Nikon D40 vs D800
The Nikon D40 and the Nikon D800 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in November 2006 and February 2012. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D40) and a full frame (D800) sensor. The D40 has a resolution of 6 megapixels, whereas the D800 provides 36.2 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 D800? 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 side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Nikon D40 and the Nikon D800. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions 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 D800 is considerably larger (54 percent) than the Nikon D40. Moreover, the D800 is substantially heavier (92 percent) than the D40. It is noteworthy in this context that the D800 is splash and dust-proof, while the D40 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.
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. A larger imaging sensor (as in the D800) will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, while more compact options are available for the smaller-sensor camera (D40). You can compare the optics available in the Nikon Lens Catalog.
The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, you can move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.
|1.||Nikon D40||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||470||n||Nov 2006||499|
|2.||Nikon D800||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||2,999|
|3.||Nikon D850||146 mm||124 mm||79 mm||1005 g||1840||Y||Jul 2017||3,299|
|4.||Nikon D3400||124 mm||98 mm||76 mm||445 g||1200||n||Aug 2016||499|
|5.||Nikon D810||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||980 g||1200||Y||Jun 2014||3,299|
|6.||Nikon D3300||124 mm||98 mm||76 mm||430 g||700||n||Jan 2014||499|
|7.||Nikon D610||141 mm||113 mm||82 mm||850 g||900||Y||Oct 2013||1,999|
|8.||Nikon D800E||146 mm||123 mm||82 mm||1000 g||900||Y||Feb 2012||3,299|
|9.||Nikon D3200||125 mm||96 mm||77 mm||505 g||540||n||Apr 2012||599|
|10.||Nikon D3100||124 mm||96 mm||75 mm||505 g||550||n||Aug 2010||599|
|11.||Nikon D3000||126 mm||97 mm||64 mm||536 g||500||n||Jul 2009||599|
|12.||Nikon D700||147 mm||123 mm||77 mm||1074 g||1000||Y||Jul 2008||2,999|
|13.||Nikon D40X||124 mm||94 mm||64 mm||522 g||520||n||Mar 2007||729|
|14.||Nikon D80||132 mm||103 mm||77 mm||668 g||600||n||Aug 2006||999|
|15.||Nikon D50||133 mm||102 mm||76 mm||620 g||400||n||Apr 2005||749|
|16.||Nikon D70s||140 mm||111 mm||78 mm||679 g||500||n||Apr 2005||899|
|17.||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 obviously take relative prices into account. 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 83 percent) than the D800, 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. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D40 features an APS-C sensor and the Nikon D800 a full frame sensor. The sensor area in the D800 is 133 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 1.0. Both cameras have a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 3:2.
With 36.2MP, the D800 offers a higher resolution than the D40 (6MP), but the D800 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.88μm versus 7.85μm for the D40). Yet, the D800 is a much more recent model (by 5 years and 2 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 D800 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D800 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 36.8 x 24.6 inches or 93.5 x 62.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 29.4 x 19.6 inches or 74.8 x 49.9 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 24.5 x 16.4 inches or 62.3 x 41.6 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 D800 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 50-25600.
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under consideration, the D800 offers substantially better image quality than the D40 (overall score 39 points higher). The advantage is based on 4.3 bits higher color depth, 3.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 2.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
| DXO |
|2.||Nikon D800||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.3||14.4||2853||95|
|3.||Nikon D850||Full Frame||45.4||8256||5504||4K/30p||26.4||14.8||2660||100|
|5.||Nikon D810||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/60p||25.7||14.8||2853||97|
|7.||Nikon D610||Full Frame||24.2||6016||4016||1080/30p||25.1||14.4||2925||94|
|8.||Nikon D800E||Full Frame||36.2||7360||4912||1080/30p||25.6||14.3||2979||96|
|12.||Nikon D700||Full Frame||12.1||4256||2832||none||23.5||12.2||2303||80|
|17.||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 D800 indeed provides for movie recording, while the D40 does not. The highest resolution format that the D800 can use is 1080/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D40 and the D800 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 viewfinder in the D800 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the D40 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the D800 has a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.53x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Nikon D40 and Nikon D800 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
One feature that is present on the D800, but is missing on the D40 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.
The Nikon D800 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 D800 uses Compact Flash or SDXC cards. The D800 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D40 only has one slot. The D800 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 D800 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
Studio photographers will appreciate that the Nikon D800 (unlike the D40) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.
Both the D40 and the D800 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D40 was replaced by the Nikon D40X, while the D800 was followed by the Nikon D810. 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 what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D40 and the Nikon D800? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Advantages of the Nikon D40:
- More compact: Is smaller (124x94mm vs 146x123mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
- Less heavy: Is lighter (by 478g or 48 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (83 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in November 2006).
Arguments in favor of the Nikon D800:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (36.2 vs 6MP), which boosts linear resolution by 145%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (39 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (4.3 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (3.4 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (2.3 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/30p video.
- More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
- Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.70x vs 0.53x).
- Easier setting verification: Features a control panel on top to check shooting parameters.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
- More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (921k vs 230k dots).
- Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
- 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 (900 versus 470) out of a single battery charge.
- Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
- Faster data transfer: Supports a more advanced USB protocol (3.0 vs 2.0).
- Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
- More modern: Reflects 5 years and 2 months of technical progress since the D40 launch.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D800 is the clear winner of the contest (21 : 4 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 D800 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 specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the D40 or the D800. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.
This is where reviews by experts come in. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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.
|1.||Nikon D40||..||81/100||+ +||o||4.5/5||Nov 2006||499|
|2.||Nikon D800||5/5||+ +||82/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||2,999|
|3.||Nikon D850||4.5/5||+ +||89/100||4.5/5||5/5||Jul 2017||3,299|
|4.||Nikon D3400||4/5||+||76/100||4/5||4.5/5||Aug 2016||499|
|5.||Nikon D810||5/5||..||86/100||5/5||4.5/5||Jun 2014||3,299|
|6.||Nikon D3300||3/5||+||77/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jan 2014||499|
|7.||Nikon D610||4/5||+ +||87/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Oct 2013||1,999|
|8.||Nikon D800E||..||..||84/100||5/5||5/5||Feb 2012||3,299|
|9.||Nikon D3200||5/5||+ +||73/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Apr 2012||599|
|10.||Nikon D3100||5/5||+ +||72/100||4.5/5||4.5/5||Aug 2010||599|
|11.||Nikon D3000||..||+||72/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jul 2009||599|
|12.||Nikon D700||..||89/100||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||Jul 2008||2,999|
|13.||Nikon D40X||..||79/100||+ +||4/5||4/5||Mar 2007||729|
|14.||Nikon D80||..||+||+ +||o||4.5/5||Aug 2006||999|
|15.||Nikon D50||..||78/100||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Apr 2005||749|
|16.||Nikon D70s||..||..||..||..||5/5||Apr 2005||899|
|17.||Panasonic L10||..||85/100||+||3.5/5||4/5||Aug 2007||599|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.
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 your choice using the following search menu. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Nikon D40 vs Nikon D800
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 D800|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Digital single lens reflex|
|Camera Lens||Nikon F mount lenses||Nikon F mount lenses|
|Launch Date||November 2006||February 2012|
|Launch Price||USD 499||USD 2,999|
|Sensor Specs||Nikon D40||Nikon D800|
|Sensor Format||APS-C Sensor||Full Frame Sensor|
|Sensor Size||23.7 x 15.6 mm||35.9 x 24.0 mm|
|Sensor Area||369.72 mm2||861.6 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||28.4 mm||43.2 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||6 Megapixels||36.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3008 x 2000 pixels||7360 x 4912 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||7.85 μm||4.88 μm|
|Pixel Density||1.63 MP/cm2||4.20 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||50 - 25,600 ISO|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||56||95|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.0||25.3|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||11.0||14.4|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||561||2853|
|Screen Specs||Nikon D40||Nikon D800|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Optical viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Top-Level Screen||no Top Display||Control Panel|
|LCD Framing||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.5inch||3.2inch|
|LCD Resolution||230k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Nikon D40||Nikon D800|
|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||200 000 actuations|
|Time-Lapse Photography||no Intervalometer||Intervalometer built-in|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||Build-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||SDHC cards||CF or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Single card slot||Dual card slots|
|UHS card support||no||UHS-I|
|Connectivity Specs||Nikon D40||Nikon D800|
|Studio Flash||no PC Sync||PC Sync socket|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 3.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Headphone Socket||no Headphone port||Headphone port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Nikon D40||Nikon D800|
|Environmental Sealing||not weather sealed||Weathersealed body|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||470 shots per charge||900 shots per charge|
124 x 94 x 64 mm
(4.9 x 3.7 x 2.5 in)
146 x 123 x 82 mm
(5.7 x 4.8 x 3.2 in)
|Camera Weight||522 g (18.4 oz)||1000 g (35.3 oz)|
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