Nikon D40X Review

 
Camera Reviews / Nikon Cameras / Nikon D i Full Review
Basic Specifications
Full model name: Nikon D40X
Resolution: 10.20 Megapixels
Sensor size: APS-C
Kit Lens: 3.06x zoom
18-55mm
(27-83mm eq.)
Viewfinder: Optical / No LCD
ISO: 100-3200
Shutter: 30-1/4000
Max Aperture: 3.5
Dimensions: 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in.
(126 x 94 x 64 mm)
Weight: 17.0 oz (481 g)
MSRP: $800
Availability: 04/2007
Manufacturer: Nikon
Full specs: Nikon D40X specifications
10.20
Megapixels
Nikon F APS-C
size sensor
image of Nikon D40X
Front side of Nikon D40X digital camera Back side of Nikon D40X digital camera Top side of Nikon D40X digital camera Left side of Nikon D40X digital camera Right side of Nikon D40X digital camera

Nikon D40x Overview

by Dave Etchells and
Shawn Barnett
Review Date: 6/29/07

The Nikon D40x has a sensor resolution of 10.2 megapixels, and offers ISO sensitivity ranging from 100 to 1,600, with the ability to extend this to ISO 3,200 using the Hi-1 setting. Even though the sensor resolution has been increased from six megapixels in the original D40 model, the ten megapixel D40x offers a faster burst mode of three frames per second. The D40x retains the same compact size, portability and ease-of-use as its popular sibling, the D40.

The D40x has a 2.5" LCD display with 230,000 pixel resolution and a 170 degree viewing angle, which means your friends can gather 'round behind you and everyone will see the same image quality wherever they're standing. Other D40x features include extensive in-camera image editing, a full array of automatic and manual exposure modes, including some modes tuned for specific situations, like Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close up and Night portrait. There's an Auto ISO mode that lets the user select the maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed, which leaves you with some control over what Auto can do. Just like the D40, autofocus is only supported when using AF-S or AF-I lenses, which limits you to newer Nikon lenses. The built-in i-TTL flash has a guide number of 12m /39 ft. at ISO 100 in auto modes and 13m / 42 ft. in manual. Maximum flash sync is 1/200 second.

The D40x uses an EN-EL9 lithium-ion rechargeable battery, with a rated 520 shots per charge, and stores images on SD/SDHC memory cards (not included). Connectivity includes USB 2.0 high-speed, A/V out, and the option of an infrared remote.

The Nikon D40x started shipping in April 2007, priced at $729.95 body only, or $799.95 bundled with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor lens.

 

Nikon D40x User Report

by Shawn Barnett

Nikon out-flanked the competition last Fall with the introduction of the six-megapixel D40, a small, easy-to-use digital SLR with good quality at an affordable price. They fairly bracketed the competition, namely Canon's Digital Rebel XTi, with the Spring 2007 introduction of the Nikon D40x, a 10-megapixel digital SLR with the same ease of the D40, but with resolution to match the XTi.

This is my favorite kind of review to write, because the D40x is an excellent camera, easy to recommend. The D40x is so similar to the D40 that I'll be re-editing some of my former descriptions from the D40 review, as the form and function are essentially the same (to summarize: terrific in almost every aspect).

What's new. Physically, only the badge on the D40x is different from the D40. Internally, it has a 10 megapixel sensor instead of 6. The new sensor brings a few other changes thanks to its different technology.

First, the flash sync speed goes down to 1/200 from 1/500. This same change occurred between the D70 and D80. In both cases, the reason is that Nikon switched from "gating" the CCD at higher shutter speeds to including a faster shutter mechanism. This change reduces the chance of "blooming" in images where a bright highlight like the Sun in the frame can overload the sensor. For more on this, see the Exposure tab.

Second, the Nikon D40x is capable of a slightly faster 3.0 frames per second in continuous mode, as opposed to the D40's 2.5 frames per second.

Two advantages. Going from 6 to 10 megapixels means more pixels are dedicated to a given element, which is why they appear larger when displayed pixel-for-pixel. The other advantage here is the D40x's lowest setting of ISO 100, whereas the D40 is limited to 200. I should note, however, that the D40 does such an excellent job that it's hard to see a significant difference.

Third, the ISO range now includes 100, instead of just 200-3,200. The main advantage here is that you can achieve slower shutter speeds or wider apertures in bright light than you'd be able to with the D40. Theoretically you might also get better noise control with the new sensor at ISO 100, but the D40's noise performance is so good that I can't see a difference, and can't imagine anyone else would.

Unlike a move from 8 megapixels to 10 megapixels, the jump from 6 to 10 megapixels is indeed a large one. Enlarge both images to 100 percent onscreen, and you can see just how much larger objects are. It turns out this is an excellent way to gauge how much more detail you're getting. Your screen resolves at only one resolution, so if you set both images to match, you can see how much detail you have in each image. I've done it for you to the right. The top image is from the D40, the bottom from the D40x. If you're not going to be doing a lot of cropping or enlarging beyond 11x14, you won't notice much difference between the D40 and D40x except the average file size. I would be happy with either, but our tests do show that the D40x has greater dynamic range than any camera we've tested. More on that later in this report, and on the Imatest page.

Finally, the Nikon D40x's image buffer doesn't go on forever like the D40 can when capturing JPEG images. Instead, depending on the subject, it fills after about seven shots when set to Large/Fine JPEG.

Compatibility. There is one point that owners of older Nikon lenses should know right up front: The D40x was designed to work primarily with AF-S lenses and AF-I teleconverters. The Nikon D40 and D40x are built specifically for entry-level consumers, and abandon compatibility with the majority of Nikon's older AF lenses. This is the key important distinction that everyone, especially enthusiasts, should know about the D40 and D40x. Though you can still mount old lenses and focus manually, most older lenses require a body-based screw-drive mechanism that the D40s lack. I maintain that this was a wise move on Nikon's part to help keep the price low and the camera small, but I have occasionally missed that compatibility, especially when wanting to mount a prime (non-zoom) lens on this pleasantly small SLR. There are currently no short prime Nikkor lenses available in AF-S. (I now carry a small SLR with a 50mm prime attached as my everyday camera; I prefer the low light performance and reduced depth-of-field possible with such an arrangement.)

Those who still want to use legacy lenses in autofocus mode, many of which are still in the Nikon lineup, should opt for the D50, D70, or D80. Note that you can still use older lenses with the Nikon D40x if you're okay with manual focus. The D40x can still control aperture on lenses marked D and G, and it will illuminate the AF points when an area is in focus. For more complete detail on this relatively complex issue, see the Optics section of this review.

Nikon D40x Nikon D200
What's missing from the D40x is the physical coupling you see on the Nikon D200's mount at right. This makes the D200 compatible with lenses that use Nikon's 20-year-old AF drive mechanism. Compatibility's great, but the old system does make more noise than the AF-S system used by the D40x.

I think it's a safe bet that most Nikon D40x owners will prefer the quieter, more modern AF-S lenses that are currently 23 in number, plus three teleconverters.

Manners. Not since the days of cloth focal plane shutters have I heard such a soft shutter sound as we get with the D40 and D40x. Nikon has been getting better and better at this aspect of their SLR cameras, and the D40 line surpasses them all. It's not critical to have a nice soft shutter sound, but it does much to foster appreciation among users, and even subjects. Harsh clacking and winding is really more distracting than appealing. A softer sound allows the photographer to be part of the background rather than the center of attention. One exception to this rule is when photographing models, when it's helpful for the model to know when to change poses, but that's far from the Nikon D40's intended market.

The Nikon D40's pop-up flash is fairly quiet too, releasing with a single "clack;" more tame than the Canon Rebel XTi's far louder "zing/clunk." It can be released manually via the button on the left of the lens mount, or automatically by the camera when in fully automatic modes.

The Nikon D40's 18-55mm AF-S lens also focuses very quietly, thanks to its Silent Wave Motor. I found it a very useful and reliable lens. Coupled with the D40x's excellent high ISO performance in low light, its f/3.5 maximum aperture wasn't such a limitation.

Noticable flare, quite strong in direct sunlight at the 18-55mm's telephoto setting when there's significant contrast in the corners.

As I noted with the D40's kit lens, the Nikon D40x's 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II AF-S kit lens exhibited noticeable lens flare in high contrast objects out toward the corners. I think it's perfectly acceptable in a lens at this price point, but still worthy of note. Also an option for a little more money is a kit that bundles the more versatile Nikkor 18-135mm lens that was first bundled with the Nikon D80. This lens has its own problems in terms of increased chromatic aberration, but it's still an excellent choice for general purpose photography. Not only can you do more in terms of cropping as you capture, it's a better quality optic overall.

Comfortable grip.

Experience. Gripping the Nikon D40x is like settling down in your favorite chair. Not only do you feel right at home, the chair feels at home with you, having formed itself to match your shape. The Nikon D40x already matches. My index finger finds the shutter release perfectly, and the remaining three fingers fit quite well around the grip. Though I wouldn't mind a slightly deeper grip, this is quite good for a camera this small, and a slight recess gives my fingertips a good place to settle, offering tactile feedback that tells me I have sufficient purchase on the camera. My thumb finds its special notch high up on the D40x's back, right between the AE-Lock button and the Command dial. It's just a minor nudge to either of these controls, just like picking up my drink from the side table without taking my eyes off the book as I sit in that comfortable chair. Effortless.

Thumb dial.

Rather than use the good quality knurl around the Mode dial, I found myself most often sliding my thumb up to spin the Nikon D40x's Mode dial to my next setting. It's easier to move it in a counterclockwise direction, and easy enough to go all the way around, so that's my normal mode. The top of the dial isn't flat, but domed, and it has a texture that my thumb finds easy to grip.

Recessed strap loops.

Since I seldom use camera straps, the lashing points on the camera often bother me, jutting out into my hand or swinging around as they often do. But the strap loops on the Nikon D40x are recessed into the camera body on both sides, a welcome change from all past Nikon DSLR designs, which either flop and rattle on the pro end or jab into your hand on the consumer side.


Function button. As I did with the D40, I set the D40x's Function button to ISO, which I change most often.

Controls. The Nikon D40x's control layout is simple and easy to adapt to. I even like the position of the Function button. This is a button you can reprogram to bring up your most frequently adjusted menu item. I currently have it set to ISO. Just press the Function button on the side of the lens with your left thumb and turn the Command dial. The status display lights up the Fn box and you can see the ISO numbers ramp up or down.

Easy adjustments.

A good many other essential items are shown on the Nikon D40x's Status display, and can easily be controlled with only a few more buttons. Just press the Zoom/info button, and select the icons across the bottom or right side of the screen with any of the four arrow buttons on the Multi selector. When you reach the one you want, hit the OK button in the center of the Multi selector and a menu is displayed with photographic examples for the various modes. Make your selection and press the OK button again. You're ready to shoot with your new setting. The example shots are very much like those we've seen on consumer digicams over the past few years, and it is appropriate to see them here on the Nikon D40S, an SLR aimed at consumers.

LCD. The screen is a big, bright 2.5 inch display with a wide viewing angle in all directions to help you show off your pictures. The camera is so small that the screen seems to dominate the Nikon D40x's back panel.

I'm overjoyed to see that there's no silly snap-on screen protector in the Nikon D40x box. They fog up, add two extra surfaces to reflect glare, and just bug me. I'm told the screen cover is good for protecting the screen from shirt button scratches. My usual nylon buttons don't mar anything, but I suppose harder buttons might. To this day, however, I've never even seen a scratched LCD display on an SLR; so just be aware, use the care you should with your fragile photographic tool, and you should be able to maintain a scratch-free LCD cover glass with little trouble.

Most SLR manufacturers have ditched the additional monochrome LCD in favor of using the main color LCD as a status display on their consumer SLRs. About half have also recognized that it helps to have the LCD turn off when you put the camera to your eye. Nikon is not among that half. The Canon Rebel XTi and Sony A100 have IR sensors in place to detect your face against the viewfinder so that the screen shuts off. The Nikon D40x and Olympus E-510 just keep the LCD on until you half-press on the shutter button. It's not a big problem in good light indoors or out, but when it gets dark, it's a nuisance, one that gets worse if you have glasses. The glare just bounces around in that optical mess. If you half press the shutter, however, the Status display goes off. It comes back on about a half second after your release the shutter. You can release the Nikon D40x's shutter only halfway and keep shooting with the same AF setting, and the LCD does not come back on.

Graphic display.

If you like, you can turn off the D40x's status display, which Nikon calls the Shooting Information Display. On by default, it goes off after a few seconds at idle, to save batteries, and comes back on when you press the Info button behind the Shutter release button. You can choose among three displays, and pick different ones when in PASM vs full-auto and Scene modes. The Graphic display is set by default. It shows a wheel in the left corner that represents a shutter speed dial and aperture display. The aperture display "stops down" to approximate what the lens blades will be doing, but it only moves after several turns of the Command dial. The same goes for the shutter speed graphic. It seems like a good idea to educate those who are unfamiliar with how cameras work, though they'll have to be the types to pay close attention. You can also have your own picture there as a backdrop in Wallpaper mode. For the most part, I prefer the Classic display, with its no-nonsense, bold digital display of the important data. It looks essentially like the monochrome Status LCDs you'll find on semi-pro and pro SLRs.

Classic display.

Regardless of the display chosen, the LCD is slow to refresh as you change settings. That includes aperture, shutter speed, and EV (exposure value) settings. This is a problem from the D40 that hasn't been fixed in the D40x. I found myself particularly frustrated with the EV settings, because I frequently overshot my goal, thinking the camera had missed my input. When attempting to set -1/3 EV, for example, the camera wouldn't make the change, so I'd turn the Command dial again. Then the camera would catch up and move it to -2/3. The LED display in the optical viewfinder doesn't have this problem, however, moving instantaneously to reflect your choice. This is an unfortunate bug that makes using EV adjustment and manual modes with the Nikon D40x difficult.

Optical viewfinder. Luke, the lab technician, and I both found the diopter control difficult to set. We also noticed that the D40x didn't adjust for our eyesight well enough (which isn't unusual for me). Rather than the wheel Nikon used on the D200 and D80, the D40x has a slider next to the rubber eyepiece. Changing it while looking through the viewfinder is cumbersome, and you frequently slide past your desired setting due to the force necessary to move it in the first place.

The viewfinder display is very good, showing all the important information, including which AF point is selected, and there's a little question mark icon that flashes in low light or any other situations the Nikon D40x thinks you should make an adjustment. To see what's up, just pull the camera from your eye and press the question mark button on the left of the LCD display. Here in my office, it usually says, "Lighting is poor; flash recommended." I think that's a good feature to have in a consumer camera, and the note's not condescending. What I don't like is the incessant flashing of the question mark in the viewfinder and on the back LCD when I'm trying to do something unconventional. It's not a big deal, though, just a rant, and one enthusiasts might want to make note of: the D40x's help feature just might bug you.

AF points. Praise the designers for putting bright LED brackets on all three of the D40x's AF points. Even the excellent Nikon D80 still has the very cool looking, but too often worthless LCD/faint LED combo. I prefer a bright red LED to tell me where the camera is focusing, as exists on the entire Canon SLR lineup. These are big, obvious brackets. And yes, there are only three, but I'm really not as jazzed as I used to be about multiple AF points. I more frequently lock a camera to its center point and work from there. The center point is usually more accurate, and I find that SLRs just aren't as accurate as digicams have been at guessing what I want in focus.

There is one small problem related to AF points and the Nikon D40x's size. As I mentioned, I prefer to lock it to the center AF point, but putting the D40x into Single Area mode is the only way to set this. Unfortunately, you can't exactly lock it to the center point; instead you use the left and right arrows on the Multi-controller to select which AF point you want to use. Because the area for your thumb on the D40x is small, I find I accidentally press the left and right arrows on the Multi controller, changing the default AF point. That's a bit of an unwelcome surprise when you raise the camera to your eye for a quick candid portrait and the D40x focuses on the subject's belt. Most users will do better to leave the D40x in Closest subject or Dynamic area modes.

Solid SD card door.

Doors and latches. The Nikon D40's SD card door opens with a firm slide to the rear, then it swings open under power of a good stiff spring. A rubber bumper softens and quiets its impact. I prefer this design to others that just flop around loose.

Stronger springs hold the battery in place.

Nikon also improved the battery door and its retention spring. The Nikon D70 and D80 had weak, mushy springs on their latches, and could open if you pressed in the just the wrong way on the bottom of the camera. Not so with the D40x. The spring is firm. Once that door is open, the battery seems to slide right out. But it emerges to about 3/8 inch where it stops. This is just enough for you to grab the battery and pull it out the rest of the way. I noticed that the battery of the D70 and D80 were halted in the same way, but it was a thin wire that did the arresting. I wondered how long that would last. On the Nikon D40x, the arresting is done by a wide bit of spring steel. That should last longer.

I've also found the battery life to be quite good, enduring several days of regular shooting. According to CIPA standards, the Nikon D40x's 1,000 mAh EN-EL9 is good for about 470 shots on a single charge, and the manual says it'll recharge from empty in 90 minutes. Still, I recommend a second battery. It's a drag to be without your camera while you wait for the battery to charge; and it usually dies when you need it most. The best news, though, is that most lithium-ion batteries can sit charged for a long time (often a month or so) and still be good when you need them.

Flash. It's a small step down that the D40x doesn't have the D40's 1/500 second flash sync, especially since neither camera supports FP mode. As I mentioned, the reason the D40x doesn't have this speedy x-sync is because they've put in a full-speed shutter mechanism, rather than relying on electronic "gating" of the sensor array.

Put simply, gating a sensor means that you're making the exposure by opening the shutter completely, then turning the sensor on and off at the speed you desire. In the case of the D40, the maximum gate speed is 1/4000 second. But why is the flash sync speed reduced on the D40x? Because to make a flash exposure, the shutter must be completely open while the flash fires, and the fastest speed that allows this is 1/200 second. At 1/250, the second curtain of the focal plane shutter has already started closing before the first one fully opens, so when the flash fires, part of the sensor will be covered by one or other of the shutters. So between 1/250 and 1/4000 second, the shutter never fully opens, and is instead an increasingly narrow slit that travels across the sensor. (There is often a way to overcome this with external flashes, which pulse as the slit travels across the sensor, but the D40x's on-camera flash is not capable of this FP, or Focal Plane mode, nor does it support external units in FP mode.)

The other missing component to the D40x's flash picture, shared by the D40, is its inability to serve as a Commander in the Nikon Advanced Wireless Lighting System. Mount an SB-800, and that limitation can be overcome, but you'd do better to purchase a Nikon D80 if you want to employ the Nikon Advanced Wireless Lighting System, because each SB-800 will run about $320-$400.

High ISO makes backlit indoor shots easy.

Image quality. It's the Nikon D40x's excellent image quality that makes recommending this little digital SLR so easy. See the Exposure and Optics tabs for the detailed breakdown. I'm most impressed that they were able to improve on the D40's already stellar high ISO performance. Hoping to catch my son napping in the afternoon this week like I did when I reviewed the D40 last Fall, I instead found him up and watching a movie with his brother. It was a good moment, so I pressed the Function button to select ISO 1,600, extended the 18-135mm lens to 75mm, and snapped off a few shots handheld. It's no great art, but it's a cute picture of two brothers cooling off on the futon after playing one hot Summer afternoon. This is just the kind of photo most D40x owners want from their new camera: a candid indoor shot without flash. It's a little soft and grainy, but still natural looking. With the 18-55mm kit lens, I'd have had to move closer, which would have distracted them from their gaze. That's why I strongly recommend the 18-135mm kit if you can afford it. Equivalent to a 27 to 202mm lens, the 18-135mm lens is bigger, but it's better, and has just the right reach for almost all family photography. When I reviewed the D80, I've never felt more instantly at home with a camera and lens combination. Shooting at an amusement park, I could go wide for the scenics and then set up for a head and shoulders portrait from just about any vantage.

Saturation. Colors are quite vibrant at the default Normal setting.

Looking at my images after shooting most of the Gallery shots, I was surprised how saturated the colors were. I had to check the camera to verify that I had it set to Normal; I did. Dave and I agree that both the contrast and saturation on the D40x's Normal setting are set too high for our purposes, but that most consumers will be pleased. Their reality will be just a little more punchy and beautiful, and that's what most folks want to see. Those interested in making their own after-capture tweaks to the image will do better entering Custom mode and making their own mix of settings.

55-200mm VR. Sharp edge-to-edge, easy to handhold.

I also had the sweet little Nikkor 55-200mm VR lens with me, which was introduced at PMA 2007 concurrent with the Nikon D40x. Available for between $240 and $300, this lens seems like another great choice for the D40x owner seeking a little extra reach with help from optical image stabilization. It's equivalent to an 82.5-300mm lens on a 35mm camera, yet is both small and light. We haven't tested it on SLRgear.com yet, but the shots I got with it seem pretty sharp corner-to-corner.

At full telephoto indoors or shade, the AF system is slower to acquire focus with the 55-200mm VR, which I expected. The image stabilizer is sometimes jittery starting up, making a little buzzing sound, but it stabilizes quickly. I don't think this is Nikon's best VR system, as it often seems unable to compensate for my movement when set to full tele, but it's still nice to have the extra help.

One other plus with the Nikon D40x that we found when we ran our Imatest "deep analysis," which we usually reserve for SLRs, is its quite superior dynamic range. It actually delivers better highlight and shadow gradation in its JPEG images than all other cameras we've tested, including the remarkable Fujifilm S3 Pro. This latter camera has a sensor that's specially designed to produce a wide dynamic range, blending the results from high-sensitivity and low-sensitivity pixels, so the fact that the D40x beats this purpose-built pro camera is significant. Looking at the images side-by-side, we tended to prefer the D40x's output as well. When it came to analyzing the RAW output from both cameras, the S3 Pro did edge the D40x slightly; but it beat everything else on the chart. What does that mean for you? Well, it means you're more likely to get both the white wedding dress and black tuxedo exposed properly in the same shot; and if you don't, you're more likely to be able to recover some detail from these areas if you need to. Both shadow and highlight detail will be more rich and have more depth, where other cameras will just transition from gray to black in one or two steps.

See the Optics and Exposure tabs for the rest on the D40x. In short, though, the D40x is a camera you can buy with confidence and be sure you'll love the pictures.

Comparisons.




Which is smaller? A side-by-side comparison shot makes the Nikon D40x appear smaller than the Rebel XTi from the front. Their dimensions are actually almost identical. In millimeters: Nikon D40x: 126 x 94 x 64mm, Canon Rebel XTi: 126.5 x 94.2 x 65mm. Weight is also only slightly different, with the XTi coming in just 9 grams heavier than the D40x's 753 grams (26.5 ounces) with lens, cap, battery, and card. In the second image, you can see the D40x's simpler control array, while the XTi is more cluttered with buttons and labels. As a more experienced photographer, I like more buttons, but I think it's too easy for inexperienced photographers to accidentally change a setting on the XTi and ruin a whole day's worth of photos. Note also that the camera and lens combination of the D40x is a little longer than the XTi.

Since I reviewed the D40, the list of competing cameras in this small, family category has increased a bit. Now there's the Olympus E410, which is even smaller than the D40x and XTi. We haven't finished our testing of that little SLR, though, so I can't comment much.

The Canon Digital Rebel XTi has a fit rival in the Nikon D40x, though, that is for sure. Major differences are more technical, and have less to do with image quality. The grip of the Nikon D40x is a little taller and deeper, the lens build is a little better, and the controls are simpler. The D40x's built-in AF-assist lamp is quite a bit better than the XTi's pulse flash alternative, and its tough to beat the D40x's soft shutter sound. But the XTi also has its strengths, including an IR sensor that turns of the LCD Status display when you raise the camera to your eye, better low-light AF performance from its 9-point AF array, and full compatibility with Canon's entire line of EOS lenses dating back to 1989. Its dust removal system is probably a wash, since you'll have to clean both sensors eventually regardless.

In terms of image quality, you'll get great shots from either camera. At their default settings, the Canon Rebel XTi is surprisingly more conservative in terms of saturation and contrast, but that distinction can be found compared to the D80 and D50 as well. The D40x also offers ISO 3,200, one stop more than the XTi will deliver. Below I've cropped from our Still Life shots taken at ISO 1,600 to give a closer look at the two approaches to high ISO images. Both will make great prints and deliver a lot more than any digicam (non-SLR) of comparable resolution, so what you see below does not take away from the overall quality that both cameras capture.

Different approaches. Here at ISO 1,600, the highest that the XTi and D40x have in common, you can see the two different approaches to maintaining a quality image at high ISO settings. On top you have the Canon XTi, and below the Nikon D40x. Different eyes will see each image differently. The XTi takes a more conservative approach, leaving some noise in place in favor of maintaining detail. The D40x did just like its big brother the D80 did, squashing as much noise as possible in favor of cleaner, more decisive colors. You can see the shadow on the right behind the Mas Portell bottle has more random colors, or chroma noise, in the Canon image than in the Nikon sample. Meanwhile, the details in the letters on the Canon image are a little better defined than the D40x, and the left shoulder of the bottle is stippled rather than smooth. In the left image, color and contrast are more pumped in the Nikon image, which tends to reveal the anti-noise processing around the edges of the peppers. Likewise, the orange leaves on the cloth in the background are brighter, but with less tonal range than in the Canon image. Most photographers who post-process their images on a computer would be drawn to the Canon XTi's images, because they have software that can make more of the image than the Nikon D40x's software did. But truthfully, the Nikon D40x image will print a little better, appearing more bold and sharp up to about 11x14.

Appraisal. The Nikon D40x is a gem. Consumers should want one, intermediate photographers should want one, and pros would do well to carry one too. The Nikon D40x is one of the finest family cameras on the market made even better than its predecessor, which is a tall order.

As I said with the D40, I've really enjoyed shooting with the D40x, and would seriously consider it as a second camera to something like a D80, D200, or 30D. Those cameras are great for more serious work, but they're also bigger and heavier. The D40x is a camera for capturing fun and family. It's crafted for such duty. And you can still slap high quality glass on it and shoot with the pros anytime you like. The Nikon D40x is perfect for slipping into a small daypack for a hike or picnic. It doesn't take a lot of space, and it comes out of the bag quickly. It focuses and shoots so quietly, you're less likely to scare the animals you're trying to capture.

Intermediate photographers wanting a camera to start a business on a budget should look to the Nikon D80 or Canon 30D, as these are more suited for professional photography. Those who already own a bagful of Nikon glass should look instead to the D80 or D200, because they'll want to use that fine Nikkor equipment as long as they can. But if you're just getting started in SLR photography and want a light, sweet, competent, and simultaneously friendly digital SLR, the Nikon D40x is a superb choice.

 

In the Box

The Nikon D40x kit ships with the following items in the box:

  • Nikon D40x body
  • Lens AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II
  • Body cap
  • Front lens cap
  • Camera strap
  • Eyepiece cap
  • Rubber eyecup
  • USB cable
  • Quick charger (MH-23)
  • AC power cord
  • Li-ion battery (EN-EL9)
  • Accessory shoe cover
  • Lens cap
  • PictureProject CD ROM
  • Quick start guide
  • Instruction manual
  • Warranty and registration card

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity SD memory card. These days, a 1GB or 2GB card is inexpensive enough
  • Camera case for protection
  • Accessory lenses
  • Accessory flash: SB-400, SB-600, SB-800

Not sure which SLR lens to buy?

Visit SLRgear.com for
camera lens reviews, tests, specs & prices,
including Nikon lenses!

 


Nikon D40x Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Smallest Nikon SLR to date, great for travel and all-day carry
  • Quiet shutter and AF operation: a very "polite" camera
  • Great dynamic range, one of the best we've seen
  • 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 does not require flash to be deployed
  • 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 excellent
  • AF-S and manual focus lenses can be used with manual focusing, camera's focus sensor points indicate 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
  • 1/200 x-sync speed for flash shots
  • Grip is comfortable for a wide range of hand sizes
  • New mechanical shutter eliminates streaking of very strong highlights caused by shutter "gating" technique used in D40, D50, and D70
  • 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
  • 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 (optical viewfinder display is fast and accurate though)
  • Glare from LCD info display is 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
  • Flash sync speed has been reduced from 1/500 sec to 1/200 sec (only a disadvantage if you prefer the 1/500 sync speed of the D40)
  • 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

 

Nikon really shocked the market with the D40. Just four months later they did it again with the Nikon D40x. Its jump to 10 megapixels brought more than just resolution enhancements, it brought a new shutter, slightly greater speed, and, surprisingly, better low light performance than the already impressive D40 offered. That's tough to do when you're raising resolution.

Peter iNova's D40 & D40x eBook

The Nikon D40x is a natural fit in most hands. Its controls are where they should be for easy use, and the D40x is a well-behaved guest at parties with its pleasantly soft shutter sound. A big, bright LCD is great for reviewing photos from a wide variety of angles; though we do wish they'd put some kind of eye detection method to prevent glare while you're looking through the viewfinder.

Existing Nikon owners should be careful to note that like the D40, the Nikon D40x can only autofocus with AF-S lenses. Those who want to attach a short, fast prime (non-zoom) lens for indoor low-light shooting should also note that Nikon doesn't currently make any such lenses in AF-S. The good news, however, is that the Nikon D40x's low light performance at ISO 1,600 is startling, even without noise reduction turned on. It's so good that we don't really feel like we're pushing the D40x until we jump into ISO 3,200.

Though the Nikon D40x's kit lens is pretty good, and also fast and quiet, we were a still disappointed that the significant flare we saw in the D40 persist out toward the corners, even in the middle of its zoom range. Chromatic aberration was also fairly high at wide angle, but none of these minor problems were differed significantly from other comparably priced kit lenses. The lens performed very well in most circumstances, so it's worth the price. But the beauty of the SLR is that you can change the lens, or in this case you can even buy a more versatile lens kit for just a little more, with the 18-135mm kit.

No matter how you look at it, the Nikon D40x stands up well against the competition, with great image quality at all speeds, and near-perfect utility as a family camera. Its very fun to use, polite, attractive, and well-built; just the kind of companion you want to have along on your next family outing. The Nikon D40x doesn't really obsolete the D40, which we continue to recommend strongly and list as a Dave's Pick, but it's a little better in just a few key areas, which is high praise indeed. Own either and you'll know why we've made the Nikon D40x a Dave's Pick.


Click here to visit B&H's website

 

Nikon D40X

Your purchases support this site

Buy the Nikon D40X

Print the overview page for the Nikon D40X digital camera reviewPrint this Page

Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

Follow Imaging Resource

Purchase memory card for Nikon D40X digital camera
Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate