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Timings & File Sizes

We didn't really have any serious expectations of the D40's performance due to its entry level target and price point. We have been very pleasantly surprised, other than very slightly slower viewfinder blackout the D40 feels just as responsive as the D80 (and for some measurements even faster thanks to smaller files). Off to shot taken is virtually instant although if you wait to check your settings there's a one second delay (not really worth worrying about), all other functions are very snappy including record review, playback and browsing. SD card write speed and continuous shooting / buffering are top notch and despite its billing the D40 could easily be used to shoot sporting events. A lovely camera to use the D40 very soon feels 'connected' to you thanks to a lack of delay in use.

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3008 x 2000 JPEG Fine (approx. 2,600 KB per image).

The media used for these tests were:

  • 2 GB SanDisk Extreme III SD card
  • 2 GB Lexar Pro 133x SD card
Action
Details
Time, secs
(2 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(2 GB Lexar)
Power Off to On *1   0.9 0.9
Power Off to Shot *2   <0.1 <0.1
Sleep to On   <0.1 <0.1
Power On to Off   <0.1 <0.1
Record Review *3
RAW
1.2 1.2
Record Review *3
JPEG
1.0 1.0
Play *4
RAW
~0.1 ~0.1
Play *4
JPEG
~0.1 ~0.1
Play Image to Image
RAW
~0.1 ~0.1
Play Image to Image
JPEG
~0.1 ~0.1

*1 This is the amount of time before the status screen is shown on the LCD monitor, as shown by the next measurement this doesn't have any impact on how soon you can take a shot.
*2 As good as instant, just like the D80 the D40 the appears to remain in a 'sleep state' even when powered off.
*3 Time taken from the shutter release being pressed to the review image being displayed on the LCD monitor.
*4 The D40 will cache an image once it has been displayed although it reads images so quickly from the card that the difference between an actual read and a cached read is hardly noticeable.  

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/320 sec, F5.6), ISO 200. Measurements were taken from audio recordings of the tests. Media used were the same as above.

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate, this was always 2.6 fps (+/- 0.01 fps)
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held after burst (buffer full)
  • Next burst - How soon after the burst it is fully written to the card (indicator goes out)

Burst of JPEG Large Fine images

Timing
2 GB SanDisk
Extreme III SD
2 GB Lexar
Pro 133x SD
Frame rate (average) 2.6 fps 2.6 fps
Number of frames - -
Buffer full rate - -
Next burst - -

Burst of RAW images

Timing
2 GB SanDisk
Extreme III SD
2 GB Lexar
Pro 133x SD
Frame rate (average) 2.6 fps 2.6 fps
Number of frames 6 7
Buffer full rate 1.9 fps 1.9 fps
Next burst 2.6 sec 2.6 sec

For an 'entry level' digital SLR the D40's continuous shooting performance was very impressive. With a fast card, in JPEG mode it can shoot continuously until the card is full. In RAW slowing to just under two frames per second once the buffer is full (around six shots).

File Flush Timing

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card. Timing was taken from the instant the shutter release was pressed to the time the storage card activity lamp beside the compartment door went out. Media used were the same as above.

Image type
Time, secs
(2 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(2 GB Lexar)
Approx.
size
3008 x 2000 RAW + JPEG Basic 1.7 1.6 6,500 KB *1
3008 x 2000 RAW 1.6 1.5 5,760 KB
3008 x 2000 JPEG Fine 1.2 1.2 2,600 KB
3008 x 2000 JPEG Normal 1.0 1.0 1,400 KB

*1 File size reported here is the size of the RAW and Basic quality JPEG files added together.
*2 The D40 begins writing around 0.6 seconds after the shutter release is pressed so you must subtract 'processing time' from the timing to get the actual write time.

The D40 demonstrates very fast write times, we estimate at least 6 MB/sec for RAW images with fast cards such as the ones used in this test. Just like the D80 the D40 has a good buffer implementation which means that all image processing and card write processes occur in parallel with normal camera operation ('in the background'), hence never affecting your ability to take the next shot.

USB transfer speed

To test the D40's USB transfer speed we transferred approximately 128 MB of images (mixed RAW and JPEG) from a SanDisk Extreme III 2 GB SD card.

Method
Transfer rate
Sony built-in SD card reader (Vaio TX) 6.7 MB/sec
Nikon D40 (Mass storage device) 6.6 MB/sec
Nikon D40 (PTP device via PictureProject Transfer) 7.6 MB/sec
Panasonic CardBus PCMCIA adapter 10.7 MB/sec
SanDisk Extreme IV USB 2.0 card reader 10.9 MB/sec

In mass storage device mode the D40 is slightly slower than its bigger brother the D80 but is around one megabyte per second faster in PTP mode using the supplied PictureProject Transfer utility to move images from the camera to the computer.

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