Why? For two reasons, price and brand. There are a number of digital SLR cameras in the sub $500 range; the Pentax K100D and Olympus E300 among them but the Nikon brand of digital cameras is better known. Canon don’t have any current camera to compete at this price range, yet.
What camera will parents buy their offspring this Christmas? The more expensive Canon 400D or the Nikon D40? I think it’s a no-brainer which camera they’ll buy. The Nikon is the perfect “starter camera” for junior. It’s relatively cheap, looks professionally black, makes the click sound when you take a photo like “real cameras” do and you can use other Nikon lenses. What is there not to like?
Well, the Nikon D40 is great but for the price there have been compromises made. The DP Review preview of the camera compares it favourably to the Nikon D50, emphasising the extra features the cheaper camera has. The biggest drawback is an issue with lenses. It can’t auto-focus with traditional Nikon lenses because it doesn’t have an internal focus drive motor. This is arguably worse than the Canon limitation on EF-S lenses. At least Canon EF-S cameras can take advantage of proper Canon lenses.
Perhaps the biggest negative on the D40 is that it doesn’t have an internal focus drive motor and hence no mechanical focus drive pin, instead it only has CPU contacts which means it can only Auto Focus with AF-S and AF-I lenses (those with built-in focus motors). Indeed our ‘standard’ lens the Nikkor 50 mm F1.8D (and the F1.4D) are manual focus only on the D40. The images below show the difference between the mount on the D40 and D80, the D80 has a mechanical focus drive pin at about the 7 o’clock position.
Canon need a sub-$500 DSLR to compete. Once you’re hooked on a brand of camera it’s much easier to stick with that brand. The controls will be familiar, you can use the same lenses, you visit the same online discussion boards.
Personally, I think it’s great that DSLR technology is so cheap. It’s not that long ago that the only digital SLR was priced beyond the budgets of anyone but the professionals. Isn’t Moore’s Law great?
Ken Rockwell has a great review of the Nikon D40. I think he likes it:
First impressions are:
Super-duper light weight = too much fun!