Upgrading from the Nikon D40 DSLR

A detailed but tough road to deciding what to upgrade to from the Nikon D90 digital SLR.


The Nikon D40 digital SLR camera was the most successful entry-level camera for anyone who is interested in having more control and hopefully better quality over their digital photos than what point-and-shoot cameras can provide.

Nikon D40 digital SLR cameraThe portable size, high pixel ratio and large rear LCD are the most strong points about the camera. Its affordable price makes it possible for a lot of people to shoot quality photos and quickly capture the moment with its short focus lag.

Two years after enjoying the power of SLRs such as this D40, I am ready (itching) to look for a newer and more powerful model.

With the Nikon D90, I saw these advantages/improvements that are worth considering this model:

  • wider lens compatibility (not just limited to AF-S)
  • higher continuous frame rate
  • top LCD and more configurable buttons/dials
  • more AF points (11 versus 3)
  • CMOS sensor for higher contrast and vivid colours
  • high ISO (>=1600) performance

I tried searching online for a direct comparison between the D40 and D90; frame and lens being the same but just changing the body. Ronald Suello did just this and demonstrated the obvious advantage of high ISO performance with the newer cameras such as the D90.

Nikon D90 digital SLR cameraFor some of the above items, I’m able to find a compromise or workaround. However, the frame rate, sensor strengths and hard controls cannot be ignored. These limitations of the D40 are what make me think of upgrading.

Does this upgrade path guarantee better photos for the same photographer? I don’t think so.

The perpetual argument in the photography world – what makes a good photo, the photographer or the camera? – can never be easily concluded. I think a practical way to validate the answer is to ask: what am I shooting photographs for? Are the photos going to sit in some mass storage, displayed in a digital photo frame, printed for display, or printed for publications or exhibitions? Once we have figured the answer to the above, we can then evaluate whether the price we pay for the equipment is balanced with the level of photographic quality achievable.

Second, may I propose: why do people decide on a SLR based on the features offered? Do they satisfy the people being photographed or the photographer? I would think manufacturers and the mass market have conditioned such features like buttons, dials and functions to be important, but only to the one behind the lens! Does such consideration affect the photograph? No, but rather it satisfies the photographers’ needs and/or wants, the ability to do something that another model cannot.

Nikon D40 and D90 side-by-sideIn my case, I know I don’t shoot for profit, at least it’s improbable that my stock photos can recover all of my expenses. 90% of the time I’m shooting people, and 80% of that are on kids, those fast-running two-legged things. Compared to what photographic technology we’ve had 10 years ago, these people whom I shoot will have far better photographic memories of themselves than before. I reckon they won’t bother about or even tell the difference between a sharp and noiseless photo over the others.

Capturing the moment forever on a frame, with whatever photo capture device you have on hand, is priceless.

All that said, I’m still thinking… if I can sell that D40 body for a third of the D90, that’s a good 33% discount on a damn good SLR. Plus, the 2009 performance bonus and my birthday (Feb 12!!!) should sufficiently justify whipping out my wallet… :)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,