Nikon D40 – A Beginner’s Review of a Beginner’s Camera

The Nikon D40 is the latest entry-level digital SLR camera from the well-known photography giant. There are plenty of great sites that are going to review this camera, but I’m going to review it with a little different perspective, since I’m a beginner in the DSLR market and in photography in general. Since I appear to be in Nikon’s target market for this product, I figure I could share my experience to the other’s who might be like me, looking into this camera.

Why I Chose the D40
I work in an office with about 4 or 5 semi-pro to pro-level photographers and they all use Nikon. It would be silly of me to ignore the availability of the vast resources of these people, their experiences, and most importantly… their equipment. Once I had the brand settled, I started looking into the D50. I was pretty set on buying it, but then I got wind of Nikon releasing their D40.

I started making a check list of what I wanted in a DSLR. Since I had never owned or shopped for one before, my check list was pretty small. I wanted:
- compact size
- SD card format (my laptop has a built-in slot)
- better photos than my Canon SD400

Most of the other items on the checklist are just inherent to Digital SLR cameras. Like, quick to start, quick to shoot, good quality, etc. The rest of the specs I didn’t know anything about and probably wouldn’t know the difference anytime soon.

I walked into my local electronics retailer to pick up a Nikon D50. On their display stand, they had a D50 directly next to a Canon Digital Rebel XT. I held the D50. Then I held the Rebel. Wow… there was quite a size difference. The D50 felt rather large, comparatively. I researched the new D40 a little more and found that it was, in fact, smaller than the Rebel XT. Nice.

Now, it has been explained to me that the D50 isn’t a large camera for a DSLR, and that small DSLR cameras were pointless because they’d “never feel right”. I ignored those explainers (that a word?) and decided to order me up a D40 as soon as possible.

Where I got it
I highly recommend B&H Photo for anything digital camera-related you might want. They gave me a great price and with my NAPP discount, shipping is FREE! Of course, I completely lack patience, so I paid the extra shipping cost for UPS overnight.

Out of the Box
The setup was pretty easy. Remove the lens and plastic covers, attach to camera battery, insert battery, insert memory card (not included) and shoot. I was amazed with the quickness of the camera. From power-on to shutter click is very quick. The automatic shooting mode was nice but it definitely wants to use the flash a lot. The rest of the modes take a little getting used to, but a quick browse through the manual will quickly enlighten you.

The greatest feature is the continuous shooting. This allows you to hold the shutter button down and have the camera just keep snapping photo after photo. It’s pretty fast with my Ultra II card as a faster memory card will help with faster shots. It’s great for an amateur like me who isn’t sure of their shots and may have a bit of an un-steady hand. A wise co-worker told me that with continuous shooting, if you take 5 shots of the same thing, one of them is bound to turn out better than the rest. Your photos are nice and easy to review (and maybe delete) on the 2.5″ LCD, which you might find yourself doing often to free up some room on your memory card after a few series of shots.

Another speed-tip I was given was to turn off the Noise Reduction built-in to the camera. Most software packages will offer better noise reduction and having the option on just slows everything down.

Sample Photos
Now that you’ve made it through all of my banter, I’ll show you some of my highlights from the thousands of photos I’ve taken the last month. Be nice, I’m still a noob.

nikond40|18-55@40mm | 3.0s | f/5.0 | iso200 | handheld

nikond40|18-55@55mm | 1/80s | f/5.6 | iso400 | handheld

nikond40|18-55@55mm | 1/125s | f/5.6 | iso200 | handheld

nikond40|18-55@48mm | 1/40s | f/5.6 | iso200 | handheld

nikond40|18-55@48mm | 1/125s | f/5.6 | iso200 | handheld

nikond40|18-55@48mm | 1/125s | f/5.6 | iso200 | handheld

The Accessories
My favorite accessory, so far, has been my backpack. It’s a Lowepro CompuDaypack that I picked up at the local big box. It has a perfectly sized compartment for the D40, lens, charger and cable. It also fits my 15.4″ widescreen laptop and all of my laptop accessories WITHOUT putting any pressure on the camera. The camera is stored in an easy-to-access compartment on the lower front of the back.

I also strongly recommend the SanDisk Ultra II PLUS USB SD memory card. The beauty of this card is that it is built to be plugged directly into your USB slot. No bulky card readers. No messy camera cables eating your camera battery. It splits in half and plugs right in. It’s one of those products that makes you smile every time you use it.

Another companion I got was the Western Digital 120GB Passport external hard drive. It’s a 2.5″ portable drive that’s completely bus-powered, which means no power cables or large adapters to lug around. It’s great for storing all of my photos in an uncompressed format so I don’t have to worry about losing quality or even losing the images. It also looks great with it’s gloss casing and fits perfectly in the extra room I have in the bottom of my camera bag.

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Comments Spill 17 Comments »

  1. May 26, 2008 6:09 pmAlexa

    I just received a Nikon d40 for my birthday, and am still a noob as well :P I love your pictures, and your description was very accurate. Happy shooting!

  2. June 17, 2008 10:22 pmdan

    I just got a nikon d40, i am a complete your pics, hoping to take some pics like yours.

  3. June 23, 2008 9:17 amShelly

    Hi! I just got the D40 myself! Your review was an interesting read and your shots are beautiful, especially of the kittys!

  4. July 14, 2008 8:43 pmFiona

    I just got one too, and love it. Thanks for the noise reduction tip.

  5. August 2, 2008 9:05 amgiselda

    I too just got a D40,I love it.I’m a novice and foud pretty easy to use it.just went to BRAZIL and can’t wait to show off my shots.if Ican only learn to do what you did put them up,on my computer.your pictures are beautiful.thanks for sharing it.

  6. August 10, 2008 12:53 pmLucian

    last week I’ve got one too. I really love it. Thanks for the noise tip. ooo and you black kitty photos are simply amazing!!!

  7. October 7, 2008 7:47 amDarren

    I have just ordered one of these and can’t wait to start playing with it. Nice simple review – thanks. Scarily I have a cat that looks exactly the same as yours!

  8. November 25, 2008 11:41 amRyan

    New D40 owner here too…came across your post at found it very informative! Nikon must be doing REALLY well targeting new users, because from what I’ve seen, there is a HUGE batch of new DSLR users every day on Flickr.


  9. December 4, 2008 12:18 pmpk harris

    I just got my new D40 and so far I really like it. However I wish I could take some hands on training. After compairing it to my old smaller D camera I really dont see alot of diferance, I must be doing something wrong ? Seems lie when I zoom in it gets blury some of the time. I added the 18.55 but still cant zoom as far as I would like. I live in a state park and love to photograph wildlife but I also want to take pictures of old churches. I feel alot like a kid with a new bike that I need to learn to ride :) so any advice is well appreciated……

  10. December 18, 2008 4:18 pmMarie...

    Hey, I have been heavily into photography since i was 16 (now 24) and have been pro for just under a year. I just wanted to say you picked a great “beginner” DSLR and your pictures look great.

    Good luck!!

  11. February 16, 2009 12:19 pmpj

    iv had my d40 for half a year now, i love it and the price was great. Although i love the camera i plan on upgrading to a d200 or a d90 soon because of the lack of motor i cannot use a fisheye without manual focusing, witch might not be a big deal to some but a fisheye is very necessary for skateboarding pictures. I plan on selling the body on ebay sometime before the summer for 275(body only).

  12. February 19, 2009 4:22 pmBridal Inquirer

    I just bought a D40. It is my first DSLR! I just had to comment, because it cracks me up that every D40 beginner blog includes tons of pics of their cats! Of course, my kitty was my first model too >^..^< I am really enjoying it so far. I bought a polarized filter which really makes my outside pics so much brighter. I also really LOVE the in-camera editing…warm filter is the best! I am curious if anyone has bought a fancier flash? Sorry…I do not know any of the camera lingo so that was the best I could come up with. Anywho, thanks for sharing.

  13. February 27, 2009 1:57 pmAmanda

    I use a NikonD40 (that technically belongs to my dad but like he knows how to use it anyway). Everything I know about that camera I taught myself. It’s very nice and simple to use!

    May I ask you to share what camera settings you use? I find that my indoor shots tend to have a lot of noise but yours don’t.

  14. April 10, 2009 9:12 pmAnders

    try not to tip the water when shooting seascapes. keep the horizon horizontal.

  15. June 7, 2009 1:03 pmJOOLS

    Great review just bought the same camera so wanted to look at what it can do, i love taking photos and really want to get into it, your pictures are fantastic how on earth did you get your cat to sit still in that white sheet!?! i have two small adorable dogs and i try so hard to get good natural shots of them my word its hard but will keep trying, keep posting your pics would love to see more, Jools.

  16. July 6, 2009 2:58 pmFatima

    Hey All. I was looking for an easy but awesome camera for noobs like myself to use and this description really has me onto buying a D40. Happy shooting! :)

  17. September 26, 2009 2:15 pmJOOLS

    I love this review and read it before i bought my D40, I am a complete novice but more photos i take the bettter i am getting (i hope!!) I take my d40 with me every time i go for a walk and get some lovley shots while im out and about, there are so many features on this camera im still yet to suss them all out so a photography course is in hand, the best pictures i take are in the evening when the light is difused, ive become quite an addict its a hobby i feel very passionate about and am truly happy with this camera.

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