Displeasure Photos

The one problem with the Nikon D40

I bought my Nikon D40 from a camera shop. I spent a fair amount of time talking to the expert behind the counter, discussing what I would get if I were to buy a more expensive camera.

The expert was telling me how a more expensive camera might have more megapixels, it will be more sturdily built (hence able to withstand harsher conditions), and it will have more buttons on the body which would allow me to change settings quickly (instead of having to navigate through piles of menus).

I nodded, and let him know that none of this was particularly compelling. I gave him one last chance to upsell me. I told him that I had no intention of buying another DSLR in the next few years, so I needed to get the right one first time. Was the Nikon D40 missing any features which, in six months time, I would really really want.

No, said the expert. Definitely not.

Six months later, with an interest in experimenting with HDR photography, I discovered that the Nikon D40 does not have Automatic Exposure Bracketing. Fuck you, expert.

10 replies on “The one problem with the Nikon D40”

AND: The D40 is only auto-focus compatible with AF-S lenses (the consumer variety), meaning all those lovely, tasty, f1.4 and f1.8 prime and zoom AF-D lenses will need to be focussed manually. Which is a bit pants really.

I’m aware of this limitation, but I haven’t found it to be a problem yet. Maybe that’s because I’m still using the stock 18-55mm lens. Maybe.

Apparently if you have one of the AF-D lenses there’s a little green light that comes on in the corner of the viewfinder when the primary subject is in focus. I dunno though, haven’t tried it.

The stock 18-55 lens is actually really good, excellent for those wide-angle shots. I have that one and a 55-200 zoom as well. Definitely still need a wide-aperture prime though, about 50 or 85mm. There’s a good one wide f1.8 in my local camera store going for (comparatively) cheap, but I’m saving for a wedding!

Oh bollocks. I’m gobsmacked that it doesn’t have it. Yes, that’s big gone-grey-in-the-wash pants. However. Thinking about it, HDR is only really doable on subjects that don’t move at all, so you could possibly use a rock-steady tripod and change the settings with the lightest of touches. Um, maybe?

I made some progress last night. I used a program called ufraw to convert a single RAW file into a number of TIFF files at different exposures. The next step is to use a program called enfuse to generate the HDR image. enfuse comes in a package called enblend, but it’s quite new and so the version of enblend in the Ubuntu repositories does not contain enfuse. I tried to compile it from source, but I’m going to need at least another gigabyte of memory to achieve that. So I’m just going to sit and wait for an enblend .deb that contains enfuse.

If there’s anyone out there who wants to do this, and has a decent pile of RAM, here are the instructions.

[Initially added yesterday, but repeatedly blocked]

Without the Auto Exposure Bracketing, you can still produce HDR images using an image editor (Photoshop, Gimp etc.) to produce three ‘exposures’ of the same frame, or you can use something like Photomatix ( which will make an HDR from a single RAW file. I’ve been quite impressed with some of the results from this.

Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s certainly another way forward for this kind of thing.

Hello Pete, long time no see. Not that I can see you now, really.
I wonder if there’s a market for a programmable, or scriptable camera? Truly programming such a device is I’m sure very hard and intimately tied to the hardware and involves IP issues, but I’m sure the folks at Nikon have separated the UI from the low-level stuff. Auto exposure bracketing is the kind of thing you could easily script if that kind of functionality were exposed to the user. My first thought was for a camera that runs linux, but after briefly enjoying the fantasy of SSHing into my camera, I realised that this was a stupid idea.
Myself, I still rock with an early 80s pentax SLR running on film. I like it manual, baby. Although I have just taken delivery of an LG U990 phone, purely for its camera, which does a surprisingly good job of recording video at 120fps.

I decided I was going to address the HDR problem using NDG filters. I went with the Cooklin P holder and the Hitech filters on my D40, all good to this point. However the lack of the depth of field preview makes placing them correctly an absolute sod. When the filter has been placed correctly I’ve had some excellent results.

Personally I don’t miss the auto bracket feature, but I would like the DOF preview, the ability to focus primes, and control multiple flash units off camera. When I brought the camera I didn’t understand any of these things, indeed I’d never even heard of them.

I’m tempted by the 300 to get these features, but I might wait and see what the 80 replacement provides. I won’t get rid of my D40, it’s a brilliant little camera for 98% of what I want to do. It’s size and weight give it significant advantages over the big Nikons in many situations and the auto ISO function is something not offered by the Canons.

Hi Jon, welcome to the site.

How long ago did you buy the D40? Do you have any examples of your photos online? I’d be interested to see what results you get using your method.

I have made some acceptable HDR images with a D40 – it just takes a bit more time and effort.

Put the camera on a tripod. Use the £15 Nikon ML-L3 IR remote.

Actually, the ML-L3 is SUCH a handy little gadget when you need to do self-portraits or need to reduce camera shake while using a tripod.

As for Jon’s issue of controlling off-camera flash – try those cheap radio flash triggers you can buy on fleabay. I have a set which I use with a few cheap optical slave modules. They are fine for amateur use.

I love my D40. You have to pay double the price for a camera which does more.

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