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Wishlist: Nikon D40 vs Sony A200

OK, I know I don't have £250 to spend on a dSLR at the moment, but if I did, I guess these two models would be the ones I'd be looking at. They're both the same price, but have radically different features, so which one would I theoretically choose?

Nikon D40 Video:

(Click here for full review.)

On paper the Nikon d40 is the weaker camera. It's "only" got 6.1 Megapixels, has no image stabilisation, no dust removal system and can only auto-focus with af-s lenses, as it has no AF motor in the body.

One thing that I really like, and use a lot, on my S5700, is its auto-bracketing function. I use it for fast hdr's and if I'm not quite sure about the light - the D40 doesn't have this either.

So far, not so good then for the Nikon. However, if I was shooting RAW with the d40, would I really bother with HDR's that much anyway? Plus it's not too much hassle to shoot different exposures quickly using exposure compensation or manual mode.

The lack of image stabilization bothered me at first, but there's magic in that 6mp sensor. Because it's the same size as the 12mp ones in it's competition, the "photo-sites", the things that pick up the light, are bigger. This means that not only does the Nikon sensor (which by the way is made by Sony) create less noise, it's base ISO is actually 200 - so its a "faster" sensor, meaning that you're less likely to be caught out with motion blur or camera shake anyway. I've also got to the point with my S5700 (which has a base ISO of 64) where I very rarely get camera shake anyway. I use my tripod, keep an eye on the aperture / shutter speed / iso combination and adjust those before I shoot.

Lack of dust removal is another concern, but to be honest I can't see me buying many lenses to start off with anyway, so they'll be little chance of dirt getting inside the camera!

Let's take a look at the Sony a200.

(Click here for the full review at

The Sony a200, in comparison to the Nikon d40, has a load more features. We've got a bigger sensor, image stabilisation, longer focal length zoom, dust removal, auto-bracketing, wireless flash control built in - very, very well specified for an entry-level dSLR at £250.

The image stabilisation is built into the body - so any lenses you buy (including old Minolta ones) - can take advantage of this feature. It'd also make your kit bag lighter if you're carrying multiple lenses, because they don't need it to be built into them.

That bigger 12mp sensor means that images can still be severely cropped in post processing (something I do a lot) yet still retain good resolution - great for any stock images that need a good trim.

Dust removal speaks for itself, the auto-bracketing would be great for my HDR's, and the thought of being able to use this camera with compatible slave-flashes for strobist-like shots blows my mind. (You can do it with the d40 but you've got to buy a replacement speed-light).

One thing that might annoy me about the a200 is the way it copes with auto-focus in low light. Instead of shining an orange light to help with AF assist, the flash pops up and strobes until the focus is locked. OK with inanimate objects, but people might not like it....


Wait a minute I hear you say, what about image quality? Surely this is the most important thing?

Well, both the Nikon d40 and the Sony a200 take excellent pictures - you can see their respective photographs on Flickr. (D40 group, A200 group).

So I'm still not sure.

My heart says "D40 - its small, light, got a great sensor, great images, and it's a NIKON for Gods Sake!"

My head says "Are you kidding? For the same price you can get the Sony A200 with 12mp, great for stock, image stabilisation, dust removal, bracketing, wireless flash control - there's no contest!"

They're still arguing, and I don't know who to listen to.....

Cheers, Rob.

Reader Comments (9)

Hi Rob,

Yeah, it's always hard to select your dream camera. I've had the same problem and to make a final decision I relied almost exclusively on camera reviews and their ratings. My favourite websites is the site you mentioned cameralab and the other is

I've enjoyed your site very much and hope to soon go for a photowalk with my new canon 40D.


September 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMaurizio

Thanks Maurizio, I really appreciate your comments, glad you enjoyed the site!

You're right, dpreview is probably the best in-depth camera review site - they're just very, very long!

Cheers, Rob.

September 21, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

do not get into fuss of Sony, try to understand Nikon is Nikon. I bought Sony A200 first upon here in London, in low light condition A200 is hopeless, I mean if you are thinking of indoor shooting, forget it. I returned that camera n bought D40 with 20 pounds refund though, n trust me or not D40 is far better than A200. Don't get your self in to mega pixel war. Read Gordan's review at cameralabs or go to dpreveview or anywhere u will find D40 is the best budget DSLR. If not then what you can do is, keep D40's money for few months, and control on your mind, wait get some money n buy D80. :)

December 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commentershail

Hi Shail,

Great advice!

Cheers, Rob.

December 18, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn


If you were unable to take pictures in low light with a Sony A200 then I am afraid that you know nothing about aperture, speed and ISO! Just stick it on auto and hope for the best eh?

I take pictures with my A200 at NIGHT and will be taking pictures on my A200 long after you have packed your camera away. But then I know how to use a camera and select a proper lens for the job.

January 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterEd

I have the same dilemma. I'm learning with Canon A590IS and gathering money for my first dSLR and I wanted D40 and 50mm 1.8 lens, maybe even that new one 35mm 1.8 AF-S that should be out now or in next month, but then I've seen some article in a foto magazine and got confused.

I use tripod, so I dont need IS/VR in 90% od time, I like to take pics of architecture and portraits, nothing fast-moving, and I know that D40 sensor is pretty cool with large pixels that are less prone to heating up and creating noise...

Only think about Sony is "newer technology" and "anti-dust" thingie...

Think I will go with D40kit + 35mm f/1.8 AF-S in the end if someone does not present me with good reasons to go on sony system instead of Nikon/Nikkor.

March 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterWalker

I also use a Sony A200 and LOVE IT. I also use it at night. I took it down town and took pictures of the bridge. They came out great! You should read up more on night shots.

August 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterstephen

I went through the same comparison you did. I ended up going with the a200 and I have had no regrets. One thing I really like about Sony is that you are open to a whole range of great Minolta lenses that will work on these Sony DSLRs. And if you're looking at these models then you're probably going to be on a budget for lenses also (I know I was). And to the point of the a200 being bad in low light, well that is mostly dependent on how fast the lens is and whether or not you use a tripod (at least in my experience). There are some great Minolta lenses on eBay that you can get pretty cheap. I got all of my equipment used on either eBay or Craigslist and I am very happy with my setup. I got:

- Sony a200 w/ 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 (kit) - $300
- Minolta 28-85mm f/3.5-4.5 - $50
- Minolta 50mm f/1.7 - $95
- Minolta 70-210mm f/4 - $155

I would call that a pretty complete beginner set and all for $600. All equipment was used, but in great condition. Those Minolta lenses are built like tanks and the pictures they take are surprisingly sharp. They absolutely blow the kit lens out of the water.

So, for me the a200 was a value proposition. In my mind the only thing that I didn't get was the clout that comes with owning a Nikon product. But I can probably get by without that.

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered Commentershawn

Great reply shawn, looks like you've got some great kit there!

September 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob_Nunn

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