by Rob Williams on July 25, 2007 in Digital Cameras
Up until recently, Nikon’s line-up has had many gaps. This past March though, they released their P5000 advanced point-and-shoot camera alongside their D40x D-SLR. Today we are taking a look at the latter, which turns out to be a fantastic offering for those looking to take the plunge into high-quality photography.
When I first received the press release for the D40x, my jaw dropped. “What in the heck are they thinking?” was my first ponder. After all, the original D40 came out just a mere five months earlier. After spending some good time with both cameras though, I understand that they are not in the same league. That said, this camera would be more appropriately named the D45 or D75.
My final thoughts on the camera are simple: It’s totally worth the cash. It’s a great D-SLR that’s best suited for beginners, but exceptional shots are ready to be taken by anyone, novice or pro. However, for the pro shooter, the main draw would be the overall size. Set the D40x next to a D70/80/200 and the size difference is very noticeable. Set it beside a D2Xs for a good chuckle.
Because of the lightweight form-factor, it’s a very comfortable camera to hold, especially if you have small hands. Equipped with the kit 18-55mm II lens and a good neck strap, the camera will be a joy to bring with you on trips, walks or whatever events suit your fancy.
Because the camera is suited towards beginners, the available features on the camera reflect that. I keep comparing the D40x to the D80, which is because both cameras use extremely similar sensors and have identical performance stats. So when making a decision to get a camera in this price range, it’s between the D80 and D40x, if there are not other makes in the mix.
What’s the D40x lack, when compared to the D80? First and foremost, the D40x only has 3 focus areas, which was one of the biggest burdens on me, since I am used to seeing 11 with my D80. Eleven focus-areas will be appreciated by advanced-beginners and upwards, but as I mentioned before, new D-SLR users might not even know the difference and in effect, not care. It’s hard to use the D40x as a downgrade, though.
The D80 also offers a top screen on the camera which reflects all current information. Because the D40x has a small body, that had to be removed and all relevant info shifted to the LCD screen. This is fine given the reason for the move, but I found it to be a very clunky method of doing things. Changing the aperture for example, the f-stop on the screen would actually lag before making the change. It also takes a little while going through the on-screen-display to learn where everything is. It took me a full two minutes before I figured out how to change the camera to continuous-shooting mode for example.
It boils down to this. The D40x accomplishes a lot, offers a wide-range of features and has great image quality. However, it lacks many of the pro options available on the D80, but in turn, many newer shooters may not deal with half of those. The camera also has a smaller frame, so it’s important to go give the camera a test-run at a photo shop prior to ordering one, just to make sure you know it will be comfortable to you. The D40x body retails for around $650, without lens.
The D80 offers all the features available on the D40x, except for the on-screen-display that displays all relevant shooting info. Instead, all of that information is found atop the camera on the screen, which is backlit capable. The D80 also has a larger frame, which I personally find to be far more comfortable. Depending on your hand size and/or strength, you might find one more comfortable than the other. Most importantly though, the D80 offers 11 focus-areas, while the D40x offers 3. The D80 retails for $875, without lens.
One factor I didn’t mention was that the D40x is fully compatible with Nikon’s usual D-SLR accessories, such as the ML-L3 wireless remote, used for shutter release without having to touch the camera. It’s one of the best $15 accessories you can buy for the camera, especially if you are looking to shoot portraits. For whatever reason, I found the D40x to be FAR more responsive to the remote than the D80 is.
If you are looking to get set up with a solid D-SLR setup, you can do so for just under $1,000. You can pick up the D40x body alongside the 18-55mm II lens + SB-600 speedlight for $930, before taxes. If you don’t require a speedlight (eg: never shoot indoors or in dark areas) then that will save you $180. Or for budget shoppers, you can purchase the SB-400 for $100, but lack the swivel feature of the SB-600.
When it comes to D-SLR, the options are endless, and you can easily spend hours figuring out what to purchase that fits within your budget. As it stands though, I highly recommend the D40x, as it offers many features and great image quality. Personally, I still enjoy the D80 more, for the reasons above. But if you find you are in a bind when choosing one, I highly recommend hitting up a local photography shop and giving each a small test. When you hand over ~$1,000, you want to make sure you will be happy with your purchase.
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