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First, don't agonize. If you choose one and decide you would like to try the other, you can always sell it and switch. You'll see that this is common with lots of equipment - just look at the Buy and Sell board. I recently chose between these two as my back up body. Both will allow you to take great pictures I'm sure and everyone has their own priorities. I chose the D50 mainly because it allows me to use non-AFS lenses and I didn't want to be limited to just AFS. I have a young daughter who likes to shoot with me so I wanted to be able to put a 35 or 50mm prime on it and let her go. If you don't have lenses yet, that won't matter much to you. The important thing is to get out there and start shooting.
It depends upon how you think you'll go on in photography. If you are planning to juse this primarily as a sophisticated point-and-shoot and will be content with the kit lens and/or the 18-200mm VR or other AF-S lenses only, then the D40 is a great little camera. I love it for its portability, which means that I always have it with me. Yesterday I was at work and we had an event going on and I said, "oh -- I've got a camera with me, I'll be happy to take photos!" and promptly pulled out the D40 and shot away. It's small and light enough that it'll fit in many messenger/duffel bags without the need for a regular camera bag.
In my case, the D40 is not my only camera. I use it as a sophisticated P&S and enjoy its light weight and portability while still being able to take advantage of the fact that it is a DSLR and will therefore have better image quality (larger sensor) and the possibility of swapping out lenses.
Now, if this is to be your ONLY camera and if you're thinking of possibly getting more involved in photography, then you might better take a look at the D50. Why? Well, it's small and light, too, just a little larger than the D40, and also uses the SD memory like the D40. The big difference here is that unlike the D40 it will accept all AF lenses in addition to AF-S lenses and you can also use some of Nikon's older manual AI-S lenses on it as well (although you won't be able to meter with the camera). This has advantages, of course. Some of Nikon's finest lenses are the AF lenses -- especially the primes -- and the AI-S lenses. They're often a LOT less expensive than the AF-S lenses.
You're probably blinking in confusion at all these acronyms I"m tossing around. Basically the advantage of the D50 over the D40 is that you can use any of Nikon's autofocus lenses on it and it will autofocus for you. With the D40 you can use the AF-S (Autofocus lens with Silent Wave motor) and get autofocus but when you put a regular autofocus lens (AF) on it, you will need to focus manually. This isn't a bad thing, actually, especially if you have good eyesight! It just takes a little longer, a little more patience, etc. I've used AF and manual lenses on my D40 with no problems.
In short:for growing into photography, probably the D50 would be your best bet. You can buy one with the kit lens, and then buy the reasonably-priced 50mm f/1.8 AF prime lens for it (this is a "fast" lens for use in low light situations) and the new 70-300mm VR for long reach and you're in business for a while!
As a beginner who wants to learn photography, I think you'd be better off with a D50. The D40 definitely closes doors on AF use of a lot of lenses; that's not a position in which a beginner should be placed.
I think the D40 is best suited for a beginner who has no plans to change that status or a somewhat knowledgeable photographer who can recognize and work around that body's AF limitations. If they made a D50 with the larger LCD monitor and viewfinder image, I'd be a buyer.
Read the review and various articles Thom Hogan writes and posts on his website: www.bythom.com. He makes good sense when he discusses these various issues and those of with less experience, be it with digital photography generally or Nikon cameras in particular, can get a different and fresh perspective sometimes. As I recall, he makes a good case for the D40x vs the D50.
I myself am a D40 owner. I have worked with Pentax and film years ago (just as amateur) but stopped for a few years and came back to purchase the Nikon D40. Not too happy about having to purchase AFS lenses only unless I want to manual focus..but no biggie. I really do love my Nikon!
hi, i am also new on this forum and also thinking of buying the D40 or the D50 or D80, from money bases choises i now focusing on the D40, at first i must say you are right about the lenses issue but the more i read and look into lenses i am asking my self how much will that be of issue. I mean, when you just start using a dslr you probably will buy an easy lens and that would be a nikkor VR lens in most cases, and also you wil get the kit lens that comes with the big toy. All the VR lenses have the AF-S or AF-I so you can use them on the D40 and it depends on how serious you will get if you will buy those other lenses. Also if you see people who actually are getting all the other lenses you find them jumping in one or two years to the d80 or higher models.
so i don't think the lens issue is that big in the beginning, but i could be wrong, (please tell me then)
I also own a D40 and i love it. I do feel limited with my lenses, but it is the challenge of making it work no matter what. I tried my friend's 50mm 1.8 and messed with manual focus. It was a little hard, but challenging.
Let me start by saying that I don't own a D40.
I do, however, own a D50. The D50 is a very capable camera delivering superb jpegs, straight out of the camera. I hear that the D40 does this trick even better and with less noise.
A point that has been mentioned here is about the D40 only being able to be used with AF-S lenses. I t was my understanding that the D40 has no focus motor, to keep the price down and because as we go forward, just about all lenses will have their own motor built in, such as the Nikon AF-S (silent wave motor) AND, Sigma with their HSM (Hyper sonic motor).
The older cameras have an AF motor drive that locks into the lens when they are coupled and spins like a screw driver to manipulate the focus by moving the elements backward and forwards within the lens.
My long winded reply was basically to tell you that 3rd party lenses that have their own focus motor built in can be used on the D40.