Nikon D40X review

Peter Budai (Petur) - April 11, 2007. 14:00 (CET)
If we look at the naming convention of Nikon, the X means enhanced, improved version of a previous model. We have seen this before even in the digital era. Now Nikon's successful entrly level camera, the Nikon D40 received it's brother, the Nikon D40X. Despite the enhanced version, the D40 is staying on the market, so the D40X will have a tough job to win the customers. Does Nikon D40X have a chance? We will try to look at every detail to find out.

Build

Kattintson ide a magyar változatért

Good old friend

This was the title Birdie was using in his Nikon D40 review, referring to the fact that the brand new body was equipped with the good old 6 megapixel Sony ICX 413 CCD sensor. I can use this title as well, since the Nikon D40X is almost identical to its brother the Nikon D40. Nikon has raised the resolution from 6 megapixels to 10, but no changes on the outside. The great ICX 413 has been featured in about a dozen of DSLR cameras in the last few years, and has done a great job. Since technology evolves extremely quickly in CCD world, it was already surprising to see that a leading camera manufacturer announced a camera based on that sensor at the second part of 2006. Although the Nikon D40 is a great camera, first thing critics were mentioning was the relatively low resolution. Not that it is not enough even for larger image prints, but the extensive marketing of the camera manufacturers have brainwashed us to 10 megapixel by 2007. With significant noise reduction, of course.

If Nikon's D40 announcement was unexpected, what should we say about the new Nikon D40X? It was just here, without anyone counting on it. It was an unexpected, but logical step. They had a great camera body and good 10 megapixel image sensor (used in other camera bodies). Just put it together, append an X to the end of the name, and the new DSLR is ready to go. If the new camera works well and won't cost too much more than it's predecessor, than it can be a hit. We have to notice that Nikon has done a great job on covering the lower segment of DSLR cameras. Let's see how the new camera performs on our tests.

Nikon D40 vs. Nikon D40X

This section won't be long. Those who have used the Nikon D40 before, will recognize only two differences: they can select higher resolutions (10 megapixel), and the ISO sensitivity can go from ISO 100. The "Why only 6 megapixels" and "Why no ISO 100" forum threads can be closed finally.

The flash sync speed change is something that we can't ignore. While the predecessor had an outstaning 1/500 sec flash sync time, the same value at Nikon D40X is only 1/200 sec. The speed of the continuous shooting has increased slightly from 2.5 frames/sec. to 3 frames/sec. While this is not a significant increase, we can understand it's importance when we count that the resolution has increased from 6 to 10 megapixels. In case of JPEG images the burst can last till 100 images, what is really a great thing. It is only shadowed by the fact that the sibling model can do the same thing until the memory card is full. Something has to be traded in for the higher resolution.

The energy consumption has been rationalized, therefore the Nikon D40X can take 50 more photos with one charge of the same EN-EL9 lithium-ion battery than it's predecessor.

The most important differences of the two cameras:

Main differences between the Nikon D40 and the D40x
Nikon D40 Nikon D40x
Sensor 6.2 megapixel CCD sensor (23.7 x 15.6 mm) 10.8 megapixel CCD sensor (23.6 x 15.8 mm)
Resolutions 3008 × 2000,
2256 × 1496,
1504 × 1000,

3872 × 2592,
2896 × 1944,
1936 × 1296,

Sensitivity

ISO200-1600
(HI-1: 3200)

ISO100-1600
(HI-1: 3200)
Shortest flash sync 1/500 sec. 1/200 sec.
Burst speed 2.5 frames/sec. 3 frames/sec.
Frames in one burst to card's capacity 100 JPEG
Images with one charge 470 frames (CIPA standard) 520 frames (CIPA standard)

The outside body and the user interface of the Nikon D40X is the same as that of the Nikon D40. The extremely small plastic body with the fairly good grip remains with the new camera, just as the AF system and the requirement of the lenses with built in focus motor. The display and the buttons are also the same as on the older model.

Since the Nikon D40X has the exactly same body as the D40, we used the comaprison images from our D40 review. The camera body (126 x 64 x 94 mm) is almost the smallest on the market. Only the recently announced Olympus E-410 beats it slightly.

More comparison images:
Olympus E-400 and Nikon D40x
Canon EOS-400D and Nikon D40x

Image sensor

The size and the resolution of the image sensor is the same as the one used in the Nikon D80. The 23.6 x 15.8 mm (DX format) CCD sensor holds 10.8 million pixels, while the camera uses only 10.2 of these to construct the image. The disadvantage of higher resolution is that more light sensors are crowded in the same place, so each sensor is smaller than before (7.8 micron -> 6 micron). Theoreticall this has a negative effect on image noise. The reality is that we usually don't see too much more noise on hi-res images because camera manufacturers are using noise reduction algorithms very aggressively. This means virtually noise free images, but at higher ISO sensitivities we lose some of the details as well. The 10.2 megapixel resolution sensor creates 3872 x 2592 pixel images. The photos can be saved in JPEG and lossless RAW (NEF) format, but the two formats can be selected together as well. In case of JPEG compression, the ratios can be Fine, Normal and Basic.

As I said the ISO sensitivity runs from ISO 100, instead of ISO 200 in the previous model, to ISO 1600. The value can be set in 1 F-stop steps (ISO 200, ISO 400 and ISO 800). Auto is also available, where we can limit the camera with a maximum ISO number (ISO 200-1600), and a minimal shutter speed (1-1/125 sec.). The misterious HI-1 item in the menu is basically an ISO 3200 setting in sensitivity.

The Nikon D40X is still missing a dust removal system, although a software based tool is at our disposal to fight against the spots. If we take a reference RAW image to record the state of the sensor, we can later use that image in Nikon's image processing software to remove the dark spots from the picture (the software excludes that pixels from imaging and tries to invent the missing pixels). Other than this, we are left with our air blower and sensor cleaning swabs. Knowing the effectiveness of the built in sensor cleaning systems, this is still the best solution.

Lens

The Nikon D40 has been a turning point in Nikon's history. The internal focus drive motor, usually built into the camera body (of Nikon cameras) was left out. The Nikon D40X is also missing this feature, what limits the usable AF lenses to the latest releases (AF-S and AF-I to be precise). These newer lenses all have their own focusing motors, so those can be used with the Nikon D40X perfectly. While this cost saving step works well for newcomers, it can cause headache for those having a nice set of lenses or were planning to buy those lenses from third party manufacturers (e.g. Sigma, Tamron, Tokina). Those lenses missing the focusing motor will function as manual focusing lenses on the D40X

The monunt of the Nikon D40X and any of the older models (e.g. Nikon D80). The focus drive pin is missing from the Nikon D40.

Focus drive pin (Nikon D80)
without the focus drive pin (Nikon D40x)

We won't have any trouble like this with those lenses sold with the Nikon D40X, since thosoe lenses all include the focusing drive motor. The basic kit includes AF-S Nikkor DX 18-55 mm F3.5-5.6 ED G II-t lens. For the review we got the AF-S Nikkor DX 55-200 mm F4-5.6 ED VR lens, that is also available with the D40X in a kit. This latter lens is a fairly inexpensive tele zoom lens with vibration reduction, which we will review separately later.

The Nikon D40X will be available in 3 kits. The basic kit includes a 18-55 mm lens besides the camera body, while the other two extend the basic kit with a 55-200 mm lens. One of these lenses have image stabilizin VR function.

Continuous shooting

Shutter release sound of the Nikon D40X

One of the improvements of the Niknon D40X is the faster burst mode. While the predecessor could only take 2.5 images/second, the Nikon D40X can record 3 images at the same time. Slight improvement. The camera's speed only improve at long exposures (when noise reduction is set) and at high sensitivities.

We used memory cards with different speed ratings to measure speed. Although we can keep shooting up to 100 images in a row, if the memory card is not fast enough, the writing speed will limit our shooting speed after the internal buffer is filled up. With a 512 MB SanDisk Ultra II card this happens after 20 images. If RAW image format is selected, the camera can take up to 6 images in a row. If continuous mode is important, it is a good idea to buy card as fast as one can afford.

As I mentioned before, the noise reduction and the higher sensitivities don't slow the camera down too much. While the Nikon D40 could only take 1.7 and 1 images/second in burst mode when the noise reduction or the high resolution is selected respectively. In case of the Nikon D40X these functions have slowed the camera only to 2,6-2,7 images/second.

We have to mention the shutter release sound of the camera, since it is just as quiet as it's predecessor was. This can be really handy if being unnoticed is important.

One great disadvantage of the Nikon D40X is that there is no automatic exposure bracketing. This was missing from the D40 as well, what is really weird because we are talking about a cheap to implement feature, that became popular even in low level compact cameras. This feature was available in the Nikon D50. The Nikon D40X does not provide any other kinds of automatic bracketing functions either.

Ergonomics

Nothing has changed since the D40 except the model number.

We have really liked the great grip what provides a comfortable hold on the camera that has one of the smallest DSLR body on the market. Not all manufacturers managed to get the small size and the comfortable grip together. The rubber coating on the front, the Nikon knob on the top and the small pit for the thumb on the back provides a good grip even for male hands. Those who have wider hands could only complain about the height of the camera. The depth on the front is enough. Bad news that there is no genuine portrait grip available for the D40X, so photographers will have to live without wider grip, the easier portrait holding and the extra battery compartment.

Although the body is plastic, it doesn't feel cheap. The joining parts are good, it doesn't crunching even if we hold it harder. The most obvious sign of the plastic body is the camera's weight. The buttons are also plastic, since there are only a few parts that made out of metal. These few parts include the hot shoe, the strap mount eyelets and the tripod mount what is naturally placed right under the lens' axis. The battery compartment door is placed on the bottom of the camera and can be opened even when the camera is on a tripod. The memory card slot is hidden behind a door on the back side of the hand grip.

I only had some problem with the usability of the Nikon D40X. While the interface is probably straight forward for a compact camera, perhaps a Coolpix owner, the small number of buttons could drive an experienced DSLR owner nuts. Not that we like to have dozens of buttons and swithces in our face, but we don't like to go into the menu just to set a basic parameter. The Nikon D40X, just like it's predecessor sports a nice setup screen, but this still can't replace the buttons. The good news is, that the action of the Fn button (near by the lens mount) can be set to our favorite / most used function, so this can speed up the camera's handling. The Nikon D40X is undaubtedly made to the first DSLR buyers who learned photography with compact digital cameras.

LCD and viewfinder

The LCD is the same as the one we found in the Nikon D40. It is 2.5" diagonally, what provides a 6.4 cm usable area. The resolution is matching the size with 230,000 pixels, providing nice, detailed and clean image. The LCD can be viewed from 170° making it easy to see, without color distortion from the side, too. The little transparent LCD cover that become a default accessory at higher class Nikon DSLR cameras, is missing from the box (same with the Nikon D40). They had to cut the costs somewhere.

One of the disadvantages of the small body size is that there is no space left for a dedicated status display. The solution in the case of Nikon D40X is the same as what we have seen at many entry level DSLRs. The review LCD can display a status report of the settings. The display can be turned on or off by pressing the Info button above the shutter release button. Nikon not only provides information on this screen, but provides a way to set the displayed parameters. If we press the magnifying glass icon on the back of the camera, the settings become editable on the screen. Given the small number of buttons, this interface was really a good idea. The following settings can be changed on this screen: image size and quality, white-balance, sensitivity, drive mode (single, continuous, self-timer), AF mode, AF area, metering, flash exposure compensation, exposure compensation and flash mode. The style of this status display can also be changed to classic, graphical and background image. At graphical setting, the aperture is animated on the screen, showing the actual size of the aperture. In background image mode we can pick a custom image to be displayed behind the settings.

In playback mode images can be magnified to 18.8×. Since image sharpness (or blurriness) can be checked at 1 or 2 steps before we reach maximum magnification, this extra high ratio is not necessary. The magnification is controlled by the +/- buttons on the side of the LCD, while the visible area can be spanned by the arrow buttons. By pressing the ? button in normal mode it is possible to switch to 4 and 9 image display modes. In normal mode the up and down arrows change the amount of information displayed on the image (shooting settings, histogram and blinking of overexposed areas).

A kereső információi

The pentamirror viewfinder of the Nikon D40X is exactly the same what we have seen in it's small brother. It's magnification is 0.8×, and according the the manual it is covering about 95% of the image. Our measurements on this have shown 97%. The viewing distance is 18 mm, so this provides the exact same view what the Nikon D40 gives. This is smaller than the view of any other Nikon DSLR viewfinder (except the Nikon D50). The viewable angle is approximately 21 ° what provides a view of a 55 cm TV screen from 117 cm. If we had a perfect DSLR with 1× magnification and 100% coverage, this image would be 51% of that. This size (partly due to the larger sensor size) is much better than that of the Olympus cameras, and slightly larger than similar Canon DSLRs', but smaller than those found in the cheap Pentax cameras.

The focusing screen of the camera holds three focusing points. It can be enough in most of the times, since the majority of the users are only using the most accurate middle sensor. The small number of focusing points can be a disadvantage, when an action is followed in continuous mode. The focus frames turn to red when focus is set. The status display at the bottom of the viewfinder provides the following information: focusing, selected focusing point, battery status, metering lock, program shift display, shutter speed, aperture value, exposure and flash exposure compensation, available space on card (in number of images), available space in buffer (in number of images), flash readiness.

Flash

The flash on the top of the Nikon D40X can be opened, and at the same time turned on by the button on the left of the body. When opened, the flash is about 7.5 cm from the axis of the lens. The guide number at ISO 100 is 12, what means that it provides suitable light up to 4.3 m. Besides raising the the sensitivity, the range can be expanded by changing the flash exposure compensation (-3...+1 EV) in the menu or by pressing the flash opening button and turning the rear dial. The flash can be used in i-TTL and manual mode. In this latter one we can set the strength from 1/1 - 1/32. At full discharge (maximum strength) recharging takes about 5 seconds.

Available flash modes are: off, forced, red-eye reduction pre-flash, red-eye reduction pre-flash and slow sync, slow sync. While the max flash syn time has decreased (since Nikon D40) and it is only 1/200 sec. instead 1/500 sec. this is to provide better quality images. (The 1/500 sec. flash sync has been an electronic trick, since the shutter mechanism could only do a 1/200 sec. sync. At Nikon D40 Nikon has enabled the shutter to be open while the CCD was charging before the exposure. At this higher resolution sensor this is not possible any more without image quality degradation.)

External flashes can only be connected through the hot shoe on the top of the camera. Newer flashes (e.g. Nikon SB-400, Nikon SB-600 and Nikon SB-800) can be used in i-TTL mode, while other flashes will work in TTL or manual mode, depending on their shoe interface.

Red eyes can be prevented by pre-flash and corrected with the built in red-eye removal software if the pre-flashes didn't reach their goal. This function is available in the Retouch menu. We have tested the software in our Nikon D40 review. The software was challenged by an average red-eye, and managed to get the job done nicely. In extreme situations like the one below only the advanced softwares running on a computer can help. The frame of the glasses has tricked the built in software. Another good way to prevent red-eye is to use an external flash, like the new, affordable Nikon SB-400.

eredeti kép (kivágás)
beépített vörösszem csökkentő szoftverrel

The images below show the light distribution of the built in flashes. The corners of the image show a 17% light drop, what is quite good. The image on the right shows the distribution after the differences were digitally emphasized. The light spot is towards the top right corner of the image, what is probably caused by the tele zoom lens we had for the review (shadowing).

Light distribution of the built in flash

Light fall at the corners:
~17% eff.
Light distribution
(digitally emphasized!)

Focusing

The Nikon D40X has inherited the Multi-CAM530 phase detection AF system. It's working range is between -1 and 19 EV.

The available three focus point can be selected the following ways:

Closest target: The camera selects the focusing point that is over the closest object on the image. In creative modes (P, S,A, M) and Scene modes this is the default setting.
Dynamic area: The photographer selects the desired point, but if the subject moves to another focus area, the camera overrides this selection to follow the subject. It is really handy when photographing moving subjects. In sport scene mode, the camera uses this setting.
Custom area: The photographer selects the desired focus point, and his selection remains active. This is the used method in close-up scene mode.

The selected focus mode can be checked on the status bar of the viewfinder, or at the top right corner of the status screen on the LCD. When the focus is set, a green dot lights up on the left side of the status bar. The focus and the exposure values are locked when the shutter release button is pressed, but can be locked by pressing the AF-L / AE-L button on the back of the camera as well. In the menu we can set if the AF should be locked when this button is pressed.

The AF can be used in four modes: single (AF is locked when the shutter release button or the AF-L button is pressed), continuous (the selected focus point is always seeking for focus), auto (the camera switches automatically between the first two modes), manual (focus is set manually).

Since the Nikon D40X doesn't have a focus drive motor, AF is only available with lenses having their own internal focus drive motors (AF-S or AF-I). AF can be turned off with the focus switch of these lenses.

AF assist light

In bad light conditions focusing is assisted with a dedicated light, what is effective between 0.5 and 3 meters.

Metering can be locked by the AF-L/AE-L button, and measured with the 420 pixel RGB sensor inherited from the Nikon D40. There are three different metering modes available:

3D color matrix (with G and D lenses), Color matrix II (with other CPU lenses)
Center-weighted average (the center 8 mm is taken into account, weighting 75% of the whole image)
Spot (measures on the 2.5% of the focus area). Focusing works between 0 and 20 EV in the first two modes, while in the last one the range is between 2 and 20 EV.

Memory card, battery, connections

There is nothing new to report here. The connections of the Nikon D40X are located on the left side of the body, covered with a rubber door. From top to bottom, the following connectors are placed on the body: video-out mini-jack (video cable is not included), mini-B format USB 2.0 Hi-speed plug (USB cable included). There is no wired remote control available for the Nikon D40X, but the ML-L3 infrared remote control is compatible with this camera as well. Its receptor is placed on the front side of the grip.

The memory card slot is on the right back part of the hand grip. It can be opened by pulling it back a bit. While this is not as safe as the card door opening mechanism on the Nikon D200, it is very easy and quick to swap cards. The Nikon D40X is compatible with Secure Digital and Secure Digital HC cards. These latter ones are available in 2-8 GB sizes. Since the 10 megapixel resolution requires a lot of storage, it is a good idea to buy a high capacity memory card to the camera. No memory card is bundled with the Nikon D40X, and it has no built in memory either. If someone plans to shoot mainly in JPEG, a 1 GB card will be suitable, but for RAW images a higher capacity card is a good idea.

The Nikon D40X uses the same EN-EL9 battery as it's little sibling. The 7.4V 1000 mAh battery can be charged with the MH-23 battery charger, what is included in the box. Tested with CIPA test procedures, this battery lasts for about 520 photos. This is 50 more than what the Nikon D40 can handle with the same battery with one charge.

The battery goes to the grip from the bottom side. The plastic battery compartment door is locked with a latch. After opening the door the battery moves out a bit, but doesn't fall out, and easy to remove.

User interface

The Nikon D40X has the same user interface as the Nikon D40. Same buttons on the same place.

Top

Controls on the top

(1)Power switch: turning the camera on and off.
(2)Shutter release button
(3) Info button: turning the status display on and off, while in playback mode it activates the recording mode.
(4)Exposure compensation / aperture value button: by holding it pressed the rear dial sets the exposure compensation (± 5 EV), in M mode it sets the aperture value.
(5) Mode dial:
- Auto: automatic mode, in which only the resolution, quality, sensitivity, photo mode, focus mode (AF-A, M) and focus area is adjustable. In some extent, flash mode can also be set (Auto and Auto + red-eye reduction), and the self-timer and the AE-L/AF-L is also available.
- P mode: Every parameter can be set, except the shutter speed and the aperture. These values can also be set automatically by the camera. Metering can be overrided by the exposure compensation (button 4 and rear dial)
- S mode (shutter priority): The desired shutter speed can be selected by the rear dial in 1/3 EV steps. The following values are available: 30; 25; 20; 15; 13; 10; 8; 6; 5; 4; 3; 2.5; 2; 1.6; 1.3; 1; 1/1.3; 1/1.6; 1/2; 1/2.5; 1/3; 1/4; 1/5; 1/6; 1/8; 1/10; 1/13; 1/15; 1/20; 1/25; 1/30; 1/40; 1/50; 1/60; 1/80; 1/100; 1/125; 1/160; 1/200; 1/250; 1/320; 1/400; 1/500; 1/640; 1/800; 1/1000; 1/1250; 1/1600; 1/2000; 1/2500; 1/3200; 1/4000 sec.
- A mode (aperture priority): The desired aperture can be seleced by the rear dial. The camera will set the necessary shutter speed. The available values depend on the lens attached to the body.
- M mode (manual mode): both the shutter speed and the aperture value is selectable. The rear dial sets the shutter speed, while button 4 and the rear dial together sets the aperture value. Exposure compensation is obviously not available here.
- night portrait mode: photo with slow sync flash mode.
- close-up mode: emphasizing red and green colors (the magnification and focal distance depends on the lens used
- sport mode: the camera tries to set the fastest shutter speed possible
- child mode: creates soft, moderate skin tones, with the other colors being more vivid
- landscape mode: the camera tries to select smaller aperture (larger value) and enhances the green and blue colors
- portrait mode: the camera selects a larger aperture (smaller value) and produces moderate skin tones.

Back

controls on the back
(1) Diopter correction lever
(2) AE-L; AF-L: exposure (metering) and focus lock button. It's fuction can be set in the menu. The values can be locked by pressing or holding down the button. It can be used to start automatic focusing as well.
(3) Rear dial: This is the only adjustment dial on the Nikon D40X, and it is usually used together with buttons. In priority modes (A and S) it is used to set the shutter speed or the aperture, while in manual mode alone it is used to set shutter speed, while together with the exposure compensation button this dial is adjusting the aperture. In playback mode it is changing the images.
(4)Playback button: after pressing the camera shows the last image recorded. Pressing it again will switch to shooting mode again.
(5) Menu button: enters to the camera's menu.
thumbnail mode and enlargement
playback modes
(6) Help/zoom out button: it displays useful information about the selected function. In playback mode it turns to thumbnail mode or zooms out of the image.
(7) Shooting display/zoom in button: turns on the information display. In playback mode it zooms in on the displayed image.
(8) Arrow button: In shooting mode it moves the AF frame. In playback the up and down arrows change the displayed information, while the left and right buttons can be used the switch images. When the displayed image is zoomed, these buttons are used to move the visible area on the image. Last, but not least these buttons provide our way around the menus.
(9) OK button: it is used to accept the selected settings in the menu.
(10) Erase button: erases the displayed image very quickly if it is pressed twice (better be careful with this button).

Side

Controls on the side

(1) Flash on and flash setting button that opens the built in flash as well. Together with the exposure compensation button and the rear dial it sets the flash exposure compensation.
(2) Custom function (Fn) button: it atcivates the a previously selected function. This function can be one of the following: drive mode, image resolution, image quality, sensitivity and white-balance. In factory default setting it turns on the self-timer.
(3) Lens release button.

Menu

Shooting menu

  • Shooting menu
    Optimize image: Sormal, Softer, Vivid, More vivid, Portrait, Black & white, Custom (Image Sharpening (+/-2 levels, Auto, None), Tone compensation (+/-2 levels, Auto, Custom), Color mode (Ia sRGB, II Adobe RGB, IIIa sRGB), Saturation (Auto, 3 levels), Hue Adjustment (+/- 9)
  • Image quality: NEF (RAW), JPEG Fine, JPEG Normal, JPEG Basic, NEF (RAW) + JPEG basic.
  • Image size: Large (3872 x 2592), Medium (2896 x1944), Small (1936 x1296).
  • White balance: Auto, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Direct sunlight, Flash, Cloudy, Shade (all these fine tunable in ±3 steps) and White balance preset (with instant setting or based on a saved image)
  • ISO sensitivity: Auto, 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600, HI 1 (3200)
  • Noise reduction: on/off

Custom setting menu

    Custom Settings menu
  • Reset
  • Beep: on/off
  • Focus mode: Auto-servo AF, Single-servo AF, Continuous-servo AF, Manual Focus
  • AF-area mode: Closest subject, Dynamic area, Single area
  • Shooting mode: Single frame, Continuous, Self-timer, Delayed remote, Quick-response remote
  • Metering: Matrix, Center-weighted, Spot
  • No memory card: Release locked, Enable release
  • Image review: On/Off
  • Flash level: -3EV - +1EV in 1/3EV increments
  • AF-assist lamp: On/Off
  • ISO Auto: Off, On, Max. sensitivity, Min shutter speed
  • Self timer/Fn button: Self-timer, Shooting mode, Image quality/size, ISO sensitivity, White balance
  • AE-L/AF-L: AE/AF lock, AE lock only, AF lock only, AE lock hold, AF-ON
  • AE lock: on/off
  • Built-in flash: TTL, Manual
  • Auto off timers: Short, Normal, Long, Custom
  • Self-timer (2s, 5s, 10s, 20s)
  • Remote on duration: 1min., 5min., 10min., 15min.

Setup menu

Setup menu
  • CSM/Setup Menu: Simple, Full, My Menu
  • Format memory card: No/Yes
  • Info display format (for Digital Vari-Program, P,S,A,M, Select wallpaper): On/Off
  • Auto shooting info (Digital Vari-Program, P,S,A,M, Select wallpaper): On/Off
  • World Time (Time zone (UTC -11 - +13), Date (Y/M/D, H/M/S),Date format (Year/month/day, Month/day/year, Day/month/year), Daylight saving time (On/Off)
  • LCD brightness: ±2
  • Video mode: NTSC /PAL.
  • Language: 15 languages.
  • Image comment: Done, Input comment, Attach comment
  • USB mód: MassStorage, PTP.
  • Folders: Select folder, New (max 5 characters), Rename, Delete
  • File no. sequence: On, Off, Reset
  • Mirror lock-up (for sensor cleaning): On/Off
  • Firmware version
  • Dust off ref photo: On/Off
  • Auto image rotation: On/Off

Playback menu

Playback menu
  • Delete: Selected, All
  • Playback folder: Current, All
  • Rotate tall: On/Off
  • Slide show: Start, Frame interval (2s, 3s, 5s, 10s)
  • Print set (DPOF): Select/set, Deselect all?

Retouch menu

Retouch menu
  • D-Lighting
  • Red-eye correction
  • Trim: 2560 x 1920, 1920 x 1440, 1280 x 960, 960 x 720, 640 x 480
  • Monochrome: Black-and-white, Sepia, Cyanotype
  • Filter effects: Skylight, Warm filter, Color balance
  • Small picture: Select picture, Choose size (640 x 480, 320 x 240, 160 x 120)
  • Image overlay (from two RAW images, adjustable)

Image quality

Image formats

The Nikon D40X provides two image formats to save the images. The default is compressed, 8 bit JPEG format that can be used with three different compression settings (Fine - 98%, Normal - 94% and Basic 82%). The basic levels should only be used when storage space is really a scarce resource.

Besides the compressed JPEG, the camera provides a lossless, but compressed 12 but RAW (NEF) format as well. Each of these photos take up 9 MB on the memory card, so these images can eat up the space quickly. In the box of the Nikon D40X we found the Picture projekt 1.7 to handle these images. We have used this software to convert the RAW images. The CD also includes the Nikon Capture NX software, but that is only a 30 day trial version.

It is also possible to save the images in both formats, but the JPEG image will be Basic level compressed.

Image noise

The Nikon D40X has got the same 10 megapixel imaging sensor as the Nikon D80. The advantage of this is definitely the higher resolution and the wider sensitivity range. The sensitivity can be set from ISO 100, while it was ISO 200 at the Nikon D40. While the smaller brother gave a nice, clean image on that sensitivity as well, the higher starting has a disadvantage when we want to reach long exposure in bright sunlight (e.g. a waterfall, where we want to express motion). The D40X will be able to take that shot without the ND filter, too.

The Nikon D40 had a clean and relatively detailed image up to ISO 1600 sensitivity. The D40X, as expected cannot follow it's predecessor on this. The limit is at ISO 800. It is pretty safe to raise the sensitivity to this level. The image noise is not a problem even above this level, but it is the noise reduction what makes those images look bad. The cause is what we have talked about a lot before. The sensors surface is the same, but we increased the number of pixels drastically. Smaller pixels always mean higher image noise, that needs to be addressed somehow.

The image noise is visible mostly in mid range and darker areas (as with all cameras). I would use the sensitivity up to ISO 800 happily, but definitely would consider other optins when higher sensitivity would be necessary.

ISO100; F8; 1/3 sec.
ISO200; F8; 1/6 sec.
ISO400; F8; 1/13 sec.
ISO800; F8; 1/25 sec.
ISO1600; F8; 1/50 sec.
ISO3200; F8; 1/100 sec.
ISO100; F8; 1/3 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO200; F8; 1/6 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO400; F8; 1/13 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO800; F8; 1/25 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO1600; F8; 1/50 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO3200; F8; 1/100 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO100; F8; 1/3 sec.
ISO200; F8; 1/6 sec.
ISO400; F8; 1/13 sec.
ISO800; F8; 1/25 sec.
ISO1600; F8; 1/50 sec.
ISO3200; F8; 1/100 sec.
ISO100; F8; 1/3 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO200; F8; 1/6 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO400; F8; 1/13 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO800; F8; 1/25 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO1600; F8; 1/50 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO3200; F8; 1/100 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO100; F8; 1/3 sec.
ISO200; F8; 1/6 sec.
ISO400; F8; 1/13 sec.
ISO800; F8; 1/25 sec.
ISO1600; F8; 1/50 sec.
ISO3200; F8; 1/100 sec.
ISO100; F8; 1/3 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO200; F8; 1/6 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO400; F8; 1/13 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO800; F8; 1/25 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO1600; F8; 1/50 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO3200; F8; 1/100 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO100; F8; 1/3 sec.
ISO200; F8; 1/6 sec.
ISO400; F8; 1/13 sec.
ISO800; F8; 1/25 sec.
ISO1600; F8; 1/50 sec.
ISO3200; F8; 1/100 sec.
ISO100; F8; 1/3 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO200; F8; 1/6 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO400; F8; 1/13 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO800; F8; 1/25 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO1600; F8; 1/50 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
ISO3200; F8; 1/100 sec.; RAW - Picture Project 1.7
The images were taken at 21 °C.

General image quality

Moiré is a lot less visible than on the D40.

No matter how hard I try, I cannot find any serious flaw when it comes to image quality. Minor problems, like the slightly over saturated reds, or the imperfect default settings could be corrected, but these don't make the camera any worst. I feel the normal image sharpening a bit too strong. The halo effect appears around the edges with contrast. I would leave this setting on soft, and would use sharpening at processing time (the sample images were taken with normal setting, so everyone can decide). Colors are ok in Normal mode, but Vivid, and especially More vivd are producing too strong colors and over sharpened images, just like in the Nikon D80.

While the Sony ICX 413 sensor was known from it's moiré, the new sensor in the Nikon D40X works just as well as the other 10 megapixel DSLR sensors. The infrared filter seems to be fine, so we didn't see the other D40 problem either, what was causing black areas to turn reddish-brownish.

Long exposure

The slowest shutter speed in scene modes and in basic creative modes (P and A) is 30 seconds. The same applies to shutter priority mode (S), while in manual mode (M) holding the Bulb mode is also selectable. Holding down the shutter release button can extend the exposure over the 30 seconds limit.

With the lens cap on (and camera covered) we were taking photos with sensitivity set to ISO 200, and exposure to 10 minutes. We have turned off the long exposure noise reduction for the first photo, and turned it on for the second one. This noise reduction works when the sensitivity is over ISO 800 or the exposure is over 1 second. The reduction happens after the image is taken and normally it takes as long as the exposure was for the image. The camera takes another image to map the hot pixels. Nikon was using a shorter (half the length of the original image's exposure) at the Nikon D80, and we have found this version in the D40X as well. The noise reduction of the 10 minutes images takes only 5 minutes, what is really a great improvement. The upper left image is the one without noise reduction. After enlarging it, the hot pixels are easily visible. On the right of that image we show the hot pixels emphasized. The lower two images are showing the result after noise reduction. The hot pixels are gone, and even the corners look better.

Hosszú záridejű felvétel (ISO200, 10 perc)

full image
crop
Nikon D40X without hot pixel reduction
Nikon D40X without hot pixel reduction, emphasized by histogram modification
Nikon D40X with dark frame hot pixel reduction
Nikon D40x with dark frame hot pixel reduction, emphasized with histogram modification
We have stretched the 0-25 range to 0-255 during histogram modification.

Memory capacity

Working with RAW files requires a fast, high capacity memory card. When the RAW images are saved with JPEG files in normal compression, the file size is over 10 MB. This means little over 70 images on a 1 GB card. This won't be enough for a longer shooting trip, so we would recommend a 2 GB or larger card. Faster cards are well worth the investment.

The following table shows the file sizes of each compression ratios.:

File sizes and number of images that can be stored
Resolution, compression size* on a 1 GB card* on a 2 GB card*
3872x2592 RAW+JPEG 10,1 MByte 70 140
3872x2592 RAW 9,0 MByte 79 158
3872x2592 Fine 4,8 MByte 129 258
3872x2592 Normal 2,4 MByte 251 302
3872x2592 Basic 1,2 MByte 487 974
2896x1944 Fine 2,7 MByte 225 450
2896x1944 Normal 1,3 MByte 431 862
2896x1944 Basic 700 KByte 839 1678
1936x1296 Fine 1,2 MByte 487 974
1936x1296 Normal 600 KByte 888 1776
1936x1296 Basic 300 KByte 1500 3000

*The file size and the number of images that can be stored on a card also depends on the subject and the selected sensitivity.

Measured values

Did the Nikon D40X get any faster than the Nikon D40 was? No, not really. In fact, the great news is that despite the higher resolution it didn't get any slower. During playback, the time between images is a shorter, but the shot to shot time in shooting mode is the same as before. The camera turns in 0.18 second, which leaves the average photographer behind. The burst speed in continuous shooting mode is not significantly higher, 2.85 frames/second instead 2.5 frames/second. The higher ISO settings and the hot pixel reduction mode don't reduce this speed as much as it did with the Nikon D40. The memory card handling is just as fast as with any Nikon DSLR. With our faster card we measured 6.6 MB/sec writing speed, while the normal card performed 3.5 MB writing speed.

The speed of the AF mainly depends on the lens used. We have tried it with the new Nikkor 55-200 mm F4-5.6G ED VR lens. Of course the AF speed depends on other factors too. One of these is the way the the focus motor has to go. At 55 mm in good light it takes anything from 0.1 to 0.7 seconds, but as the light decreases, the time can increase well over 1 second. In 200 mm we measured really similar results.

Measured values
Time from turning on till the first shot (MF) 0.18 second
Time between two shots (MF) 0,35 second
Burst speed in continuous mode 2,85 frames/second
A-Data 60x 128 MB SD SanDisk Ultra II 512 MB SD
Writing speed to memory card
(based on 20 RAW images)
3500 KByte/s 6600 KByte/s
wide angle tele
Focusing time
AF-S Nikkor 55-200mm F4-5,6G ED VR
0.1-0.7 sec 0.1-0.6 sec
Focusing time
AF-S Nikkor 55-200mm F4-5,6G ED VR
(low light, not contrasty image with AF assist beam)
0.2-1.1 sec 0.2-1 sec
Size of image in the viewfinder 21°; 52% compared to a 35 mm camera with 1× magnification and 100% coverage
Viewfinder coverage 97%
Flash distance from the lens' axis 7.5 cm
Flash recharging time 3-5 mp
Fine Normal Basic
JPEG image quality 98% 88% 73%
Playback speed 8 frames/sec

Conclusion

"Get a Nikon D40, mix it with a little bit of D80..." This is how we would start the instructions if it was a recipe of a cake, and not a digital camera. The result is a Nikon D40 shaped cake with Nikon D80 fillings.

The Nikon D40X is the next logical step from Nikon. They have had the well designed and successful body of the Nikon D40, and had the proven sensor from the D80. By putting them together they could easily cover the gap between their entry level low resolution DSLR and the semi professional Nikon D80. Those who are happy with the 6 megapixel resolution can choose the Nikon D40, while the megapixel maniacs can go for the new Nikon D40X. The D40X corrects some of the problems we have seen at it's smaller sibling (sensitivity to infra red and moiré), while keeps the same body with the limited number of buttons and the lack of automatic dust removal system.

Honestly, we would have expected a few extra features over the higher resolution to justify the higher price tag, but this camera is not bad either.

This camera is targeted to the new DSLR generation buying their first DSLR after either a film SLR or a digital compact. The lack of AF drive motor will not affect them since they most probably buy one of the new AF-S or AF-I lenses with built in motor. The Nikon D40X will be available in many different kits: body + 18-55 mm lens, body + 18-55 mm + 55-200 mm lenses or body + 18-55 mm lens + 55-200 mm VR lens.

Is it worth it's price? I think so.

Pros and cons

The things we liked and didn't like about the camera:
Pros and cons
proscons
  • Higher resolution, detailed images
  • Fast turn on and shooting speeds
  • Comfortable body, despite the small size
  • Faster burst rate
  • Adjustable white balance
  • Built in image correction functions
  • The images are well enlargable
  • Good flash adjustment options
  • Help screens to use the camera
  • Wide exposure correction range
  • Low image noise
  • Good hot pixel reduction with half of the normal time
  • Separate AF assist lamp
  • Good status display (with adjustable functions)
  • Not enough buttons and switches, sometimes complicated settings
  • Lack of LCD protector
  • Image quality at vivid and more vivid modes
  • Slowing burst rate even with faster card.
  • strong noise reduction from ISO1600 and up
  • Slower flash sync rate
  • No automatic dust removal system

Included accessories

The box includes the following items besides the camera body.:

  • body cap
  • EN-EL9 Li-ion battery
  • battery charger
  • USB cable
  • strap
  • viewfinder cap

We would like to thank Nikon Kft. for providing this camera for the review.

Sample images

The images we took with this camera can be accessed through the link below. The file names also show the focal length (35 mm eq.) that were used to take the imag.

Nikon D40x sample images

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