- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2007

The last time I reviewed a Nikon camera in this space was at the end of 2002. Then, I pronounced the 6.1-megapixel, $3,000 D100 a great value that made me want to be a better photographer.

What a difference a few years make: the recently released Nikon D40x — in Nikon world, model numbers run down, not up — is smaller, lighter and far more powerful than the D100.

At $799 for the 10.2-megapixel camera body and a basic lens, you’re getting about 60 percent more pixels than with the earlier model, for roughly 74 percent off the 2002 price.

Not a bad deal, wouldn’t you agree? Especially when you consider, as with all the Nikon “Ds,” that the D40x is a digital, single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, capable of handling a variety of Nikkor lenses.

The camera could easily be the foundation of a solid, important photography system for a dedicated amateur, budding professional or a growing family.

The images that come out of the Nikon D40x are nothing short of amazing: They make the shooter look very good, perhaps as sharp as the pictures themselves. Though some claim any 5- or 6-megapixel camera can do quite nicely for family snaps, and even for publication, having the greater level of detail is not a bad thing.

On an outing in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, for example, I was able to grab a shot of a butterfly, and while the supplied 18-55 mm lens didn’t allow me to get as close as I might have liked, it was close enough that I could enlarge the section of the photo where the butterfly was and get a decent image.

Greater success was had with some flowers growing out of a rock at one of the overlooks on Skyline Drive; zoom in on those blossoms in the photo and it’s a joy to behold.

The camera, on its own, is good at handling outside lighting, and has a small built-in flash both for “fill” outdoors and for some use indoors. A more serious photographer would buy an external flash to mount on the D40x.

A tremendous plus of the D40x is the 2.5-inch liquid crystal display on the back of the camera. It lets you review your work on the fly, zoom in on an image, perform red-eye reduction on the spot, and even crop images. Just having a large digital display of the finished photo is good enough, however.

The camera uses the Secure Digital, or SD, card format to store images. I found a very nice SanDisk Ultra 2 gigabyte SD card for less than $30 at a local office-supply store; at the highest JPEG setting, the D40x’s information display indicated I could shoot 264 pictures, equal to roughly 7.3 of the old 36-exposure rolls of color 35 mm film. Prices for SD media are very good.

Equally impressive is the rechargeable lithium-ion battery; it refreshes in about 90 minutes, and should power you through a day of shooting. The camera’s controls are easy to use and understand; the menu is very logical.

My only “quibble” is with Nikon’s highest-quality setting, NEF, which is that firm’s implementation of a photo industry standard known as “RAW.” To get this to work with Apple Inc.’s IPhoto, you’ll need the $140 “Nikon Capture” software; for me, I just used the highest JPEG resolution and my shots flowed into IPhoto just fine.

Overall, though, I’m swooning again: Nikon has a winner here, and at a great price.

• Read Mark Kellner’s Tech Blog at www.washington times.com/blogs.

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