Nikon D40x Digital SLR Camera

Reviewed by: Howard Carson, September 2007
Published by: Nikon USA, Nikon Canada
Requires: An interest in digital photography
MSRP: US$799.95 (w/AF-S DX 18-55mm F/3.5-5.6G ED II lens), CAN$779.95

Following hot on the heels of the wonderful Nikon D40 comes the Nikon D40x, pumping up the first model with some features and functions demanded by consumers. Most important, the D40x now offers a sensor which can produce very low noise 10.2 megapixel images (as opposed to the D40's very low noise 6.1 megapixel images). If you're reading this review and wondering how much the purchasing waters have been muddied by Nikon's August 2007 release of the D300 and D3 SLRs, fear not. The D40x will be around for some time to come.

The Nikon D40x digital SLR camera is smaller and lighter than any of the other SLR cameras in the Nikon line. Of note, competing camera makers are also releasing small form factor digital SLR models in the same size and weight class as the D40x. The top mounted LCD status display usually found on SLR cameras has been removed by the designers in order to accommodate the smaller size of the D40x body. All of the camera's configuration and status displays have been redesigned and moved to the 2.5" large, rear LCD, which offers what we judge to be a completely new interface and menu system. Note that after a couple of days of regular use, we got used to it and made it work quite well for our needs. Nikon has done a creditable job with the new configuration and status displays and the new navigation wheel. The display and the navigation wheel are extremely easy to use and understand. A lot of detailed shooting data is also available in the bright, clear viewfinder.


Entry-level designs and form factors mean other changes too. The Nikon D40x uses Secure Digital (SD) media for storage, as opposed to the physically larger Compact Flash (CF) cards used in the rest of its digital SLR line. If you're moving up from a point & shoot Nikon or Canon, you'll be able to reuse your existing SD storage cards of course, and that's precisely the point. In another inviting acknowledgement of the needs of the most likely buyers, the mode selector dial on the top of the camera provides access to a full range of scene modes which are also normally found in better quality point & shoot cameras. This type of automation, coupled with a much more robust CCD sensor and the excellent quality and range of lenses available for Nikon digital SLRs, means that anyone with a relatively steady hand and at least a vague sense of light and composition can use the D40x to take wonderful photos. Couple the D40x body as we did with Nikon's superb 18-200 Vibration Reduction (VR) zoom lens and you're got a hard-to-beat picture taking combination. In any event, point & shoot camera owners who are moving up to digital SLR will find the transition quite easy with the Nikon D40x.

Smaller form factors should never sacrifice handling, grip and security. Cameras, after all, have to be held and pointed and be comfortable enough to carry and shoot all day if necessary. While typical point & shoot models don't usually offer very many all-day shooting accommodations such as ergonomic hand grips, even a relatively compact digital SLR like the D40x should offer a solid grip and proper balance. Nikon excels at ergonomic camera design among other things, and we were delighted at how well the D40x handled and carried throughout three weeks of shooting. The synthetic surfaces over a solid frame provide excellent grip. The prominent right-side grip works extremely well for all but the biggest hands. Camera balance, whether using our pro 17-55mm f2.8 Nikkor zoom or the much lighter 18-55mm kit zoom lens was always well controlled and predictable. Balance was near perfect with the Nikkor 18-200 VR zoom lens. The camera was a bit underweight when used with a large, heavy 70-200mm f2.8 VR zoom lens, but we predict that the combination will be rare. In fact, the D40x works beautifully with an enormous number of Nikon lenses. We had great success with a wide variety of lenses including: Nikkor 18-135mm zoom kit lens, Nikkor 17-55mm f2.8 zoom, Nikkor 18-200mm VR zoom, Nikkor 12-24 f4 wide-angle zoom, Nikkor 105mm VR macro, Nikkor 70-300mm VR zoom, Nikkor 50mm f1.4 and the Nikkor 60mm f2.8 macro.

The camera is bundled with the latest version of Nikon PictureProject, a decent piece of software designed to access, copy and manage photos directly from the camera. PictureProject isn't particularly flashy and doesn't offer a massive feature set by any means, but it continues to be competent and stable and should provide anyone who doesn't already have photo editing or photo viewing software with an easy to use solution. The bundled camera battery is also new for Nikon, debuted in the D40, and provides a lot of shooting. As with the D40, we used the D40x for two solid days, taking hundreds of photos, before anyone thought to check the battery life. It just goes and goes, although steady use of the pop-up flash will reduce the total number of shots you'll get out of a full charge.

Cons: I will always miss the top mounted LCD usually found on digital SLRs — the D40 and D40x don't have them, instead using the enhanced rear screen to display camera status. This design change accommodates the smaller body size of the D40 and it all works very well, but I miss that status LCD. Squeezing more resolution out of given sensor size usually results in the appearance of more noise at each ISO setting. Although the D40x provided wonderful results up to ISO400, as with many of the small sensors used by the major camera makers, visual noise in many photos shot beyond ISO400 is obtrusive. Note that this sort of noise is primarily of concern when viewing photos on screen and publishing to the online photo services (Flikr, Photo.Net, etc.), but it often isn't reproduced when you make prints.

Pros: For this review Nikon again sent us a kit which included the 18-135mm zoom lens, a lightweight, extremely sharp lens which left us frowning at our collection of much more expensive Nikon glass. Whether through more technologically refined manufacturing process or smarter design or the use of the latest appropriate high tech materials (or a combination of all the foregoing) Nikon keeps coming up with these marvelous, inexpensive lenses. The Nikon D40x digital SLR camera, like the D40, is an ideal choice for budding photographers and talented amateurs who want the backstop of superb automation, casual photographers who want fine 10.2 megapixel photos for printing at large sizes, and even a few professionals who need a light, inexpensive back up body which works with most Nikon lenses. Image quality is very good, with few rivals on the market. Put the D40x together with the Nikkor 18-200mm VR zoom, clearly our favorite Nikon lens of all time (so far), and you've got a delightful match. Lightweight and strong and not a mark on either the camera or the kit lens after three weeks of enthusiastic review use. Just like the D40, all of the people who handled the D40x liked it, but our female research associates absolutely loved it. The smaller form factor combined with a really intuitive user interface and easy physical handling is obviously a great match for smaller hands. New SLR users won't experience much of a learning curve. Charge the battery, pop in an SD card and start shooting. We really liked this one and we think you will too. Highly recommended.

KSN Product Rating:



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