Conclusion - Pros

  • Resolution and sharpness on par with the best of the current ten megapixel bunch
  • A demonstrable resolution gain at lower sensitivities, less obvious at ISO 800 and 1600
  • Surprisingly good build quality, tight shut lines
  • Very compact and lightweight (especially with kit lens) yet still comfortable to use
  • Kit lens is better quality than many others
  • Great in-use performance, very responsive, short black-out time, very fast media write
  • Good fast auto focus system (only 3 areas but that's not a big issue for this camera)
  • Auto-focus assist lamp rather than requiring flash to be raised
  • Reliable, sophisticated, if sometimes a little conservative matrix metering system
  • For a Pentamirror the viewfinder delivers a surprisingly bright image
  • Extremely useful, customizable automatic sensitivity (ISO)
  • Easy to use playback / delete combination
  • All playback functions available in record review
  • Very attractive and intuitive menu system
  • Unlimited 3 fps continuous shooting in JPEG mode (with a reasonably fast card)
  • Good SD card throughput and USB 2.0 transfer speed
  • In-camera retouching features including D-Lighting and Red-eye reduction
  • Support for SD and SDHC cards
  • Good large LCD monitor with wide viewing angles
  • Dedicated help button provides both shooting and in-menu assistance
  • Programmable Fn hard button
  • Value for money

Conclusion - Cons

  • No lens motor in body means non-AF-S/AF-I lenses are manual focus only
  • Disappointingly RAW+JPEG setting only records Basic quality JPEG's
  • No status LCD panel on top of camera (we hate to see these go)
  • No exposure or white balance bracketing
  • No hard buttons (without customizing) for ISO or White Balance
  • No depth-of-field preview
  • Occasional visibility of moire artifacts (although seldom)
  • Fixed exposure steps (1/3 EV)
  • Disappointing automatic white balance performance in incandescent light
  • No RAW adjustment with supplied PictureProject, only simple conversion
  • Limited image parameter adjustment (especially for color saturation)

Overall conclusion

No one was more surprised that me when Nikon passed through the press releases for the D40X. Just under four months since the arrival of the six megapixel D40 and Nikon were about to reveal a ten megapixel version of the same (save for a base ISO 100 sensitivity and 3.0 fps shooting speed) camera.

That it only took four months for the D40 to leap from six to ten megapixels begs the simple question: why Nikon didn't just release the D40X in the first instance? Was the ten megapixel sensor not ready in time? Did they have stock of the 'old' six megapixel sensor laying around? We will probably never know.

One thing however, is certain: the new model is positioned to go head-to-head against the most dominant digital SLR on the market, Canon's EOS 400D (Digital Rebel XTi). On paper it measures up well, missing out only with its lack of a physical dust reduction mechanism, no vertical hand grip option and limited image parameter adjustment. Additionally, as with the D40, die-hard Nikon owners may be disappointed with the lack of a focus motor in the body, meaning that many non-AF-S/AF-I lenses will not auto focus (including some Nikon's best prime lenses).

Other shortcomings which I also counted against the D40 include the fact that when I shot RAW+JPEG I was only getting Basic quality JPEG's. I also didn't like that there wasn't a dedicated ISO or WB button on the camera (yes, you can program the Fn button but I would have thought it more logical to use the four-way controller on the rear from day one), and as with most recent digital SLRs automatic white balance was something you should really only use in natural light. Other things which will be of less importance to D40 owners are the lack of bracketing, depth-of-field preview and fixed exposure steps.

Everything positive we said about the usage and performance of the D40 obviously remains true of the D40X; instant on times, instant response, good auto focus and a punchy feel to the shutter release which encourages you to take more pictures. With its compact body not compromising comfort or ergonomics in any way the D40X is perhaps one of the easiest 'carry around' digital SLRs; it that won't break your back or leave you with an aching neck.

Handling aside, everything else that I said about the D40 remains true with the D40X. Good image processing ekes about as much detail out of the image as heavier RAW conversion can, although the limits of the smaller photosites become clear at higher sensitivities, and good dynamic range means softer roll-offs in highlights - and more likelihood of getting a nice blue sky in a landscape shot.

So in conclusion, the D40X really is just as good as the D40, with the added benefit of a little bit more resolution and slightly faster continuous shooting. But is it enough to take the pole position as the ultimate compact ten megapixel DSLR? That's harder to say, image quality-wise it's a dead heat with the EOS 400D (except at high sensitivities); it's quicker and more comfortable to use, but very slightly less featured, especially if you consider lens compatibility. It would be hard to recommend one over the other and the answer would depend solely on your preferences (I'm calling it a draw).

Detail (D-SLR)
Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 8.0
Ergonomics & handling 8.5
Features 8.0
Image quality 8.5
Performance (speed) 9.0
Value 9.0

Highly Recommended

Highly Recommended

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