Nikon D40 Review

 
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Nikon D40 Controls

Control Enumeration, Command Dial

Here's our usual "walk around the camera," describing the functions served by the various controls. The D40 has a considerably simplified external interface relative to other Nikon DSLRs, in that it has fewer buttons. Many of the functions that previously had been controlled through the combination of a button and one or two Command Dials have now been moved to the Shooting display, where they're accessed via the Multi-s0-elector rocker pad and OK button. With fewer buttons and only a single Command Dial, the D40's interface is easier to learn, but won't be quite as fast and fluid as that of the D80 and D200 for experienced shooters. Overall, we think the simplified operational design was a good choice for the D40's intended entry-level market: The majority of adjustments novice or intermediate users will regularly want to make are all grouped on the Shooting display screen, and can all be controlled by a single control cluster.

Here's a look at the external controls on the Nikon D40:

 

Control Enumeration, Top Panel Controls

The controls on the right side of the top panel are the primary shooting controls, generally dealing with immediate camera operations.


Power Dial
: Surrounding the Shutter button on the top right of the camera, this dial turns the camera on and off.

Shutter Button: In the center of the Power dial, on the top of the camera, this button sets focus (when in autofocus mode) when halfway pressed and fires the shutter when fully pressed. You can choose whether or not the Shutter button also locks exposure, via an option on the Custom Settings menu.

When an image is displayed on the LCD monitor, halfway pressing the Shutter button dismisses the display and immediately switches the camera to shooting mode. (A partial expression of Nikon's "shooting priority" philosophy.)


Exposure Compensation / Aperture Setting Button
: Behind and to the right of the Shutter button on the top of the camera, pressing this button while turning the Command Dial sets the Exposure Compensation from -5 to +5 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. In Manual exposure mode, pressing this button and rotating the Command Dial sets the lens aperture.


Shooting Information Button / Reset Button
: Pressing this button in any capture mode calls up or dismisses the Shooting Information display on the camera's rear panel. Pressing and holding down this button and the Quality / i / Reset button simultaneously resets the camera to its default settings.


Mode Dial
: The Mode Dial duplicates that on the D50 and D80, but adds a new "Flash Cancel" mode for available-light photography and restores the "Child" mode that was on the D50 but not the D80. The Night Landscape mode of the D50 is also dropped. The Mode Dial offers a range of programmed and automatic exposure options, as well as a choice of seven Scene modes. See the Modes & Menus subtab of this review for details on all the options.

 

Control Enumeration, Left Side Controls

The left side of the protrusion surrounding the lens mounting flange carries two controls, plus the lens-mount lock button.


Flash Button:
Pressed with the flash down, this button releases the flash head to pop up. With the flash head up, pressing and holding it while rotating the Command Dial changes the flash sync mode. The flash modes available vary depending on the setting of the mode dial, with some of the more automated/programmed modes restricting your choices. The full list of flash modes includes Auto, Auto+Red-Eye Reduction, Auto+Slow Sync+Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Sync, Slow Sync+Red-Eye Reduction, and Rear Curtain+Slow Sync. A Manual flash exposure mode is available via Custom Settings Menu option 14.

Flash exposure can be set holding the Flash and Exposure Compensation buttons down simultaneously, while rotating the Command Dial. It sounds difficult, but it's not. Flash exposure can also be adjusted via the Shooting Display and Multi-Controller arrow keys, which some users may find more straightforward.


Function / Self-Timer Button:

This button can be configured to perform any of five different functions, selected via Custom Function menu option 11. By default, this button selects the self-timer mode, but it can also be used to select the shooting mode (single or continuous), image quality and size, ISO sensitivity, or white balance.

Control Enumeration, Rear Panel Controls

Most of the camera's remaining controls are found on the rear panel. As we noted earlier, there are fewer buttons present than on any other Nikon DSLR, making for a bit simpler user interface, but one that won't be quite as fast for advanced users to navigate as that on the D50 or D80. We'll start our tour at the top left, and proceed counter-clockwise from there.


Playback Button
: Just off the top left corner of the LCD monitor, this button displays the most recently captured image, putting the camera into Playback mode. Once an image is displayed, the left/right arrow keys or the Command Dial navigate through the other images saved on the memory card. This button also dismisses the image display. (The camera also drops out of playback mode immediately if you touch the shutter button.)


Menu Button
: Below the Playback button, this button displays or dismisses the LCD menu system.


Thumbnail View / Zoom Out / Help Button
: Just below the Menu button, this button either zooms out from a magnified view or shows either a four or nine-image index view of images in the current folder on the memory card. The chosen display mode remains selected indefinitely, even if the camera is turned off. To return to normal viewing from the thumbnail display, press the Magnify button. When a thumbnail view is activated, you can scroll a cursor through the thumbnail images very rapidly with the rocker pad.


Quality / i / Reset Button
: In the bottom left corner of the rear panel, this button zooms in on images displayed in playback mode. Pressing the button repeatedly increases the magnification level, up to a limit of 19x at the largest image size. (Zoom magnification is limited to 15x or 10x on smaller images, basically always taking you in to the same pixel scale on the LCD display.) The OK button in the center of the Multi-Selector cancels zoomed display.

In Record mode, pressing the i button calls up the Shooting information display. Once the Shooting display is visible, pressing the i button again activates it for selection and change of camera settings shown there, indicated by a highlighting of the currently-selected option. You can scroll up and down through the available options by using the up/down arrows on the Multi-Selector. Pressing the OK button opens the selected setting for modification. Pressing the i button again exits the setting option without making changes.

In any mode, pressing and holding down this button together with the Shooting information / Reset button on the camera's top panel resets all camera settings to factory defaults.


Delete Button
: In the lower right hand corner, underneath the Multi Selector, this button deletes individual images in playback mode, with a confirmation screen to give you the opportunity to change your mind.


Multi Selector
: Just to the right of the LCD monitor on the back panel, this rocker pad with its center OK button is the primary user interface for changing camera settings. In Shooting mode, the left and right arrows change the selected AF point among the three arrayed horizontally across the focusing screen.

When the Shooting Info display is active and the i button has been pressed, the Multi Selector keys let you select and change common camera settings.

In Playback mode, the rocker pad's right and left arrows scroll through captured images while the up and down arrow directions cycle through various information displays for each image. When you zoom in on an image in playback mode, the rocker pad lets you scroll around the magnified image, while the OK button returns you to a non-zoomed view. When not zoomed in, the OK button calls up the Retouch menu to modify the current image.

In any settings menu, the arrow directions on this control are used to navigate through the LCD menu system.


Command Dial
: The Command Dial is located on the back of the camera, in the upper right hand corner, directly under your right thumb. Compared to other Nikon SLRs, the Command Dial on the D40 has a reduced role in the user interface. Many of the camera settings that were controlled through the combination of an external button and the Command Dial have now been moved to the Shooting display, where they're now controlled via the Multi Selector rocker panel and OK button. What's left for the Command Dial to control are shutter and aperture settings, and both ambient and flash exposure compensation. In Playback mode, the Command Dial lets you rapidly scroll through previously-captured images.


AE/AF Lock Button
: Located to the right of the viewfinder eyepiece, this button locks the exposure and/or focus when pressed. The settings remain locked as long as you hold the button down, regardless of any action of the Shutter button. Several options for this control can be set via Custom Settings menu option 12. You can program it to lock either focus or exposure separately, or both together (the default). You can also change its operation so a single press locks and holds the exposure setting. (No need to keep the button pressed down.) It can also be used to initiate autofocus, instead of the shutter button. (In other words, the AF-ON option for this button disables focusing via the shutter button, making the AE/AF Lock button the only way to trigger AF.)

In playback mode, this key locks the current image to prevent accidental deletion. (Note, though, that locked images will still be erased if the memory card is formatted.)


Diopter Adjustment Dial
: Adjacent to the top right side of the viewfinder eyepiece, this dial adjusts the optical viewfinder to accommodate eyeglass wearers. (Range is -1.7 to +0.5 diopters.)


Control Enumeration, Front Controls

There's only a single control on the front of the camera body:


Lens Release Button: Right next to the lens mount, at about the 3 o'clock position (viewed from the front), this button releases the lens from its mount when pressed, so you can rotate and remove it.

 

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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.

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