Baby digital SLR for beginners delivers a grown-up performance
Nikon has always been a major player at the top end of the photography market and the D40 is not only the newest, but also the cheapest and most accessible digital SLR (D-SLR) in its range.
It offers amateur snappers the creative advantage of being able to change the lens in use to best suit a given subject, or desired effect, and thus get more professional results. We took a glimpse at the D40 a few months ago and were impressed, the question now is whether our thoughts have changed after prolonged use?
A top resolution of 6.1 megapixels may not sound high, especially when many compacts offer 10 megapixels for around £300, but as the D40 proves, it’s as much about the camera’s internal processor and lens as the numbers. The zoom supplied as part of the introductory kit is modest at 18-55mm (equivalent to 3x optical zoom), but it’s adequate for starters.
What’s more, with a solid and rugged feel despite its diminutive size, nothing about the D40's body feels compromised, and all the major controls fall easily under finger or thumb. Add the bundled lens and the camera is lightweight enough for one-handed operation at a push, though two proves more comfortable. There’s no memory provided, so budget for a high capacity SD card to be able to capture the 1,000 shots one charge of the supplied battery is capable of delivering.
Turn the D40 on and the first thing you notice is you’re immediately taking your first shot, the ‘wait’ between switching on and capturing an image a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it 0.18 seconds.
The second thing you notice is you’re presented with an info screen that displays all the essential shooting settings, to save you having to delve within the menu screens, and warns if the subject is too dark. So this doesn't get overwhelming, it disappears the second the shutter button is pressed, though if you want to double check anything, a press of the dedicated ‘info’ button just behind the shutter recalls it.
When the photos produced are examined on a computer, like most consumer level cameras the D40 displays fringing – a line of differently coloured pixels – between areas of contrast (say the brightness of the sky and the darker outline of a building), and, though sharp in the main, there is slight softness toward the edges of the frame. But both ‘defects’ are only obvious if you’re actually looking for them. In keeping with modern trends for ‘lifestyle’ photography, colours are coolly naturalistic, though there’s the option to boost them in-camera if wished.
If you’re really serious about your photography you’ll soon want to upgrade the kit lens, but otherwise the D40 looks a great place to get started. Basically, if you want fast, near professional results but don’t want to spend a month’s wages for the privilege, the D40 offers excellent value at £450 all-in.
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Good points A lot of camera for not a great deal of money Helpful on-screen guides and user friendly Lens included in the kit Bad points Some pixel fringing visible when images examined in detail Kit lens could do with being upgraded when you can afford it Memory card costs extra Overall Though not quite matching performance from professional SLRs, the Nikon D40 produces images that are a cut above the best compacts and deserves to do well against closest rival the 400D from Canon. For those who want better-looking pictures without taking out a second mortgage, the great value (particularly with a bit of an internet search), swift performance and solid construction of Nikon D40 ensure it will be high up on any family photographer’s wish list.
£449 (includes camera body plus 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor lens)
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