Taghadoe Round TowerIt’s been a little over a year now since I got my Nikon D40 so now seems like a good time to reflect on what the D40 is like to live with. I was very positive about it in my initial review a year ago and I’m still very happy with it now. It’s a great body for the price and I’d highly recommend it to anyone as a first DSLR. However, you have to bear in mind that the D40 is an entry level model both in terms of price and functionality. As I’ve advanced as a photographer I’ve begun to run into some of the D40’s limitations and am now ready to move on to a higher level Nikon body like the D60 or the D80.

In this article I’m going to focus on the limitations of the D40 that I’m now starting to run into, but I have to stress that I’m not in any way un-happy with the quality of the D40. I consider it to have been money exceptionally well spent and I’d like to think that the photographs I’ve taken this year testify to to the amount of enjoyment it’s given me.

[tags]Nikon, D40[/tags]

The first drawback which I ran into almost at once is the D40’s poor performance at high ISOs. The camera performs very well at 200 and 400 ISO but by 800 things start to go down hill and 1600 and H1 are far too noisy to be of any real use. I don’t think the D40 performs worse than other cameras in it’s class in this regard but I’ve regularly found myself wanting access to more light sensitivity.

When I first got the D40 one of the things I loved about it was it’s simplicity. Compared to other DSLRs it has very few buttons and instead relies heavily on the menus which are well layed-out and simple to use. I found the plethora of knobs and buttons on other DSLRs very intimidating so the simplicity of the D40 really suited me. A year on I now I understand why people want all those extra knobs and buttons. Initially I did all my shooting using a handful of the program modes the D40 offers. It was only when I started to set more and more things manually that I started to find the menus tiresome. If you use your DSLR as an advanced point-and-shoot camera then you’ll love the D40’s interface. If you like to set just about everything manually you’ll find it very frustrating. Over the last year I’ve slowly moved from the first group to the latter. I should also mention that the D40s program modes work very well and will give you very nice results.

As I got into HDR I soon ran into another one of the D40’s shortcomings, it doesn’t support auto-bracketing. When you’re shooting an HDR you need to take a shot of the same scene with at least three and often more exposures separated by usually one or two stops (or + or – 1 EV). For the effect to work the scene needs to be as static as possible while the exposures are being taking. With the D40 you have to do the bracketing manually so it takes about twenty or thirty seconds to shoot a five bracket exposure, on a camera with auto bracketing it will take only two or three seconds, literally ten times less. If you’re shooting outside and the clouds are moving in the sky that makes a dramatic difference to what you can and can’t shoot, let alone the fact that pressing the shutter once is a lot easier than all the messing around you have to do to get a set of brackets on the D40.

Although I don’t believe in shooting at insane amounts of mega-pixels and I don’t believe in judging a camera by the number of mega-pixels it has, I’d like a few more than six. Although three thousand by two thousand pixels is enough for most of what I do, I’ve wanted more on occasion, particularly when I have to crop quite heavily. I think ten mega-pixels would probably be perfect for me.

Finally, I love the little LED display at the top of the D80 which shows you all your settings right at the top of the camera, no need to tilt the camera down to look at the LCD display at the back just to check your white-balance setting. I’d certainly like one of those on my next camera.

If you’re interested in hearing more about the D40, myself and Allison Sheridan talked about it for some time on episode 153 of the NosillaCast Podcast. Allison uses her D40 very differently to me so she has quite a different perspective.