Previous page Next page

Nikon D40 Review

December 2006 | By Phil Askey
Buy on From $429.99

Review based on a production Nikon D40

The Nikon D40 is an all new affordable, compact, point-and-shoot digital SLR from Nikon, it follows on from the D50 but at a significantly lower price point and with a subtly different feature set. The biggest news however is probably fact that Nikon resisted the temptation to keep chasing megapixels (hooray for that) and instead appear to have concentrated on what makes a good camera, a decent viewfinder, short shutter lag, very short viewfinder blackout. They've trimmed some of the 'less important features' (you can't change the exposure steps for example) but have squeezed a range of new features such as custom Auto ISO which we welcomed with the D80.

Auto Focus only for AF-S or AF-I lenses

Perhaps the biggest negative on the D40 is that it doesn't have an internal focus drive motor and hence no mechanical focus drive pin, instead it only has CPU contacts which means it can only Auto Focus with AF-S and AF-I lenses (those with built-in focus motors). Indeed our 'standard' lens the Nikkor 50 mm F1.8D (and the F1.4D) are manual focus only on the D40. The images below show the difference between the mount on the D40 and D80, the D80 has a mechanical focus drive pin at about the 7 o'clock position.

Key features

  • 6 megapixel DX format CCD (1.5x FOV crop, as D50)
  • Nikon Image processing engine (as D80 / D200)
  • 3D Color Matrix Metering II, 420 pixel sensor (as D80 / D50)
  • New Multi-CAM530 three area AF sensor
  • 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
  • No status LCD, new LCD monitor based status / settings screens
  • Help suggestions on LCD monitor (eg. scene too dark, try using flash)
  • Large 2.5" 230,000 pixel LCD monitor
  • Bigger viewfinder view (x0.8 magnification, 95% coverage)
  • Short shutter lag and viewfinder blackout
  • Support for SDHC (SD cards over 2 GB in capacity)
  • In-camera retouching
    • D-Lighting (shadow / highlight enhancement)
    • Red-eye reduction
    • Trimming
    • Monochrome
    • Filter effects
    • Small picture
    • Image overlay
  • USB 2.0 with PTP and Mass Storage device support
  • Very compact, light body (smaller, lighter than D50)
  • Improved menu user interface (as D80 / D200)
  • New EN-EL9 Lithium-Ion battery (7.2V, 1000 mAh)
  • New 'Version II' AF-S DX 18-55 mm kit lens

Compared to the Nikon D50, major feature and specification differences

Nikon's choice of "compromises" with the D40 are switching to a new three area AF sensor (although it seems to be just as fast), removing some of the flexibility (you can't change the CW average area, exposure steps are fixed at 1/3 EV and there's no bracketing) and removing the status LCD (although this has more to do with making the camera smaller than saving money). What the D40 shares with the D50 are some of the important things, the six megapixel sensor, the 420 pixel metering sensor (also used on the D80), the more 'consumer like' default IIIa color mode and 2.5 frames per second continuous shooting (although now unlimited in JPEG mode).

On the plus side you get ISO 3200 equiv. (HI 1), the ever useful customizable Auto ISO, a larger viewfinder view, shorter shutter lag and viewfinder blackout, a larger LCD monitor, a considerably nicer user interface, SDHC support, a new image processing engine, unlimited JPEG continuous shooting, in-camera retouching (including D-Lighting) and of course a smaller and lighter body. It would not therefore be fair to describe the D40 as a 'dumbed down' D50, far from it, the range of improvements and new features out-weigh those which have been removed or reduce, which would most likely not be missed by the average D40 owner.


Nikon D40

Nikon D50
Introduction price $599 (Kit) $899 (Kit)
Autofocus • 3 area TTL
• Nikon Multi-CAM530
• Only AF-S or AF-I lenses
• 5 area TTL
• Nikon Multi-CAM900
CW Avg. size 8 mm 6, 8, 10, 13 mm or frame average
Exposure steps 1/3 EV 1/3 or 1/2 EV

• ISO 200 - 1600
• Up to ISO 3200 with boost (HI 1)

ISO 200 - 1600
Auto ISO • Selectable maximum ISO
• Selectable minimum shutter speed
Bracketing None • Exposure
• White balance
Built-in flash Guide number 17 (ISO 200) Guide number 15 (ISO 200)
Continuous • 2.5 fps (1 fps at ISO 3200)
• Unlimited / 9 frames (JPEG / RAW)
• 2.5 fps
• 12 / 4 frames (JPEG / RAW)
Image presets Normal, Softer, Vivid, More Vivid, Portrait, B&W Normal, Vivid, Sharper, Softer, Direct Print, Portrait, Landscape
Viewfinder • Penta-mirror type
• Eyepoint: 18.0 mm (at -1.0 m-1)
• Frame coverage 95% (approx.)
• Magnification approx. 0.8x
• B-type Bright View Clear Matte Mark V
• Penta-mirror type
• Eyepoint: 18.0 mm (at -1.0 m-1)
• Frame coverage 95% (approx.)
• Magnification approx. 0.75x
• B-type Bright View Clear Matte Mark V
LCD monitor • 2.5" TFT LCD
• 230,000 pixel TFT
• 2.0" TFT LCD
• 130,000 pixel TFT
Status LCD No Yes
Storage SD / SDHC card SD card
Battery Lithium-Ion EN-EL9 (7.4 V, 1000 mAh) Lithium-Ion EN-EL3a (7.4 V, 1400 mAh)
Dimensions 126 x 94 x 64 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in) 133 x 102 x 76 mm (5.2 x 4.0 x 3.0 in)
Weight • No battery: 471 g (1.0 lb)
• With battery: 522 g (1.2 lb)
• No battery: 540 g (1.2 lb)
• With battery: 620 g (1.4 lb)
Programmable FUNC button Yes No
In-camera retouching

• D-Lighting
• Red-eye reduction
• Trimming
• Overlay
• Monochrome and Filter
• Small picture
• Image overlay

World time Yes No
Kit lens AF-S DX 18-55 mm F3.5-F5.6 G II AF-S DX 18-55 mm F3.5-F5.6 G

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / recommendation / ratings are based on the opinion of the author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

To navigate this article simply use the next / previous page buttons or jump to a specific page by using the drop-down list in the navigation bar at the top of the page. You can support this site by ordering through the affiliate links shown at the bottom of each page (where available).

This article is protected by Copyright and may not be reproduced in part or as a whole in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.

Previous page Next page
I own it
I want it
I had it
Discuss in the forums