The D40x is intended as an entry-level model, so while it lacks certain professional features such as dial-in white balance temperature or an external flash socket, it does have a number of useful beginner-friendly features. As well as the usual SLR staples of program, aperture or shutter priority and full manual exposure control, it also has a range of scene modes such as portrait, sports, landscape, night scene, macro and children. Crucially, this is one more scene mode than the 400D.
The menu system as well has been designed for learners. In fact there are two menu systems; the main list of options accessed via the menu button in common with most other digital cameras, and a visual interface based around the monitor shooting data screen. This is similar to the system used on the Olympus E-500, although I do like Nikon’s implementation better. When changing settings it shows a thumbnail sample shot of the type of picture for which that setting might be appropriate, for example light objects on a dark background for spot metering, or a fast-moving subject for continuous AF. It also features a comprehensive system of help files available at the press of a button, giving advice on every option on the menu. It’s a bit like a more complex version of Casio’s Best Shot mode, and would be enormously helpful for a novice user who finds the huge flexibility of a modern DSLR a bit daunting. It’s also worth pointing out that the D40x comes with a very good 126-page printed manual, when so many cameras these days only come with a PDF manual on CD.
All of the settings on the visual menu and more can be adjusted or pre-set in the comprehensive main menu system, which also includes a wide range of options for post-processing, such as the ability to superimpose two RAW images on top of one another in-camera, and one of the most versatile colour adjustment options I’ve ever seen.
The D40x is not just a D40 with a bigger sensor. The internal electronics have been completely revised as well. It has a new processing system which allows it to shoot at a much faster frame rate than the D40. It can manage an impressive three frames a second, and in JPEG mode it can keep this up until the card is full, although it’s worth noting that the speed of your memory card will make a big difference. Using a high speed SanDisk Extreme III SD card I was indeed able to shoot at 3fps continuously, but using a standard speed SDHC card the shooting rate dropped to approximately one frame a second after nine shots.