Against the clock, the Nikon D40 performed well. A continuous sequence of 36 frames was captured in a best time of 13.554 seconds which equates to a frame rate of 2.656 fps… slightly faster than the claimed 2.5 fps. With an increasing number of D-SLRs now offering JPEG/large/ fine burst lengths limited only by the capacity of the memory, we now use 36 frames as the benchmark as this at least relates back to 35mm film. Nikon actually quotes a JPEG/large/fine burst length of 100 frames for the D40, but just when would you ever need this… or even 36 frames in quick succession? Animation is the only possible application.
Consequently, the important spec here is the 2.6 fps which means the D40 easily matches the shooting speed of a comparable 35mm SLR. Our tests were conducted with a Panasonic Pro High Speed 1.0 GB card, and the D40’s buffer subsequently took 22.691 seconds to transfer the 36 frames, but this is also academic since you can still go on shooting with no loss of speed (at least up to 100 frames). The time is surely coming when recording these numbers in a DSLR test will be unnecessary, save to verify the claimed fps rate. Needless to note, the D40 is markedly more sluggish when handling RAW fi les (the burst length is just five frames), but no doubt Nikon assumes many users will be content with the JPEG/large/fine performance.
And they will be too. On the image quality side, the D40’s basic formula is already well proven with the D50 and D70s so it wasn’t surprising to see the D40 delivering outputs which required little further attention. Nikon has always erred towards higher definition with its image processing to the benefit of detailing and the perception of overall sharpness. In this way, its six megapixels D-SLRs don’t give that much away to the 10 MP models, unless you closely examine a section of a very big enlargement. Noise reduction processing will tend to soften detailing, but the D40 doesn’t appear to need much in this regard… up to ISO 800 the images are exceptionally clean and even at ISO 1600 the noise level is still agreeably low. Colour reproduction is very good from the subtle shades to the saturated. Transparency film users may want to use the ‘Vivid’ Optimise Image setting to give punchier colours, although the saturation in ‘Normal’ is quite acceptable. Overall neutrality appears good, but with a tendency to a slight warmer look when using the auto white balance, especially when shooting under artificial light sources. Under contrasty conditions care needs to be taken with the highlights which can wash out if the metering decides to side with the shadows and order some overexposure… which seems to happen a bit. The simplest solution is to dial in -1/3 EV of exposure compensation and leave it set. Overall, though, it’s hard not to conclude that the D40’s image quality deserves an ‘excellent’ rating and, more importantly, translates into great looking prints which consistently require very little, if any, post-camera work.
Many reviewers appear to be concentrating on the features that D40 doesn’t have, thereby completely missing the point about this camera. It’s deliberately been designed to be accessible to the SLR first-timer, and consequently Nikon has been very calculating about the features list. Only the absence of exposure bracketing (an especially useful feature for both novice and experienced shooter alike) is really questionable, but the rest of the omissions are items that even the D80 or D200 owner might only use on rare occasions. In the areas that really matter, the D40 is actually very well equipped, especially in terms of the many facilities for creating the desired pictorial ‘look’. And, as far as performance is concerned, the D40 delivers as much as the D70s… but it makes getting there a whole lot easier.
Vital Statistics NIKON | D40 | $999
Type: Fully automatic digital SLR with Nikon F bayonet lens mount (AF-S and AF-I lenses fully supported, all others with manual focusing only).
Focusing: Automatic three-point wide-area system using phase-detection type CCD sensor arrays. Focus points may be selected manually or automatically by the camera. Auto or manual switching between one-shot and continuous AF modes, the latter with a predictive function. Sensitivity range is EV -1 - 19 (ISO 100). AF assist provided by built-in illuminator.
Metering: 420-point ‘3D Colour Matrix II’ (i.e. multizone), centre-weighted average, spot (2.5%) and i-TTL flash. Metering range is EV 0 to 20 (ISO 100/ f1.4). Spot metering range is EV 2 to 20. Exposure Modes: Continuously-variable program with shift, shutter-priority auto, aperture-priority auto, metered manual, i-TTL auto flash and TTL flash. Plus eight ‘Digital Vari-Program’ modes for auto, auto (no flash), portraits, landscapes, closeups, sports, night landscapes and night portraits. Subject programs also set appropriate white balance, sharpening, contrast, colour, saturation and hue.
Shutter: Combined mechanical focal plane type with CCD electronic shutter, 30-1/4000 second plus B. Flash sync to 1/500 second. Exposure compensation up to +/-5.0 EV in 1/3 increments. Viewfinder: Coverage = 95% vertical/horizontal. Magnification = 0.8x (50mm lens at infinity). LCD display and LED focus point indicators. Fixed focusing screen. Eyepiece strength adjustment built-in.
Flash: Built-in pop-up unit with GN 17 power (ISO 200). External flash units connect via hotshoe. Flash compensation range of -3.0 to 1.0 EV in 1/3 stop increments.
Additional Features: Camera settings displayed in main monitor screen, choice of ‘classic’ or ‘graphic’ displays (image may be imported as wallpaper), AE lock, multiple exposure facility, self-timer (2 to 20 second delays), wireless remote triggering, audible signals, auto power-off, 17 custom functions.
Sensor: 6.24 million (total) pixels CCD with 23.7x15.6 mm imaging area and 3:2 aspect ratio. Sensitivity equivalent to ISO 200-1600 (extendable to ISO 3200).
Focal Length Magnification: 1.5x.
Formats/Resolution: Three JPEG compression settings, RAW output (lossless compression) plus RAW+JPEG capture. Three resolution settings; 3008x2000, 2256x1496 and 1504x1000 pixels. 24- bit RGB colour for JPEGs, 36-bit RGB colour for RAW files.
Recording Media: SecureDigital (SD) memory cards with SDHC support.
Burst Rate: Up to 100 frames at 2.5 fps (JPEG/ large/fine). White Balance: TTL measurement. Auto mode, six presets with fine-tuning, and one custom setting. Interfaces: USB 2.0 and NTSC/PAL video. Additional Features: 6.35 cm LCD monitor; Adobe RGB, sRGB natural and sRGB vivid colour spaces; long exposure and high ISO noise reduction (can be switched off), in-camera picture adjustments (contrast, sharpness, colour saturation and colour hue), B&W capture mode (with contrast filters), luminance histogram display, highlight alert, adjustable image display time, auto image rotation, auto playback, built-in image editing functions (including colour balance filters an B&W toning), DPOF support, PictBridge direct printing support.
Power: One 7.4 volt/1000 mAh rechargeable lithiumion battery pack (EN-EL9 type).
Dimensions (WxHxD): body only = 126x94x64 mm.
Weight: body only = 475 grams (w/o battery pack).
Price: $999 with 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 GII AF-S Zoom- Nikkor ED lens.
Distributor: Nikon Australia Pty Ltd, telephone 1300 366 499, www.nikon.com.au