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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Nikon D40 review

Nikon D40 is the latest addition to its comprehensive line of digital SLRs. Designed to bring the performance, excitement and experience of Nikon’s dSLRs to more customers than ever before, the D40 is an ultra-compact, lightweight 6.1-megapixel dSLR that offers simplified new features, exceptional speed and a redesigned, visually-intuitive menu system, bringing consumers a whole new level of simplicity in a digital SLR.


Main Features

  • The lightest, most compact Nikon digital SLR ever, featuring intuitive controls and an ergonomically designed operation that even first-time SLR users can enjoy
  • Nikon DX Format CCD image sensor; 6.1 effective megapixels
  • Fast 2.5 frames per second in bursts of up to 100 JPEG frames (FINE L-size or smaller)
  • High-precision digital image processing algorithms produce natural-looking images with faithful color and tone reproduction
  • 3D Color Matrix Metering II with 420-pixel RGB sensor delivers consistent and dependable automatic exposure for ideal results in most lighting conditions
  • Advanced 3-area AF system and the refined algorithms inherited from the advanced Nikon digital SLR cameras deliver fast, efficient and precise autofocus, while an AF-assist illuminator helps ensure top performance in dark situations
  • Automatic control over ISO-equivalent sensitivity from ISO 200 to 1600 plus HI 1 can also be set manually
  • Eight automated Digital Vari-Programs [Auto, Auto (Flash Off), Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close Up, and Night Portrait] optimize white balance, sharpening, tone, color, saturation and hue to match the scene
  • Near-instant 0.18-second power-up lets photographers respond to every photographic opportunity
  • Versatile shutter speed control with a range from 30 to 1/400 0 s, plus bulb
  • Creative in-camera effects and editing functions consolidated under the new Retouch menu, including D-Lighting, Red-eye correction, Trim, Monochrome settings (Black-and-white, Sepia, Cyanotype), Filter Effects (Skylight, Warm filter, Color balance), Small Picture and Image Overlay
  • Large 2.5-inch LCD monitor with viewing angle of approx. 170 degrees in all directions
  • Innovative information displays can be shown in Classic, Graphic or Wallpaper format
  • “Assist Images” help select the appropriate settings for many camera features by showing an example image typical of that setting
  • Large, bright viewfinder with 0.8x magnification ensures clear view for precise composition
  • Fast image data transfer and recording to SD memory cards of up to 4GB capacity (SDHC compliant)
  • Long-life Rechargeable Li-ion Battery EN-EL9 allows up to 470 images* in single-frame shooting mode on a single charge (*CIPA standard, with Built-in Flash used for 50% of the shots)
  • Built-in Flash with i-TTL flash control and full support for Nikon's Creative Lighting System
  • Includes Nikon’s PictureProject software for easy control over image adjustment and management
  • Support for Nikon's new Capture NX software, which provides easier access to powerful and visually intuitive enhancement tools that help tap the full potential of NEF images
Viewfinder:

For a compact Penta-mirror design the D40's viewfinder is surprisingly bright and large. Magnification is up to 0.8x compared to the D50's 0.75x (not a big difference) and frame coverage is the same 95%. The rubber eyepiece isn't as large as that found on the D50 or D80 although seems to work well enough.


Camera information display:

Press the 'info' button on the top of the camera and you will by default see an information screen similar to the one on the left below. This provides an overview of camera settings as well as a graphic representation of shutter speed (the line surrounding the ap erture) and aperture. Press the 'set' (magnify) button and you can navigate around this screen to change settings such as image quality, white balance, ISO, drive mode etc. You can alternatively choose the 'classic' info display format which does away with the graphical representation of shutter speed and aperture and instead looks more like a standard control panel.


The diagram below shows a breakdown of all the potential information displayed in the 'Graphic' display mode.


1 Focus area display
2 Shutter speed
3 Electronic meter / compensation
4 Aperture
5 Mode
6 Shutter-speed display (graphic)
7 Aperture display (graphic)
8 Flash compensation value
9 Flash sync mode
10 Exposure compensation value
11 Help indicator
12 Frames remaining / Preset WB rec / PC
13 Metering mode
14 AF-area mode
15 Focus mode
16 Shooting mode
17 ISO sensitivity
18 White balance mode
19 Image size
20 Image quality
21 Battery indicator
22 Beep indicator
23 Optimize image preset indicator
24 Auto ISO sensitivity indicator
25 Manual flash control / External flash comp.

Lense and Motor:

The fact that the Nikon D40 is so small and attractively priced does not only have advantages. After all, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Still, Nikon has managed to find a good balance between possibilities and price. Maybe the most noticeable thing is that the D40 can only work with lenses with a built-in motor, the so-called AF-S lenses. Omitting the motor from the camera saves on a number of components and therefore, on costs. Seeing that Nikon has a wide range of affordable AF-S lenses, this need not be a drawback for users. Nikon is introducing a new kit lens at the same time as the Nikon D40. The new lens is an improved version of the old one. With a focal range of 18-55 mm (compared to a 35mm, that is 27-83 mm) it has a good range. The AF-S Nikkor 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 G II ED has elements that are apochromatically corrected and reduce troublesome colour edges.

Nikon D40 specification:

Sensor
-23.7 x 15.6 mm CCD sensor
-Nikon DX format (1.5x FOV crop)
-6.1 million effective pixels
-6.2 million total pixels
-RGB Color Filter Array
-12-bit A/D converter

Image sizes
-3008 x 2000 (Large, 6 MP)
-2256 x 1496 (Medium, 3.4 MP)
-1504 x 1000 (Small, 1.5 MP)

Image quality
-NEF (12-bit compressed RAW)
-JPEG fine
-JPEG normal
- JPEG basic
-NEF (RAW) + JPEG basic

Color space
-IIIa (sRGB - more green for colourful landscapes) default
-Ia (sRGB)
-II (Adobe RGB)

Lens mount
-Nikon F mount (with AF contacts)

Lens compatibility
-Type G or D AF Nikkor• AF-S, AF-I
All functions supported

-Other Type G or D AF Nikkor
All functions supported except autofocus

-PC Micro-Nikkor 85mm f/2.8D
Can only be used in mode M; all other functions supported except autofocus

-Other AF Nikkor*2/AI-P Nikkor
All functions supported except autofocus and 3D Color Matrix Metering II

-Non-CPU
Can be used in mode M, but exposure meter does not function; electronic range finder can be used if maximum aperture is f/5.6 or faster

-IX Nikkor
Can not be used

Autofocus
-
Three area TTL phase detection
-Nikon Multi-CAM530 autofocus module
-Only with AF-S or AF-I lenses
-Detection range: EV -1 to +19 (ISO 100 equivalent, at normal temperature)

Lens servo
-Single-servo AF (AF-S)
-Continuous-servo AF (AF-C)
-Automatic AF-S/AF-C (AF-A)
-Manual focus (M)

AF Area mode
-Single Area AF
-Dynamic Area AF
-Closest Subject Priority Dynamic Area AF

Focus tracking
-Predictive focus tracking automatically activated according to subject status in continuous-servo AF

Focus area
-
One of three areas can be selected

Focus lock
-Focus can be locked by pressing shutter-release button halfway (single-servo AF) or by pressing AE-L/AF-L button

AF Assist
-White light lamp

Metering
-TTL full-aperture exposure metering system
-3D color matrix metering II
-420 segment RGB sensor
-Center-weighted: Weight of 75% given to a 8mm circle in center of frame
-Spot: Meters 3.5 mm circle (about 2.5% of frame) centered on active focus area

Exposure mode

-Digital Vari-program
- Auto
- Flash off *
- Portrait
- Landscape
- Child
- Sports
- Close up
- Night portrait
-Programmed auto (P) with flexible program
-Shutter-priority auto (S)
-Aperture priority auto (A)
-Manual (M)

Metering range
-EV 0 to 20 (3D color matrix or center-weighted metering)
-EV 2 to 20 (spot metering) (ISO 100 equivalent, f/1.4 lens, 20 °C)

Meter coupling
-CPU coupling

Exposure compen.
-
+/- 5.0 EV
-1/3 EV steps

AE Lock
-Exposure locked at detected value with AE-L/AF-L button

AE Bracketing
-
None

Sensitivity
-Auto
-ISO 200
-ISO 400
-ISO 800
-ISO 1600
-ISO 3200 equiv. (HI 1) *

Auto ISO options
-
On/Off
-Maximum ISO (400, 800 or 1600)
-Minimum shutter speed (1 to 1/125 sec)

White balance
-Auto (TTL white-balance with 420 pixels RGB sensor)
-Six manual modes with fine-tuning
o Incandescent
o Fluorescent
o Direct sunlight
o Flash
o Cloudy
o Shade
-Preset white balance (immediate or from photo)

Shutter
-Combined mechanical and CCD electronic shutter
-30 to 1/4000 sec (1/3 EV steps)
-Flash X-Sync: up to 1/500 sec
-Bulb

WB fine tuning
-Yes

Viewfinder
-
Optical fixed eye-level
-Penta-mirror type
-Built-in diopter adjustment (-1.7 to +0.5 m-1)
-Eyepoint: 18 mm (at -1.0 m-1)
-Frame coverage 95% (approx.)
-Viewfinder magnification approx. 0.8x with 50mm lens at infinity; -1.0 m-1
-Focusing screen: Type B BriteView clear matte screen Mark V with superimposed focus brackets

LCD monitor
-
2.5" TFT LCD
-230,000 pixel

Built-in flash
-
Auto pop-up in Auto, Vari-program modes
-Manual pop-up in P, S, A or M modes
-Guide number approx. 17 at ISO 200

Sync contact
-X-contact only; flash synchronization at shutter speeds of up to 1/500 sec

Flash control
-TTL flash control by 420-segment RGB sensor. i-TTL balanced fill-flash for digital SLR and standard i-TTL fill-flash for digital SLR available when CPU lens is used with built-in flash, SB-400, SB-800, and SB-600
-Auto aperture with SB-800 and CPU lenses
-Non-TTL auto with SB-800, 80DX, 28DX, 28, 27 and 22s
-Range-priority manual with SB-800

Flash mode
-
Auto, Portrait, Child, Close-up: Auto, auto with red-eye reduction; fill-flash and red-eye reduction available with optional Speedlight
-Night portrait: Auto, auto slow sync, auto slow sync with red-eye reduction; slow sync and slow sync with red-eye reduction available with optional Speedlight
-Landscape, Sports: Fill-flash and red-eye reduction available with optional Speedlight
-P, A modes: Fill flash, rear-curtain with slow sync, slow sync, slow sync with red-eye reduction, red-eye reduction
-S, M modes: Fill flash, rear-curtain sync, red-eye reduction

Flash compensation
--3 to +1 EV
-1/3 steps

Shooting modes
-Single frame shooting (S) mode
-Continuous shooting (C) mode: approx. 2.5 frame per second (1 fps with HI 1 sensitivity)
-Self-timer/remote control mode.

Continuous buffer
-
JPEG: Limited only by storage
-RAW: Approx. 9 frames (shooting continues at a slower rate)

Self-timer
-2, 5, 10 or 20 sec

Storage
-
Secure Digital / Secure Digital HC
-FAT / FAT32
-Supports firmware update via SD card

Video output
-NTSC or PAL selectable

Connectivity
-USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed)
-Mass storage / PTP selectable
-Video out
-DC-IN (optional AC adapter and adapter connector)

Power
-
Lithium-Ion battery pack EN-EL9 (7.4 V, 1000 mAh)

Dimensions
-
126 x 94 x 64 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in)

Weight (no batt)
-
471 g (1.0 lb)

Weight (inc. batt)
-522 g (1.2 lb)


Conclusion:

PRO
  • Smallest Nikon DSLR to date, great for travel and all-day carry
  • Quiet shutter andAF operation: a very "polite" camera
  • Good dynamic range, particularly in the shadows
  • Excellent high-ISO performance
  • Very well laid-out controls, fewer buttons yet still plenty of depth
  • Fast AF system, good shutter response
  • AF system works down to very low light levels, even without the AF-assist light
  • Bright AF-assist lamp works whether or not flash is enabled
  • Integration of info display and function menu is superb: Easy for a beginner, handy for a pro
  • LCD display is very well organized and informative, 2.5" screen is a welcome step up from that of the D50
  • AF-S and manual focus lenses can be used with manual focusing, camera's focus sensor indicates correct focus
  • Kit lens focuses down to 11 inches at any focal length
  • Bright LED AF zone indicators in viewfinder display
  • Accurate and consistent metering, works to very low light levels (but only in manual mode at the darkest levels)
  • Nikon 3D matrix metering produces very accurate flash exposures
  • 1/500 x-sync speed for flash shots
  • Grip is comfortable for a wide range of hand sizes
  • Programmable function button is very handy, nice that it's on the left side of the body, making it easier to manipulate command dial at the same time
  • Playback zoom operation is very convenient
  • Playback display is very fast, refreshes quickly as you scroll through captured images
  • In-camera "retouch" menu is unique, permits significant image adjustment without resorting to the computer
  • Four-way controller disc works well
  • Strap eyelets are recessed, won't gouge your hand when holding the camera
  • Adjustable auto-off timers are a nice touch, surprising to find on an entry-level SLR
  • Extensive custom function menu, way ahead of most entry-level DSLRs
  • Digital "image overlay" permits creative multiple-exposure shots
  • Very fast downloads to a computer
  • Optional remote control transmitter available
  • Phenomenal pricing for a Nikon DSLR, particularly considering the feature set
CON
  • Good dynamic range, but prone to losing highlight detail
  • In-camera contrast adjustment has almost no effect
  • Only 3 AF regions
  • Auto white balance setting doesn't handle household incandescent lighting well
  • Kit lens shows dramatic flare, well in from the corners
  • Chromatic aberration is also high at wide angle
  • No Autofocus with non AF-S lenses
  • Limited support for older, non-CPU lenses
  • LCD status display is slow to update, lags behind actual camera settings when rotating command dial, particularly in "graphic" display mode (in-viewfinder display is fast and accurate though)
  • Glare from LCD info display very distracting when looking through the viewfinder (almost blinding at night), can be turned off though
  • AF assist lamp may be blocked by your fingers when holding the camera
  • Shutter time determined by "gating" the CCD at high shutter speeds, can lead to streaking or smearing of very strong highlights
  • Grip may be too small for some users
  • AF point is easily changed accidentally by hitting the four-way control pad while shooting
  • Dioptric adjustment of viewfinder optics is awkward to set, has somewhat limited range
  • Battery charger requires large external cord, just one thing more to lug along on a trip
  • No battery grip or option (yet, at least - there are contacts in the battery compartment for one, just none offered.)
  • No in-camera support for Nikon Advanced Wireless Lighting System (does work with SB-800 on the camera as a controller though)
  • Kit lens does not come with hood

Useful info about Nikon D40:

http://www.nikondigital.com/d40_digitutor/eng/d40/index.shtml

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