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Testing / Performance
**Color ***(6.60)*We measure how accurately cameras reproduce color with standardized tests. By photographing a standard GretagMacbeth color chart and analyzing the images with Imatest software, we are able to compare all the cameras we review on an equal basis. We control the lighting conditions and other factors as much as possible. Imatest delivers two main numerical results in its color test: saturation and mean color error. Saturation measures whether the colors are too vivid or too pale. 100 percent is a perfect score for saturation. Color error indicates whether the hues are correct – if the greens are too blue, if the yellows are too orange, and so on. The Nikon D40 had a saturation score of 109 percent, which is high for a DSLR and more typical of a compact camera. Oversaturation can decrease the amount of detail in brightly colored subjects and make it difficult to edit images. Colors look unnaturally bright. The D40's color error was also disappointing: at 9.3; it doesn't compare well with other DSLR results. Imatest creates two graphic representations of its results. The first reproduces the camera's image of the chart, adding small rectangles of color on top. The large outer squares of color show the D40's image. The small vertical rectangles show the ideal colors, and the rectangles on the left show the ideal color, corrected for luminance or brightness.
The other Imatest chart shows a color gamut. The center of the chart has no color, and at the edges, the colors are very saturated. If a circle were drawn around the center, it would show a color wheel. The little squares show ideal color from the GretagMacbeth chart and the big circles show the D40's rendition. The longer the line between the two means the less accurate the color. This chart shows us more about the D40's performance. The red circles are much closer to the edge than the red squares, and meaning those colors are very oversaturated. On the other side of the chart, the blue and green circles are shifted counter-clockwise from their corresponding squares, and indicating errors in hue.
So the two problems with the D40's color are concentrated in separate color regions – the reds are massively oversaturated, enough to drive the saturation score unusually high, but they have relatively little color error. The blues and greens are pretty good as far as saturation goes but really terrible with regard to color error. In the areas that the D40 has color problems, it has severe ones. Despite this, it manages to perform better than the Nikon D50, which had a horrible 5.44 overall score. **Still Life Scene
**Below is our typical still life composite, photographed with the Nikon D40.
**Resolution ***(4.94)*Resolution measures the camera's ability to record fine detail. The Nikon D40 comes with a 23.7 x 15.6mm CCD that claims 6.1 effective megapixels. We tested it by photographing an industry standard resolution chart under controlled lighting after mounting the camera on a heavy tripod and taking care to avoid camera shake. We test several aperture settings and focal lengths, run the images through Imatest software, and report the camera's best result. Imatest reports results in line-widths per picture height (lw/ph), a unit that is independent of the physical size of the sensor, so it can be used to compare the wide range of digital cameras. At f/10 and 48mm, the D40 with its kit lens delivered 1823 lw/ph (horizontal), with 13.4 percent oversharpening, and 1500 lw/ph (vertical), with 5.38 percent oversharpening.
The D40's results are respectable for a 6.1-megapixel camera, though 13.4 percent oversharpening will make it difficult to post-process JPEG images without introducing artifacts and blotches. These results are very similar to the D50’s; that camera had a 4.93 overall score and oversharpened by about 10 percent.* ***Noise – Auto ISO (11.24)*Noise looks something like film grain, and it represents pixel-by-pixel variations in color that the camera adds to a picture. This is because the sensor and the camera’s electronics aren't perfect. Noise increases at higher ISOs, so we test for it at the camera's Auto ISO setting as well as its manual settings. Imatest yields its results by analyzing images of the GretagMacbeth color chart. The Nikon D40 did very well at the Auto setting, delivering noise results comparable to ISO 200 – the lowest ISO available and therefore the best quality. This is much improved over the D50, which metered incorrectly and chose a higher ISO setting and therefore produced way too much noise. *Noise – Manual ISO ***(12.46)*Noise increases when the ISO does. Some cameras have sudden increases in noise at a particular ISO, usually 400 or 800. The Nikon D40’s performance is shown below with the camera’s ISO settings on the horizontal axis and the percentage of noise in the image on the vertical axis.
The D40 shows a steady increase in noise, but it handled well throughout its range from 200 to 1600. The D50, Nikon's previous entry-level DSLR, also scored particularly well in this category. **Low Light ***(8.5)*Low light shooting presents challenges for image quality because it's usually done at high ISOs with long exposures or both. Electronic sensors build up noise over the course of long exposures, and high ISOs amplify noise. Most digital cameras also show a decrease in color saturation in low-light exposures. We shot images in decreasing light at ISO 1600. The first shot was taken in 60 lux of light, and that is a bit less that what most people would like for reading. The second shot was taken at 30 lux, and that replicates the lighting in a dim restaurant. The third shot was at 15 lux, and that is about the same as a room lit with a few candles. The final shot was taken at 5 lux, and it's hard to make out much in 5 lux of light. We also shot images at ISO 400, using shutter speeds from 1 to 30 seconds.
The Nikon D40 handled low light well. The noise reduction routine for high ISO made a significant difference at ISO 1600. Long exposure noise reduction is a different routine, and it seems to kick in at about 1 second. Noise reduction worked well but at the expense of some detail. Color accuracy was steady throughout the tests. **Dynamic********Range*******(7.75)*Cameras have to take in scenes with enormous ranges in brightness – from sunstruck snow to shaded fir trees – and translate them into the limited brightness range of a display screen or print. The ability to retain detail from very bright to very dark parts of the same scene is called dynamic range. We test it by shooting a calibrated Stouffer test film that shows more than 14 EV of dynamic range. Dynamic range varies with ISO, so we shoot the target at each ISO setting on the camera. We analyze the images with Imatest software and graph two sets of results: the High Quality result shows the range of tones captured with no more than 1/10 of an EV of noise, and the Low Quality result shows the range with a full EV of noise. High Quality is the range that's important for the subject of the shot, and Low Quality is important for texture in shadows and highlights in the background.
The Nikon D40 shows fair dynamic range. Though many cameras outdo the D40 at low ISOs, few of them do as well at the very high end.** ****Speed/Timing***Startup to First Shot (9.6)*It took 0.63 seconds for the D40 to start up and take its first shot. Many DSLRs get going in about half that much time. This speed may not make or break many shots for snapshooters, but it's enough to miss a quick, spontaneous moment. *Shot-to-Shot (9.6)*The Nikon D40 we tested delivered the specified 2.5 frames per second for 100 shots in a row. It took the camera 70 seconds to completely clear its buffer after that burst. Partially clearing took only a second or two, allowing more shots at an unsteady rate. Lots of low-end DSLRs run at 3 frames per second with shorter bursts. Neither 2.5 nor 3 fps is enough to shoot time-motion studies or action sequences in sports. The burst mode is helpful when shooting candid portraits, though, and 2.5 fps is noticeably slower than 3 fps in that setting. *Shutter-to-shot (8.01)*Including focusing, it took the D40 0.36 seconds to get off a shot after the shutter had been pressed. For more responsive shooting, the user can pre-focus the camera and capture a shot in less than a tenth of a second. 0.36 seconds is a long delay for a DSLR and would probably be disappointing to users who move up to the D40 from a compact.
Front*(7.0)*The Nikon D40 shares the standard stylistic touches of Nikon DSLRs: The Nikon logo is on the top of the viewfinder hump, and there's a small red triangle on the handgrip, just under the shutter release. Like the D50, D70 and D80, the D40 has a small chrome-tone badge at the upper right that shows the model name. There's an infrared sensor on the front of the grip, which is covered in a plastic gripping material. There is a large auto focus assist light between the grip and the lens mount, and a lens release button on the right side of the lens mount.
**Back***(6.75)*The 2.5-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD dominates the back. To its left, there is a column of buttons. From top to bottom, they are: Playback, Menu, Help/decrease magnification and Info/increase magnification. The viewfinder is above the LCD with a diopter control on the right side. The viewfinder is small. The auto focus/auto exposure lock button is between the viewfinder and the control dial on the right edge. The 4-way controller, located to the right of the LCD, is ring-shaped with an OK button in the center. The controller is a departure for Nikon, which usually uses a single dish-shaped controller that can be rocked up and down or side to side and pressed in. The D40 has a delete button to the lower left of the controller and a small light to indicate that it is recording an image to the SD card or running its noise reduction routine. The right side of the back is contoured nicely for the user's thumb with a ridge along the edge to improve the grip and an indentation above the 4-way controller.
**Left Side ***(7.5)*The USB and video out ports on the D40 have a rubbery cover that is more durable and offers a better seal than a hard plastic door. Plastic doors are a vulnerable feature – they are much more likely to break than rubber covers. The D40’s port door is located on the back edge of the left side. Above it is a flush-mounted strap lug that is less likely to snag than lugs that poke out. It's not difficult to thread a strap through the lug.
Below the side of the pop-up flash and in front of the lug and port door are two small circular buttons. The bottom button can be customized to save any setting, but activates the self-timer as a default. Above that is a button that pops up the flash and allows flash exposure compensation. **Right Side***(7.0)*Fancy Nikons – the D200 and up – have secure, easy-to-use locks on their media card doors. The D40 does not. Its media door, which is located on the rear edge of the right side, slides back and then swings open. The arrangement seems more likely to loosen up with wear than a latched door. There is a small flap where the right side meets the battery compartment door near the center of the bottom. The flap flips out of the way to make room for a power cord.
Top* (6.25)*There's nothing to the left of the viewfinder hump on the D40. There's a hot shoe on top of the hump and a flip-up flash. The mode dial is immediately to the right of the hump. The exposure compensation button and an info button that changes the LCD display are also on top. The shutter release, which is good-sized and moves smoothly, is on the top of the grip, and the ring-shaped power switch surrounds it.
Bottom*(7.25)*The metal tripod bushing is centered under the lens axis, and that is convenient for adjustments on many tripods. Unfortunately, the bushing is surrounded by hard plastic that will scratch up pretty quickly if the camera spends much time on a tripod. The battery compartment door opens up under the hand grip. The door has a latch so we expect it to last longer than the media card door.
Viewfinder*(7.0)*The D40's viewfinder is small. While the D80 seemed to have inherited the D200's viewfinder optics, the D40 is a significant step down – it's darker and has less magnification. On the plus side, we found it easy to see the whole image while wearing glasses. The diopter control can be adjusted -1.7 to +0.5m. It works just fine, though we found we needed to set off-center to focus well on the display. That's odd because every other DSLR we've tested has looked sharpest with the diopter set to neutral. The Nikon D40’s optical viewfinder shows 95 percent of the recorded image, which is the same accuracy found on other DSLR finders. The D40’s eye-level penta-Dach mirror viewfinder shows a range of shooting details in the viewfinder display. They are: focus, battery charge, focus pattern, exposure lock, program shift, an exposure scale, exposure compensation, shots remaining, and a flash ready light. The information is easy to see and logically arranged. **LCD Screen***(7.75)*The D40 features a 2.5-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD. It's readable from a wide range of angles. Unlike other Nikons, it doesn't come with a protective plastic cover. The low-temperature polysilicon TFT LCD displays shooting information in two formats: the standard numerical system and a graphic arrangement that indicates the f/stop with a picture of an iris diaphragm. Shutter speed shows up as a dotted line circling around the diaphragm. The data shown in shooting mode are: image size and quality, white balance, ISO, burst mode, autofocus mode, meter pattern, shots remaining, exposure compensation, flash exposure compensation, flash sync, and the help mode indicator. The LCD screen can be dimmed or brightened from the setup menu. **Flash*** (7.0)*Typically, the built-in flashes on DSLRs are small and low-powered. They're useful as fill-flashes, but they can't light up a whole room very well. We took an acceptable shot with the D40's flash at 7 feet, with the aperture set to f/5.6 and ISO at 100. The D40 offers red-eye reduction, rear curtain, slow sync, and activates the flash automatically in snapshot modes. The D40 offers a maximum sync speed of 1/500 – that's very fast and should be useful for outdoor fill-flash. The flash can be set to manual outputs from full to 1/32 power, in full-EV steps (-3 to +1 EV range). Its automatic exposure is through the lens, using the 420-segment, RGB metering system. Unlike the D80 and D200, the D40's flash can't function in "Commander Mode," triggering external Nikon flashes wirelessly. A SB-800, SB-600 or SB-400 in the D40's hot shoe can use the camera's meter to control other flashes for wireless TTL exposure. **Lens and Mount ***(8.0)*The 18-55mm, f/3.5-5.6 lens supplied in the kit is an update of previous versions of this lens. The lens mount is plastic, while the flange on the camera is metal. It is better to have a flange made out of metal; swapping the lens frequently is likely to wear down the plastic mount. Most of the structural elements of the kit lens are lightweight plastic. The front part of the lens seems particularly feeble and wobbles with slight pressure. It also rocks slightly as the user engages the manual focus ring. The D40 itself is a lightweight piece of equipment and isn't built for durability. Still, it's tougher than the lens. We get plenty of comments about how sharp modern kit lenses are and what great pictures they take. But, compared to other Nikon lenses, the 18-55mm is cheaply made, and far more susceptible to breaking over time. A maximum aperture of f/5.6 when zoomed out isn't good enough for indoor use. Not only is it often impossible to shoot available light indoors at f/5.6 without a tripod, but the D40 has a hard time focusing in low light with such a slow lens. The Nikon D40 lacks a feature that every previous Nikon DSLR had: a focusing motor. Most auto focus Nikkor lenses rely on motors in the camera to focus. The D40’s auto focus system is compatible only with lenses that have internal focusing motors. The D40’s F-mount is fully functional with Nikkor AF-S and AF-I lenses, and supports all other D- and G-type lenses except for the auto focus.
Design / Layout
Model Design / Appearance*(7.0)*Nikon has pulled together the styling of its DSLR line. The contours are defined with curving ridges and rounded planes, and the Nikon logo appears on the viewfinder hump. The squat red triangle on the handgrip designates this camera as a Nikon from first glance. The D40 is small, and that detracts a bit from the imposing, no-nonsense presence of larger Nikon DSLRs. The D40 looks and feels cheaper than its stable-mates. The plastic components don't fit together as tightly as they do on higher-end Nikons, leaving small cracks in the body. That's disappointing because it suggests that dust and dirt can get inside through the gaps and shorten the camera's life. Though the D40 doesn't measure up to other Nikons, high-end Canons, or Olympus DSLRs by this measure, it has better fit and finish than the Canon EOS Rebel XTi. Nikon dropped the monochrome LCD from the D40. Other Nikons, from the D70 up, have simple displays on the top deck that show a range of shooting parameters. The D40 uses the color LCD on the back for that information. A monochrome LCD wouldn't fit on the small D40, and Nikon surely saved money by leaving off an extra display and its related electronics. **Size / Portability***(8.0)*The Nikon D40 measures 5 x 2.5 x 3.7 inches and weighs 17 ounces without a lens or battery. Ready to shoot with the kit lens, the D40 tips the scales at 26 ounces, making it very light indeed. Like all DSLRs, it is irregularly shaped and needs its own carrying case in most situations. The D40 is relatively delicate, and that limits its portability. The kit lens is flimsy, and both the lens and the camera body are vulnerable to dust and moisture. It's not the camera for the beach or the tour boats at Niagara Falls.
Handling Ability*(7.0)*Users with large hands will find the Nikon D40 inconvenient to use because the grip is relatively small, and the space between the grip and the mount is narrow. We didn't mount any of Nikon's fat, wide-aperture lenses to the D40, but we bet there isn't much of a gap between the barrel of the wide-aperture zooms and its grip.
The grip surfaces have a comfortable texture, and the contours for the right thumb are unusually good. The lens is the only place to put the left hand. The controls are conventional, and important information shows both in the viewfinder and on the display. The D40 is at a disadvantage compared to other DSLRs because it has only one control dial on the back. Most DSLRs have a second dial on the front so users can avoid pushing a button while rotating the dial, as is done on the D40. **Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size***(7.0)*The Nikon D40's power switch is a ring around the shutter release. The arrangement has two great qualities. It's quick to use, and it's very hard to accidentally switch the camera on or off. The shutter release is a sturdy button with a smooth travel. It's easy to find the "halfway" point that activates the meter and auto focus. The other buttons are up to the standard on the D80 and D200 – they're solid, they don't wobble, and they're big enough to use conveniently. It's no big shock that the D40 only has one control dial, but it is too bad. The single control dial slows down some actions, and it means that the user must press a button while turning the dial to access some functions. **Menu*** (7.5)*The D40's menus are simple, in keeping with the capabilities of the camera and its target market. They are divided into tabbed sections for Shooting, Playback, Setup, Custom Settings and Retouching. *A separate menu comes up in Playback mode.*
Ease of Use*(8.5)*About a year ago, we at DigitalCameraInfo.com had a little debate about whether a golden retriever with opposable thumbs could operate a particular point-and-shoot. The D40 doesn't aim for quite that level of simplicity, but it has a clearly marked full auto mode and excellent help screens. The graphic interface is more of a teaching tool than a simplified display – it explains what's going on with the aperture. The control layout is good and simple, and the major features that appear only in menus are near the top of their lists. The D40's manual controls aren't on a par with other Nikons, but they are just as good as other cameras in this price range. Some features that are dear to purists are buried. But on a simple camera like the D40, we don't consider mirror lock-up (for instance) a major feature. Higher-resolution, sturdier cameras are more likely to be used on a tripod and more likely to benefit from lock-up.
Auto Mode*(8.0)*The camera industry seems to be standardizing green as the universal indicator of ultimate simplicity. The Nikon D40's full auto mode has a green position on the mode dial, and it takes care of everything: aperture, shutter speed, flash, focus mode, white balance and "image optimization." For users who trust the camera better than themselves, going green covers everything it should. **Custom Image Presets***(8.0)*Custom image presets are programmed so that the camera does what an experienced photographer would do to get a given sort of picture. The D40's presets include: Auto flash off, which automates exposures but doesn't fire the flash even in dim light. Portrait sets the focus system to focus on the closest subject and opens the aperture to blur the background. Landscape switches optimization to vivid, shuts off the flash and the focus assist light, extends depth of field with small apertures, and sets auto focus to the nearest object. Nearest object may seem like an odd choice, but it will generally give good results because the AF sensors are all at the middle of the frame. A branch or a rock in a corner of the image won't throw it off. Child mode assumes active children so it tries to freeze action with high shutter speeds, while it boosts background colors and softens skin tones. Sports uses high shutter speeds to freeze action and tries to track focus on moving objects. Close up appears to use the center focusing point and boosts colors. Night portrait combines a flash exposure for the foreground with a time exposure for the background. The modes work as advertised, though, more experienced users will probably depart from them as unusual situations come up. The Nikon D40 has more scene modes than most DSLRs, probably because it is an entry-level DSLR hoping to attract point-and-shoot graduates that are used to working with scene modes. **Drive / Burst Mode***(7.0)*The Nikon D40 has a burst mode, shooting about 2.5 frames per second. 3 fps is more common. The D40's burst mode is not fast enough to catch sports sequences, but it should help with portraits and spontaneous snapshots at parties and with family. The D40 also offers a self-timer with a delay from 2 to 10 seconds. **Playback Mode***(7.5)*Playback mode on the Nikon D40 is simple: Pressing the playback button brings up the last image shot. Pressing the thumbnail button, which is also the decrease magnification button, shows 4 or 9 images at a time. The magnification button goes up to 19x, which is enough to judge image sharpness. Like other Nikon DSLRs, the D40 can superimpose shooting information, histograms, and highlights over the playback image as the user operates the 4-way controller. This also accesses the histogram. The slide show function allows the user to choose which folder is played back, but it's not a complex or ambitious slide show. The best playback feature the D40 inherits from it predecessors is the option of looking at the same zoomed-in section of a series of images. Here's how it works: Zoom in on one image and use the 4-way controller to navigate to a detailed area. Then, turn the control dial. The D40 shows the same detailed area on the next frame. It's great for comparing multiple shots of a single scene. **Movie Mode***(0.0)*The Nikon D40 has no movie mode. It lacks a live preview function, and that is necessary to make movies. DSLRs generally don't offer movie modes.
Manual Control OptionsThe Nikon D40 has full manual control of exposure, white balance, ISO and focus. Most other Nikon DSLRs offer two control dials for exposure and have other interface refinements that make manual shooting easier. The D40 relies on one control dial for all of these adjustments. **Focus***Auto Focus (4.5)*The Nikon D40 has 3 auto focus sensor sites, arrayed in a row across the center of the frame. This arrangement is inferior to the auto focus systems on previous Nikon DSLRs that have 5-11 sites. It's unusual to see a manufacturer take a backward step like this. Many DSLR users of even very advanced cameras focus, then recompose, which is what D40 users will have to do. The difference is, with more sensors, the shifts can be smaller, and in cases where that is impossible, such as when the sensors should be tracking a moving object, it doesn't work at all. The auto focus system is accurate but slow. We found that it handled dim indoor light, as long as the subject was contrasted. The D40 is noticeably inferior to the D70 and D80 in focusing on our low-contrast subjects. *Manual Focus (7.0)*The Nikon D40's focusing screen is bright and contrasted. We found it easy to focus with the D40 even in subdued light. The kit lens is mechanically sloppy, so it's not as easy to focus with it as it would be with a better-quality Nikon lens. **Exposure*** (9.25)
*In addition to setting exposure completely manually, the D40 can set exposure compensation. For normal exposures, the D40 can be set to shoot up to 5 EV above or below the metered reading, in 1/3-EV steps. A button on the camera accesses the exposure compensation feature. Exposure compensation for flash is available only through the camera menu, and runs from 1 EV above to 3 EV below the metered setting.
The general specs of the D40 metering system aren’t as impressive as other Nikon DSLRs – the metering system uses a 420-segment RGB sensor. The D50 and D80 use this same sensor, but other Nikons such as the D70s use a 1,005-segment RGB sensor. Nikon calls its evaluative metering mode "Matrix Metering," which indicates that the D40 compares many separate light readings from across the frame to establish the ideal exposure. The hope is that evaluative systems will recognize backlighting or other difficult lighting situations and compensate for them, getting the exposure right on the subject. As with other Nikons, we found that the Matrix system can be fooled with typical backlit scenes and with bright subjects on black backgrounds. To an extent, that's to be expected: The system will deliver more usable images if it compromises a bit, rather than trying to guess perfectly every time. Few pictures will be perfect, but even fewer will be completely wrong. The D40 also offers center-weighted and spot metering, which are useful for manual shooting. The center-weighted metering option favors the central 75 percent of the frame, while the spot option meters from about a spot that represents about 2.5 percent of the total frame and is centered on the active focus area.
*White Balance***(7.5)*The D40's Auto white balance setting works well, which is good, because that's likely what the target market for the camera will use. The presets are incandescent, fluorescent, direct sun, flash, cloudy and shade. The D40 has an option for fine-tuning the presets. The manual white balance system can take a measurement from a white surface or pick up a balance from existing shots.
ISO*(7.5)*Nikon shies away from using the number "3200" for its maximum ISO setting, so the D40 has a "HI 1" ISO setting that's a full stop above ISO 1600. The D40's conventional ISO range is 200-1600, in full-EV steps. It's too bad that it doesn't offer 1/3-EV steps because small jumps in ISO can get the exposure into a useful range without degrading image quality as much as full-stop jumps. The Nikon D50 has the same full-stepped range, but 1/3 increments are available on the D70 and pricier models.
Shutter Speed*(8.0)*An impressive 1/500-second flash sync speed is the big news with the D40. Its full shutter speed range, from 1/4000-30 seconds, plus Bulb for time exposures, is typical of DSLRs, and it's a completely serviceable range. The D40's shutter speeds are selectable in 1/3-EV steps, which is typically a fine enough interval to get exposure just about perfect.
Aperture*(0.0)*The D40 controls aperture settings on compatible lenses through electronic connections in the lens mount. It can adjust the f-stop in 1/3-EV increments, which is typical for DSLRs and also good enough for even very careful users. The kit lens has maximum apertures of f/3.5 when zoomed wide and f/5.6 when zoomed in.
Picture Quality / Size Options*(8.5)*The Nikon D40 shoots JPEGs in Fine, Normal and Basic quality levels. Fine isn't compressed much, but it offers the best quality, while Basic sacrifices quality to make very small files. The D40 also shoots .NEF files, Nikon's RAW format, which preserves all the sensor data, for editing on a computer.
The D40 offers three file sizes. In pixel dimensions, they are 3008 x 2000, 2256 x 1496 and 1504 x 1000. It's also possible to re-save images at email-able sizes.
Picture Effects Mode*(9.5)*Nikon calls its effects "optimization," and offers 6 presets and a custom option. Normal boosts saturation and sharpness. Softer has more natural saturation and contrast and performs less sharpening on the file. Vivid and More Vivid both increase saturation and boost sharpness. Portrait enhances skin tones and sharpens less. Black and white produces monochrome images. Custom allows the user to adjust saturation, contrast, and sharpness. The D40 offers 2 sRGB color spaces, Ia for portraits and the more vivid IIIa for landscape and still-life. It also offers Adobe RGB that embraces a wider gamut of color. The D40's in-camera editing features change existing images. D-Lighting brightens shadows and mid-tones. Red-eye correction is supposed to eliminate glowing red pupils, but we didn't have a good shot to test the feature (that’s a good thing; we shouldn’t see red eyes in the first place). Trim can crop out extraneous parts of shots. Monochrome changes images into black and white, sepia, or cyanotype-style images. The Filter feature offers 3 options: Skylight is supposed to remove subtle blue casts from distant subjects. Warm tints the image toward amber. Color balance offers a more powerful option for color shifting, with a two-axis graph allowing the user to adjust color on axes for green to magenta and blue to amber. The feature allows fine adjustment over a pretty wide range. Small makes small copies of files for emailing. The choices of size are: 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 160 x 120. Image Overlay combines two .NEF files, laying one partially transparent over the other. It doesn't work with JPEG files. These are fairly extensive image editing options for a DSLR, perhaps to cater to increasingly popular direct printing.
Connectivity / Extras
Connectivity*Software (7.0)*The Nikon D40 comes with PictureProject software that includes options to download, sort, catalog, edit, print and share images. PictureProject reads .NEF files, and can save them as TIFFs or JPEGs, which are compatible with other software and printers. PictureProject offers a range of editing tools in a clear interface and allows the user to add keywords to images so that large collections of images can be searched. *Jacks, Ports, Plugs (7.5)*The D40 offers analog video out for slide shows, USB 2.0 for printing and data transfer, a hot shoe for Nikon dedicated flashes, an infrared port for wireless remote control, and an external power supply connection.
Direct Print Options (7.5)*The D40 can create DPOF print orders, selecting JPEG images for printing, specifying the number of copies to print, and whether or not to imprint the capture date, f-stop and shutter speed. The order is saved on the SD card and can be downloaded to a commercial lab. The D40 can be connected to PictBridge compatible printers and allows the user to set the print size, number of prints, date imprint, and whether to print borders. It also allows cropping. Battery (7.25)*The D40 has a lithium-ion battery and comes with a charger for it. The 7.4-volt, 1000mAh EN-EL9 is much smaller than the batteries in the mid-range Nikons and has a lower capacity. The battery lasted through our testing without a recharge though.
*Memory (3.0)*The Nikon D40 accepts SD memory cards, which are the most popular memory format for cameras. The cards are very small and come in a range of prices and capacities. Most users will be happy with a 1 GB card. The D40 and D50 are the only Nikon DSLRs to be compatible with SD cards, which are typically used in point-and-shoot cameras. Nikon’s other DSLRs use CompactFlash media, which is the traditional format for the heavyweight DSLRs.
Other Features*(7.0)**Analog Display* – seeing a graphic representation of the lens aperture and shutter speed may give users an insight into the function of their camera. *Image Overlay* – The option of combining two images may be fun for some users. This can only be done with NEF files – not JPEGs. *File Folder Management –* Users will be able to organize their images on their memory cards by creating named folders.
****Comparisons***Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi - At about $700, the Canon Rebel XTi offers much more than the $599 Nikon D40. The Rebel XTi is a 10.4-megapixel camera rather than the D40's 6.1-megapixels. The Canon has better auto focus – it has more sensors and handles low-contrast scenes better. The Canon has a system to vibrate dust off the image sensor. The D40 offers more durable construction but no other advantages over the XTi. * ***Olympus** EVOLT E-500 - The Olympus EVOLT E-500 sells for about $675 and comes with two lenses, one comparable to the D40's kit lens, and a telephoto zoom. The E-500 has an 8.1-megapixel sensor for more resolution than the D40. The Olympus E-500 uses a smaller Four-Thirds format sensor, which generally has poorer noise performance than APS-sized sensors like the one on the D40. The E-500 has a dust-removal system which the D40 lacks. The E-500 and the D40 have comparable auto focus specifications. Pentax K110D - The Pentax K110D sells for $450-$550 online, so it costs less than the D40. Both are 6-megapixel DSLRs at the bottom of their manufacturer's lineups and come with 18-55mm lenses. The Pentax's great advantage is that its auto focus system has 9 cross-type sensors and two single-direction ones. We've tested the K100D which has the same system, and it is far superior to the D40's auto focus, handling low contrast better and offering much more flexibility. Other Nikons are better-built than the D40. If the Pentax K110D is built as well as previous Pentax DSLRs, it's likely that the K110D is a more durable camera than the D40 too. *
Value***(7.5)*The Nikon D40 is a stripped-down camera. In cutting corners to sell a DSLR for $599, Nikon has lost qualities that make many of its other DSLRs good value propositions. While the D80 is better-built and more ergonomic than its competition, the D40 is not. The D40 is fully compatible with only a small subset of Nikon lenses, and its auto focus system is a serious limitation. Its value isn't helped by its image quality, which displayed disappointing color performance.
**Who It’s For***Point-and-Shooters - *The D40 is designed for this group. It is simple to use and offers a range of options that will represent value to casual users.
Budget Consumers - *The Nikon D40 costs more than other budget DSLRs, many of which offer better capabilities.*
***Gadget Freaks - The D40 relies on existing technology. There isn't anything unusual or intriguing about it. *Manual Control Freaks - *Though the D40 offers full manual control, every camera in its class does as well, and some of them do it more conveniently. *Pros/Serious amateurs - *The D40 doesn't have the image quality or durability for this group – since it's not compatible with many AF Nikon lenses, it's not a good choice as a backup for higher-end Nikons. This group will gladly pop an extra $300 down for the D80. *
**Conclusion**The Nikon D40 is a disappointment. As Nikon has introduced entry-level DSLRs, the company has tended to make them a little more expensive and a little more capable than much of the competition. In this case, it hasn't. The D40's auto focus system is old-fashioned. It's a backward step, which is something that DSLR manufacturers do at their peril these days. The D40's color is clearly tuned to the snapshot market, which likes eye-popping color, but our results indicate that Nikon went over the top in saturating the reds. The D40 offers plenty of in-camera image editing, but that's not a distinction that provides a significant advantage over other entry-level DSLRs. The Nikon D40 is affordable with a retail price of $599 and a kit lens included, but there are other entry-level DSLRs with similar prices that offer more.
Specs / Ratings