If you’ve outgrown that old point-n-shoot, and the expensive ones don’t really delight you either, then, it’s probably time you made the leap to an entry level DSLR, a Digital Single Lens Reflex. For about the price of a “high-end” point-n-shoot, but with better build and image quality, the Nikon D40 with the kit Nikkor AF-S DX 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 GII lens, and a host of useful features, not the least of which is interchangeable lenses, makes this camera outfit my Best-in-Class pick.
My Best In Class Pick
Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm Lens)
For years Nikon has lagged behind other manufacturers–most notably Canon–in introducing a DSLR for the masses, but no more. With the debut of the D40 about two years ago, the direct replacement for their first, but too pricey, entry-level DSLR, the D50, now discontinued, Nikon has finally entered the DSLR amateur mass market with a low-cost, quality built camera that is as good as or, in many cases, superior to the competition.
With this camera, Nikon did something unique to make a quality, but inexpensive entry-level DSLR. With other manufacturers going more expensive with more features and more megapixels, Nikon bucked the trend by going with less. Instead of a pricey 8, 10 or 12 megapixel sensor, they chose an economical six, which really is sufficient resolution for prints up to 8 x 12 inches. And by eliminating those fancy “features” that the average amateur shooter has never heard of, doesn’t use or doesn’t need like exposure/white balance bracketing, the Status Display LCD (the main LCD does double duty), a dozen autofocus reticles cluttering the viewfinder (the D40 has only three), they further reduced production cost and passed the savings onto the consumer, all without sacrificing quality.
So, what features does the D40 have? More than most will ever need like Five Image quality modes, three Color Spaces, four Lens Servo modes, including Manual; Eleven Exposure modes, three Metering modes, eight White Balance presets, six Image Parameter presets with user setable Tone, plus Custom Curve; and, of course, Saturation, Hue, and Sharpness. Additionally, and the most important feature of all: Nikon’s superb Active D-Lighting, which automatically controls excessive contrast, turning an otherwise useless, impossibly contrasty shot into a usable one.
And what about the standard kit lens, the Nikkor AF-S DX 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 GII? Nikon again went contrary to the pack’s cheap, poor quality kit lenses, and produced one that is surprisingly good, both optically and build-wise. Yes, it has a plastic barrel and lens mount, but is solid and doesn’t feel cheap. Operation is smooth and jerk free. Autofocus is quick and quiet. And, most importantly, it produces excellent images that are sharp corner to corner with low distortion–1% or less across the entire zoom range. Something one would only expect in lenses costing much more. There is one caveat, however. The D40 body doesn’t have an autofocus motor in it as with previous Nikon AF cameras. So, autofocusing is only possible with AF-S and AF-I lenses which have their AF motor built-in. Other Nikkor and Nikon AF and F-mount lenses will mount and work on the camera (Even my 30 year old AI Nikkors do), but with no autofocusing and varying amounts of auto features available. To assure 100% compatibility, just stick with AF-S or I type lenses.
So, if you’re a firsttimer looking to upgrade to a DSLR that’s small and compact, sturdy and comfortable in the hand, produces sharp, low noise images; has the features you really need and none of the ones you really don’t; is a joy to use; holds up to the occasional hard knocks; and won’t break the bank, then the Nikon D40 is the camera for you.
- +Low Price
- +Excellent Build Quality
- +Interchangeable lenses
- +Full Auto or Manual control
- +Active D-Lighting
- +Small and Compact (for an SLR)
- -Autofocuses only with AF-I and AF-S lenses (manual with the others)
- -No in-camera Image Stabilization
Where to buy
Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm Lens)
See It »
Comparing My Best In Class Pick with Other Good Choices
|Product||Nikon D40 (with 18-55mm Lens)|
|Size (W x H x D)||5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in.|
Close Sensor Type The image sensor converts the captured light into electrical signals. There are two main types of image sensors, CCD (charge-coupled device) and CMOS (complimentary metal-oxide semiconductor). Neither technology has a clear advantage in image quality. CMOS can potentially be implemented with fewer components, use less power and provide data faster than CCDs. CCD is a more mature technology and is in most respects the equal of CMOS.
Close Sensor Size Most digital cameras, even most digital SLRs, have sensors that are smaller than a standard frame of 35 mm film (36 x 24 mm). These smaller sensors have a number of effects on the captured image and the use of the camera, including an increased depth of field, decreased light sensitivity, increased pixel noise, and increased degree of enlargement.
|23.7 x 15.6 mm|
Close Effective Sensor Resolution The Effective Sensor Resolution tells you the total number of pixels that are recorded when you take a picture. The units are MP, which stands for megapixels or millions of pixels. For outstanding fine compression prints, 3MP is required for 5x7's, 7.1MP for 8x10's, and 10.9MP for 11x14's. The effective sensor resolution is only one of many important factors that will determine the quality of the photograph when displayed or printed at different sizes.
|Shutter Lag Time (pre-focused)||0.10 sec|
Close Shutter Lag Time (including auto-focus time) This is the time from fully pressing the shutter button until the image is captured. Longer shutter lag times make it more difficult to capture the desired moment.
|Power to First Shot Time||0.4 sec|
|Max Shooting Speed (continuous)||2.5 frames/sec|
|Max Shooting Speed (burst)||2.5 frames/sec|
Close Image Stabilization Available Image stabilization features are designed to reduce the blur that results from normal, minute shaking of a lens due to hand-held shooting. However, image stabilization does not prevent motion blur caused by the movement of the subject or by extreme movements of the camera.
|Manual Focus Available||Yes|
|Interchangeable Lenses Available||Yes|
|Compatible Lenses||Nikon F|
|Min ISO Setting||200|
|Max ISO Setting||3200|
|Dioptric Adjustment Available||Yes|
Close LCD Screen Size The LCD Screen Size is the length of the miniature LCD monitor measured diagonally.
|LCD Screen Resolution||230000 pixels|
|External Flash Connection Type||Hot Shoe|
|Storage Media||SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card|
|Sensor Raw Format Available||Yes|
|Battery Life||470 shots|
How It Works
You tell us your budget, intended uses, and desired features. We show you personalized recommendations from unbiased experts to quickly identify the best digital camera for you.
How to Pick Digital Cameras
- For Travel Photos
- For Photos of Children or Pets
- For Action or Sports Photos
- For Photos in Low Light