The Canon EOS 400D was the gold standard for affordable DSLRs back in 2006. But since then Nikon has sneaked ahead with the mighty fine D40, and the 10MP D40x is its successor.
Like all good DSLRs, it offers all the feel of a grown-up camera but for a price so low it’s falling towards the upper limits of compact territory.
Up & running
You just get the bare bones with D-SLR kits, so don’t expect a memory card to come tumbling out of the box.
The manual’s good, though, and while the Picture Project software would make any pro snort with derision, it’s better than it looks for organising and enhancing pics.
Ease of use is the selling point with this camera. The fancy graphical interface leads you through all the technicalities with easy-to-follow menus and on-board help. The pictures are extremely good, too, with sharp detail, consistent exposures and super-real colours.
The D40x uses SD cards. This isn’t a problem, except mid-range and pro Nikon SLRs starting with the D200 use Compact Flash, so that could be a bit of a hiccough on the upgrade path.
The information display also looks wonderful. The trouble is that if you want to adjust practically anything you have to do it through this interface.
Moving on up
The D40x is perfect for the beginner – but unfortunately no-one stays at that level. Soon you’ll get sick of all the button-presses it takes to get anything done.
And while we’re being picky, there’s the 18-55mm zoom. It works, it’s sharp and it operates smoothly, but the D40x’s kit lens is a bit of an ugly lump compared to rival lenses.
The viewfinder’s bigger and better than anything else in this price range, but you might be surprised to find only three focussing points. It’s not a major issue, though, because you hardly notice the difference when shooting.
The D40x’s original price tag was £600, which was way too much considering its 6.1MP predecessor is currently available online for £280. After its recent price drop, though, it’s good value, taking superb shots with little or no user intervention, and is a mighty-fine budget DSLR.