Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Why the Nikon D40?

Recently I have had several people ask me about my camera and how I decided what kind of camera to buy. I figured that since this seems to be a popular question I would answer it in a blog post.

Let me start out by saying that I am not a professional, no do I claim to be. I am a serious amateur wannabe. All I know about photography is what I have learned by trial and error. I am still as mystified as anyone else about F stop, aperture, and exposure. I have books about this stuff and read it here and there when I have a chance, but still these can be hard concepts for me to grasp.....kind of like math. All I know for sure is there are times when I point my camera at things, shoot and magic happens. Why that magic happens is something I am still learning.

In the past I have always been a firm believer in point and shoot digicams and always swore I would never by a DSLR camera. I talked about that in this post here.

There are just as many reasons to buy a DSLR as there are not to. The all in one digital cameras these days are capable of taking very nice photos. Some of the best photos I have taken,

such as this photo of Kotzebue Sound,

and this photo also of Kotzebue Sound, were taken with a point and click camera. You will hear many professionals say it's not the camera it's the photographer. I believe this is true. That being said there were a few reasons, in basic terms, that made me decide to go ahead and take the plunge into the DSLR world.

First, the sensor on a point and shoot digital camera is about the size of your fingertip The larger sensor on a DSLR gives you the ability to take sharper pictures with less noise. That does not mean that I have not taken some really noisy pictures with my new Nikon......I have. Plenty. However, I have also taken some photos that were sharper than anything else I have produced.

Second is shutter lag. I have had several different brands of digicam, HP and Kodak to name a few. Both were plagued with varying degrees of shutter lag. We all know that most of the time it takes many shots to get just the right one. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to take several pictures in a row but having to wait 3-5 seconds between each photo for the camera to catch up. My Nikon D4o has virtually no shutter lag. It can take approximately 2.5 photos per second when in burst mode. If your taking pictures in auto there can be some lag if you have moved and the camera is searching for focus but that is user error and not the fault of the camera.

Third is power up time. Some digicams take over 5 seconds to power up. You can miss a lot in that amount of time. When I flip the switch on my D40 it is on and ready to go. Less of a chance to miss good shots while waiting for the dang camera to power up.

The fourth reason I bought a DSLR was because I wanted to be able to have the flexibility that it offers. Different lenses were made for specific purposes. All in one lenses are great and I plan on getting a quality "all in one" to keep on my camera most of the time....but I wanted to be able to invest in a good macro lens and other specialty lenses and learn more technique. I also wanted to be able to shoot in RAW and learn how to work images in photoshop if I wanted. Now that I have explained why I chose to move to DSLR I can explain why I bought the Nikon D40.

I have heard it said (I can't remember where) that cameras are like fruit. Lets say that a Nikon is like an apple and a Canon is like an orange. Both apples and oranges are very good fruit. They smell good, have great color, they are juicy and they taste great. Most people like apples and oranges but everyone have their preference. Everyone has their reason why they like one or the other better, but really, they are both great fruit. The same thing can be said about Nikon and Canon.

In doing research I found countless website proclaiming the greatness of everyone's favored camera. Photographers are a loyal bunch. They find a brand and generally seem to stick with it. I first had to decide, frankly, how much money I was willing to spend. Photography can become a very expensive hobby. One camera leads to a lens, and then to another lens, then to a filter, then to a tripod, then to a bag, then to a backpack, then to another lens and so on. For those of us without a lot of cash to burn it is important to give a lot of though to what equipment we are invest in. Maybe you only have $500 to start with. That's what I had.

So for $500 I narrowed my choices down to

the Nikon D40 (this photo borrowed from Http:// )

and the Canon Rebel XT (this photo borrowed from

I knew that I did not need super duper mega pixels. 6-8mp would be fine for me. Photos taken with 6 megapixels can blow up to poster size without much distortion fo really I didn't need any more. In reading articles and reviews I learned that when money is limited, Nikon's lower end lenses are considered, by many, to be of better quality than Canon. In other words, as far as glass is concerned you get more bang for your buck with Nikon.

One of the disadvantages with the Nikon D40 is that to save space Nikon eliminated the in camera auto focus motor. That means that any lens you buy for this camera must have a motor within the lens. You must buy Nikon AF-s or AF-I model lenses (I think Sigma HSM lenses are compatible as well). Also there is no in camera vibration reduction so if you want that feature when shooting with a zoom lens you must buy a Nikon lens with the VR feature.

One of the sites that helped me learn more about the Nikon D40 and ultimately swayed me in that direction was the site done by Ken Rockwell.
This guy really knows his stuff. He has everything you want to know about the D40 at and a very useful section about what lenses are fully compatible with the Nikon D40.

The Nikon D40 comes with an 18-55mm lens. For those of you who have no idea what this means (don't feel bad I only have a basic working knowledge what this means) this roughly translates to a zoom range similar to a 3X optical zoom point and click. I have been working within this range now and feel rather restricted so I have decided to upgrade my lens to an Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED-IF AF-S VR DX Zoom-Nikkor Lens. This will give me a bit more reach but at $650-$699 (depending on where you buy) it is for me, an investment. I am ordering mine on Friday (I can't wait!).

Here is a photo from Ken Rockwell's site to show you what the D40 looks like with the 18-200mm attached. The lens is shown with the 72-77mm step up with 77mm filter. Just an aside about Ken Rockwell's is full of everything you would ever want to know about many of Nikon's products and he is NOT PAID BY NIKON TO DO THIS.

So there it is....the reasons, for what they are worth, that I bought the Nikon D40. Whew.....that is the most I have typed in this blog probably ever and I'm worn out.


Becky said...

That was a great, info packed post. I'm thinking you pretty much have me sold on the same camera. We've been considering a new camera for a while (to replace my archaic but excellent quality 35mm SLR). I've had a Fuji Finepix camera for a few years that is plagued by that darn shutter lag problem.

Beautiful photos, by the way. Loved the golden sky!

June said...

I thank you for taking the time to go through your decision making process. It's a lot to digest...and I can see I'll really have to do my homework to know what I'm you're knowing that you'd need specialized lenses. My Panansonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 doesn't have much of a problem with shutter lag or power on time and it does have image stabilization on its long zoom lens. But it does have a noise problem above ISO 100 - or even at 100 in low light settings and that's a problem since I seldom am carrying around a tripod. I may still put off buying a DSLR for another year though. It's mostly about money and some about my ongoing reluctance to carry around more stuff than I do already.

Anonymous said...

Nikon D40 - hands on video blog at digital camera blog