle for a used one.


The Nikon D40 body is one of the smallest and lightest in the DSLR market, and certainly an easy one to operate.

It may feel small in a man's hand but the grip is good so this won't be an issue. Even without prior (D)SLR knowledge one can get used to it pretty quickly after a short stroll thru the manual.

The battery lasts pretty long (I've shot over 500 shots for certain, and this is after 2,5 yrs. of use) and charges quickly for no longer than 2 hrs.

It's 6.1 mega pixels producing images 3008x2000 px in RAW or JPEG format. I use RAW 95% of the time, cause it gives you uncompressed image quality and many changeable options in post-production later in Capture NX or Adobe Lightroom or a simillar software.

The sensor on the Nikon D40 is ~24x16mm making this camera a crop sensor opposite Full Frame cameras (like Nikon D700, or Canon 5D).

Still it's sensor is much larger than the ones installed in regular P&S cameras. And as it only has 6 mega pixels, the pixels are fairly large
and therefore produce less noise on higher ISO values. There's low noise even at ISO1600 (it can go up to 3200 but this is for extreme situations and I wouldn't recommend using it often).

There are several program modes on the Nikon D40:

AUTO - camera does everything, you just have to point and shoot. I don't recommend this setting, as it can often produce undesired results, as in not what you had in mind)

SCENE MODES - There are few predetermined scene modes like portrait, night portrait, landscape, kids, sports, NO FLASH... I usually don't use any of them.

P - program. Pretty much like AUTO but you have some options to change. I don't use this one also, so I can't go into details here.

A - aperture priority. You choose the desired aperture and the camera does the rest.

S - shutter priority. You can set a desired shutter speed while the camera does the rest.

M - manual. You can set shutter and aperture to your liking.

Shutter speed goes from 1/4000s (I think, I rarely use such high speeds) to 30s + Bulb. You can use a remote for Bulb but no cable. Aperture depends on the lens.

The Nikon D40 digital camera has the standard Nikon f-mount and can accept next to all Nikon mount lenses made from 1959 till today.

Trouble is, lenses older than 1980 won't meter the light and most lenses (except NIKON AF-S) won't auto-focus cause the Nikon D40 body doesn't have an AF motor inside.

You can use third party lenses like Sigma, Tokina, Tamron, Voigtlander, Zeiss and so on but beware when shopping.

Pay attention whether they will focus and meter with the Nikon D40. You can also use adapters to use different mount lenses (like M42 which are very cheap and the adapter is cheap also) but you'll certainly miss auto-focus and likely the light metering. No big deal if you ask me. You can shoot and preview the result quickly and make changes to the exposition to get the desired result.

The flash is good and reliable but it can throw a shadow if a bigger lens is in front (like a Sigma 10-20 which I use). But, there's a hot-shoe so you can use an external flash like the SB400, SB600 or SB900 according to your liking. Also, the flash can't trigger off-camera flashes. If you want this option you'll need an external trigger flash.

The flash has options like 1st curtain, 2nd curtain, slow sync, anti red-eye. The usual stuff.

There aren't many buttons to confuse you on the Nikon D40 camera. This is good cause it won't get you confused but bad because you'll have to search thru the menus for some options like white balance, ISO and simillar.

However, there is one customizable button on the left front side under the flash button on which you can assign a desired function.

There are three shooting modes: single, continuous and remote. Focus has only 3 dots which you can assign automatically or manually.
Or you can switch to manual focus and just do it by rotating the focus ring on the lens. There are also three metering modes. All around, centered and spot metering.

I use the Nikon D40 for all kinds of occasions: family gatherings, nature walks, concerts, outdoor/indoor, macro sometimes, sports rarely.
This really depends more on the lens you use than on the camera.

For indoor, low-light, sports and kids I recommend a faster lens, an 2.8 zoom (70-200 AF-S) or a 1.8 prime (50mm, 35mm, 85mm...) at least.

For everything else a cheap 3.5-5.6 (18-200 is the king here) would be okay. For landscapes - ultra wide angle or fish-eye is the best.

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