Nikon D40 - Photographic Bliss! 30. December 2006 Comment (1) Having agonized over the decision of buying a new digital camera for months, I finally picked up a new Nikon D40 DSLR using the plethora of FutureShop gift cards my family got me for Christmas. It's an awesome piece of gear! Let me tell you about my journey to get here.I bought my first digicam about 4 years ago and it's been a decent camera. It's a 3-megapixel Toshiba PDR-M71 with a 2.8x optical zoom with many manual controls such as shutter speed and aperture. It takes fairly good pictures and was well reviewed in its day. (In fact, I wrote a review on FutureShop's web site and won a FutureShop gift card for my efforts!) However, my biggest complaint with the camera is that it is slow. Slow to power-up, slow to recycle, just plain slow. And of course, being a consumer-level digicam, most of the advanced settings are buried in menus making it difficult to experiment. Another feature that I yearned for was a better optical zoom - I like to take the odd nature picture and it's difficult to get close up to the animals of nature, you know?So, for the past several months I've been looking at the "super-zoom" class of cameras, namely the Canon S3 IS and the Sony DSC-H5. They are significantly faster that my old Toshiba, take excellent pictures and have 12x optical zoom to boot. They also come with the added bonus of "movie mode" allowing you to take pretty good quality videos (my Toshiba has a movie mode, too, but it's only at 320 x 200). However, I've also secretly lusted after the holy grail of digital cameras - the digital SLR. These are the domain of the true photographer and for good reason. DSLRs come with interchangeable lenses, super-fast speed, and more manual controls than you can shake a stick at. But they are damn expensive, and they can lead you down the path of an extremely expensive hobby - some lenses cost well over $1000!This week I finally made up my mind. I was on my way to FutureShop to pick up a Sony H5. It's a very nice camera and it was in my price range. So I get to the camera counter and I start fiddling around with the H5 (something I have done frequently over the past little while) and it's just kinda missing something, you know? It's kinda small and the viewfinder is actually a tiny LCD screen where it's almost impossible to tell if the frame is in focus. I had gotten spoiled earlier that day because I spent some time at Carsand Mosher trying out a D40 (and a Canon S3). The viewfinder on an SLR is a totally different experience than the standard point-and-shoot digicams. So, I was less than thrilled with the shooting experience with the H5. As luck would have it, though, FutureShop had one Nikon D40 left - an open-box item with a nice discount to boot! There is no way I can turn down a bargain (must be the Scottish blood in me) so I bought it instead.I've been taking pictures constantly since I bought it. This thing is so FAST that it truly makes it a joy to use. There is no "boot" time, there is no shutter lag, and the recycle time is so fast you hardly notice it! The camera just feels "right" when I'm holding it and it's so easy to use. I get carried away with it and I just keep clicking the shutter button - it doesn't really matter where the camera is pointed. I can't stop myself - it's addictive.The camera is not perfect, however. I wish I could have bought a lens with more zoom capability - the standard lens that comes with the kit is roughly equivalent to a 3x optical zoom on a point-and-shoot. Also, this being Nikon's entry-level DSLR, it doesn't have exposure bracketing which I like to use as "insurance" when taking pictures (my Toshiba has this feature, oddly enough). For this feature I would either have to spend an extra $300 on Canon's Digital Rebel, or an extra $700 on Nikon's next model up, the D80. I really like the Nikon cameras and an extra $700 just wasn't in my price range.Still, the D40 is a wicked piece of kit for the money. If you're looking at upgrading your current camera, you should really take a good look at the D40. I'm sure that it will totally change your photographing experience like it has done for me.