Nikon D40 vs D5100
The Nikon D40 and the Nikon D5100 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in November 2006 and April 2011. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with an APS-C sensor. The D40 has a resolution of 6 megapixels, whereas the D5100 provides 16.1 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D40 and the Nikon D5100? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.
The physical size and weight of the Nikon D40 and the Nikon D5100 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D5100 is notably larger (7 percent) than the Nikon D40. Moreover, the D5100 is markedly heavier (7 percent) than the D40. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D40 nor the D5100 are weather-sealed.
The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.
|Nikon D40||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||470||n||Nov 2006||499|
|Nikon D5100||128 mm||97 mm||79 mm||560 g||660||n||Apr 2011||749|
|Nikon D5600||124 mm||97 mm||70 mm||465 g||970||n||Nov 2016||699|
|Nikon D3400||124 mm||98 mm||76 mm||445 g||1200||n||Aug 2016||499|
|Nikon D3300||124 mm||98 mm||76 mm||430 g||700||n||Jan 2014||499|
|Nikon D5300||125 mm||98 mm||76 mm||480 g||600||n||Oct 2013||799|
|Nikon D3200||125 mm||96 mm||77 mm||505 g||540||n||Apr 2012||599|
|Nikon D5200||129 mm||98 mm||78 mm||555 g||500||n||Nov 2012||749|
|Nikon D3100||124 mm||96 mm||75 mm||505 g||550||n||Aug 2010||599|
|Nikon D3000||126 mm||97 mm||64 mm||536 g||500||n||Jul 2009||599|
|Nikon D5000||127 mm||104 mm||80 mm||590 g||510||n||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D40X||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||520||n||Mar 2007||729|
|Nikon D80||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||668 g||600||n||Aug 2006||999|
|Nikon D50||133 mm||102 mm||76 mm||620 g||400||n||Apr 2005||749|
|Nikon D70s||140 mm||111 mm||78 mm||679 g||500||n||Apr 2005||899|
|Panasonic L10||135 mm||96 mm||78 mm||556 g||450||n||Aug 2007||599|
|Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The D40 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 33 percent) than the D5100, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.
The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Both cameras under consideration feature an APS-C sensor, but their sensors differ slightly in size. They nevertheless have the same format factor of 1.5. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 16.1MP, the D5100 offers a higher resolution than the D40 (6MP), but the D5100 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.80μm versus 7.85μm for the D40). Yet, the D5100 is a much more recent model (by 4 years and 4 months) than the D40, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Nikon D5100 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D5100 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 24.6 x 16.3 inches or 62.6 x 41.5 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 19.7 x 13.1 inches or 50.1 x 33.2 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 16.4 x 10.9 inches or 41.7 x 27.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Nikon D40 are 15 x 10 inches or 38.2 x 25.4 cm for good quality, 12 x 8 inches or 30.6 x 20.3 cm for very good quality, and 10 x 6.7 inches or 25.5 x 16.9 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Nikon D40 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 200 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 200-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D5100 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-25600.
Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the D5100 offers substantially better image quality than the D40 (overall score 24 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.5 bits higher color depth, 2.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.1 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.
| DXO |
|Panasonic L10||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.3||10.8||429||55|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The D5100 indeed provides for movie recording, while the D40 does not. The highest resolution format that the D5100 can use is 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D40 and the D5100 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (95%), but the viewfinder of the D40 has a higher magnification than the one of the D5100 (0.53x vs 0.51x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D40 and Nikon D5100 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.
The Nikon D5100 has an intervalometer built-in. This enables the photographer to capture time lapse sequences, such as flower blooming, a sunset or moon rise, without purchasing an external camera trigger and related software.
The D40 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the D5100 uses SDXC cards. The D5100 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the D40 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.
For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Nikon D40 and Nikon D5100 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
Both the D40 and the D5100 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D40 was replaced by the Nikon D40X, while the D5100 was followed by the Nikon D5200. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Nikon website.
So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D40 and the Nikon D5100? Which camera is better? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.
Advantages of the Nikon D40:
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.53x vs 0.51x).
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (33 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in November 2006).
Reasons to prefer the Nikon D5100:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (16.1 vs 6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 64%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (24 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.5 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (2.6 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (1.1 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (921k vs 230k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
- More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (4 vs 2.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Easier time-lapse photography: Has an intervalometer built-in for low frequency shooting.
- Longer lasting: Gets more shots (660 versus 470) out of a single battery charge.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More modern: Reflects 4 years and 4 months of technical progress since the D40 launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D5100 is the clear winner of the contest (15 : 3 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D40 and the Nikon D5100 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the D40 or the D5100 perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.
This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.
|Nikon D40||81/100||+ +||o||5/5||4.5/5||Nov 2006||499|
|Nikon D5100||+ +||76/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2011||749|
|Nikon D5600||..||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4/5||Nov 2016||699|
|Nikon D3400||+||76/100||4/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||499|
|Nikon D3300||+||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2014||499|
|Nikon D5300||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||799|
|Nikon D3200||+ +||73/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2012||599|
|Nikon D5200||+ +||79/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||Nov 2012||749|
|Nikon D3100||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||599|
|Nikon D3000||+||72/100||4/5||3.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||599|
|Nikon D5000||+ +||75/100||4/5||5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2009||749|
|Nikon D40X||79/100||+ +||4/5||o||4/5||Mar 2007||729|
|Nikon D80||+||+ +||o||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999|
|Nikon D50||78/100||+ +||4/5||o||4.5/5||Apr 2005||749|
|Nikon D70s||..||..||..||o||5/5||Apr 2005||899|
|Panasonic L10||85/100||+||3.5/5||o||4/5||Aug 2007||599|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.
Other camera comparisons
Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.
Specifications: Nikon D40 vs Nikon D5100
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.
|Camera Model||Nikon D40||Nikon D5100|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||November 2006||April 2011|
|Launch Price||USD 499||USD 749|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D40||Nikon D5100|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.7 x 15.6 mm||23.6 x 15.7 mm|
|Sensor Area||369.72 mm2||370.52 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.4 mm||28.3 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||6 Megapixels||16.1 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3008 x 2000 pixels||4928 x 3264 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||7.85 μm||4.80 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.63 MP/cm2||4.34 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||200 - 1,600 ISO||100 - 6,400 ISO|
|ISO Boost||200 - 3,200 ISO||100 - 25,600 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||56||80|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.0||23.5|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.0||13.6|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||561||1183|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D40||Nikon D5100|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||95%|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Swivel screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D40||Nikon D5100|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Phase-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||2.5 shutter flaps/s||4 shutter flaps/s|
|Shutter Life Expectancy||50 000 actuations||100 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDHC cards||SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Single card slot|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D40||Nikon D5100|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Nikon D40||Nikon D5100|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||470 shots per charge||660 shots per charge|
124 x 94 x 64 mm
(4.9 x 3.7 x 2.5 in)
128 x 97 x 79 mm
(5.0 x 3.8 x 3.1 in)
|Camera Weight||522 g (18.4 oz)||560 g (19.8 oz)|
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