Pros: Durable build, with large bright viewfinder. Wide sensitivity range including ISO3200 maximum, 2 per cent spot-metering and fast flash sync.
Cons: Autofocus limited to AF-S or AF-I lenses only. Menu dependant operation. No built-in sensor cleaning.
No more than five months after we reviewed Nikon’s entry-level six-megapixel D40, the company has released an upgraded version, the D40x. Now carrying a 10mp resolution APS-C size sensor as well as a competitive price ticket, the new Nikon is clearly targeting the same market as Canon’s EOS 400D and Sony’s Alpha 100.
As well as the sizeable jump in image size, the new model has a lower minimum sensitivity of ISO 100, useful for control of depth of field in bright lighting. Thankfully, the D40x maintains the coveted and just usable ISO 3200 equivalent (H1) sensitivity, comfortably out-classing rivals’ ISO 1600 ceiling. Also handy is a slight increase in continuous shooting rates from 2.5 to 3fps. It doesn’t sound like much but the D40x feels more responsive than the figures suggest.
Measuring 126-x-64-x-94mm and weighing just 495g (plus lens), the D40x is seriously small and lightweight. It has larger than average controls though and it’s well balanced, so the diminutive dimensions may only be an issue if you’ve excessively large digits. Mimicking the durable build of the maker’s semi-pro D80, the D40x is also well made.
There are clever touches too, such as the peerless viewfinder image, two per cent spot-metering, the innovative sensitivity priority ISO Auto option and 1/500sec flash sync.
But it’s not all good news. The D40x shares many of the same weaknesses as the D40, such as the uninspiring three-point AF system and slightly awkward selection of features from the data panel.
You still have to sidestep the first screen to access the shortcuts, which seems pointless, and the 2.5-inch panel lacks the handy proximity sensor of rivals. Battery life doesn’t appear adversely affected but the screen’s brightness can be particularly distracting when looking through the viewfinder.
The camera’s main drawback, however, is the lack of auto-focus compatibility with certain, mainly older, lenses. That’s fine for new adopters, perhaps, but a bind if you’ve a bagful of classy and expensive primes.
Like most digital SLRs, the D40x has a raft of shooting modes, including the expected scene-based presets for novices, but also plenty of overrides for creative control. These include a wide range of image parameter settings, white balance fine tuning (±three steps), simultaneous RAW and JPG capture, as well as automated in-camera retouching for underexposure and red-eye reduction.
Ultimately, although the D40x impresses with its build and image quality. It doesn’t feel quite as user-friendly or as well-rounded as the EOS 400D or the Alpha.
Also bear in mind that it has no built-in sensor cleaning and you’ll have to budget extra for image-stabilized lenses. Nevertheless, if you’re in the market for a small, take-anywhere digital SLR, the D40x would make a solid choice.