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You are hereHome > Best Digital Cameras > Nikon D40 DSLR

Nikon Digital Cameras


Nikon D40 DSLR Review

Review Date: Jan 3, 2007

Category: Family DSLR

Nikon D40


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.

3x Optical Zoom
18-55mm f/3.5-5.6
Wide-angle 27mm Tele 82.5mm
Wide-angle 18mm
(27mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 55mm
(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 of view.

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 Comparisons
ISO 200
ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800
ISO 400 ISO 800
ISO 1600 ISO HI 1
ISO 1600 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.

Chromatic Aberrations

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.

Long Shutter Speed

Long Shutter Speed

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 tripod.

[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 bandwidth. Thanks!


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