The last time I reviewed a Nikon camera in this space was at the end of
2002. In that ancient epoch, I pronounced the 6.1-megapixel, $3,000 list
D-100 a great value that made me want to be a better photographer.
What a difference about half a decade makes: the recently released Nikon
D40x - in Nikon world, model numbers run down, not up, it seems - is
smaller, lighter and far more powerful than the D-100. At $799 for the
10.2-megapixel camera body and a basic lens, you're getting about 60
percent more pixels than with the earlier model, for roughly 74 percent
off the 2002 price.
Not a bad deal, wouldn't you agree? Especially when you consider, as with
all the Nikon "Ds," that the D40x is a digital, single-lens reflex (SLR)
camera, capable of handling a variety of Nikkor (stet) lenses. The camera
could easily be the foundation of a solid, important photography system
for a dedicated amateur, budding professional or a growing family.
The images that come out of the Nikon D40x are nothing short of amazing:
they make the shooter look very good, perhaps as sharp as the pictures
themselves. Though some claim any 5- or 6-megapixel camera can do quite
nicely for family snaps, and even for publication, having the greater
level of detail is not a bad thing.
On an outing in Virginia's Skyline National Park, for example, I was able
to grab a shot of a butterfly, and while the supplied 18-55 mm lens didn't
allow me to get as close as I might have liked, it was close enough that I
could blow up the section of the photo where the butterfly was and get a
decent image of the insect. Greater success was had with some flowers
growing out of a rock at one of the overlooks on Skyline drive; zoom in on
those blossoms in the photo and it's a joy to behold.
The camera, on its own, is good at handling outside lighting, and has a
small built-in flash both for "fill" outdoors and for some use indoors. A
more serious photographer would buy an external flash to mount on the
A tremendous plus of the D40x is the 2.5-inch LCD display on the back of
the camera. It lets you review your work on the fly, zoom in on an image,
perform red-eye reduction on the spot, and even crop images. Just having a
large digital display of the finished photo is good enough, however.
The camera uses the SecureDigital, or SD, card format to store images. I
found a very nice SanDisk Ultra 2 Gigabyte SD card for under $30 at a
local Staples store; at the highest JPEG setting, the D40x's information
display indicated I could shoot 264 pictures, equal to roughly 7.3 of the
old 36-exposure rolls of color 35mm film. Prices for SD media are very
good; you could carry a fistful of these cards and undertake a global
photo safari with ease.
Equally impressive is the rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery; it refreshes
in about 90 minutes, and should power you through a day of shooting. The
camera's controls are easy to use and understand; the menu system is very
My only "quibble" is with Nikon's highest-quality setting, NEF, which is
that firm's implementation of a photo industry standard known as "RAW."
(stet) To get this to work with Apple Inc.'s IPhoto, you'll need the $140
"Nikon Capture" software; for me, I just used the highest JPEG resolution
and my shots flowed into IPhoto just fine.
Overall, though, I'm swooning again: Nikon has a winner here, and at a
great, great price.