Nikon D40 - Still Impressive by Alpha Whiskey Photography
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Nikon D40 - Still Impressive

  • May 04, 2012
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Nikon D40 - Still Impressive

This is a tribute to my old Nikon D40, now 5 year old technology, which in digital terms might as well be 25 years! But I didn't want to use my more expensive gear at the Notting Hill Carnival the other day, so I took the humble D40 instead and I was most impressed by the images it produced. But then I thought ‘why wouldn’t I be impressed?’ Most consumers are conditioned into thinking that only the newest and latest gear can deliver the best shots, and anything old is obsolete. But just because something is old doesn’t meant it’s not useful. And while newer cameras may have more bells and whistles, or even better ergonomics, the little Nikon D40 proved that it can still hold it’s own in that all important image quality department. Its 6MP CCD (today cameras are packing 16-24MP on the same sensor size) delivered excellent RAW files which (coupled to a sharp prime lens) had plenty of detail, even at high ISOs. With ‘only’ 6MP, those pixels are obviously going to be larger and physically take in more light, so the camera performs pretty well at higher ISOs, even for an old sensor. Other factors come into it, of course, especially with today’s higher megapixel sensors and thus smaller pixels, such as image processing algorithms. Modern DSLRs, even APS-C sized sensors, can now reach very high ISO levels with excellent results. One thing that clearly helps is shooting RAW. Any noise is finer and thus easier to remove more evenly. Colour is also better retained than in a JPEG. Anyway, below are some examples and crops from photos I took in a restaurant after the carnival, so you can judge for yourself. Not a scientific study, of course (I have a life to enjoy – can’t be stuck indoors shooting test charts!) but they illustrate my point. All the images were shot hand-held with the Nikkor 50mm F/1.8G AF-S, at F/1.8, and the RAW files were converted using Adobe RAW converter in Adobe CS5.

May 04, 2012
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Nikon D40 - Still Impressive

This post has 13 photos May 04, 2012Comments (5)3826 views

This is a tribute to my old Nikon D40, now 5 year old technology, which in digital terms might as well be 25 years! But I didn't want to use my more expensive gear at the Notting Hill Carnival the other day, so I took the humble D40 instead and I was most impressed by the images it produced.


But then I thought ‘why wouldn’t I be impressed?’ Most consumers are conditioned into thinking that only the newest and latest gear can deliver the best shots, and anything old is obsolete. But just because something is old doesn’t meant it’s not useful. And while newer cameras may have more bells and whistles, or even better ergonomics, the little Nikon D40 proved that it can still hold it’s own in that all important image quality department.


Its 6MP CCD (today cameras are packing 16-24MP on the same sensor size) delivered excellent RAW files which (coupled to a sharp prime lens) had plenty of detail, even at high ISOs.


With ‘only’ 6MP, those pixels are obviously going to be larger and physically take in more light, so the camera performs pretty well at higher ISOs, even for an old sensor. Other factors come into it, of course, especially with today’s higher megapixel sensors and thus smaller pixels, such as image processing algorithms. Modern DSLRs, even APS-C sized sensors, can now reach very high ISO levels with excellent results.


One thing that clearly helps is shooting RAW. Any noise is finer and thus easier to remove more evenly. Colour is also better retained than in a JPEG.


Anyway, below are some examples and crops from photos I took in a restaurant after the carnival, so you can judge for yourself. Not a scientific study, of course (I have a life to enjoy – can’t be stuck indoors shooting test charts!) but they illustrate my point. All the images were shot hand-held with the Nikkor 50mm F/1.8G AF-S, at F/1.8, and the RAW files were converted using Adobe RAW converter in Adobe CS5.

Shot at ISO 1250. I applied noise reduction (Dfine 2.0) and resized for the web. 
DSC_0606c

Shot at ISO 1250. I applied noise reduction (Dfine 2.0) and resized for the web. 

May 04, 2012
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DSC_0606c Capture Date: Aug 31, 2011 09:43 PM
Camera:NIKON D40ISO Speed:1250Exposure:1/13 secAperture:f / 1.8Focal Length:50 mmFlash:Did not Fire
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A crop from the original RAW file. Lots of noise for sure, but a reasonable amount of detail too, especially for 6MP.
DSC_0606a

A crop from the original RAW file. Lots of noise for sure, but a reasonable amount of detail too, especially for 6MP.

May 04, 2012
SlickPic.com
DSC_0606a Capture Date: Aug 31, 2011 09:43 PM
Camera:NIKON D40ISO Speed:1250Exposure:1/13 secAperture:f / 1.8Focal Length:50 mmFlash:Did not Fire
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No noise reduction at all on this image below shot at ISO 1600, and resized for the web it still doesn't look half bad. The noise grain is so fine as not to be intrusive on the image. If I was going to print it large, I would obviously think about some selective noise reduction.
DSC_0541d

No noise reduction at all on this image below shot at ISO 1600, and resized for the web it still doesn't look half bad. The noise grain is so fine as not to be intrusive on the image. If I was going to print it large, I would obviously think about some selective noise reduction.

May 04, 2012
SlickPic.com
DSC_0541d Capture Date: Aug 31, 2011 09:42 PM
Camera:NIKON D40ISO Speed:1400Exposure:1/25 secAperture:f / 1.8Focal Length:50 mmFlash:Did not Fire
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Here is an actual size crop from the above image. Pretty good detail for ISO 1600 in a 5 year old camera!
(also pretty good sharpness for a lens at F/1.8!)
DSC_0541a

Here is an actual size crop from the above image. Pretty good detail for ISO 1600 in a 5 year old camera!(also pretty good sharpness for a lens at F/1.8!)

May 04, 2012
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DSC_0541a Capture Date: Aug 31, 2011 09:42 PM
Camera:NIKON D40ISO Speed:1400Exposure:1/25 secAperture:f / 1.8Focal Length:50 mmFlash:Did not Fire
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Just out of curiosity, I did apply a dusting of noise reduction, and it's not bad to my eyes, although there is a smoothing effect.
DSC_0541c

Just out of curiosity, I did apply a dusting of noise reduction, and it's not bad to my eyes, although there is a smoothing effect.

May 04, 2012
SlickPic.com
DSC_0541c Capture Date: Aug 31, 2011 09:42 PM
Camera:NIKON D40ISO Speed:1400Exposure:1/25 secAperture:f / 1.8Focal Length:50 mmFlash:Did not Fire
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Same again. ISO 1600 and no NR.
DSC_0538_No_NR

Same again. ISO 1600 and no NR.

May 04, 2012
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DSC_0538_No_NR Capture Date: Aug 31, 2011 09:41 PM
Camera:NIKON D40ISO Speed:1600Exposure:1/2 secAperture:f / 4.0Focal Length:27 mmFlash:Did not Fire
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Actual size crop of the above image. Yes, noise, but also detail.
DSC_0538a

Actual size crop of the above image. Yes, noise, but also detail.

May 04, 2012
SlickPic.com
DSC_0538a Capture Date: Aug 31, 2011 09:42 PM
Camera:NIKON D40ISO Speed:1600Exposure:1/2 secAperture:f / 4.0Focal Length:27 mmFlash:Did not Fire
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The fine grain might lend itself to a B+W treatment.
DSC_0538_No_NR_BW

The fine grain might lend itself to a B+W treatment.

May 04, 2012
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DSC_0538_No_NR_BW Capture Date: Aug 31, 2011 09:41 PM
Camera:NIKON D40ISO Speed:1600Exposure:1/2 secAperture:f / 4.0Focal Length:27 mmFlash:Did not Fire
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Another example at ISO 1600.
DSC_0559c

Another example at ISO 1600.

May 04, 2012
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DSC_0559c Capture Date: Aug 31, 2011 09:42 PM
Camera:NIKON D40ISO Speed:1600Exposure:1/30 secAperture:f / 1.8Focal Length:50 mmFlash:Did not Fire
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Actual size crop from the above image. 
DSC_0559a

Actual size crop from the above image. 

May 04, 2012
SlickPic.com
DSC_0559a Capture Date: Aug 31, 2011 09:42 PM
Camera:NIKON D40ISO Speed:1600Exposure:1/30 secAperture:f / 1.8Focal Length:50 mmFlash:Did not Fire
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With NR applied.
DSC_0559b

With NR applied.

May 04, 2012
SlickPic.com
DSC_0559b Capture Date: Aug 31, 2011 09:42 PM
Camera:NIKON D40ISO Speed:1600Exposure:1/30 secAperture:f / 1.8Focal Length:50 mmFlash:Did not Fire
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Another at ISO 1600, no NR but resized for the web. Noise is visible but not too intrusive.
DSC_0617

Another at ISO 1600, no NR but resized for the web. Noise is visible but not too intrusive.

May 04, 2012
SlickPic.com
DSC_0617 Capture Date: Aug 31, 2011 09:47 PM
Camera:NIKON D40ISO Speed:1600Exposure:1/15 secAperture:f / 1.8Focal Length:50 mmFlash:Did not Fire
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Curves adjustment, Dfine 2.0 noise reduction, and resized for the web. Not bad!
DSC_0617a

Curves adjustment, Dfine 2.0 noise reduction, and resized for the web. Not bad!

May 04, 2012
SlickPic.com
DSC_0617a Capture Date: Aug 31, 2011 09:44 PM
Camera:NIKON D40ISO Speed:1600Exposure:1/15 secAperture:f / 1.8Focal Length:50 mmFlash:Did not Fire
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Comments

JenaSep 1, 2011 11:52 AM

From point of view of the observer, the composition of the photo distract the eye from counting the pixles of the camera as well as coveying the story in the photo to the eye is what it counts. For example, The cropped photo of the motorcycle tyre contains reasonable details to demonstrate the level of sophistication went to manufacture it.
In my opinion, these are good shots despite using old version of Nikon !!

Asmarabluez ...Nov 3, 2011 10:45 PM

Thanks You So much Alpha....For this Article n Info .. n impressed Wth ur Photos .. All those new hi tech models looks very tempting .... But whatever is I still stick to my D40 just bought a 50mm 1.4G but haven't tried it out yet cos it's raining maybe when weather's I'll shoot something

I Luv my D40Nov 6, 2011 04:21 AM

In the right hands (or tripod) the D40 can take amazingly sharp pictures, with good colour. Its a good size camera.

MihaeJan 9, 2012 11:09 PM

Thank you for writing this! I've been tempted to upgrade my D40 but it's my first camera and I really want to stay with it until it breaks down.

Any tips about shooting under low light and what equipment I can add on to the D40 to extend it's capabilities?

Alpha Whiskey PhotographyJan 10, 2012 12:13 PM

I would try using a fast lens to keep your shutter speed high and ISO low. Perhaps a 35mm F/1.8 as a walk around lens. Some low light shooting inevitably requires raising the ISO. Always try and keep yourself steady and braced, or if a long exposure is necessary, use a tripod.

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