Just the other week my cousin turned 11 and, feeling obligated, I decided to go to his party. My companion: Nikon's D40 digital SLR (DSLR) camera, ready to capture the festivities in captured 6.1-megapixel moments. Slinging the Nikon over my shoulder, I headed out the door.
First things first: Upon arriving at my Aunt's house in Goshen, I set the camera to Auto. Because I was inside with the ISO set to 200, the built-in flash popped up when I hit the shutter release. Shots of my cousin came out very vibrant and the built-in flash did an excellent job of rounding out his face, as well as nicely lighting the room.
After dessert, everyone packed into the living room for a group portrait. Since everyone needed to be in the photo, including yours truly, I panicked, as I didn't know how to set the timer yet. But we were underway within a minute, thanks to ingenious design. Read all about it after the jump.
THE ESSENTIALS: NIKON D40
WHO WANTS THISAnyone looking for an introduction to digital photography with plenty of room to grow.
WHYThe Nikon D40 is as easy to use as any point-and-shoot out of the box, but because it's a DSLR you can build on the system by upgrading lenses and flash units.
WHAT'S COOLIt's small and exceptionally light, comes with a reprogrammable function button, and takes very nice images.
WHAT'S LAMEThe continuous shooting mode doesn't work in tandem with the flash. It lacks sweet features that other Nikons have, including a status LCD and built-in wireless flash support.
FINAL MARK: AThe D40 does the job on a serious budget.
PRICE: $600 for kit (with a lens)
Check out Nikon's site for more details.
The ISO range is also generous, ranging from 200 to HI 1 (a 3200 equivalent). Those familiar with film will already know that using high ISOs will produce results with exaggerated grain. The same is true here. In fact, any photos shot using HI 1 will look like you took them with a crappy cameraphone, so my suggestion would be to keep your distance.
One of the D40's best features is the continuous shooting mode (JPEG only). If you come across something bright and lively like an impromptu parade, switch the camera over to continuous shooting, hold the release down and I'm willing to wager that you'll get at least one image you like. Unfortunately, this feature doesn't work in tandem with a flash. In that case, you'll have to resort to old-fashioned clicking.
Unfortunately, the D40 doesn't share the D70's flash hierarchy. To trigger an external flash (such as the SB-600), you'll need to purchase either a cord to connect the flash to the hot shoe, or the SB-800 (a second, more expensive flash) to act as the master flash. I opted for the first (and cheaper) option, and spent around $300. It was definitely worth the expense, as the external flash greatly increases my versatility as a photographer. Still, it would be so much cooler if I didn't have to use a cord!