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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    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 16:27
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    \$\begingroup\$ 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 \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 16:41
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    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – user4894
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 4:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ this reminds me .... I should really fire up my D60. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 2, 2016 at 14:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ 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' :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 26, 2016 at 20:53

6 Answers 6


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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    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 18:06
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – Blrfl
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ 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?) \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 26, 2016 at 20:59
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MikeW what is "obsolete" for a camera and why should it matter? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 20, 2017 at 21:10
  • \$\begingroup\$ 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. \$\endgroup\$
    – MikeW
    Commented Feb 21, 2017 at 18:05

TLDR: If you have $250 go find a used D3400.

I'm still an active user of D60 (basically the same thing as D40x).

Is 10MP enough nowadays ? (I will not print poster a priori.)

I'd say yes because most phones are still in the 12MP range and that's proven enough for most daily uses. Also computer display have settled at 2MP for a decade and is slowly moving to 8MP so 10MP should still be good for a few years.

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

Depends on what you shoot. Most of the time yes it matters and D40x kind of sucks from the beginning. It wasn't the best when it was first introduced and is absolutely terrible by today's standard. I'd say stay below ISO400 if you can and don't expect anything above ISO800.

However, if you have control of your creation process then ISO doesn't matter. If you use a tripod and a IR remote, you can shoot minutes of exposure at ISO100. Or you can use flash light for indoor shooting. If you are getting serious about photography you should not shy away from tripod and flash light anyway.

But that said, noise level at ISO100 is not ideal on this camera. You won't see perfectly clean shadows even at ISO100. Taking good low-key (dark theme) pictures with this camera is tricky for this reason. I always find myself cranking up the exposure then push it down -2EV in post just to suppress noise. With newer cameras this won't be necessary and you can pretty much shoot at your desired exposure directly or even go under to preserve high light.

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.)

Yes it's not only old but not good from the beginning. 3 focus points is very limiting. If you want to do portrait or macro work it limits your composition a lot. And focus isn't fast either. You can get away with GPS and Wifi with FlashAir card, the card will attach GPS data to the image when it's transmitted to the phone using the phone's GPS receiver.

Recent cameras solves most of these issues. Even D3000, immediately after D60/D40X have much improved focus. ISO performance has been improved steadily through the years. If you have the budget and want to have a much streamlined and flexible creation process, definitely get something more recent like D3400.

For lens I suggest you keep the 18-55 kit lens (get the one with stabilization) and add a multi-use telephoto. 85/1.8 for portrait, Tamron 90mm for portrait and macro, Tamron/Sigma/Nikon 70-300 for landscape and wild life.

But if you are gifted a D40X set, definitely take it and you will notice it's limitations in a short time, then consider next steps.

D60/D40X/D3000 as Nikon's last CCD cameras are actually a lot of fun to use. Targeting the entry level consumers the colors are really aggressive and punchy, and is further exaggerated by modern display technology. If you work the light to the sweet spot, then show the picture on your phone's screen (or on social media for others to view on their phones), the color absolutely blows your mind. Imagine D60/D40X/D3000 as a roll of very finicky positive film: if you train yourself into a master of light you will be rewarded with amazing results.


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.


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...


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.)


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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