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Digital SLR Cameras: Nikon D40?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I am in the market for a digital SLR at a decent price - not wanting entry-level as such but don't need to pay big-bucks for a pro model.

Basically it is for two purposes:

1) Getting started in Digital SLR photography
2) Photography buildings and architecture on an upcoming trip to the Middle East.

So, a couple of friends who know about this have recommended the Nikon D40 - I have seen this model and priced it and it looks a good deal.

My main question is that it is around 6 MP - I have heard many pros and cons re this...is it a problem? Is this camera the best in its price-range or are there any other suggestions?
What is Faith? When your good deed pleases you and your evil deed grieves you, you are a believer. What is Sin? When a thing disturbs the peace of your heart, give it up - Prophet Muhammad
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What is Faith? When your good deed pleases you and your evil deed grieves you, you are a believer. What is Sin? When a thing disturbs the peace of your heart, give it up - Prophet Muhammad
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post #2 of 12
D40 is an older model released in 2006. DPReviews has a nice review on it. Before I go further, I will give the disclaimer that asking what camera to buy is like asking what car to buy. You would really benefit from going to a properly stocked photography store and laying hands on each that you're considering and finding what feels right to you. As such, everything I write below is solely my opinion as a highly interested amateur photographer.


6MP is a little low for even an entry level SLR nowadays. Should be fine if you're looking to keep everything digital. If you're looking to make prints, you might consider going with something at a higher megapixel count. Not that you can't make decent sized prints with 6MP, but if you plan to crop because of a "short" lens, you might limit yourself.

Also, newer Nikon and Canon SLRs have improved low light performance at high ISO, potentially important to you if you plan on making photographs indoors or at dusk or sunrise.

Looking at the cons in the Dpreviews, I might be concerned about the lack of the ability to do auto-exposure bracketing. I don't know if making HDRs is something you're interested in doing, but having AE bracketing makes it easier to do.

Something else to think about is that when you choose a brand of SLR, you're kind of marrying yourself to their lens line as well. Nikon and Canon make expensive lenses, but as your skills grow, those same lenses will work on their more expensive camera bodies.

Personally, I know that I'll never be a professional photographer. I have stuck with the Olympus line because they are relatively less expensive than comparable Nikon or Canon. They build image stabilization into the camera bodies which makes the lenses a bit less expensive. The four-thirds sensor that Olympus and Panasonic use allows for relatively smaller camera bodies and lenses (kind of a big deal if you're traveling a lot). My personal kit is an Olympus E510 with mid-range Zuiko lenses. (some samples below at low resolution). Just goes to show that you don't need thousands of dollars worth of equipment or a Canon or Nikon to make great photographs.

Last thing to remember is that the camera or the lens does not make the photograph. It's the photographer who must compose, snap and process. Almost all modern SLRs have the technical ability to make beautiful photographs, but bad composition will ruin any picture.











post #3 of 12
No WAY you should get the D40, unless you're never EVER going to buy another lens.

The D40 (and the D40x) does not have a motor in the camera body. Which means for autofocus to function you REQUIRE motorized lenses, which means you cannot by inexpensive but excellent lenses like 50mm primes, or any second-hand Nikon lenses older than a couple years. Pretty much any lens you will want to buy with a reasonably fast aperture or with a medium to long focal length is going to cost MEGA $$$$. Which would make it stupid to have such a cheap camera body.

For beginning photographers new to SLRs or those on a low budget, you absolutely should avoid Nikon and Canon, as their budget offerings are way under-par (Canon has the worst budget consumer lenses out of all of the manufacturers and Nikon has the above limitations with regard to unmotorized lenses) and you should go with either Sony or Pentax, both of which are fantastic choices. Olympus is also a good choice, but the 4/3 sensor is smaller than standard DSLR sensors, which means slightly less resolution assuming similar technology.

Sony and Olympus are great because of in-camera anti-shake. Pentax is great for hobbyists because they are more compatible with great classic M42 (manual focus) lenses that you can buy on eBay (I have several that I use with my Sony). Pentax also produces some of the best value lenses currently available.
post #4 of 12
Agree with above... can't believe I missed the no motor in the body thing. AVOID!
post #5 of 12
Also, of the above example photos, I'm almost certain that the first three have been processed using HDR techniques. Which means you cannot get those images straight out of any camera. Producing images like that requires multiple exposures and skilful compositing. I suspect that the fourth image may be an infrared shot, which means you can't get that out of most cameras either, though some digital cameras can be physically modified by removal of the IR filter so that they can be used for IR photography. But that means that they will produce reduced image quality for normal shots. The last two have a shallow depth of field which means you must have a fairly fast (large aperture), or fairly long lens with decent aperture, neither of which is available for the D40 without shelling out $$$$ as previously noted or settling for manual focus.

I could be wrong, but this is my guess about those images.

So no, you can't do that with a D40.
post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the replies guys...is very helpful.

@Kishan: the photos look great! Composition is one of the things I hope to get a handle on. For this project I have to record some architectural elements but I want to be creative too...

Sounds like the Nikon will be a false economy...basically I don't want to make a mistake due to not knowing what I'm doing and then when I've learnt to have to curse myself!!

@Tonton: I guess I won't be able to take photos like Kishan's straight off the bat but also I want to be able to by a simple upgrade path when I am more accomplished.

You mentioned Sony and Pentax - I have a bias against Sony because I had one of their compacts once and it seemed the colours were a bit off the whole time...could be just the unit but there were other things I didn't like too..

Pentax: I have heard good things...do you have a recommendation?
What is Faith? When your good deed pleases you and your evil deed grieves you, you are a believer. What is Sin? When a thing disturbs the peace of your heart, give it up - Prophet Muhammad
Reply
What is Faith? When your good deed pleases you and your evil deed grieves you, you are a believer. What is Sin? When a thing disturbs the peace of your heart, give it up - Prophet Muhammad
Reply
post #7 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by tonton View Post

Also, of the above example photos, I'm almost certain that the first three have been processed using HDR techniques. Which means you cannot get those images straight out of any camera. Producing images like that requires multiple exposures and skilful compositing. I suspect that the fourth image may be an infrared shot, which means you can't get that out of most cameras either, though some digital cameras can be physically modified by removal of the IR filter so that they can be used for IR photography. But that means that they will produce reduced image quality for normal shots. The last two have a shallow depth of field that means you must have a fairly fast (large aperture), or fairly long lens with decent aperture, neither of which is available for the D40 without shelling out $$$$ as previously noted.

So no, you can't do that with a D40.

First three are indeed single shot pseudo-HDR done with Photomatix Plug in ($79) for Aperture, taken with a kit lens (Zuiko 14-42 f/3.5-5.6 $249 MSRP). First B&W was with another kit lens (Zuiko 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 $279 MSRP). Second B&W with Zuikos 14-54 f/2.8-3.5 ($599 MSRP), processed through Aperture's monochrome red filter. Last one with the 14-42mm kit lens at 14mm at f3.5, ISO 200 (managed to get some magic sunlight that day!).

As you can see, my investment in equipment is pretty minimal and low cost compared to similar Nikon and Canon offerings. Sony and Pentax make nice cameras, no doubt, but for the price, I don't think you get better bang for the buck than Olympus and the Zuiko lens line.
post #8 of 12
Thread Starter 
I'm looking at some cameras today and there seem a couple of good deals (?). Shop near me has

Olympus E-520 with ZUIKO ED 14-42 mm and ZUIKO ED 40-150 mm for 599 Euros ($840 US)

and

Olympus E-420 with ZUIKO ED 14-42 mm and ZUIKO ED 40-150 mm for 499 Euros ($700 US)

They also have:

Canon EOS 450D with 18-55 mm lens at 599 Euros ($840 US)

Which looks nice...

Is the E520 worth the extra cash over the E420? It has the same lenses...
What is Faith? When your good deed pleases you and your evil deed grieves you, you are a believer. What is Sin? When a thing disturbs the peace of your heart, give it up - Prophet Muhammad
Reply
What is Faith? When your good deed pleases you and your evil deed grieves you, you are a believer. What is Sin? When a thing disturbs the peace of your heart, give it up - Prophet Muhammad
Reply
post #9 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by segovius View Post

I'm looking at some cameras today and there seem a couple of good deals (?). Shop near me has

Olympus E-520 with ZUIKO ED 14-42 mm and ZUIKO ED 40-150 mm for 599 Euros ($840 US)

and

Olympus E-420 with ZUIKO ED 14-42 mm and ZUIKO ED 40-150 mm for 499 Euros ($700 US)

They also have:

Canon EOS 450D with 18-55 mm lens at 599 Euros ($840 US)

Which looks nice...

Is the E520 worth the extra cash over the E420? It has the same lenses...

I cannot speak to the Canon because I've no proper experience with it. All my point-and-shoot cameras have been Canon, however, and I've loved every last one of them.

The E420 is nicely reviewed at Dpreviews.com. Here is a direct quote from their conclusions:

Let's have a look at the cons then. Unfortunately the first thing that springs to mind here is image quality. The E-420 appears to use a stronger anti-alias filter than its predecessor, and while this results in admirably 'clean' images, it also robs the resultant images of fine detail. Other cameras in this class will no doubt produce output with more per pixel detail. And since this softness is created by the E-420's hardware and not by in-camera software, reverting to raw-shooting won't improve the issue. Of course this comment has to be taken in context; you need to be regularly printing at large sizes or zooming in to a pixel level to see the difference once you've added a bit of sharpening.

High ISO performance is far from class-leading, but for most users producing normal prints it won't be an issue. Dynamic range, however, is worth mentioning. The E-420's DR is not quite up to par with the competition which can offer up to a whole stop more highlight range. So you'll find a washed out sky or unattractively blown highlights in your images a little more often when shooting with the Olympus. Admittedly when talking about the E-420's image quality issues we are - to a certain degree - nitpicking. The camera's output is not bad at all (in fact contrast and colors in the default settings are very appealing), but it's not quite up at the same level as some of the competitors.

In conclusion, the E-420 is an ideal walkaround camera with a great feature set and unrivalled customizability. The image quality issues described above very slightly tarnish the positive overall picture but if compact dimensions and pocketability are high up on your list of buying criteria the E-420 should still be one of your favorites. I certainly found myself sticking it into my pocket even on occasions when I would not usually have taken an SLR with me and anything that gets you to take more images can only be a good thing.

I think one of the biggest things you'd be missing with the 420 vs the 520 is the lack of mechanical image stabilization. 420 has digital stabilization only. Might make a difference for shots where you desire slower shutter speeds. One of the key selling points for the 420 is its small size. It looks very compact, which sounds great, but could make it difficult to hold if you have big hands or if you start using larger lenses.

I maintain that Olympus makes some of the nicest kit lenses that are out there, so the 420 might be a great place to start because when you upgrade the body, you can keep these nice lenses.

As I said in my original post, there is no substitute for going to a photography store where you can hold these cameras and talk to people who are passionate about making photographs. They can give you well-tailored advice.
post #10 of 12
(This probably belongs in General Discussion)

I have the older D70s- which uses exactly the same 6MP CMOS sensor as the D40. It's fantastic. You only need more megapixels if you're going to make prints larger than 11x14 or so.

For its price, you absolutely cannot beat the D40 in value, especially if you get a refurbished one.
post #11 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by FuturePastNow View Post

(This probably belongs in General Discussion)

I have the older D70s- which uses exactly the same 6MP CMOS sensor as the D40. It's fantastic. You only need more megapixels if you're going to make prints larger than 11x14 or so.

For its price, you absolutely cannot beat the D40 in value, especially if you get a refurbished one.

But once again, once you start buying lenses, the D40, D40x, D60, D3000 and D5000 are no longer such a good investment, as they require the use of far more expensive AF-S lenses if you want autofocus (and I can't imagine anyone that doesn't). Your D70 doesn't have that limitation. Nikon's least expensive current body with an in-body motor is the 3 1/2 year-old D80, which can currently be found new for below $900.
post #12 of 12
Quote:
Originally Posted by segovius View Post

Thanks for the replies guys...is very helpful.

@Kishan: the photos look great! Composition is one of the things I hope to get a handle on. For this project I have to record some architectural elements but I want to be creative too...

Sounds like the Nikon will be a false economy...basically I don't want to make a mistake due to not knowing what I'm doing and then when I've learnt to have to curse myself!!

@Tonton: I guess I won't be able to take photos like Kishan's straight off the bat but also I want to be able to by a simple upgrade path when I am more accomplished.

You mentioned Sony and Pentax - I have a bias against Sony because I had one of their compacts once and it seemed the colours were a bit off the whole time...could be just the unit but there were other things I didn't like too..

Pentax: I have heard good things...do you have a recommendation?

Sony's P&S and DSLR divisions are entirely separate entities. To form their DSLR division, Sony bought struggling Minolta, and the Alpha cameras are fully compatible with the excellent line of Minolta lenses and accessories. In addition Sony inherited all of the lens designs and technological breakthroughs Minolta had to offer, such as in-camera AS and advanced metering systems, as well as one of the best wireless flash systems available.

Only from the mind of... Sony.
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