To say that Nikon and Canon are in competition with one another is something of an understatement. They are the Manchester United and Arsenal, the Schumacher and Alonso, the Tyson and Holyfield of the camera world. They hold the number one and two positions in the lucrative digital SLR market, with Canon pretty firmly in the lead. Nikon would dearly love to take a big slice out of Canon’s market share, and the best way they can do that is to target Canon’s most successful camera, the EOS 400D. Nikon must have known that its range of six-megapixel DSLRs such as the D50, D70 and D40 couldn’t compete with the 10-megapixel 400D when it was launched in August last year, and so had to do something urgently to redress the balance. Nikon must also be concerned by the fact that Sony has leapt into third place in the DSLR market thanks to the well-deserved success of the excellent Alpha A100, and has two new models waiting in the wings.
So, entering from the red corner we have the new Nikon D40x, introduced in March of this year, a radically updated version of a camera which was only launched five months previously. The D40x is quite clearly designed to take on the EOS 400D, in fact it is all but identical to its rival. Is this parallel evolution, or the sincerest form of flattery? Comparing the two cameras side-by-side shows that they are within a couple of millimetres of being exactly the same size (126 x 94 x 64mm for the D40x, 126.5 x 94.2 x 65mm for the 400D) and within a few grams of being the same weight (495g for the D40x, 510g for the 400D). In price as well there’s almost nothing to choose between them. The D40x is available with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G ED II lens for £498 or body-only for £419, while the EOS 400D is £478 with an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens or £437 body-only, although to be fair I wouldn’t want to pay more than £31 for the lens supplied with the 400D.
In terms of specification the match is even closer. The D40x is a 10.0-megapixel camera sporting a 23.6 x 15.8 mm DX-sized Sony CCD sensor, quite likely the same CCD found in the D80 and D200, generating a final image size of 3,872 x 2,592 pixels, compared to the 400D’s 3,888 x 2,592 from its CMOS sensor. Both cameras have a 2.5-in TFT LCD monitor with 230,000 pixels, a mirror-type viewfinder with 95 percent frame coverage, and a simple control interface utilising an on-screen menu system and a single data entry wheel, although the Nikon’s wheel is on the back. Like the 400D the D40x has no top-panel LCD data display, instead displaying shooting data on the monitor screen; however this is off most of the time and has to be activated with a button press. One difference is the choice of memory card. The 400D uses the CompactFlash format favoured by professionals, while the D40x uses SD cards including the new SDHC format.