Nikon D40 - Modern Classic [REVIEW]

Nikon D40 – Modern Classic [REVIEW]

Nikon-D40.jpg40 Reasons why you don’t need 18mp

In February 2010, Canon released the EOS 550D with an 18 megapixel sensor, HD video and a $900 price tag. Will Canon tell the folks lining up to buy this camera how much extra work it will add to their simple lives? And how much pain it will bring to their photo hobby? Not likely.

The Nikon D40 was released late in 2006 and remained on the market until late 2009. Three years in production is a long time in the land of digital, where 18 months is about the average life of a camera body. What was so special about the D40? For once, there’s a simple answer: the D40 set a new standard for entry-level DSLRs in terms of size, cost, build quality and performance.

In a nutshell, the D40 was affordable, weighs less than 500g and can make great photos. Build quality is better than you’d expect from an all-plastic body and a dinky 18-55mm kit lens – after two years and 50,000 shutter actuations, there isn’t a scratch on my D40’s body or the LCD, and everything still works with crisp enthusiasm.

 D40, D59, D80 size comparison. Photo courtesy of Thom Hogan


Nikon D40 Features

I bought the D40 when it was already obsolete, just after the D60 was released. The speeds and feeds were never much to drool over and now look decidedly crude:

  • 6 megapixel DX format CCD (1.5x FOV crop, as D50)
  • 3D Color Matrix Metering II, 420 pixel sensor (as D80 / D50)
  • ISO sensitivity range 200 – 1600 plus HI 1 (3200 equiv.)
  • Custom Auto ISO (selectable maximum ISO, minimum shutter speed)
  • 2.5 fps continuous shooting (as D50), unlimited in JPEG
  • Large 2.5″ 230,000 pixel LCD monitor
  • Viewfinder with x0.8 magnification, 95% coverage
  • Support for SDHC (SD cards over 2 GB in capacity)

Nikon D40 Lens Options

The D40 achieves its compact size by doing away with the focusing motor that graced the D50, D70 and D80 (and graces the current D90). That means you’re limited to lenses in Nikon’s AF-S and Sigma’s HSM line if you want auto-focus. If you don’t mind doing everything yourself, as we used to a few decades back, you can mount any Nikkor lens on the D40.

The more recent AF Nikkor lenses will meter okay and give you a focus dot in the bottom left of the viewfinder. There’s no anti-shake (Vibration Reduction) technology in the body either, but Nikon has been building VR into most of its lenses for years. Even the cheap 18-55 and 55-200 kit lenses have VR, and they’re the lenses you’ll use most of the time. Yes, they’re cheap and they look it and feel it but Nikon is good at making great lenses at the plasticky bottom end of the price scale. The new 35mm f/1.8 prime follows that tradition.

If you want to go beyond 200mm, there’s a cheap 70-300 option without VR or a more pricey AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor ED 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF option. There’s a Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO Macro, which is less than $300, auto-focuses on the D40 and is as sharp as a tack but has no VR.

A word of caution: these are full-frame (FX) lenses so they’re equivalent to 105 – 450 mm on APS-C sensor (DX) cameras like the D40, D90 and D300 due to the 1.5x crop factor.


The D40 body has very few buttons and knobs to confuse the unwary, and it does without the small LCD that sits atop older and bigger Nikons. The dial that takes the LCD’s place has the usual MASP modes, plus Auto and a few scene modes I never use.

The main screen gives you all the settings you’re most likely to need in a single window you can navigate and dig into. Nikon is well-known for its standard-setting ergonomics, and deservedly so. The rest of the menus are almost as easy to get around. You can check them in detail here.

Handling & Performance

This is one of those rare pieces of equipment where everything just falls to hand, and nothing gets in the way. Intuitive is the word that comes to mind – taking photos is point & shoot easy but a hell of lot quicker. You turn the D40 on and it’s on, bang, just like that. You focus, press the button and it shoots. And it’s ready to shoot again. Even when you’re using flash, there’s little of the frustrating lag you get with digicams.

The D40 is always ready to catch the action with kids, pets or sports. Continuous shooting is only 2.5 frames a second but, if you’re shooting JPEGs, the D40 will keep going until the battery runs out. It helps to use a fast flash card, of course. I’ve never come near filling up the 4GB card I use, even shooting RAW + JPEG, and the battery is good for about 500 shots.

The Nikon D40 is all about light and easy, so it comes as a surprise that it’s one of the few DSLRs on the market that supports flash synch speeds of up to 1/500 sec. Why is this important, you ask. One answer is that you need to shoot at 1/500 or faster to freeze action so, if you want to shoot your kids doing crazy things, faster is better. What if the sun’s bright enough for 1/500 without flash? The problem is that you’ll get harsh contrasts, that’s why you see a flash atop every wedding photographers’ camera. ‘Fill flash’ softens harsh sunlight and is essential when you’re shooting against the sun.

The other reason why 1/500 synch speed is useful is that faster synch speeds let you shoot at larger apertures, which gives you more depth-of-field potential, requires less flash power, lets your flash recycle faster and lets you shoot more frames per second.

Larger apertures also let in more light from the flash which allows you to get further away from the subject. For a two stop increase (from 1/125 to 1/500 for example) you effectively double your maximum flash range. It also means you can make do with a cheaper flash unit, like the compact $150 Nikon SB-400. Read more about it here.

With the D40, even the image files are easy to handle: JPEGs are about 2-3mb and RAW files tend to be around 5. RAW + JPEG is a practical option with the D40, and the combined file size is just under 6mb. That’s one third the size of the Canon EOS 550D’s 18mp files.

Image Quality

The sensor in the D40 is the same 6mp CCD Nikon used in the D50 and D70s. Less than 6 months after the D40’s release, Nikon announced the D40x which borrowed the 10mp sensor from the D80. The reason? Competitors were pushing up the pixel ratings on their cameras, making buyers think 6mp wasn’t nearly enough. That’s rubbish. At 100%, a full size JPEG from the D40 is almost 90 cm wide, much too wide for my 24” screen.

The textbooks say that the D40’s 3008 x 2000 pixel images will let you print up to 30 x 20 cm (12 x 8”). Don’t believe any of it – I have a number of 75 x 50 cm prints from the D40, and they don’t lack detail. If you don’t believe me, different megapixel prints are put to a very public test here.

How good is the sensor?

Resolution (pixel count) by itself doesn’t equate to sharpness. Image sharpness is more to do with the lens you’re using, your shooting technique, and how steady your hand or tripod is. Image quality overall has a lot do with the sensor in your camera.

DxO labs publishes ratings for digital camera sensors using DxOMark, a new scale for measuring RAW digital camera image quality performance.

Let’s come back to the Canon 550D we started with, and do some comparisons:

Comparing the Nikon D40 with the Canon 550D shows us that, no matter how huge the gap in specs, the actual difference is remarkably small. In terms of colour depth and dynamic range, there not much in it but the Canon’s low-light performance is clearly a step ahead of the D40.

When we compare the D40 to Canon’s 15mp Powershot G10 (last year’s pocket wunderkind), we see that the biggest gain in image quality is seen when going from a digicam to a DSLR.

G10 (15mp)              G11/S90 (10mp)

DxOMark Sensor                37.8                       46.5

Colour Depth                      19.5                       20.2

Dynamic Range                  10                          11

Low-light ISO                     157                        185

I copied the DxOMark for the G11/S90 to show that Canon saw the light on megapixels with its digicams late last year, settling for 10mp sensors in the G11 and S90. Why Canon’s DSLR division hasn’t done the same is puzzling.

The Nikon D40 is not perfect

It uses the sensor from the older D50/D70s, while the D40x uses the D80’s 10mp sensor. The D5000 uses the new generation sensor from the D90. The improvement is less to do with the 12 megapixels and more with Nikon getting better at sensor design and image processing.

I’ve used a friend’s D90 and it does produce more detailed images, and cleaner ones in low light situations. It also has three times as many settings to waste time with because 98% of them are just techno-clutter (the user manual is several hundred pages long). If only they’d make a version of this sensor with 6 or 8mp – it’s low-light performance should rival that of a D700.

What about live view and video?

Live view is as yet a clunky affair on DSLRs but I admit that there are situations where I’d like the flip-out viewfinder from the D5000. Video? It holds no interest for me, and Thom Hogan calls Nikon’s DSLR video ‘toy video’. Canon is probably ahead on that score.

The dark side of megapixels

I might buy a Nikon D90/D5000 for the sensor, not for the extra pixels. All the files are twice as big, and your PC will be slow to open the RAW files. Imagine what happens with 18 megapixels: your PCs knees will buckle unless you have a serious graphics processor in it. Remember, the ability to record quality RAW files is one of the key reasons for lugging a DSLR around.

The Canon’s RAW files will be around 25mb in size, and bigger if you shoot RAW and JPEG like most of us. Suddenly your PC is too slow, your flash card too small, your back-up drive too cramped and backups take forever. Unless you have a hot-shoe 4-cpu rig with a potent graphics card, editing RAW files will be painful. And what can you actually do with those extra pixels and those huge files? Print wallpaper for your lounge room? My bet is you’ll soon choose medium or small JPEG files on the shooting menu.

Small is beautiful. The D40 is light, easy and quick to start, focus and shoot. You can chuck it into the back seat of your car and it doesn’t mind. It has all the essentials except for DOF preview and a motor drive for older lenses, and it has very few features you don’t need. You can buy a refurbished one with kit lens for <$400. What more can you ask for? Check the photos galleries in my blog, and you’ll see why I love my D40.

Get a price on the Nikon D40 at Amazon

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Nikon D40 – Modern Classic
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Kim Brebach is a marketing professional whose experience spans over 3 decades in the IT industry. His interests include photography, cool technology, great music, theatre and books, wine and food, tennis and chess. You can find his photo blog at Get the Picture.

Some Older Comments

  • paulyb September 21, 2013 10:36 am

    My D40 has done 45,000 actuations, and I'm not even an amateur, just snaps of my kids, buildings, landscapes on days out. The D40 still takes great pictures, and taught me a lot about photography. I'm not sure I'll ebay it, I'm rather attached to it, especially with the 35mm 1.8 AFS.

  • Ayyappan March 11, 2011 09:05 pm

    I am using it since January 2009. Just Over two years. Its my first DSLR and I am quite happy with it.
    I had to clean the lens twice due to fungus. Now fungus is creeping into my sensor and it shows in picture with lower apertures. I have decided to get it cleaned. Hope the camera can be saved.

  • Kim Brebach March 2, 2011 09:21 pm

    Really thrilled with all the contributions to this thread, guys. I have a kind of sequel to the story, which you can read about on my blog: ( I don't contribute to this site any longer ). Once I upgraded to a D5000, I sold my D40 to one of my sons. The D5000 is a bit heftier so I looked for something I could carry more easily.

    The glowing reviews persuaded me to buy a Panny Lumix GF-1 but wasn't impressed with its performance despite the nice package. Then I went the whole hog and bought a Canon S95, a truly pocketable alternative but the images went south as soon as the light did. Guess where the quest for portable performance ended up? With a Nikon D40x.

    I know I'm nuts but I'm a happy one.

  • Kim Brebach February 12, 2011 08:13 am

    Good to hear, Neal. Love your work.

  • neal February 12, 2011 04:02 am

    I use my D40 for all things that I needed something light and low maintenance for, which became all the things i shot.

    This is my professional portfolio, and most of the shots are taken on my old D40. (the rest were taken on slide positive velvia film and scanned in)

    I ended up buying a D200 simply for more features but I end up carrying the D40 around most of the time because of the weight and very similar picture quality.

  • andy schulz January 29, 2011 11:01 pm

    yes! I just bought one ,especially for the 1/500 sync time for freezing action shots.Have it for 2 days now love it . Bought it from an old guy, can you imagine he bought it 2007 and shot 1000 clicks with it. Is lokking brand new:)
    So will looking forward to use this lttle wonder. cheers andy

  • Mohon December 7, 2010 02:58 pm

    I want to buy a dslr camera. Is Nikon D40 perfect for me??????????

  • Robby October 9, 2010 06:09 am

    Have had my d40 for 8 months and 6000 pics. In india I got in a motorcycle accident with the body and kit lens on my chest and the lens broke off but the body still is perfect!!! I know use 35mm 1.8 exclusively. The two frustrating thing is low light (high iso) often is super noisy and I can't figure out how to take long exposures in low light, like moonlight landscapes, star trails, candle light scenes, even on full manual...... I tell it exactly what to do and it says 'subject is too dark' I just want it to do what it's told on full manual! Can someone help?

    Also, I'm confused if I have to get dx lens or if all nikons or canon lens work. I need another lens, prefer wide, and am poor. I also REALLY like primes.

  • Robby October 9, 2010 06:08 am

    Have had my d40 for 8 months and 6000 pics. In india I got in a motorcycle accident with the body and kit lens on my chest and the lens broke off but the body still is perfect!!! I know use 35mm 1.8 exclusively. The two frustrating thing is low light (high iso) often is super noisy and I can't figure out how to take long exposures in low light, like moonlight landscapes, star trails, candle light scenes, even on full manual...... I tell it exactly what to do and it says 'subject is too dark' I just want it to do what it's told on full manual! Can someone help?

    Also, I'm confused if I have to get dx lens or if all nikons or canon lens work. I need another lens, prefer wide, and am poor. I also REALLY like primes.

  • Pat August 31, 2010 04:53 am

    I own both the D60 and D40 cameras and by far, I much prefer my D40.

  • Monstrox July 8, 2010 04:35 pm


    I am new here... just would like to share that I too bought a D40x, albeit in Hong Kong. (where I live)

    I bought it second hand from a small specialist camera shop, which was somewhere hidden in an old office building... no fancy glitter shop... but a fully stuffed/cluttered small shop. Which had cameras/boxes stacked ontop of one another, almost reaching the ceiling.

    The price was not too bad... with the kit-lens included for US$255 total, the camera is like new - no scratches, its just pristine. Works like a charm. So far I am extremely pleased.

  • sunglasses July 2, 2010 03:20 am

    I wanted to buy a good camera. I think your post helped me alot on decision making of buying those. I know that's expensive, I need to make sure that it worth it. I think it is.

  • gromit June 15, 2010 05:32 am


    Switch the Program dial to "S" (shutter priority) and spin the multi-function dial (by your thumb) to set the shutter speed to 1/500 (reads: 500).

    This won't necessarily fit your specific shooting situation, but it's a nice bit of flexibility to have, and most dSLRs don't offer it. Times you might use it: stopping fast action, or using fill-in flash with very bright ambient.


  • gromit June 15, 2010 01:12 am

    msh: Try this -

    Set the program dial to "S" (shutter priority). Spin the multi-function (thumb) dial to set the shutter speed to 1/500 (reads as "500"). Turn on your flash and there you go.

    Whether this gives the results you want depends entirely on your shooting situation and what kind of image you're looking for, but it's a tremendous bit of flexibility for an "entry-level" dSLR. You won't always need 1/500 sync, but it's a great thing to have when you do (like using a flash where you want to stop fast action or where you want fill flash with a lot of ambient light).


  • anne June 15, 2010 01:02 am

    Thanks Lambert, Allan and Kim for ur reply.
    I got to choose between Nikon D40 and Nikon D5000( wait and save up). Lets see.

  • msh June 15, 2010 12:18 am

    hi, thanks where i can set these in the camera or in the flash unit, sorry im not familiar with my d40 yet just newbie in dslr

  • allan levene June 14, 2010 11:05 pm

    These are the specs -

    • Combined mechanical and CCD electronic shutter
    • 30 to 1/4000 sec (1/3 EV steps)
    • Flash X-Sync: up to 1/500 sec
    • Bulb

    I don't know why your SB-xx doesn't synch to 1/500. I suggest calling Nikon.e

  • msh June 14, 2010 10:57 pm

    hi, theres no adjustment of flash sync in d40 cant find 1/500

  • allan levene June 13, 2010 09:01 pm

    In respect to flash, the D40 sync up to 1/4000th with off camera flash. The SB-600 won't let you sync past 1/500 and do its computer tricks. Just adjust the shutter speed to 1/500th and fire away. The 600 will do the rest..

    If you use a piece of Scotch tape to block the "computer" pin on the SB-600/800 and so on, so only the center trigger pin touches the hot shoe, it become s a manual flash and you can sync as fast as you want.

  • Helen Oster June 13, 2010 06:03 pm


    Thanks for the recommendation for finding a refurbished D40 at Adorama - we do get them in, but they go out again VERY fast!

    If you ever have specific questions - or need after-sales advice - concerning an order from Adorama Camera, you are most welcome to contact me directly.

    Helen Oster
    Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador

  • msh June 13, 2010 01:07 pm

    hi, how can i use the flash sync to 1/500? in what mode of setting? im using sb600

  • Kim June 12, 2010 08:23 am

    Anne, the Pentax K-x is the stand-out bargain right now - down to under $500k in places. It's a good solid camera with a decent kit lens. A refurbished Nikon D40 or D40x will set you back about $400 (Adorama often have those.

    Hope that helps

  • Allan Levene June 11, 2010 11:35 pm

    The D40 is fine. You can shoot at very high ISO to avoid camera shake, and use the current software to produce wonderful noise free results

    Ignore the siren call for fancy latest generation camera bodies. The manufacturers just want to sell new products, so you'll get rid of great older gear without any benefit, except you'll make them some money.

    Compared to ten years ago, every modern DSLR produces better results than the best film cameras. That includes the D40. And the D40 has real advantages if you plan to use flash.

    It's all in the lighting, not the camera body.

  • D. Lambert June 11, 2010 10:30 pm

    The best cure for shaky hands is a tripod, hands down. The next best cure is a fast lens (IMO), followed by VR. Also, since your investment in lenses is likely to outlive your investment in a camera body, give some thought to whether you're comfortable being in Nikon, Pentax, etc., equipment for the long haul. You may find yourself upgrading your camera body at some point (even if that's years from now), but if you can't keep your lenses and use them with a new body, that *really* gets expensive.

    If you like Nikon's line, then starting with the D40 would probably be a good move. If you ever outgrow it, there are some fine cameras to upgrade to, and you won't have a ton invested in the body. If you don't outgrow it, you've still got a good camera and a great selection of lenses.

  • Anne June 11, 2010 06:59 am

    I m looking out for a new DSLR . Dont have a lot of money. But really want to take some good pics of my kids , flowers, landscape and want to make prints too. But since money is tight can choose only Nikon D40 or may be Pentax Kx. But I have 2 concerns my hands r shaky (kit lens does not have VR)( Q. is will the kit lens still take non blurry pics)
    I want to make large prints (up to16X20)( 6.1 mp).
    This might be the only DSLR I ll buy cant keep up with ever changing technology. Any advice will be appreciated.


  • Jan May 18, 2010 03:24 pm

    Thank you for a great article and this confirms my thinking about digital photography. I have been thinking all along that this game the major camera companies have been playing is going on far too long. Yes there generally is no need for more than 6-7 megapixels but things keep growing. There are so many features on different models it makes your head spin and in actuality most of the features are software related (ISO, timer, WB, for instance) and there really is no need to upgrade the camera. I know I own a Canon XSI and will not upgrade until it breaks and then I wont be upgrading much. I can get fine shots as is.

  • Sandy May 10, 2010 12:23 am

    I appreciate the extensive knowledge base that is found in this conversation. Would someone explain what this lens would be useful for:
    Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO Macro Motorized Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon SLR Cameras

    I am looking for a lens to do macro photography. I have the kit lens, a nifty 50 and a 55-200 zoom (wish I had splurged and gotten the 18-200)

    I am trying to figure out what the difference is in lens and what I need before I spend more money. I keep thinking I want a D90 but I don't know if that will improve my photos or if I need more lens.

  • Greg May 7, 2010 10:39 am

    I was provided this camera for a test drive and used it for about a week (about 500-600 shots in various conditions). I must say that I was a bit disappointed as to me it seemed as a step backwards from D50, save for a few features, like bigger screen and somewhat better interface.

    Two features that are important for me and were removed (probably for cost reasons) are:

    1. A top LCD screen (it would help to make setting changing faster). It looks like the top screens disappeared in all entry level Nikons (D80/90 is the first model getting them).

    2. A screw drive, meaning you are limited in your choice of AF lens to newer (and often expensive) AFS and the like.

    There is not much difference (if at all) in image quality, either in RAW or JPEG (as this review states, the same sensor is used that explains it).

  • Beorne May 7, 2010 02:15 am

    Thanks for this article. As a budding hobbyist, I have truly enjoyed my D40. I keep telling myself to overcome the "want" for a D90 and continue to learn and enjoy the D40. Your article reminded me that I am on the right track.

  • Kim Brebach May 1, 2010 06:37 pm

    Thanks for all the positive feedback, people.
    I've arranged some of my best D40 photos in this gallery
    If you have special photos you'd like to share (within reason and resized), I'd be happy to add another gallery.

  • mgamaranto May 1, 2010 03:41 am

    I bought my Nikon D40 when my daughter was graduating in High School. I have been a big fan of Nikon since I first had my Nikon FE in 1983 and have been using it for almost more than a decade then I decided to go digital. A friend of mine had a D50 and have used it several times before making my decision and got the D40 after reading its review and features. So far I was not sorry for buying my D40 for since 2007 until now it is going strong and I have used it to cover several sports events with a stunning success and crisp pictures.

    Thanks for this article for it just added to my confidence with my D40.

  • gmomada May 1, 2010 03:16 am

    I loved this article because I love my D-40 and wouldn't trade it for anything else. Thanks for taking public the facts that all D-40 owners already know. I talked my brother into tracking one down on the internet when he was shopping for a new DSLR earlier this year.

  • Jim May 1, 2010 02:25 am

    I think the D 59 was the one Nikon developed with James Cameron. It shot up to 4.2 seconds of 1080 3D video. Just not very practical ;)

  • Megan@SortaCrunchy April 30, 2010 10:19 pm

    Thank you for this! My husband and I bought a D40 back in December 2007 - mostly persuaded by Ken Rockwell's glowing reviews. I'm just a hobbyist who loves taking pictures of our kids, and the D40 has been an incredible camera for us. I rarely shoot anything with flash, but when I must, the SB400 works just fine for bouncing off the ceiling. We have the kit, the 55-200, and the nifty fifty, and I find that that is all the diversity I need.

    Of course, I drool over the D90 daily, but for meeting my *needs* (not my wants), the D40 works wonderfully. Small is beautiful, indeed!

  • Jeni Gray April 30, 2010 10:25 am

    I have the D40x and LOVE it!!!!!!!!!!

  • Synesthetic Symphony April 30, 2010 09:50 am

    I am a student photography hobbyist, and I bought a D40 as my first DSLR. I think that it is an incredible entry-level camera. I have learned a great deal about advanced photography with it, and I am majorly in love with it.

  • Ann Strober April 30, 2010 01:55 am

    I bought the D40X with the 18-135 lens and then got the 70-300 VR. I absolutely love it. The colors pop and the camera fits my hand perfectly. I love the light weight with the smaller zoom. When I print for display, I increase the res to 300 and get great prints. I am more tempted to buy a used D40X to reduce the lens switching then buy one of the more complicated models.

  • Allan Levene April 30, 2010 01:45 am

    I use two D40s in wedding photography. I've had 2 D300s which I've got rid of, because the D40 is the best camera for this application. Why? The author is only half right about the flash. While it does sync at 1/500 using Nikon flashes atop the camera it actually syncs to 1/3000 using off camera flash.

    I create effects using the D40 that I can't do with the new generation cameras because it has a superior shutter as did the D70 series. I may be tempted by the D400 when it comes out, but until then the D40 is tops.

    Finally, I agree with the author. These camera produce high quality prints as large as I've ever done - 30x40 inches and no one has ever commented about any lack of quality.

  • JP Lumansoc April 29, 2010 05:00 pm

    The D40 was definitely a game changer in the entry level area. For the price the quality wasn’t half bad especially if you upgraded from the sub-par kit lens. My sister has one and having such a light weight body is fantastic. Great for the casual photographer, but very lacking for anyone attempting to do anything serious with photography.

    I need to correct some of the information on this article as some of it isn’t true and I hate to see bad info passed out to people trying to learn more about digital photography.

    In terms of performance, it’s not much faster than high end point and shoots of today and for an SLR its ridiculous slow. You could have made the speed claim 4 years ago but not so much now as comparable sony/canon slrs in the price range destroyed it when it came to focusing speed. The shutter lag is measured in tenths of a second which makes its very disappointing for shooting sports, the only way to make up for that is to shoot nonstop and then eventually you’ll get a decent shot.

    Secondly, most every camera sensor has very similar color depth and dynamic range, it’s the ISO quality that is the big player in today’s sensor war next to the number of megapixels. As for the amount of megapixels to get equivalent pixel density of a D700 you’ll need more like 5 to 5.5 megapixels. You do also have to note with Canon’s SLR’s, they made other advancements in sensor design (gapless photosites, even if ISO quality hasn’t improved. The ability to keep the same ISO quality in more megapixels means that they can produce a less dense sensor with better quality, they just choose not to because more megapixels means better marketing abilities. I also think that the ISO quality of most cameras today is good enough anyways for most people. Everyone sees the noise in a 1:1 100% crop preview on their computer, but when they print, you won’t tell at all unless you’re doing something bigger than 12” and when you down res a photo, that automatically reduces noise as well. But then again that is all personal preference and how much money you got to burn.

    I also note that when printing, megapixels is not direction proportionate to printing size. Let’s take your D40 (6mp) and compare it to a Nikon D90/Rebel XSi (12m. Let’s assume that we’re printing at 300dpi, you would think that 12mp would mean twice the image size of 6 and 21 would almost double 12. Your picture doesn’t mean it gets twice as big though. A 6 megapixel photo (2000x3000px) printed @ 300dpi means you’re only able to print a 6.7x10” where as a 12megapixel photo (2828x4243px) is able to print at 10x15” which means you have twice as many pixels but only an increase of about 40%... sounds like the inverse square law to me… I hear people say they’ve made big prints from small cameras. Yeah, its true there are people who can’t tell the difference and I would agree with jumps from 8, 10 or 12, but I can tell the diff on a 16x20 with my sisters D40 and my 5D Mark II and even my older 5D and my 50D. People have different eyes and I would agree your average person may not tell, but given time even the budding photographer will eventually tell the difference.

    Lastly computer performance, dual core cpu’s are more than enough to run photoshop, aperture, lightroom or whatever you use. I like how everyone says quad core is the way to go, but it seriously won’t make as big of a difference as having fast hard drives as those will exponentially speed up your editing time as much as having plenty of ram (2GB minimum, 4GB is a good amount for most everyone one and 8+ if you’re an event photographer) . Lastly , graphics cards are useless when it comes to editing most photos, unless you’re doing 3D stuff. Photoshop CS4/5 kind barely take advantage of video cards when you run multiple complicated filters at the same time.

  • Stacy Hart April 29, 2010 02:31 am

    Love my D40! It's my first DSLR. If you can find one still hanging around somewhere or a refurb one, you can't go wrong!

  • Con April 28, 2010 11:11 pm

    I owned a D40, and recently went to Canon for a T2i (the HD video with mic input is very useful for me, personally).

    The D40 was AMAZING. I loved it. However, it was HORRIBLE on ISO over 400. My mother now has the D40, and I use my Canon (so in a sentimental sense, it's nice to have my first DSLR around the house still).

    It was a great camera for my venture into SLR photography.

    *tear* ;,-[

  • Kim Brebach April 28, 2010 07:46 am

    Kenneth, I agree with you: the T2i is an awesome camera. I'm testing it right now and have started a diary with first impressions on my blog .
    There's also an image gallery.
    Here's the story so far: the T2i does everything the D40 doesn't, and does it all for you. You have to work a little to get the best out of a D40, while the Canon does it all for you.

    Re the opening sentence of the article - it's a time-honoured technique to open with a challenge to get everyone's attention.

  • Kenneth Rivera April 28, 2010 02:59 am

    A few things...

    Personally, I believe 100% the art is in the eye not in the equipment.
    But at the same time better equipment helps to get the shoot... everybody needs to admit that. With my Canon T1i I'm able to push the limits of the ISO with the strong noise reduction turned on and shoot at ISO 6400 with almost the same quality as my old Canon XT at ISO 1600... if that's not a big advantage I don't know what it is then... This not only applies to Canon, I bet top DSLR entry level for Nikon would significant improve compared to their predecessors... maybe not on MP but sure on other Nikon's strategy focus points (ISO/Noise reduction/AF/weight/so on....)

    And also Canon T1i/T2i are not only about MP, the camera itself is a masterpiece if you ask me. Great focusing system, great ISO performance, Video Mode, Live View... for an entry level camera I think it was a nice shock for the competition.

    Some nice links + articles:
    Few links to T2i @ ISO 3200 tests -
    5 reasons why Canon 550D may be the only DSLR you every need:

    I like the review of the camera... it's written with a lot of love towards the product. It's good to fall in love with things that perform good and have a lot of sentimental value, we all fall in love with a particular lens/camera/tripod that might not be the super-ultra-mega-top of the line... I love my old Canon XT hehe :)

    ***BUT*** the opening line of this post is a straight attack to Canon's approach to increase MP as part of their market strategy, and that removes credibility to the rest of the message. Here's my 5c to improvement, don't start a review post trashing the competition.

  • Shariq April 28, 2010 02:36 am

    PS: Maybe I should point out obviously that it's the built in AF in the 18-200mm that works, as the D40x doesn't have one. Likewise, f/1.8 50mm will not AF on the D40(x).

  • Shariq April 28, 2010 02:32 am


    Not sure about D40 in particular but I use my 18-200mm Nikkor all the time with my D40x. Works brilliantly, esp the auto focus although I tend not to use the auto focus unless I'm shooting animals or children (or similar action). The VR is pretty good as well and I rarely use any thing other than a Gorillapod (or my GF's shoulder!) for further stability. I have even gotten rid of my 18-55mm kit lens and the Sigma 55-200mm that I bought with it, since this is the ultimate walk around lens. There is some compromise of course, since it does most focal lengths acceptably sharp but none super sharp. To get over that I got myself a f/1.8 50mm and love it.

    All the pics in the following Safari album were taken with my D40x + 18-200mm.

    Happy to discuss offline.

    All the best

  • Kenneth Rivera April 28, 2010 12:59 am

    Take 2 (my message is not getting published)

    A few things...

    Personally, I believe 100% the art is in the eye not in the equipment.
    But at the same time better equipment helps to get the shoot... everybody needs to admit that. With my Canon T1i I'm able to push the limits of the ISO with the strong noise reduction and shoot at ISO 6400 with almost the same quality as my old Canon XT at ISO 1600... if that's not a big advantage I don't know what it is then... This not only applies to Canon, I bet top DSLR entry level for Nikon would significant improve compared to their predecessors... maybe not on MP but sure on other Nikon's strategy focus points (ISO/Noise reduction/AF/weight/so on....)

    And also Canon T1i/T2i are not only about MP, the camera itself is a masterpiece if you ask me. Great focusing system, great ISO performance, Video Mode, Live View... for an entry level camera I think it was a nice shock for the competition.

    Some nice links + articles:
    Few links to T2i @ ISO 3200 tests -
    5 reasons why Canon 550D may be the only DSLR you every need:


    I like the review of the camera... it's written with a lot of love towards the product. It's good to fall in love with things that perform good and have a lot of sentimental value, we all fall in love with a particular lens/camera/tripod that might not be the super-ultra-mega-top of the line... I love my old Canon XT hehe :)

    ***BUT*** the opening line of this post is a straight attack to Canon's approach to increase MP as part of their market strategy, and that removes credibility to the rest of the message. Here's my 5c to improvement, don't start a review post trashing the competition.

  • Kenneth Rivera April 27, 2010 02:46 pm

    A few things...

    Personally, I believe 100% the art is in the eye not in the equipment.
    But at the same time better equipment helps to get the shoot... everybody needs to admit that. With my Canon T1i I'm able to push the limits of the ISO with the strong noise reduction and shoot at ISO 6400 with almost the same quality as my old Canon XT at ISO 1600... if that's not a big advantage I don't know what it is then... This not only applies to Canon, I bet top DSLR entry level for Nikon would significant improve compared to their predecessors... maybe not on MP but sure on other Nikon's strategy focus points (ISO/Noise reduction/AF/weight/so on....)

    And also Canon T1i/T2i are not only about MP, the camera itself is a masterpiece if you ask me. Great focusing system, great ISO performance, Video Mode, Live View... for an entry level camera I think it was a nice shock for the competition.

    Some nice links + articles:
    Few links to T2i @ ISO 3200 tests -
    5 reasons why Canon 550D may be the only DSLR you every need:


    I like the review of the camera... it's written with a lot of love towards the product. It's good to fall in love with things that perform good and have a lot of sentimental value, we all fall in love with a particular lens/camera/tripod that might not be the super-ultra-mega-top of the line... I love my old Canon XT hehe :)

    ***BUT*** the opening line of this post is a straight attack to Canon's approach to increase MP as part of their market strategy, and that removes credibility to the rest of the message. Here's my 5c to improvement, don't start a review post trashing the competition.

  • Florian Manach April 26, 2010 10:04 pm


    I think you are about to make a mistake that too many people make.

    Don't buy more lenses just to have more lenses.
    Don't upgrade just to have a better camera.

    Keep the money aside and wait for the moment where you'll say... "F*CK, I can't take the picture I want because I haven't the good lens" and then use the money to get the lens you need.

    Idem for the camera. If you don't feel, inside yourself that you NEED (different than to WANT) a higher range camera... that means that you D40 suits you well so don't upgrade.

  • Kim Brebach April 26, 2010 10:01 pm

    A couple of links for you, Sandy:

    Florian, I admit that the D40 has some drawbacks. An AF motor would be helpful on occasion.

  • Sandy April 26, 2010 09:42 pm

    I am enjoying all the comments on lens/cameras but am feeling a little lost in the discussion. Could someone direct me to an article on FOV and APS-C? I have money set aside to either upgrade or buy more lens but I am torn since I don't understand these terms.

  • Florian Manach April 26, 2010 02:29 pm


    To be able to recompose the photo is not a bad practice. At the time of film photography... We did that very often during the impression process.

    Concerning the non-afs lenses... It is not a matter of FOV. At a given focal lenght and a given aperture, the FOV is the same on a crop censor with and FF lense or a DX lense. Not having an af motor dramatically reduct the choice in lenses and lenses with intern motor are dramatically more expensive. Also take in consideration that with FF lenses on APS-C , you only use the best part of the image and get a lot more sharpness. D90 will permit you to enjoy deeply this great lenses by autofocusing them.

    I would personnaly recommend the upgrade to the d90 for people who feel limited by the options of the d40 and who need more (flash contrôler, fov preview, more af points, for example). This is why i upgraded and i will Never regret that.

    Kim, I think that you have to admit that the D40 has Some drawbacks like the lack of af motor and that it is NOT what everyone need... Don't take it so personnaly.

  • Jurgen2087 April 26, 2010 12:53 pm

    I love my D40. I have several modern Nikons (D3x, D3, D300s, D2x) and usually prefer this small wonder when I go out with the family or friends... though the D300s also gets used in this way. In fact I am now looking for a replacement D40 since mine has over 90,000 actuations and I'm worried about its longevity - no problems so far yet. Even its high iso performance is excellent, images at 800 are very usable, I have printed them A0 format without problems seen. Does anyone know where I can get a new one?

  • Kim Brebach April 26, 2010 10:21 am

    That's an amazing shot, Robert. It does underscore the point, doesn't it? I hear what you say about megapixels, giving you so much freedom to crop, and it's a benefit at times. At others, it actually encouragaes sloppy composing because you can always fix the photo by cropping. It's a choice we have to make. I'd be happy with 10mp, or 12 max.

    Sandy, most non-AF-S Nikon lenses are film lenses so, while the D90 will AF with them, the FOV you get on an APS-C (crop) sensor camera is quite a lot narrower. In practice, that makes those lenses not that useful in my experience (except on a D700 or D3). Therefore I'd stick with the D40 and get more AF-S or similar lenses from Sigma and Tamron.

  • Sandy April 26, 2010 07:04 am

    Question - Would it be smarter to upgrade to the D90 and not have to worry about AF-S lens or put the money into more lens. I already have the AFS 55-200 and the 50mm 1.4.

  • Omer April 25, 2010 04:54 pm

    Beautiful cameras I am planning to get one soon

  • Eddie Savage April 25, 2010 12:49 pm

    I picked up a D40 last year, opting to start with that rather than with D3000. Love the thing.

  • Robert April 25, 2010 10:26 am

    Robert again. Can't stay away. :D

    There have been times that I wished for more megapixels. Usually it comes from a shot where to make it work, a heavy crop is required. And, when that's the case, it certainly would be nice to have more starting material to work with.

    Now, that being said, I'm only talking one or two percent of my shots, and more importantly, none of my top ones. If you're so far away or off-focus (in the attention sense, not the lens) that your most interesting material isn't framed exactly how you want it, the chance of you capturing something really solid by accident is very small. It's possible to have a happy accident occasionally, but they will *very* seldom be something that's in one's top 10%.

    Ken Rockwell's contentious Megapixel Myth page is here:

    He writes with an occasionally hyperbolic style, but his point is solid. While it can be nice to have more pixels, 1, you need a lot more to make a big difference, and 2, it gets very expensive, very fast.

    You're almost always better served getting a less-expensive back and spending your money on good lenses. Good lenses have lifespans measured in decades. Digital backs don't.

    Now, as for me, my next camera after my D40 finally starts to feel limiting? Likely a full-frame Nikon with lots of pixels to play with.

    But it's taken me years of practice to get to the point where I feel I understand the advantages that a 'better' camera can offer me, much less have the skill to be able to take advantage of. And in the interim, cameras have gotten much, much better, so anything I do buy is going to be more the capable for having waited.

    One final thought- It's always possible to do more than you think with what you have. Let me share with you a 20 Megapixel (12600*1600) shot I took in 1999.

    (Here's the direct link: )

    How did I do it? I took 36 shots with my Kodak DC-280. 2 Megapixels, almost no manual control. For a polarizer I simply held my polarized sunglasses in front of the lens. I waited for the sun to hide behind a cloud to further reduce the dynamic range of the scene, then fired away.

    I wasn't able to successfully merge the images until a couple years ago, too, as the tools available and my skill level slowly got to the point where I could pull it off.

    Moral of the story: Don't let 'less than perfect' equipment stop you. Figuring out what to do with what you have is half the fun!

  • Kim Brebach April 25, 2010 08:27 am

    mr.terrypaul, setting it the IQ to 8mp, the 550Dstill makes great photos, only smaller ones. It's fine unless you need to print bigger than 2 x 3 feet.

    Anna, there is no comparable 18mp Nikon, that's why I used the Canon as an example. The only Nikon that is more than 12mp is the D3x and it costs nearly 10 grand. The other point is, and I will expand on this in my upcoming review of the 550D, that Canon opted for fewer megapixels (14 down to 10) for their new G11 and S90 digicams and this resulted in improved image quality. It therefore begs the question: why did they go the other way with their DSLRs?

  • Anna April 25, 2010 12:42 am

    Note to B: Thought I recognised the voice form a previous oaccasion. There’s a revised Pentax K-x review up on this site under cameras and equipment.. I’m not trashing the Canon 550D, I’m simply making the point that most of us don’t need more magapixels so why don’t camera makers put their efforts elsewhere?

    If that's the case, then why didn't you just compare it to a higher megapixel Nikon camera? Because in comparing it to a rival brand, it sounds like trashing.

    This is an advertisement, pure and simple. I'm fairly new to DPS, but I am extremely disappointed.

  • Kim Brebach April 24, 2010 06:53 pm

    Thanks for putting me in the picture, guys.
    And B., why don't you fly away and pick the nits out of someoen else's ramblings for a while? Or get a life?

  • digital cameras April 24, 2010 04:47 pm

    The photo you took is absolutely amazing. I really think it is about time I forked out and bout a proper SLR camera. I have been following photography blogs for years but always stopped myself thinking it was just a fad. This post might have just convinced me otherwise.

    Thank you for writing such an in depth review. And thanks Darren for everything else.


  • B April 24, 2010 03:11 pm

    Right with you there Robert. While I don't think any of us look forward to the prospect of sifting through 50,000 photos any time in the near future, storage space really isn't an issue; at this point, it's practically free.

    It's become pretty obvious that Kim likes to sow some confusion and scare people a bit to bring their opinions in line with his. So be it. You know, I love my little old 300D too, and I do the best I can with it, but I'm not about to start making excuses like nobody needs 18 megapixels! just to make myself feel better.

    Like I said, my absolutely ancient rig has no problem grinding through 21MP RAW files. Kim must have some other problems with his machine if it threatens to fail on him with files from a T2i. And I see there was no counter to the fact that yes, generally higher resolutions mean sharper photos for a given resolution.

    Anyway, yeah just to further clear up the unnecessary FUD in the original article, no the graphics processor is not going to be the bottleneck and most of us will never have to worry about it. As Robert and others have said RAM is the most important component to speed up image editing, and after that the hard drive, actually. You will be caching data to the drive, so a faster drive means faster response times -- many people are looking forward to prices falling on solid state drives for this reason.

    Kim: keep shooting. You'll figure it out someday. In the meantime, hope you have fun and enjoy whatever you shoot with.

  • Robert April 24, 2010 02:48 pm

    Same Robert as before. Just wanted to mention to Kim (and any others who are interested)-- the single most important upgrade a person can do to improve the performance of their computer when processing photos is to add more RAM.

    Any CPU from the past 5 years is going to be fast enough; raw processing speed just hasn't been an issue for a long time. Same with hard drives-- while the megapixel count has creeped up on camera bodies, the amount of storage you can get for your dollar has increased much, much faster. A 1.5 terabyte drive costs all of $100 from Amazon. Let's take a theoretical 10 megapixel RAW file, with zero compression applied (in other words, completely unrealistically large.) That comes out to about 30 megabytes per shot.

    Our 1.5tb drive could hold a little less than 53,000 shots, in a worse-than-worst-case scenario. For $100. Storage space just isn't an issue any more.

    Now, back to memory. 2 gigs costs about $50 via Amazon. Most people have one or two gig machines. Image editing will eat that as an appetizer. Going to the 4-gig max that 32-bit versions of windows can support will breathe new life in to a machine more than any other upgrade one can get. I can guarantee that your machine will feel like a brand new unit if you go from 2 to 4 gigs of ram. Stop the disk paging & you'll stop the digital molasses effect. :)

  • fajar April 24, 2010 01:40 pm

    Kim: I see that you have now accepted the fact that crop factor is applied to all lenses mounted on APS-C sensor camera. Good for you Kim.

  • Tito Rianto April 24, 2010 12:36 pm

    love my D40, D50 and D90 and now looking for Canon 7d for it's shutter speed compare to D90 and D300s.

  • Kim Brebach April 24, 2010 12:32 pm

    Thanks for all the feedback. Sorry, haven't had time to respond in detail until now.

    Re: lenses:
    The AF-S Nikkor 70-300 VR will autofocus (AF will not but AF-S will, so the lesser versions will not). The Sigma 70-300 will as long it comes with the 'in-built motor for Nikon'.
    The cheap Nikon lenses are indeed bargains, and the 35mm is a winner.
    Yes, the Tokina 11-16 is a great wide choice and not hard to manual focus as you say.

    Re: crop factor - you're right, of course, it does apply to all lenses and is a drawback with wide and normal lenses. With tele-lenses it is often an advantage.

    Re Flash-Synch - in this case, more is less - the higher the shutter speed, the less flash you need. please click on the link I put there for details.

    Re: less is more - yes, I could've mentioned another Nikon but it was Canon who introduced the first 18mp SDLR for the consumer market in the 550D.

    Note to B: Thought I recognised the voice form a previous oaccasion. There's a revised Pentax K-x review up on this site under cameras and equipment.. I'm not trashing the Canon 550D, I'm simply making the point that most of us don't need more magapixels so why don't camera makers put their efforts elsewhere?

    I have a Canon EOS 550D on my desk for an upcoming review, and it's an awesome camera, but 18mp is overkill. It still takes great photos when I set Image quality to 8mp. Kenneth R, believe me, I have nothing against Canon.

    And 18mp files make my newish dual core PC with 2gb of memory go real slow. RAW files cause near blackouts. :-)


  • Peter April 24, 2010 08:55 am

    if you want more of the same on the D40 visit Ken Rockwell's site.
    he is a HUGE fan!

  • David April 24, 2010 08:08 am

    Great to have a write up about the D40, I have 2.

    However I also have 2 nikon lenses without motors and neither were really useable on the D40. Also it hunts for focus in poor light conditions. Additionally I have 2 Tokina lenses with the same issues though the 11-16 mm is an easy manual focus, the 100 mm macro is not.

    Also in good sun light the 8 mega pixel Super Zoom Canon S5IS which I passed to my wife can take a picture with more resolution and the same noise level that will crop better so....

    I decided to buy a D90 whilst there is cash back from Nikon and 10% back when I export it for holiday, however its with Nikon already as it seems to fall apart in bright sunlight, otherwise its heaps better in shade and indoors. The lens motor works the Tokina and nikon lenses really well and providing the bright sunlight issue is resolved then I'll be very happy with a D90 and a D40 as back up. That could mean I'll have a D40 to sell, who needs 2?!

    BTW the kit lens with the D40 is a quiet achiever and the 35mm f1.8 AF-S is hardly any better except in low light close up use. The 55-200 mm vr (twin kit with D60 onwards) is superb with the D40 except in poor light when it hunts or rather the camera finds it hard to focus and without a manual override it has been an issue in photographing aircraft at an Airshow. Used elsewhere the 55-200 is classy and gets questions like which lens did you use, often you can use images with this lens straight from the camera. It looked as if I will find the same with it on the D90 though I bought the D90 with the kit 18-105 vr to cut down on constant lenses swops. I do get dust on the D40 sensors, another negative with the D40.

    One commentator above says it all though, D90 on D40 body especially with a flip screen (so useful on the Canon S5IS) and a lens motor, which reminds me the D90 shutter is loud whereas the D40 is not. The Pentax K10 I looked at the other day was nice but the controls seemed odd now I am used to Nikon and the Canon. Nevertheless I hanker after a white or red Kx....but know that image quality is a bit of an issue with me and the kit lens is said to be less impressive than I am already used to and happy with! Also AA batteries are a real pain in the Canon S5 and since we don't go bush at the moment....the lower weight of the lithium is good. One thing I think I will buy for my old D40 depending on what happens with the new D90 is buy a battery pack/grip as my hands are large and I have tried one on the D90 and liked that too...I never use the SB400 flash the on board one works with the kit lenses but will try it with the D90 when I get it back in combination with the Tokina 100mm macro (ebay $300.-). I have a flash diffuser but on the camera i find a piece of tissue from my pocket works well on the built-in flash.

  • Kenneth Rivera April 24, 2010 06:09 am

    I'm a canon user... this is a nikon perspective post, it is not impartial therefore is advertising on my perspective. ---- so --- i'm going to reply back with my answer why WE DO need the large mp + video!!!

    I do love my T1i
    I love the size of the image...
    there's an advantage for the big files, you can crop them and still print them on large sizes... And with actual computers and how relative cheap faster computers are getting the file handling is not an issue. (yesterday a 2.2 coreduo lenobo was at 400$ in new egg)
    Iso wise, it performs better - try to cover night events and you will see what i'm talking about!!
    Light metering, ISO performance, view finder, video... is just awesome... If you are a photojournalist or need to take video once in while, T1i / T2i is your camera.

    If you want a camera for photos on the computer only then, well get an old one and save the money. Or beter get a compact one....

    Hand-held video taken from my camera at a concern.

  • Richard Lehoux April 24, 2010 05:40 am

    Dixomark website explain very well how more pixel can be an advantage if you keep the same level of noise on the pixel level.

  • mr.terrypaul April 24, 2010 03:37 am

    One other question. Couldn't you lower the mega pixels from 18 to 8 in the camera settings to get more out of the memory card, not to mention the space you would save on your hard drive?

  • Dan Ketcham April 24, 2010 03:17 am

    to quote Robert above... yep, I bet Ken Rockwell would be proud!

    I love my D40! I went back and forth between the 40/60 and some cannons.. but, for all I needed the D40 won out, and I snagged on a superb deal on it.

    Nice article and yes, the megapixels are superb on this thing, I have printed up to poster size (16"x20") and have had NO issues what so ever!
    great for family trips (recent to WDW) and all other activities too

    yes, theres better out there.. but... theres a reason its a "modern classic" and so many people use it!

    thanks for the article!

  • mr.terrypaul April 24, 2010 03:08 am

    I just purchased the T2i about 3 weeks ago, and I have no complaints, but I am, however, wondering if I went a little overboard. My previous point and shoot cameras were the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ5, and a Canon PowerShot SD450. Moving from these 2 cameras to a DSLR has been on my mind for quite a long time, so when the T2i was available I jumped on it. My question is, what would have been a better choice as an "entry level" DSLR from both Canon and Nikon? I understand the theory behind the 18-megapixels, and I probably would be fine as a beginner with 10-12mp, but isn't the T2i a great deal at $900 for FULL HD video, and high end features that mimic the 7D? The FULL HD video isn't that important to me, especially when the main purpose of a DSLR is to shoot excellent stills, so I can even do without that, but to have it available isn't a bad thing either. In the end, I think a DSLR that will last and a good lens should be the way I need to go. It wouldn't hurt if it produced great images either ;)

  • junglebear April 24, 2010 01:38 am

    Just had a quick look at that camera comparison site, and noticed that the sensor of the Nikon D5000 blows everything else away. A rating of 72/100. To put that into perspective, the Canon 5D MK I has a sensor rating of 70.9/100, the MK II 79/100 (and thats around 5x the price of the D5000)
    Anything from Sony or Canon in the same price range can't compete with the sensor of the D5000, according to this site at least.

    I know what I'm going to be buying for my first DSLR.

  • Pshorten April 24, 2010 01:13 am

    I have a D40x and a D90. I love both of them but the perfect camera would be D90 guts crammed inside a D40 body. You can skip the video if there isn't room, I don't need it. Oh, and make the LCD screen flippable, yeah, that would be perfection.

  • B April 24, 2010 01:13 am

    Heh, of course the 550D resolution should read 5184 x 3456.

    And for the record, I have no problem with the D40, I considered getting one too. But it can stand on its own merits, without needing to tear down the competition or scare people with false information.

  • B April 24, 2010 01:06 am

    Wow, Kim.

    So you accuse people defending the Penatx K-x in response to your terrible (and since deleted) review of being fanboys, and then write this, a fanboy plea if there ever was one singing the praises of your favorite camera.

    We get it. You like the D40. You like it so much that you even attempted to trash an obviously superior model from another company in comparison to it. Okay, whatever. If you like the D40 and it works for you, shoot away to your happy heart's content.

    But I'll just point out two things.

    You say "Resolution (pixel count) by itself doesn’t equate to sharpness." All else being equal (i.e. same scene, comaprable quality lenses, etc.), if I resized a 5184 x 34568 image from the 550D to the same 3008x2000 that the D40 outputs, I guarantee you I could turn out a much sharper image. This is just basics of photography. Plus, with more pixels you also have more leeway in cropping after the shot is taken, and more options for print size. And, before you think of your rejoinder, I know these things because I shoot with a 6MP camera, so I understand exactly how restrictive it can be.

    You also say "Imagine what happens with 18 megapixels: your PCs knees will buckle unless you have a serious graphics processor in it." No. the image editing we do doesn't stress modern GPUs very much, even on low-end, off-the-shelf computers. Much, much more important is the amount of RAM. You're trying to scare people into believing that their computers can't handle high megapixel files, which is absolutely untrue. To go along with my 6MP camera, I have a positively ancient computer that I last upgraded in 2006. It has a 2GHz (single core!) processor, a 6600GT graphics card with a broken fan, and 1GB of RAM. This machine, easily a fraction as powerful as anything you could buy for $400 at Wal-Mart, can process 21.1 megapixel RAW files from my friends' Canon 5DMkII's. Is it slow? Hell yes. But it does the job, no crashing, no complaints from an obsolete video card with an inoperable cooling fan.

    Again, Kim, you like your D40. Great. But don't try to trash other cameras in an effort to make yourself feel better about the one you own. Instead, you could be out making great photos with your great DSLR.

  • John April 24, 2010 12:59 am

    I used to have a D40. It's great. I love it. I switched to Canon T1i last year mainly for its HD video and LCD display. I do think HD video is useful on DSLR. But I think the D40 build quality is better and JPEG quality is not much different from T1i. And, the first thing I did on the T1i was to set the default to 8MP.

  • Matt Northam April 24, 2010 12:49 am

    Long time reader. First time commenter :)

    Nice article.. and I agree with most of the comments too. Love my D40! It does most things that I need it to do, and I'm never worried about carrying around wherever I go because if the worst thing that could happen is I lose a nice, affordable, quality camera (as opposed to an expensive, hard to replace camera!).

    I like to think I've got some great shots out of the kit lens too; certainly more than good enough for the size I get them printed at.

    My AF is starting to be a bit temperamental though (after a couple of years shooting) - but I think that's got a lot to do with dropping it more times than I would've liked.

    Open question - I've been tempted for a while to get the Nikon 18-200MM to use with my D40.. This one on amazon fyi.. anyone have any experience with that combo? Hows the auto focus etc?

  • Robert April 24, 2010 12:31 am

    I may pick up a d40 as a backup body, I hear good things about it, nice review.

  • gromit April 23, 2010 11:21 pm

    kieeerte mentions the awesome 1/500 sync speed, but strobists should also note:

    since the D40 uses an electronic shutter at very high shutter speeds, you can get usable flash syncing at MUCH higher speeds - up to 1/4000 depending on the flash. At the highest speeds, the shutter is open for only a fraction of the flash burst, so you don't get a full sync. But depending on what you're doing, this can be a very fun thing to play with.

    (A fully mechanical shutter can't possibly do this - at shutter speeds higher than the sync speed, the full frame will not be open to light so the shutter will partially obstruct the sensor. Wtih an electronic shutter, the full sensor is exposed so you get a full image.)


  • Wildebeest Hunter April 23, 2010 10:44 pm

    I love my D40. It was given to me as a gift and I have never looked back. I use the D5000 only for the flip out monitor but actually prefer theD40.

  • FF April 23, 2010 09:42 pm

    Great article - I still haven't made the move to digital (I have a Nikon F80 and Bronica) but want to make the jump fairly soon - it's expensive to get film developed these days!

  • Carolyn April 23, 2010 07:14 pm

    I have a D40 and love it! It has taken some great photos, the only thing that I would prefer is an internal focusing, but everything else it great - I don't use high ISO, so that never bothers me

    I hope that the various camera manufacturers stop having such high megapixels in their cameras, I would never need 15mp+, unless I am photographying something for a billboard!

  • Suitchaself April 23, 2010 06:37 pm

    A so agree with the words above, this article should be posted on all websites for digital photography.
    I own a D40 and I am so happy with it :) .. I've done some 40 000 shots, well the aperture control gave up, but it's fixable and will be ready to shoot again maybe next week :) I've got 4 lenses for it and an SB-600. This camera is amazing !!! Period.
    Thank you for this wonderful article ... I'm saving it :) so I can show it to people who try to be smart :))

  • kieeerte April 23, 2010 05:56 pm

    Don't forget about flash sync speed of:

    1/500th of a second

    That is for an older sensor D40 not D40x as far as I know.
    Most of the modern DSLR cameras has flash sync around 1/200 or 1/250th sec.

  • Jon McGovern April 23, 2010 05:48 pm

    The D59? I've never heard of that... ;-)

  • Edd April 23, 2010 05:38 pm

    Very nice article, and that's coming from a Canonista!

    My only comment would be that I don't think graphics cards play a significant function in opening photos, and nowadays they all have enough dedicated RAM (or central RAM allocated to them if onboard) to store whole images. Where they're required is 3D work, not 2D.

    Big photos do eat lots of memory, though, and so lots of RAM means your computer has lots of space to store the whole photo for quick access whilst it's decoding it. With minimal RAM it'd have to work on part of the image in RAM, then copy that to the hard-drive, copy a new bit to RAM, etc. etc. (Thrashing).

  • Thomas April 23, 2010 05:19 pm

    Ion: If you are trying to balance the ambient light with your flash, you can control your ambient with the shutter speed. The higher shutter speed, the less flash you need to balance the two. Go read strobist 101... ;)

  • Florian Manach April 23, 2010 03:18 pm

    I disagree with the whole RAW thing in this topic.

    I shoot RAW, full resolution.

    Back to home, I develop the raw, adjust the exposition or white balance, crop if needed and then, when I'm satisfied with the picture, I convert the file into a JPEG 2144px (smal).

    Then, I delete the RAW file. So I get the pros of the RAW with all the flexibility it offers, but not the cons of terrible space usage.

  • DaCogent April 23, 2010 02:53 pm

    I love my Canon EOS 30D. Lot of satisfaction.

  • Tom April 23, 2010 02:00 pm

    I had a D50 for years - well, I still have it. I preferred it over the D40 for the build quality which was an issue for me as I was using it daily in tough conditions. But the photos it took were fantastic. I had an exhibition recently and all the prints were in A3 size. 6MP? Plenty.

    Sadly I dropped it once too many and now it's in for repair. I decided to bite the bullet and get a D90 - again for the durability over the D5000, and for the better sensor and low-light capabilities. The D50 sucked at ISO1600 and was often bad enough at ISO800 in highly saturated conditions. The difference between the D40/50 and D5000/D90 image quality at higher ISOs can not be argued with.

    But I'm still using it at 6MP JPG, only switching to 12MP if I think the shot might be enlarged in the future or sold as stock. Megapixels are a marketing tool and not much more.

  • Zane April 23, 2010 01:12 pm

    Like many others here, I love my D40! I started shooting a little over a year ago and it's a fantastic way to learn about photography.

  • valleyblog April 23, 2010 01:11 pm

    Almost 50k clicks and still going strong. Can fit it and 5 lenses total into my small lowepro 100 slingshot bag. Take it everywhere. LOVE my D40.

  • Sandy April 23, 2010 12:21 pm

    I love my D40 but now I am confused on the lens. Do the Nikon 70-300mm f/4-5.6G AF Nikkor SLR Camera Lens or Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 DG APO Macro Telephoto Zoom Lens autofocus on the D40 or will they be manual focus?


  • Kim Brebach April 23, 2010 11:45 am

    Forgot to mention that the photo galleries on my blog are from the D40
    And I created a special gallery here for a comparison I did with a Pentax K-x

  • sillyxone April 23, 2010 11:10 am

    thanks for the thorough review, and I agree that "less is more". I just take the liberty and throw in a few highlights then.

    Things I love about the D40:
    - lightweight and durable: carry it with me every day, dropped a few times while playing sports, took a lot of outdoor photos in the sub-zero Minnesota winter. Nothing wrong, yet.
    - custom menu: after getting used to it, I started using the custom menu, enable only a few items that I use (Auto ISO, format card, Profile, ...) to make it super fast to access them
    - the low mega-pixel sensor: it's an advantage as each pixel receives more light. The photos are sharp, even ISO 1600 is better than those point-and-shoot at ISO 200, especially in low light.
    - flash trigger voltage of 250V: stated clearly on the user manual, so I didn't hesitate using my 15-year-old flash which has the trigger voltage of 184V. I appreciate the genius engineer behind this a lot.
    - super-intuitive control layout: I actually used the D40 as an example of good UI in my "UI Design and Evaluation" course.

    Things that can be improved:
    - in manual mode, the Auto ISO is still on. When I use my 15-year-old external flash with it, the Auto ISO keeps giving me surprises when I forgot to turn it off.

  • ClaytonB April 23, 2010 11:00 am

    Great article Kim. My D40 has shot tens of thousands of great images and continues to serve me well. The best thing about it is the size and weight. There a couple of features that my D90 has that make it worth while though. Shot bracketing, flash commander mode, and the ability to auto focus non AFS auto focus lenses are all a big deal. I have to admit that I hope my D40 lasts forever though.

  • Anna April 23, 2010 09:09 am

    I understand your point - that more isn't always better. Not sure why you wouldn't pick another Nikon though. Although I have idea$.

  • Greg Aleknevicus April 23, 2010 09:07 am

    I have a D40 and absolutely love it. If anyone questions the fact that it's only 6MP, ask them how they use their own photos. The vast majority will respond that they either view them on their monitor or print them at 4"x6". Then tell them that anything over 3MP is wasted in such situations.

  • Lon April 23, 2010 08:43 am

    D40 is already being written into the history books as one of the classic DSLRs. My neighbor has one which he carries around all the time, personally it feels a little too small in my hands, but you can get used to that.

    A couple things about this article intrigue me: 1) why is there a word of caution about the telephoto zoom lenses? The crop factor applies to all lenses on any camera with a crop sensor, regardless of whether its a tele, standard, wide or ultra-wide, - I think most buyers who care would already know this, or if not why not just point out that this is a cropped sensor camera and not a full-frame in the "sensor" section? 2) can someone explain how higher flash synch speed means less flash power required? I'd think that the flash power required would depend more on the subject-to-camera distance than on the aperure settings - the amount of fill light required to properly expose the subject would be the same unless you are intentionally turning down the flash exposure compensation and opening up the aperture, but that is the same for all cameras regardless of their maximum sync speed, no?

    Anyways its definitely a great camera that I'm sure photographers of all skill levels and professions could get good use out of.

  • Don April 23, 2010 08:20 am

    I still carry around a D40 body in my bag along with a D60 and D90, it is a great little camera. I gave my other favorite a D50 to my son.

  • Kim Brebach April 23, 2010 08:06 am

    Thanks for the feedback, people. Yes, sensors have improved but not a lot else has IMHO. Ideal would be a D40 with the D90 sensor and 8mp. :-)
    There are still some refurbished D40s around if you look. Here's a link:

  • neal April 23, 2010 08:06 am

    All of the photos on my website are from a D40

  • Ignacio Iglesias April 23, 2010 07:43 am

    I have a D40 and I don't feel I need another camera yet. Nikon was stupid to release the AFS 35mm f/1.8, the D40 and the 35mm it's a killer combination!

    You can check my portfolio and see my works with a D40 :)


  • Leanne April 23, 2010 07:43 am

    I love my D40. Although I'm tempted by more mp's & features in newer models, for now I'm sticking with it. It does everything I want it to with ease. It's especially great for carting around on our family travels, as it's small and light. I figure if I want wallpaper, there's plenty of options for resizing out there ;-)

  • Alvis April 23, 2010 07:40 am

    I've had a D40 for three years. It and the 18-200 VR lens make an awesome combo. However, two things have me considering a D90. I want to be able to capture higher quality images in low light, and I want more megapixels so I can crop images tighter and maintain enough pixels for a good print image.

    However, I probably will be sticking with the D40 for a while.

  • Phil April 23, 2010 07:37 am

    Couldn't agree more. Yes, sensor tech is getting better, but as you said it has nothing to do with MP.

    My dream P&S would probably be about 2-4MP and DSLR would be 6-8 with outstanding image quality.

    I tend not to use RAW but I know people like (or say they like) using it. They must have terabytes of fault tolerant storage with backups too. (my 2tb raid1 + 1tb external is enough for 700kb JPGs!)

  • Robert April 23, 2010 07:36 am

    I bet Ken Rockwell would be pleased to read this. I got a D40 based off of his recs a couple years back, and when people see what my 'cheap' camera can do, they're amazed. <3 my D40!

  • Florian Manach April 23, 2010 07:24 am

    I agree that the D40 is all the most of us need.
    But I have to say that, in terms of confort and ergonomy, AF system and some options... advanced DSLR like the D90 really worth a try.

  • Jonathan April 23, 2010 07:20 am

    I bought my D40 in 2007, and I still LOVE it. It was my first DSLR, and I've been happy enough with it (so far) that I haven't felt the need to get another camera.

    The one thing I wish it was a little better with is low-light ISO.

  • Nick April 23, 2010 07:18 am

    Yep, I agree. Everyone things the more mega pixel the better the camera I have! haha so not true.

    I own a Nikon D60 and I love it! It has an awesome image sensor, great noise reduction and low ISO 100. It's a great camera and going to be using it a lot. I only had it for about a year, got it secondhand with a broken lens and just replaced the lens as well as picked up a 55-200mm VR lens with it too. It's been working great, it's a work horse, never failed me.

    I do plan on buying the Nikon D90, and still going to get my D60 as a second body. This will be great for some events where I need two lenses.

    But for now, I'm getting some amazing shots with this camera.

  • Marie Glynn April 23, 2010 07:09 am

    Very, very nice, thorough and thoughtful post, Kim. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this with us.

    I have just joined and become a regular reader of DPS. I will be looking for your posts from now on!



  • Patrick Skotniczny April 23, 2010 06:54 am

    I love my D40, it preforms great!
    I bought a 'nifty fifty' and though it would be nice to have the auto focus motor, im doing fine without it.

    check out my site all the photos were taken with the D40.

  • D. Lambert April 23, 2010 06:52 am

    Great reminder to prioritize basic needs above feature creep.

    I've actually been looking to snap up a Canon Xsi ($500 refurbished) -- I think that's sort of the sweet spot of decent sensor quality and reasonable price in the Canon line right now.

    I agree completely on the video assessment, and I'll add few points:

    * Consider whether video recording with a DSLR is worth it without external mic inputs -- you're going to have gorgeous HD video, and crummy audio. Right now, cameras w/ mic inputs are a huge jump over entry-level DSLRs - I don't think the D90 even has them, for instance.

    * Just as big images tax your desktop CPU & storage, video will do the same in a bigger way.

    * If you want to show your new HD videos with anyone, you're going to have to shell out some bucks for a place to host it, because you're going to blow away the size limits for free options on pretty much all of the video hosting sites.

  • Glenn C. Riffey April 23, 2010 06:49 am

    I have a D40 and a D50. The D50 is my work camera and the D40 is my walk around camera. They're both great and for what I do I don't need more.

  • fiona April 23, 2010 06:44 am

    Before buying my first and current DSLR Canon EOS 40D, I have considered buying Nikon D40 seeing so many good reviews of it. Although it is cheap, the money is very worthy. Too bad, suddenly it just disappeared and hard to find on many shops (I insist to buy a new one). It was in late 2008, if I'm not mistaken. I'm happy with my current choice, except for the heavy body which usually discourage me to carry DSLR around anytime :)