Nikon’s D40; “Mini” D-SLR At An Affordable Price Page 2

As this might be viewed as a step-up camera that might be used by families to document their lives we were eager to try out the camera in Continuous mode with a fairly high (400 and above) ISO to push up shutter speed and preclude the need for flash (or as we call it "Kid" mode). The D40 performed admirably, with no shutter lag at all and with right-on exposures using the 3D Color Matrix II pattern. We even tried the various Vari-Program (Scene) modes, something we usually avoid, but they are quite apt for this camera and its potential buyers. They worked just fine, including Night Portrait mode, though we would suggest a tripod or steadying device for this selection. The supplied 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens gets quite slow at the 55mm end, so keeping the ISO at 400 for all but bright outdoors shots is recommended.

Low Light/Flash
The built-in flash may not be too powerful, but it seems perfect for many family photographs, such as Kallie opening presents on Christmas morning. To get this mix of ambient and flash exposure, the D40 was set on Shutter Priority mode at 1¼60 sec exposure at an ISO of 800. The balance of mixed light was just right, shown by the warm glow of the lamp in the background and the even light in the foreground.
© 2007, Grace Schaub, All Rights Reserved

In all, the D40 is not a prime camera or even a second back-up body for an avid amateur. But Nikon, in the D40's design and marketing, makes it clear that this is not the aim or intent of this camera; their D80 is clearly the choice for that role. The D40 is Nikon's family D-SLR, the one that the company hopes will bring many more people into their D-SLR tent. As a step-up camera, and one that allows users to explore more creative aspects of photography, it does admirably.

It could be argued that the D40 might just sound the death knell for quite a few non-D-SLRs. It allows for lens interchangeability, offers plenty of auto and user-controlled image effect options, and completely eliminates what is probably killing more digicam sales than anything else these days--that dreadful shutter lag. At $599, it's still not the equivalent of the "student" camera (the Pentax K1000 SLR of film days) we await in a digital SLR, but it sure is getting close. And while it sports a 6-megapixel sensor (many digicams surpass that with ease at equivalent prices) those using this class of camera who haven't been brainwashed by the megapixel wars will find its image quality and print size potential does the trick.

You can choose two ways to shoot in contrasty light outdoors--with a touch of fill flash or using the D40's Retouch menu's D-Lighting, a sort of shadow/highlight control. Here a touch of fill flash was used in low light with an Aperture Priority setting of f/13 and 1/30 sec at ISO 400. The point is that you can use this camera on Auto for very satisfactory shots, or use the many user controls to add a creative, personal touch when desired.
© 2007, George Schaub, All Rights Reserved

SDHC Cards
Our tests with the Nikon D40 were conducted using the 4GB ATP ProMax SDHC (Class 6) card. This new format has allowed SD cards to compete in capacity with the FAT 32 CompactFlash cards, and the new Class Speed ratings are intended to reveal the potential download speed, given the download devices are capable of the speed capability of the card. (Class 6 is rated as a minimum of 6MB per second transfer rate.) The ATP card performed flawlessly and made downloading images, even directly from the camera--usually the slowest method--speedy and efficient.

Note that SDHC cards are not backward compatible for use in non-SDHC devices. The Nikon D40 is of course SDHC compatible; all SD card compatible cameras from this point forward should be able to take the higher-capacity cards, but always be sure to check before you load one into a camera or other device. Note that standard SD cards are useable in the D40 and other new SDHC compatible devices.

For more information, contact Nikon Inc., 1300 Walt Whitman Rd., Melville, NY 11747; (800) 526-4566, (631) 547-4200;

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