The first big official Nikon announcements for PMA have been made, both of which are upgrades on existing products rather than out and out new ones. A D40 DSLR upgrade and a 55-200mm lens upgrade.
The new D40x is exactly the same as the old D40 except it now contains the sensor and processing engine of the D80. This means it now has a 10.2 mega-pixel sensor as predicted, and a slightly faster 3 FPS burst rate.
Ken Rockwell will get his hands on a D40x this Wednesday, so I’m going to have to speculate on it’s performance based on what we’ve seen so far with Nikon’s cameras.
I suspect it’ll have the same image quality as the D80 and D200. If you take a shot of the same thing with the same settings and same lens with all three cameras, you’ll get exactly the same output. However I expect the D40x will retain the old D40’s 420-segment Matrix metering rather than the D80’s 1005-segment version, although the difference in metering will be minimal. Both the D80 and D40 over-expose images compared to the D200 and the D40x will be similar to the D40 and D80.
As it’ll have the same output as the D80 and D200, it should have the same high-sensitivity noise performance too, which is a great shame. The best thing about the D40 was the super-clean ISO1600 shots it produced. This made it a great indoor or night-time camera, especially when in tandem with the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens, which will even auto focus with it as it’s HSM. The D80 and D200 have pretty average high-ISO noise performance, and I wouldn’t personally use it at ISO1600 if I could avoid it.
What I suspect Nikon is doing is to set a low price DSLR to compete against the higher priced but similar mega-pixel count Canon, Pentax and Sony alternatives. Most consumers will mainly look at the mega-pixel number to decide which camera to buy, and when you can get a D40x with 10 mega-pixels for a significant amount less than a Canon 400D, if I was an uninformed consumer I know which one I would go for.
But this is not to say you’ll be disappointed with the images from the D40x. The D80 and D200 produce superb low ISO pictures, and the extra pixels will allow you to crop a bit more. Nikon have posted some samples of the D40x and they do look very encouraging.
The most interesting thing about the D40x samples however, is that most of them are taken with the new 55-200mm VR lens. This is Nikon’s first consumer VR lens1 with a US list prices of $249.952 it’s a very cheap lens aimed squarely at consumers. But if you look at the samples taken with the D40x, you could be fooled into thinking it was the 70-300mm VR, or even the 70-200mm VR lens which costs many times more.
This lens seems to be a fantastic light travel-zoom to compliment heavier and faster zoom lenses. It has the sharpness and VR, which helps a bit with the small aperture, and it only weighs 335g. While a 18-200mm VR would be more convenient, it seems the 55-200mm trounces that lens at the long end, where it still remains very sharp.
There is still some confusion over the specifications though. It’s not specified whether it’s a VR or VRII, although it’s probably just VR. One Nikon site specifies it with a seven-bladed aperture, but on another it has a nine-bladed aperture. Also, the old 55-200mm lens didn’t have real AF-S capabilities. Instead of having a ring type motor directly rotating a floating lens element, it just had a normal motor like that driven by old screw AF-D type lenses, except this was built into the lens body. This meant it was pretty silent at focusing, but was slow and didn’t have full-time manual over-ride like that of real AF-S lenses. I suspect this is still the fake AF-S.
I await Ken Rockwell’s review as that should clear up any ambiguity with this lens, and also give us some sample shots not taken by Nikon.