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DCRP Review: Nikon D40x
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: June 1, 2007
Last Updated: April 2, 2008
Less than four months after introducing their entry-level D40 digital SLR, Nikon released a fancier version, known as the D40x. I think it's safe to assume that a lot of D40 owners weren't entirely pleased with this news!
The original D40 brought ease-of-use and a comfortable compact body to the D-SLR world, and it was a welcome development. It offered a solid design, great photo quality, a very user-friendly menu system, and the kind of performance that you'd expect from a digital SLR. Naturally, some features were "stripped" to keep the price down, most notably the lack of a built-in focus motor, which meant that older lenses were manual focus only. Still, the pros outnumbered the cons, and the D40 earned an easy recommendation.
So what's new with the D40x, which costs just under $200 more than its predecessor?
Not bad upgrades if I do say so myself. But it leaves me (and many others, I'm sure) wondering: why did Nikon bother with the original D40 with the D40x obviously in the pipeline?
Okay, less ranting, more reviewing. Read on to find out how the D40x performs!
Since the cameras are 95% identical, most of this review will be the same as the one for the D40. Don't worry though, all product and sample photos are from the D40x!
What's in the Box?
Although there are "officially" two D40x kits available, I have found one more in the wild. The official kits are body only for $730, and with a 18-55 mm lens for $799. At Costco stores I have also spied a third kit, which includes the 18-55 lens, plus the 55-200 mm VR lens, a camera bag, and a 1GB memory card for under $1000.
Here's what you'll find in the box for each of these:
If you choose the body only kit, then you'll need to supply your own Nikon F-mount lens. Be sure to read the details in the next section about autofocus support on older lenses, though. Both of the lens kits include the second generation 18 - 55 mm lens, which is pretty good, though it has some issues with purple fringing. The Costco-only kit I mentioned has the new 55 - 200 mm VR lens, which Nikon sent along with the camera. This model has built-in optical image stabilization (Nikon calls it VR, or Vibration Reduction), a must-have feature for a telephoto lens. It's a very compact lens considering the focal range, and at $250 (separately) it's a pretty good deal, too.
[Section updated 11/10/07]
The D40x doesn't come with a memory card, so you'll need to pick one up if you don't have one already. The camera supports both SD and the newer SDHC cards, which currently top out at a whopping 8GB. I don't think you need a card quite that large -- I'd start out with 1GB myself. Spending a little more for a high speed card is a good idea.
Nikon came up with a new battery when they created the original D40, and it's called the EN-EL9. This battery has 7.4 Wh of energy, which is pretty good these days. How does this translate into battery life? Have a look:
As you can see, the D40x's battery life numbers are 10% higher than those of the original D40. In the group as a whole, the D40's numbers are just above average.
I'm afraid that I must make my usual comments about the proprietary batteries like the one used by the D40x here. They're expensive (priced from $37), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery when your rechargeables die. Only one of the cameras above uses AA batteries by default, though some others allow it with the use of an optional battery grip.
Speaking of which, Nikon does not offer a battery grip for the D40 or D40x.
When it's time to charge the battery just snap it into the included charger. It takes just ninety minutes to fully charge the EN-EL9. This isn't one of those handy chargers that plugs right into the wall -- you must use a power cable.
Being a digital SLR, the D40x has plenty of accessories available, and I've compiled some of them into this chart:
Yes, it really does cost over $100 for the D40x's AC adapter. Gimme a break. Also, there's no video output cable included with the camera, so you'll have to buy one if you plan on connecting to a television.
I'll talk a bit more about lenses and external flashes in the next section of the review.
Nikon includes version 1.7 of their PictureProject software with the D40x, and it's good, but not great. The interface is reminiscent of Apple's iPhoto, and I found the software to be responsive and stable. For those of you with Intel-based Macs, I should mention that PictureProject is not a Universal application, which means that it doesn't run as fast as it could.
Anyhow, above you can see the standard thumbnail view that you'll get when you first start up PP. The size of the thumbnails is adjustable, and there's also a "details view" which displays shooting data next to your photos.
Double-click on a thumbnail and you'll end up on the edit screen. Here you can adjust things like brightness, color, and sharpness. You can also straighten images or use Nikon's D-Lighting feature to brighten up dark areas of your photos. Auto image enhancement and redeye removal features are also available. PP also makes e-mailing and printing your photos a snap.
Crummy bundled NEF reader for Adobe Photoshop
One thing you can't do, amazingly enough, is edit RAW (NEF) images. PictureProject only views the NEF file and saves it into other formats. That's it. There is a Photoshop plug-in included, but 1) it's very limited in what it can do and 2) it only works in the now outdated Photoshop CS2.
If you want to do some serious RAW editing you'll need Capture NX (priced from $115 -- read more about in my D80 review) or Adobe Photoshop CS3, whose Camera Raw plug-in supports the D40x.
Why do you want to edit RAW files? Well, these files contain unprocessed image data straight from the camera, so you can adjust virtually any image setting (from white balance to sharpness) and it'll be like you had used those settings originally. In other words, it's like being able to take the photo again. The downsides to RAW include the large file size and the post-processing requirement.
Another optional software product is Nikon Camera Control Pro ($80). Just as it sounds, this software lets you control the D40x over the USB connection, saving the images directly to your computer.
The manual included with the D40x is pretty good. It's not the most user friendly manual I've thumbed through, but it will answer just about any question that may come up about the camera. There's a separate manual for the PictureProject software on an included CD-ROM.
Look and Feel
The D40x is a compact digital SLR made of high grade plastic. The camera is even smaller than some ultra zooms on the market, but it's not tiny by any means. It has a larger grip than on the Canon Rebel XTi, though it's still a bit too small in my opinion. And speaking of the Rebel XTi, the D40x feels a lot more solid in your hands than that camera -- no cheap plastic here.
When it's in your hands, the D40x's important controls are within easy reach of your fingers. There are quite a few buttons on the camera, some of which aren't in the most logical location (especially the flash and function buttons).
Now let's see how the D40x compares to other D-SLRs in terms of size and weight: