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D40 and AIS lens compatibility

Jan Van Laethem , Nov 20, 2006; 10:11 a.m.

I've read several posts about the new Nikon D40 and it's inability to autofocus with anything other than AF-S and AF-I lenses. From what I see on the spec sheet however, it does seem to accept all F mount lenses, at least they can be fitted physically, although you will loose autofocus.

My question concerns the use of AIS lenses with a D40. I understand I'd lose all metering possibilities, but I'm not too concerned about this, as my main subjects are macro, landscapes and architecture, so I have all the time in the world to take a light reading with a handheld light meter and focus, as my subjects are not going to run away. That is exactly the way I work with film SLRs, be it autofocus or not.

Is there anything that would prevent me from using manual AI or AIS lenses with the D40, other than metering? The reason I'm asking is that a D200 is way over my budget. I was kind of playing with the idea of getting a digital point and shoot camera to take with me on holidays and use my Nikon film cameras for more serious work, but looking at the prices of the higher end digital point and shoot cameras (at least the ones that provide a field of view equivalent to a true wide angle 28mm) I might be better off getting a D40 with kit lens for my holidays and also use it with my existing Nikkor lenses for the subjects I mentionned earlier.

Any thoughts on this ?

The only possible problem I see is focusing. I'm used to high eyepoint viewfinders like the F801s (N8008s) and F3. How good or bad are DSLR viewfinders in the D40/D50 price class ?




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Shun Cheung , Nov 20, 2006; 10:18 a.m.

If your Nikon lens is a manual-focus one to begin with, there is no AF with any SLR or DSLR anyway. Therefore, the fact that the D40 cannot AF with non AF-S lenses is irrelevant in this case. With the D40, there will be no metering just like with the D100, D70/D70s, D50 and D80 (as well as the film based F80/N80, etc.).

The viewfinders on the D70 and D50 are rather poor. That problem bothers some people to no end and doesn't bother some other people much. Only you can decide which camp you belong to, or most likely, somewhere in between.

I have no first-hand experience with the D40's viewfinder.

Jan Van Laethem , Nov 20, 2006; 10:58 a.m.

Thank you Shun for your comments. I forgot to mention in my original post that I also have 2 AF lenses, one of them a 105mm Micro, which I use on manual focus most of the time.

Dan Park , Nov 20, 2006; 11:21 a.m.

Why not just get a D50? You don't gain anything by getting a D40 unless smaller size and in camera editing are important to you. If you already have or would buy in the future Nikon non AFS lenses It makes no sense to buy a D40.

Nolan Ross , Nov 20, 2006; 12:08 p.m.

I would just stick to a film camera for the job. Save your pennies for the D200. I think it would be better to wait and see what happens with this one. I think it will not hold up. I bought a couple coolpix camera's at Christmas 2004 and they went to the electronics recycle bin earlier this year (low usage and gentle care).

Ray - , Nov 20, 2006; 05:06 p.m.

Jan, if you have AF lenses in the D40 it won't autofocus. It lacks the motor in the body so it relies on AFS lenses who embeds a motor in its lenses. You can still use AF lenses with meter but won't AF. You can use AI and AIS lenses but no meter and no AF.

D50 and higher will AF with AF lenses, AI AIS will not meter or AF.

Pro bodies will meter with AI AIS but not AF. AI AIS are manual focus anwyay.

Joel Berez , Nov 21, 2006; 02:04 p.m.


For your type of photography, you lose nothing important with the D40 over the D50, but gain a much more compact body, likely improvements in image quality, as well as new in-camera processing features, including a nice-looking black and white filter mode. You also gain a slightly larger viewfinder image, but you really need to check it out in person to decide if it's good enough for you.


Jan Van Laethem , Nov 22, 2006; 07:46 a.m.

Thanks to all of you for your comments.


Looking at the spec sheets and comparing D40 and D50, I see that with the D40, apart from a smaller and lighter camera, I also get more magnification in the viewfinder (0.8x versus 0.75x), a bigger LCD with better resolution and the possibility to use SDHC cards.

The fact that the D50 has a better autofocus and the D40 a higher shooting range (continuous shooting in JPEG only limited by the card) and in-camera retouching doesn't do anything for the type of subjects I usually take.

I think I will take your advice and check out a production sample when the D40 is available in the stores. With a bit of luck, I will still be able to find a D50 and compare the two. If rumours are correct that the D50 will be discontinued in the near future, maybe I can get a better price on the D50 if I decide to go with that camera.



Shun Cheung , Nov 22, 2006; 09:34 a.m.

IMO, it is a wise move to check out a production D40 first and maybe read some reviews. I am a bit surprised that Nikon introduced yet another AF module for the D40. Having only 3 AF points is somewhat limiting, especially when you shoot vertical shots.

Joel Berez , Nov 22, 2006; 08:57 p.m.


While it does seem odd that they bothered to create a new three-point AF module for the D40, Nikon has done this before with their film cameras and if it really saves significant manufacturing costs, it makes sense. The engineering cost will likely be amortized over a huge production run.

In any case, it's a reasonable short cut for this class of camera IMHO. I've been using five-point AF since the F100, but still mainly use the center point for most subjects. The extra points are really useful for action shots, which is not the greatest strength of the D40 anyway. The two outer points will still help for horizontal action and are extremely useful in auto-everything mode to keep your subjects in focus when you've got a typical off-center person or people shot.


P.S. The Katz Eye screen in my D200 lets me manually focus anywhere in the frame...

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