The Nikon D40 is a 6 Megapixel entry-level digital SLR aimed at general consumers, family users and photographic students. It’s designed for first-time DSLR buyers who may be upgrading from a budget film SLR or who’ve outgrown their digital compact. It replaces the D50 at the bottom of Nikon’s current DSLR range and shares aspects of both its predecessor and the higher-end D80
The D40 takes the 6 Megapixel sensor of the D50, adds the menu system and in-camera retouching options of the D80, throws in a decent-sized 2.5in screen, and packs it all into a light, compact and affordable body. The D40 is typically supplied as a kit with a new DX 18-55mm II lens which delivers a general-purpose range equivalent to 27-83mm.
In order to achieve the D40’s size and weight, Nikon made the decision not to include the internal motor required to auto-focus older Nikkor lenses. As such the D40 can only auto-focus with newer Nikkor lenses which feature built-in motors of their own. This decision horrified many enthusiasts with collections of older lenses, but since the D40 is targeted at first-time DSLR owners, it shouldn’t affect them too much. Just know that if you go for the D40, you should equip it with AF-S or AF-I CPU lenses if you want the camera to autofocus; be particularly careful to check for compatibility with third party lenses. Other lenses will still work on the D40, but you’ll need to manually focus them.
With that caveat out the way, the big question is whether the D40 delivers the goods to its target market. Is it an easy-to-use upgrade for first-time DSLR owners? Are its 6 Megapixels sufficient in today’s marketplace? And crucially how does it also compare to budget 10 Megapixel alternatives from rivals like Canon?
At the time of writing, Nikon also announced its own 10 Megapixel version called the D40x and we’ll be considering that model here too; in fact since the D40x is identical other than its higher resolution sensor (and subsequent minor differences in ISO range and continuous shooting), this article also represents a preview of this new model.
So to find out if the Nikon D40 is the ideal entry-level DSLR, not to mention preview the new D40x, read our full article. For an overview of the camera’s design, features and handling, check out our Nikon D40 video tour.
Note: the model tested was a final production unit, running firmware version 1.00. Following our convention of using default factory and best quality JPEG settings to test camera bodies unless otherwise stated, the D40 was set to Large Fine JPEG mode and sRGB, with Auto White Balance, 3D Matrix metering and the Optimise Image parameter set to Normal for sharpening, tone, colour, saturation and hue; Noise Reduction was set to its default Off setting.