Nikonians perspective - By Tom Boné, Nikonians Chief Editor : If you think of Nikon's new D40 in terms of the sport of fishing, Nikon's intent is clearly evident. All fishing enthusiasts, from beginners to professionals, are seeking prizes in a huge pond, which is constantly trolled by the major manufacturers. The camera manufacturers see the potential market for digital single lens reflex (DSLR) cameras that accept the best lens and external flash combinations in their inventory. They also recognize the major barrier to drawing converts from the point and shoot and diehard "film only" photographers is the initial investment. With the D40, Nikon has thrown some very attractive bait into that large pond of lurking amateurs and even some of our many professionals. All along, the possibilities for upgrading in terms of lenses and accessories (not to mention the next higher camera model) are always available.
Nikonians - Nikon D40 lens kit
The D40 offers most of the features of the Nikon D50 outfit of June 2005, which included the AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED lens (available then for an estimated selling price $900) with some unique changes. Nikon has sweetened the deal by adding a new AF-S DX Zoom-Nikkor 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II Zoom-Nikkor lens as part of the kit with savings as high as $200-300 from the initial D50 kit offering. We'll have to wait for technical reviews on this lens, but the initial specs are impressive. It is designed with Nikon's compact SWM (Silent Wave Motor) technology, which should show faster autofocusing speed and smoother than the previous version. If the lens holds up to the specs, we predict it will become a single-item purchase option for our current DSLR owners ranging from the D50 to the D80 and even the D200.
Nikonians - Nikon Speedlight SB-400
Also unveiled as part of the "bait" is the new Nikon Speedlight SB-400, which will probably satisfy the needs of the average photographers in our membership, but will probably have some hungering for more power, faster recycle times and a higher guide number very quickly. The good news is this D40 will easily accept the "big daddy" SB-800 when your budget is ready to make the purchase, and in the meantime, you have the added experience level of shooting with an external flash at a minimum expense. We've already had "rumblings" among the Nikonians members who are drawing comparisons with the D50 and D80 (the other two Nikon DSLR's using SD cards). Some were not too pleased that this new model sticks with the 6.1-effective-megapixel Nikon DX Format because the great "megapixel wars" have been blown out of proportion.
Nikonians - 6.1 Megapixels
The average new consumer will be drawn by the megapixel numbers without knowing that a large number of our professional wedding photographers have been very happy using the D70 (at 6.1 megapixels) as a primary or back-up camera. If 6.1 megapixels is good enough for professional wedding photographers who rely on the end product to earn a living, that's a fairly good endorsement of the maximum you need for average shooting. A quickly obvious physical difference in this new D40 is the lack of LCD control panel on the camera top.
Nikonians - LCD screen
For those of us who got used to that LCD screen in even the film Nikons such as the N70 and N80 that may be a drawback, but again - you have to look at the market this camera is designed for. As beginners in the DSLR field, they would have a hard time deciphering the numbers and if they are veteran film shooters from the Nikkormat and Nikon F days, they never had them in the first place. Now, look at the D50 to D40 comparison. The D50's 2.0-inch LCD-monitor screen on the back is replaced with a 2.5-in version (just like the D80 and D200). This one will give you image previews at up to 19 times magnification. The lack of the LCD control panel at the top of the camera also allowed Nikon's engineers to shift the Mode Dial to the right of the body (which has been a "wish list" item for many Nikonians). Now they have control of the shutter and mode selections with ergonomic comfort for our predominantly right-handed (by birth or by experience) shooters.
Nikonians - Vari-Program modes
Speaking of modes - the D40 lays it all out for you with a twist of the thumb. You now have the options Auto, Auto (Flash Off), Portrait, Landscape, Child, Sports, Close Up, and Night Portrait just a twist of the fingers away from your shooting trigger finger. That's one more Vari-Program option than in the D50 (if you were counting). The new one is Auto (Flash Off), which we would strongly recommend you study with care before using. That's the mode that will let your camera select a sensor sensitivity speed to match the low-light requirements of a certain shooting environment (ISO-Auto). Be careful with this one, it can bite you if you are not familiar with the word "noise" - which has become the new digital version of the old film term "very grainy."
Nikonians - Autofocus system
Another major difference you'll hear about is the autofocus system. The D50 has a 5-area AF system with predictive focus tracking and Lock-on. The D40 uses a 3 focus area technology currently found in the N/F55 film Nikons (the Multi-CAM530 autofocus module if you're into technical talk). If you are impressed with high numbers, and the fact that the D80 and D200 sport the Multi-Cam 1000 AF Sensor Module this could be a "deal killer." From experience, having shot with a D80 and a D2x with focus points lighting up like a Christmas Tree while the camera did its magic, I can tell you that if I was a beginner, I'd prefer the "less is more" approach.
Nikonians - Photographer demands
Our Nikonians have often commented that the predictive autofocus is a very complex and frustrating beast to tame. It can be done, but again, why bother our entry-level DSLR with the complexities when all they want is great average shots to begin with? That's the point of this new D40 in the first place. At the same time that we have new photographers moving from point and shoot simplicity to the DSLR world, Nikon has kept up with the demand by providing the intricate complexities of single lens reflex cameras to the new age photographers. In the process, they were constantly barraged with complaints that our new digital converts were not getting the "great digital out of the box" results they had from much cheaper cameras. They learned their lesson well. Now, with the D40, Nikon is poised to offer an extremely affordable camera, with an excellent all-purpose lens and external flash in a kit form - with the added bonus of a shorter "learning curve."
Nikonians - Conclusion
This will be the perfect entry-level DSLR in the Nikon arsenal. It will provide all the basic requirements for those who want to add a host of lens and Speedlight options, while quickly allowing the photographer to step back into a comfortable "point and shoot" mode when he or she wants to merely "capture the moment" at a special family gathering without having to worry about the host of extra features available.
Nikonians - Prediction
It will take a long time to explain why you can't hold the camera at arm's length and watch the image on the huge LCD monitor to compose your picture. But, that's what the Nikonians does best. We'll explain it in a friendly manner 24 hours per day, seven days per week. We already have a forum dedicated to the entry-level D40 and D50.