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***November 16, 2006* – After a week of Internet rumors, Nikon confirmed today the launch of its new entry-level DSLR, the 6.1-megapixel Nikon D40. Geared towards first time DSLR users and enthusiasts on a budget, the D40 is the smallest SLR in Nikon’s history and adds a host of user-friendly features. The D40 is expected to hit store shelves the first week of December, at a suggested retail price of $599.95 with a new 18-55mm Nikkor kit lens.
The D40 is the smallest SLR in the history of Nikon, said Nikon Inc. Senior Technical Manager Lindsay Silverman in an interview with DigitalCameraInfo.com. Weighing only 17 ounces, the new camera is a couple ounces lighter and a significant 15 to 20 percent smaller than its predecessor, the D50. Even as a shrunken down Nikon - comparable to the Canon Digital Rebel XTi in size - the D40 still maintains the traditional Nikon feel, according to Silverman. The controls are positioned exactly the same as the D80, which was launched in August of this year.
Despite forum speculation that the D40 will replace last year’s D50, both cameras will run parallel on the market at least for some time, according to Silverman. No official word has been given on how long the older model will remain part of Nikon's DSLR line.
At 6.1 megapixels, the D40 borrows the megapixel count of the D50. The new camera also shares the 420-segment RGB sensor and 3D Color Matrix Metering II system seen in the recent D80. The new D40, however, features a 2.5-inch LCD which is larger than the D50's 2-inch display, although, the D40 downgrades to a new 3-area Multi-CAM 530 AF Sensor Module, unlike the D50’s 5-area AF system.
The D40 is made for the middle-tier consumer base of introductory photographers, frustrated with the limited manual controls of compact point-and-shoots but not yet ready to shell out the big bucks for a high end DSLR. The camera is even made for "faithful film photographers waiting for the prices to come down," as Silverman said.
"Anyone can operate this camera to great success," said Silverman, "right out of the box." To help the intro photographer along, the camera includes an expanded Help menu, introduced on the D2X and D2H. The D40's Help menu includes a guide to every setting of the camera, according to Silverman, to cater to the group of users who either avoid or lose instruction manuals.
The Nikon D40 also has a new Info button, marked with a "?" on the camera, which acts as an information guide and doubles as a magnifier in playback mode. The Info button gives visual thumbnails, showing users a live preview for every item. Users can preview white balance, exposure compensation, ISO, and a host of other functions to help visualize the effects of their alterations to the various settings.
The new DSLR further impresses with a new user interface with three options: classic, graphic, and wallpaper. The new graphic user interface gives visual representations of the relationship between shutter speed and aperture to help the new photographer understand what's going on inside the camera. The wallpaper interface, like that of computers and compact cameras, allows users to set their own photos to the camera background.The D40 also upgrades to 8 Vari-Program modes over the D50 and D80’s 7 modes. The newly added Flash Cancel mode, located on a rotary dial, keeps the built-in flash down and then engages auto ISO mode, similar to the museum scene mode seen on compact cameras. "Nothing is buried in the menus," said Silverman about the rotary dial functions for quick access. The 10.2-megapixel D80, launched just a few months ago, at double the D40's kit price, took the initiative to combine compact camera-like effects with DSLR features. The new D40 follows suit, while customizing the camera for the beginner DSLR user. The D40 includes the Nikon Optimize Image menu seen on the D80 and D200 to control sharpness, contrast, color, saturation and hue. Users can customize their menu, limiting the number of items that are visible in My Menu. The new DLSR also includes the Retouch menu that allows crops, filter effects, and resizing in the camera. "This customer is more likely to bypass the computer and take their SD card and go directly to print," said Silverman. With the Retouch menu, users can edit in their cameras and avoid editing on their desktops altogether.
Like the D80, the D40 has a fast start up time of 0.18 sec and shares the D50's 2.5 fps continuous shooting rate. The camera will purportedly continue in a burst for 100 consecutive JPEG images or 6 RAW files.
The Nikon D40 comes with a new 3x zoom 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 ED II AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor kit lens. Although the kit lens has the same focal length range and optics offered with the D50, the new lens has a renovated design.
The D40 also has a new EN-EL9 Li-ion battery replacing the previous models’ EN-EL3 batteries, which Nikon recalled last year for potential heating hazards. The new battery shoots a reported 2000 shots per charge without flash, according to the Nikon representative.
The Nikon D40 will be available for the holiday shopping season and includes Picture Project software and a 30-day trial offer for Nikon’s NX Capture editing software.
"I think [the Nikon D40] is going to peak curiosity," said Nikon representative Silverman about the new camera. "I know it will give people hope when they are out there trying to take pictures," said Silverman.