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Nikon D40 DSLR Review
|Review Date: Jan
The Nikon D40 DSLR is the smallest Nikon
DSLR to date but don't take that to mean there
has been compromises in image quality. With 6.1
megapixel resolution on an APS-sized (23.7 x 15.6mm)
CCD image sensor, Nikon has shown the wisdom of
leaving behind the futile megapixel race and concentrate
on image quality instead.
The Nikon D40 has excellent image quality (including
excellent low-light performance) up to ISO 800
with plenty of details preserved. It does, however,
tend to blow highlights.
(27mm, 35mm equivalent)
(82.5mm, 35mm equivalent)
One of the advantage of a dSLR is the ability
to use interchangeable lenses suited for specific
jobs. The Nikon D40 comes with the AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor
18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II Lens as standard kit
lens, which provides a 27-82.5mm equivalent field
|55mm, Programmed Auto, Multi-Pattern,
1/100 sec., F5.6, ISO 200
The actual macro capability is a function of
the lens you use, and the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit
lens allows us to focus only as close as 28 cm
(11.4 in.). This does not provide coverage of
a small enough area for what we generally call
"macro." I find that I obtain my best
macro results using this lens by zooming in.
If you are into macro photography, check out
the 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor lens
which features a silent wave motor and Vibration
Reduction technology that Nikon claims allows
photographers to shoot hand-held at up to 4 shutter
speeds slower than otherwise possible.
||ISO HI 1
The Nikon D40 has 5 ISO settings going from ISO
200 to ISO 1600, plus the ability to "boost"
to a higher ISO setting dubbed "HI 1"
which is equivalent to ISO 3200. The 100%
crops above (area delimited by the white square)
demonstrate the noise at the available ISO Speeds.
At ISO 200 to 800, noise is under control and
detail is preserved. Noise is also low at ISO
1600 but at the expense of some slight detail
loss. The boosted ISO 3200 is very noisy.
This low-noise high-ISO characteristic is a major
improvement in Nikon digital cameras. Kudos to
Nikon for this excellent ISO performance.
I have not seen CA present in many everyday shots.
However, in a few high-contrast shots, there is
slight CA. The corner delimited by the red square
at top left, and reproduced at 100% crop at bottom
right, shows slight purple fringing.
|42mm, Manual, Multi-Pattern,
30 sec., F8.0, ISO 200
Manual WB, Self-timer 10 sec., Tripod Used
Long Exposure Noise Reduction ON
using the AF-S DX Nikkor 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6G
ED II lens
The Nikon D40 allows the use of a long shutter
speed of up to 30 sec. in Manual, Shutter-Priority
and Aperture-Priority modes (plus Bulb in Manual
mode), therefore allowing nice night photography.
Generally, with image sensors, noise usually becomes
more prominent at slow shutter speeds. When you
set Noise Reduction to ON in the menu [Shooting
Menu - Noise Reduction - ON], the Nikon D40 has
special noise reduction algorithm that automatically
kicks in when an ISO 800 or higher is used and/or
a shutter speed of 1 sec. or longer is used. For
shutter speed of 1s and longer, you'll notice
a longer processing time (approx. twice as long)
before the next picture can be taken.
To test this noise reduction algorithm, we decided
to take a low-light indoors shot. To obtain a
long exposure, I place Bamm-Bamm under my desk
where it's dark.
I experiment a bit to obtain the optimum exposure,
eventually settling on 30 sec. at F8.0. Even at
this long shutter speed, the Nikon D40's noise
reduction seems to be working great, producing
a nice smooth blurring effect of the background.
We find that the AF is very responsive and images
snap quickly into focus. There is a dedicated
AF-assist illuminator to aid in focusing. Some
readers wondered how dark it is under that table.
Well, I can not even see Bamm-Bamm in the viewfinder
screen and simply rely on the Nikon D40's AF to
lock focus, which it does admirably.
The pop-up flash is quite powerful, and a hot
shoe accepts external speedlights.
The Nikon D40 does not incorporate a live histogram.
In Playback mode, press the Multi-Selector up/down
and you can view a Histogram.
We find the overall image quality of the Nikon
D40 up to ISO 800 to be excellent with details
preserved in the shadows and highlights. ISO 1600
is very usable.
The pictures in the Nikon D40 Photo Gallery
page provide a good sample of what the camera
is capable of. I have provided unprocessed samples
at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100
in Photoshop Elements) as well as the 3,008 x
2,000 pixels original size (click on the image
for the original version). Any of the 800x600
image that is adjusted for levels and/or sharpened
in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended
to the file name. Original images are never adjusted.
You can safely assume that most macro shots and
slow shutter speed shots required the use of a
[I have to apologize for the slight smudge on
the upper right corner of some of the images.
I did not notice the lens was dirty at that spot
until much later.]
I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels.
For those who have their monitor resolution set
to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit
and you should not have to scroll to see the whole
image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels
resolution, start the slide show and then scroll
to the right to position the image within your
screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using
Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode,
and the image should fill your screen nicely.
Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor
display back to normal mode.
To return to this page from the Photo Gallery,
click on the animated graphics of the camera.
Please open and download the original size version
only if you need to and only once
to your hard drive -- and save me some precious