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Nikon's new everyman dSLR

Nikon's new 6.1 megpixel D40 sports a new graphical interface and becomes the smallest Nikon dSLR yet.

Nikon D40

Confirming what the blogosphere so graciously leaked over a week ago, Nikon has officially announced its new entry level digital SLR, the 6.1 megapixel D40. A followup to the company's D50, the D40 includes the same processing engine as the D200 and the same 420-pixel sensor 3D Color Matrix Metering II metering system found in the D80, while sporting a body that makes it the smallest Nikon dSLR to date.

One of the most interesting things about this camera is its new graphical user interface. Rather than the usual text-centric interface, Nikon has developed a cute and intuitive interface that incorporates tiny images to show you how changes to various settings, such as exposure compensation or white balance, will affect your images. For example, as you move exposure compensation from zero to +1, you can see the example image on the camera's LCD become brighter.

Nikon D40 graphical interface

Other features include a sensitivity range that covers equivalents of ISO 200 through ISO 3200, 0.8x viewfinder magnification, a 2.5-inch 230,000-pixel LCD screen, and in-camera editing capabilities, such as Nikon's D-Lighting, red-eye reduction, cropping, resizing, and a handful of filter effects. As always with Nikon, all these in camera editing options let you keep the original image, so you can always revert back to the original image if you change your mind later on.

Users stepping up from compact cameras will appreciate the D40's Vari-Program modes. Like the scene modes found in digital compacts, they automatically set the D40 to handle various shooting conditions, such as sports or portraits. Of course, the D40 also includes program, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, full manual, and full auto shooting modes. In continuous shooting mode, Nikon says the D40 will be able to capture up to 100 consecutive JPEGs (in Normal mode) at a rate of 2.5 frames per second.

Owners of older Nikon lenses should note that the D40 has no coupling pin, so it will only accept Nikon's AF-S and AF-I lenses. Also, while the camera is compatible with Nikon's iTTL flash system, it doesn't include commander mode, so you'll have to add a wireless commander, or use a flash with a commander mode with you want wireless control over off-camera Speedlights. In other non-wireless-Speedlight news, Nikon is also introducing the relatively-inexpensive SB-400 AF Speedlight. This tiny flash sports a guide number of 98 feet at ISO 200 (or 68 feet at ISO 100), can tilt up for bounce flash but can't swivel, is powered by two AA batteries, and is compatible with Nikon's iTTL control, but can't be operated wirelessly. The new flash is expected to sell for about $150.

Nikon expects to ship the D40 to stores by the first week of December where they're expected to sell for about $600 in a kit with the new Nikon 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED II AF-S DX zoom lens. According to Nikon, the D40 will only be available as a kit, at least initially.