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First Impressions – Nikon D40 Digital SLR Camera

I’ve been wanting to take the plunge in the world of digital SLR photography for a while. It’s an expensive realm, for sure, but I’ve learned that I really love photography – it makes me happy. And I’ve been consciously running into the barriers around point-and-shoot. Realizing “wow, if only I had a DSLR, I could have made this shot a whole lot better”. I’ve been using my Canon SD700 IS camera as my main/only camera for a couple of years, and it’s a terrific little camera. I’m still amazed by it’s low light performance, afforded by the Image Stabilization feature on the lens (that’s what the IS stands for – don’t buy a pocket camera without it!). But it was time for me to graduate, so naturally I started shopping around.

The whole Canon vs Nikon thing is interesting. Those are the two “main” players in the DSLR space (Fuji, Kodak, Olympus, Pentax, and Sony all have their hat in the ring, but face it – when you think of the big, bad black DSLR, you think of a Canon or a Nikon). When you buy an SLR camera, you’re really buying into a family of lenses, accessories, etc., of which the camera body is only a small part. So its kind of a momentous choice.

I’m a big Canon fan. Like I said, I LOVE my SD 700 IS, and I’ve had other Canon point and shoot cameras before, and loved them. And for work, I absolutely adore my Canon XH A1 HDV high def video camera. So I was leaning toward the Canon camp. My boss, Bill, is a Canon fan, too (and a big SLR nut with lots of lenses and experience), and made sure I at least gave them fair consideration. He recommended the Canon Digital Rebel XT (350D). I also looked at the Canon Rebel XTi 400D, and the Nikon D40x.

In the end, though, it was the amazing little Nikon D40 that helped me make the decision. Nikon made a bold move with the D40 – they offered a DLSR that wasn’t really crippled in any way for a LOT less than their other cameras, and less than the competition. How much less? Remember that we’re talking in the realm of cameras that can cost thousands of dollars, WITHOUT a lens (body only). My “dream” camera, if cost weren’t an option, would be the new Nikon D300, which is $1800 without a lens. And nice lenses start at a few hundred dollars, and go up from there.

Anyway, back to the Nikon D40. It comes with a decent 18-55mm lens, and can do most of what it’s bigger, more expensive brothers can do. It uses cheap (and abundant, in my house) SD memory cards instead of Compact Flash. It’s the smallest and lightest DLSR out there (I think), and gets rave reviews from everyone from Guy Kawasaki to my friends on Twitter to Ken Rockwell (an internet camera nut). And all of that for an MSRP of $599. I got mine from Amazon for $492. That’s actually LESS than what I paid for my Canon SD 700 IS when it came out! (Yes, I was a sucker and paid full MSRP to get it right away).

I ordered the D40 kit on Monday, with a few accessories (a Nikon SB-400 Speedlight (flash), 4GB Kingston SD card, extra battery, bag, etc.). There were some great bundle deals on accessories from Amazon – stuff like “$20 off an SD card”, “free Lowepro Transporter strap“, and “$10 off a Lowepro Topload Zoom bag“. So I pretty much stocked up. 😉

The camera and extra stuff arrived today, and I’ve only had a little while to play with it, but already, I’m in love. I love how solid it feels in my hand. I love the sounds it makes – intoxicating! I’ve done a TON of reading and studying to get ready for this camera, everything from every word about it on Ken Rockwell’s site to every review I can get my hands on to buying and reading “The Digital Photography Book” by Scott Kelby (highly recommended – funny, concise, and useful). I feel prepared. Now, I just need to get out and shoot shoot shoot! :-)

I’ll be taking the camera to Ignite Portland tomorrow night, and we’re leaving on a trip to Utah to see family next week, so I’m sure I’ll be doing lots of shots there, too. Keep an eye on my Flickr stream to see the best of them. Here are a couple that I shot tonight:

Nikon D40 Test - Leaves

Leaves on the tree in my front yard. That “bokeh” effect – blurred background, sharp foregound – is something I LOVE, and one of the main reasons I wanted an SLR.

Nikon D40 Test - Gabe

Here’s a shot of Gabe in our (messy) living room, using the SB400 flash aimed upwards, so the flash is bouncing off of the ceiling. I LOVE how good it looks compared to the same photos I used to get with a point and shoot.

Anyway, I feel like I’ve found a whole new world of stuff to learn about, play with, and be a geek about. I love it! :-)

All product links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, so if you click on them and end up buying something, I get a percentage cut from Amazon. Which is good, because I made a promise to myself and to Rachel that this camera would be the last big gadget purchase I make until we’re completely out of consumer debt, something we’ve been working on. More on that later, but suffice it to say that affiliate credits from Amazon may be the only way I have of acquiring new gear for a little while. 😉

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30 thoughts on “First Impressions – Nikon D40 Digital SLR Camera

  1. Pingback: Josh Bancroft's Life Stream

  2. Josh, glad you are liking the D40. I too have been looking at that camera. It looks like the best of whats available in my price range. Really dont like the Canon Digital Rebel (the entry level one) it feels too ‘plasticy’. I am a fan of Canon stuff just because they make such good glass. Disapointed with the body of the Rebel.

    But the D40 feels great, and the DoF in the leaves shot is amazing. Just like film. What lens was that with, were you using tele to get that DoF? Also the lovely difusse light on the shot of your boy is amazing coming from a flash. Will keep a look out for your Ignite Portland shots as I’m sure they will push me further toward a D40 purchase myself.

    I currently use a Pentax point and shoot 1.3MP about 4 years old. A hand me down from the Mrs. Really want a DSLR and a RAW image camera. Also need a new, faster Mac and too bad we cant have it all, so we’ll see. Thanks for the review.

    madmac66

  3. PS. you mentioned you use the Canon HD camcorder for work. What do you use that camera for? Is that the CMOS chip? How does the footage look? What is your workflow for editing?

    cheers
    mm66

  4. Good choice, Josh! I bought a Nikon D40 myself a few weeks ago, and I love it!

    Admittedly, the great thing is not the D40, or even the DSLR part – it’s having an SLR, any SLR, Nikon or not, D or not… It’s been years and years since my last film SLR was stolen, and since then I made do with point and shoots – and it just isn’t the same experience. Now that I have a real camera again, I can once again see what I shoot, as it will be shot; I can play with all the parameters I feel like messing with, and see their effect; I have that hands-on, direct control over the action. This is real photography again… what joy!

    The only part I miss is the microprism split-circle viewfinder screen, once a hallmark of reflex cameras. Apparently the move to Autofocus pushed them out in standard cameras. Too bad, because that too was part of the fun.

  5. Brian Mangold says:

    Josh, welcome to the world of Nikon! I’ve been a Nikon user since I inherited my Dad’s F2A (which is about as old as we are). I worked for Kits (Ritz corp.) for several years and I don’t think you made a bad choice picking Nikon over Canon. I’m not knocking Canon–I’ve seen a lot of amazing Canon pictures even from amateurs–but don’t let anyone make you think you made a brand mistake.

    I got the D50 (the D40’s predecessor, bought it a few months before the D40 was available) and I love it. The great thing is that it can be a used as a simple point-and-shoot by less-than-camera-savvy family members (Jami was greatly impressed with its ease of use on the Auto Mode).

    Andy B. bought the D40, and after playing with it for a while I was really impressed with it.

    I really like http://www.dpreview.com, where I found tons of questions in their Nikon forums that helped me with many of my own questions. Check it out whenever you’re stuck.

    Take care, and feel free to visit us when you come down to Utah (we’re in Orem).

  6. My wife just bought the Sony a700 and is in love with it…it doesn’t hurt that she also bought a few Carl Zeiss lenses.

    We looked at the Canon & Nikon’s, but she’s been a Konica-Minolta user forever so she went with Sony (they took over KM’s camera business a few years back).

    Its amazing how much technology is in these DSLR’s….I thought I was smart until I started looking at photography tech! :)

    Enjoy the Nikon!

  7. I got busy and got a DSLR before a family trip to Burma, Thailand, Cambodia last year. Chose a Canon Digital Rebel – the higher end camera fit better in my hand, but its larger size seemed a deterent to taking it on trips. I am very happy with it! And at least as far as http://flickr.com/cameras is concerned, it’s the most popular mongst flickrites…

  8. Dmitry O. says:

    The best thing to do in the beginning of vacation is a purchase of new camera, indeed! :)
    The problem is that vacation is too short to sort out and polish all the photos you made. Like for example I still did not finish the August series from Oregon Air Show :(…

    Anyway, very good choice IMHO and I share your dreams ( D300)…

  9. Matt G says:

    You might have missed a big issue though, when picking the Nikon. It seems your boss and some of your friends (me) already have spent thousands of dollars on the really nice Canon lenses, which we would of course share with you. Oh, but wait, your camera won’t work with my $2000 70-200 1.4L lens? Bummer… :-)

    That aside, the Nikon is a fantastic camera, and really is *the* driver in the competition to bring quality cameras at a lower price point. The Canon Digital Rebel started the DSLR era in terms of quality/affordability, but Nikon (I think) owns the crown currently.

  10. Mike says:

    Yep, Matt is correct–it’s the lenses, not the camera. But you’ve got a great camera, Josh, and there are herds of Nikon lenses and users out there, I know you’ll run into them.

    I’m seriously considering adding a DSLR to by stable of cameras. I have a collection of film cameras gathering dust, Canons with a group of lenses, a Leica with a small array of lenses (too pricey!), a couple of pocket rangefinders, and a couple of view cameras (2.25x 3.25 and 8×10)–but now I shoot almost everything digital with a point-and-shoot unless it’s for something commercial and then I go back to film.

    Problem is, everyone wants digital now, so I guess it’s maybe time to change. Bot not my Leica, and definitely not my view cameras–maybe just the Canons, especially since their FD lenses don’t fit on the digital models.

    Oh well, have a great time with your new camera. You’ll be well ahead of me in the digital age….

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  14. Pingback: Nikon D40 Test - Gabe on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

  15. john lloyd says:

    i’m sold! i’ve wanted a dslr for some time and d40 looks great. as i respect your tech advice i just took bought one and a bundle of accessories using your affiliate links, hopefully it worked! amazon rocks.

  16. Pingback: [YASLRT] Question about the D40 and manual focus - Topic Powered by eve community

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  18. @tj I’m pretty sure old F series lenses will work, just without autofocus. The D40 doesn’t have a focus drive motor in the body, so if the lens doesn’t have one of its own you have to focus manually.

    But the Nikon lens mount has been the same for ages, so it should work. Of course, I’m not guaranteeing anything. Check with someone who knows for sure before spending money. :-)

  19. @tj and josh, I can confirm that the F series lenses will work with the D40. I have also have an old Nikon FG and all my lenses mount properly though you are “stuck” with manual focus.

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  21. Pingback: Nikon D40 Digital SLR Camera | JoeBlog

  22. Hi, I too did alot of research on the D40 before buying… I pretty much read every review I think :)

    Anyways, I just got my camera through UPS today and it is awesome!!!! If there ever was an object that i adore it’s this camera!… I got it on amazon for $400 and it came with the kit lense (18-55), neck strap, rechargeable batery, and of course all the info.. I’ve already taken a few pictures with it and the image quality is Out of this world! I’m very happy with my purchase!!!

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