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Nikon's D40x
An easy-to-use, entry level DSLR with some very cool attributes
by Allan Weitz
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If you bought (or received) a Nikon D40 over the holidays you'll be delighted to know Nikon has announced the arrival of the D40x (expected to ship in April). Now before you have an absolute fit keep in mind you have a terrific camera that packs a lot of bang for the buck. The Nikon D40x is just a bit more bang for a bit more bucks.

Specifically, Nikon's D40x contains a 10.2Mp sensor (up from the D40's 6Mp), can shoot up to 3/fps (up from 2.5/fps), and has a base ISO of 100 (down from ISO 200). If the Nikon D40x was an entry-level Chevy it would be like upgrading to a small-block V8 and fatter tires. Either choice is a wise choice.

The real story about the D40/D40x is that they were both designed with digitally challenged end-users in mind. From the get-go the goal was to produce DSLRs that would handhold the most timid of us while producing pictures that, at least from a technical standpoint, would make us look like Joe the Pro.

The hand-holding starts with the LCD screen, where large-type camera settings can be displayed in two modes- Graphic Display and Classic Display. The Classic Display presents exposure information in a format similar to most digital camera displays. The Graphic Display format shows the similar exposure and camera settings as well as illustration-like icons that clearly explain what's going on. If you never understood the correlation between f-stops and apertures - you will now. You could say the 'Classic' menu is for the left side of the brain and the Graphic Display is for the right side of the brain.

If you need a change of scenery you can also choose to set the display to the 'Wallpaper' mode and view your camera's exposure settings against a pretty picture of clouds. It's your choice - knock yourself out. Other 'pro' LCD viewing features include on-screen histograms and flashing over/under exposure warnings.

In the auto-focus department the D40x relies on a 3-area AF array, that while narrower in range than the D50's 5-area array (and D80's 11-area array), is still quite responsive and accurate under normal operating conditions. The metering system is the same dead-nuts accurate 3D Color Matrix II, 480-pixel metering system found in Nikon's D80.

A real plus in the D40x - as with the D40 - is its unusually bright viewfinder. The 'tunnel-effect' commonly bemoaned by users of DSLRs using APS-sized sensors is far less noticeable in the D40x as compared to many pricier DSLRs. The image seen in the D40's finder is about 95% of the actual capture area, and as with other DSLRs the full image area can be viewed on the camera's LCD screen. For critical editing and focus checking, images can be eye-balled at up to 19x.

Other neat features of the Nikon D40x include a 2.5", 230,000-pixel, TFT polysilicon LCD screen, shorter shutter-lag and mirror blackout times, SDHC memory card compliance, and a high-end ISO rating of up to 3200.

Up to 100 images can be recorded continuously at up to 3-fps in JPEG mode, or up to 9 fps bursts when recording NEF or NEF/JPEG combinations. JPEGs can be set to three levels of compression.

Aside from the usual exposure options - Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, Program, & Manual - you also have the option of setting the camera to Vari-Program, Vari-Portrait, Vari-Flash-off, Vari-Landscape, Vari-Child, Vari-Close-up, Vari-Night Portrait, and Vari-Sports, which allow for on-the-fly exposure tweaks as you shoot.

Post exposure is where you really start having fun with the D40x thanks to an in-camera retouch menu that allows you to make Photoshop-type of color and tonal adjustments before you even download the images. Adjustments include Nikon's D-Lighting, which allows you to equalize shadow and highlight details, Red-Eye Correction, Trim (for in-camera cropping), Monochrome Conversion (B&W, Sepia, and Cyanotype), Filter Effects (Skylight, Warmtone, and color balance), Small Picture (for reducing image size for Internet usage), and Image Overlay, which merges two NEF files into a single image that can be saved in either JPEG or TIFF format.

Auto-bracketing has been eliminated in the D40x, but there is a handy Exposure Compensation program that's offers real-time preview of exposure adjustments.

If you get confused along the way the menu features numerous 'hot buttons' that display questions and solutions, as well as assorted shooting tips.

If the built-in pop-up flash doesn't float your boat, the D40x is compatible with Nikon's SB-400, 600, and 800 Speedlights. Advanced wireless TTL shooting is also possible with the SB-800 Speedlite and SU-800 Commander.

So if techno-fear has been holding you back from stepping up to a DSLR, Nikon now has two carrots dangling in front of you. Go ahead - nibble.

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