I’ve seen a lot of experienced photographers rave about how good a camera the old, lowly, entry-level Nikon D40 is. I bought one for my little cousin when she graduated high school, long before I started my own interest in digital photography. She still has it, and it’s in great shape, so I “borrowed” it.
To her it’s a “big camera.” I found it refreshingly small and light compared to my monstrous D300s. It’s certainly not a pocket camera, but it’s small enough to slip in a small bag, while light enough to carry around all day without me even noticing the extra weight, unlike my main camera. Mount a small prime lens like a 35 or 50mm, and the D40 becomes a joy to carry around all day.
Took it out with me the other day with the wife. The camera fit easily into a small shoulder bag, and was ready to be whipped out on a whim, like when we stopped for coffee in the morning at a local cafe:
Nikon D40 + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 32mm f/4, 1/25 sec ISO200
Nikon D40 + Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 VC at 25mm f/4, 1/50 sec ISO200
I gotta say, I was really blown away by just how good this little camera is. The image quality is fantastic and so are the camera’s ergonomics. Sure it doesn’t have the rugged build, fancy features, and high customization of my main camera, but the D40’s simplicity is where its beauty lies. The handling, speed, response, and image quality far exceeds any state-of-the-art, high end point-and-shoot camera as well, and not by a small margin. I paid the same amount of money for my little Canon S90 as I would for a D40 with lens today, and as good as the S90 is for a compact, it’s no match for the D40 in anything other than being pocketable. I think the D40 would be a fantastic camera for travel.
Nikon D40 + Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G at f/2, 1/320 sec ISO200
Camera technology continues to push forward, but that doesn’t mean you can’t produce great images using older, simpler cameras. Indeed, lugging around my D300s when I head out with nothing specific to shoot feels really crazy after using the D40 for a couple days. I think I might have found my new “compact” camera =)