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I'm considering buying my first DSLR camera. I'm a total beginner in photography but I want to learn in order to make my photos during my trips worth it (in particular, the ones taken while hiking).

On one hand, I'm ready to invest a little money. I narrowed my choice to the Nikon D5200 with a standard lens (18-55mm), for now. On the other hand, a member of my family proposed to give me its old Nikon D40X with two lenses, a classical 18-55mm one and an other long-focus lens (I guess something as a 85-105mm but I'm not sure).

I have some doubts about the D40X (purchased in 2007) :

  1. Is 10MP enough nowadays ? (I will not print poster a priori.)
  2. I also see a significative difference in the ISO range. Does it matter ?
  3. What about the rest of the body ? Is the technology really old compared to what it is done today ? (I don't care about stuff like GPS or Wi-Fi.)

Of course, the obvious choice would be to take the gift and buy the D5200 anyway if I'm not happy enough with the D40X, but it does not feel good regarding the person giving it to me...

So my question is basically : is the D40X still good enough for a beginner to make beautiful landscape and city pictures, or is it obsolete ?

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    I'd say if you can afford it, get the D5200. The leap in sensor technology alone is worth the difference. Take the D40 and get it converted for IR photography or something. – ElendilTheTall Dec 23 '14 at 16:27
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    D40 is not bad camera. The only detail you should take care about is autofocus will work only with AF-S and AF-I lenses (with own motor). And consider this: one foto is 85% the device behind the viewfinder, 10% light and 5% camera – Romeo Ninov Dec 23 '14 at 16:41
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    Just a comment about megapixels. Say you're posting your image to the web. What's a nice size for a web image? Can we say 800x600 px? How many megapixels is that? 800x600 is 480,000 pixels. That's less than half a megapixel. I hope you see my point. It ain't about the pixels. As a beginner, take the free cam and start the lifetime journey of learning to see like a photographer. It will be a long time before you're good enough for the cam, not the other way 'round. My two cents. But think about the megapixels. You only need half a megapixel to put your image on the web. – user4894 Dec 25 '14 at 4:03
  • this reminds me .... I should really fire up my D60. – Matthew Whited May 2 '16 at 14:34
  • I'm pretty sure that a camera that was good enough for professionals years ago is probably just fine to learn on. I mean, just sayin' :) – Wayne Werner May 26 '16 at 20:53
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The D40X is plenty good enough to learn from before splashing any cash. The main point is that it is free. You can learn exactly what limitations it has (if any) and use that as a basis to refine what you want from a camera system in regards to your subject matter.

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    Agree. And by the time you get to a point in your photography where the D40X is holding you back, the D5200 will be obsolete as well, and you'll know more about what's important to you in a camera. – MikeW Dec 23 '14 at 18:06
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    If you're going to spend your money, spend it on glass. Despite having a whopping 2.3 MP, my old D1 turned in a lot of work that I still admire. – Blrfl Dec 23 '14 at 20:30
  • I bought a Nikon D70s for $225 with a lens. 6MP. It was just fine. Actually, I bet if you scroll through my Flickr photostream you'll have a difficult time telling what pictures were taken with my D70s, D100, Canon T5, or phone cameras. After taking several thousand pics with my D70/D100 I learned that lowlight performance/high ISO capabilities and a big screen were super important to me. Though my next camera will have a top LCD :) (and articulated screen?) – Wayne Werner May 26 '16 at 20:59
  • @MikeW what is "obsolete" for a camera and why should it matter? – Euri Pinhollow Feb 20 '17 at 21:10
  • I'd say it's any limitation that might hold you back from what you want to achieve with that camera (where a newer model overcomes that limitation). No camera is going to be truly obsolete, as there will always be plenty of users for which that camera is just fine. – MikeW Feb 21 '17 at 18:05
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Is 10MP enough nowadays?

If you're not printing and only doing web delivery, it's plenty. If you are printing, you can probably go up to 13"x19" decently.

I also see a [significant] difference in the ISO range. Does it matter?

Depends on what you shoot. But since you're saying landscapes and cityscapes, probably not. This type of shooting typically emphasizes detail and a large DoF over freezing movement (since the subject is still), so most shooters will use a tripod, a small aperture setting, a low ISO (100 or 200) and a longer shutter speed. Cranking up the ISO above 1600 is more typically useful for folks who need to capture moving subjects while shooting handheld. You can even do good landscape/late night shooting with a P&S camera if you know what you're doing and how to stabilize the camera.

What about the rest of the body? Is the technology really old compared to what it is done today?

Depends on your definition of "really old." But the thing to understand here is that dSLRs are digital. That makes them a lot like cellphones and computers. Whatever us hot and shiny and new this year won't be the new shiny next year. That doesn't mean older gear suddenly stops working or can't deliver. The D40X can do you want you need it to. It's not the hottest new tech, and you already know this, or you wouldn't be looking at it. Are there features that are nice to have on the newer cameras? Sure. Do they matter? That's up to you. The D5200 is newer and has a newer sensor/processor, but is only one tier up in handling (i.e., it's the same line as the D60), so maybe it's not as huge a step up as you think.

One thing you might want to try is seeing what other Flickr users have shot with that camera. Often, it's not the tool--it's the user's skillset, knowledge, and imagination that make the difference.

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there is one more thing to add: it also depends on the lenses you attach to it. I own a D40 and put a Nikkor DX AF-S 35mm 1.8 on it and it works marvelously. IMHO, Nikon D40 is everything a beginner could dream of. I know the answer comes too late...

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This is an old... old... post from two years ago, but I just want to say that I have Nikon gear ranging from a D4S to this, the D40x...

Of course performance is nothing compared to modern cameras, it was released 10 years ago, after all...

However, I just want to say that this was pretty much the most perfect mini DSLR of its day. I also have a D3200 and while its sensor is leaps and bounds ahead in terms of buzzwords like resolution and ISO vs noise, at the end of the day, if you are taking photos in reasonably well lit locations, the D40x is simpler to use and has a FAR superior build and shutter mechanism. The buttons are solid, responsive and feel like they can take a beating and the body does not give even with a decent amount of hand-pressure.... However, the 3100/3200 are spongey and the body-plastic creaks if you apply even a modicum of force. Clearly cheaper, lower durability components were used. Moreover, in the daytime the viewfinder (pentamirror) is crystal clear and the active focus point is very brightly illuminated. This cannot be said for the 3100/3200 which has a sort of veiled appearance compared to the clarity of the D40x's viewfinder and focus points that are so dimly illuminated as to be almost invisible in the daytime.

So, long story short. If you are only printing to the web you'll need less than 4MP of resolution even with downscaling... The D40X will suffice.

If your photography is mostly stationary or sedate subjects under reasonable lighting (or you can afford the use of a tripod) then the D40X will suffice.

If you want to take quick photos with a minimum learning curve, few spurious (marketing lead rather than required) options and really want to learn the basics without frivolous features, again the D40X will suffice.

It was a camera ahead of the curve and exudes a quality of build sadly lacking in Nikon budget cameras such as the 3k and 5k series, ever since.

(p.s. I'm using it to teach my daughter how to take photos.)

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So my question is basically : is the D40X still good enough for a beginner to make beautiful landscape and city pictures, or is it obsolete?

This question reduces to questioning whether one can use same technique with this camera as with modern cameras. The answer is: yes.

Long version: Did aperture, shutter, filters or any other elemet of exposure change in modern cameras? No. You will use almost exactly the same photographic technique as with almost any camera produced.

You won't be able to learn following things with D40x:

  • new JPEG image settings which became popular later (record raw files if you are bothered)
  • some new focusing modes (I don't remember last time I used anything besides central point, not kidding)
  • video
  • timelapse

And probably some other things which you won't be able to study with modern cheap cameras as well. After you decide whether you need to know these things before you buy second camera you have the question about D40x being suitable for beginner answered.

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