Repair vs upgrade
May 21, 2011 10:06 AM   Subscribe

My Nikon D40 died recently. I sent it to Nikon for a repair estimate. I'm looking for any experience anyone has with having Nikon repair a camera -- and weighing that against putting the repair money toward a new camera body. If I want to go with something new, I need help with selection. More details within!

So! I've had my D40 for about 4 years, but I've used it lots. I use my camera for documenting life, vacations, blog photos, portraits, etc -- general amateur use -- as well as for (non-professional, but high quality) art projects. The repair estimate from Nikon is around $150. If I have them do the repair, there's a warranty on their work for 6 months.

I have a couple of extra lenses and accessories, so if I were to get a new camera, I would want to stick with Nikon. I need a camera that takes excellent photos, but I don't need a super fancy DSLR -- the D40 is really basic. The only thing it doesn't do that I would like is that you cannot use the LCD screen as a viewfinder. However, I could see upgrading to whatever would be the next level up from the D40 if I'm getting a new camera anyway.

I haven't shopped for cameras in many years (my husband bought the D40), so I have no idea what else is out there and what I should be looking into. Is there a newer model I should consider?

If you were in my situation, would you pay for the repair or ditch the old camera and get a new camera body, and if so, which new camera body, and where should I buy it?

Thanks, everyone!

(You may recall the tragic death of my camera from my previous question.)
posted by hansbrough to Technology (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Definitely upgrade if you can bridge the difference in cost. The D40 came out in November 2006--essentially, five years ago. Digital camera make huge leaps in my experience every two or three years, particularly at the consumer level. I'm not a Nikon person, but I'd be surprised if the successor to that camera is in the $500-550 range (assuming you're in the US).
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:24 AM on May 21, 2011

I also had a D40 that I upgraded to a D3100. This was part of a promotion where I bought a printer bundled with the camera and got a rebate check covering the price of the printer, turned around and sold the printer and old camera on eBay and recouped the cost of what I was out.

Keep an eye out for similar rebates, (if you don't mind the hassle of submitting and waiting) the D3100 was a nice step up and allows for liveview (using the LCD as a viewfinder) and 1080p video recording (neat but has limitations).
posted by Advocate, I at 10:34 AM on May 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, you two. Advocate, I'd love to hear more about your D3100 and its limitations, etc.

I am in the US, and we're also a Mac family if that matters (and it might for things like importing video).
posted by hansbrough at 10:43 AM on May 21, 2011

My SO has a D40 and recently upgraded to the D7000, which is really impressive. It is more expensive as well as bigger and heavier, though. The newer dSLRs shoot really well in low light. The site dpreview might be helpful.
posted by and for no one at 11:39 AM on May 21, 2011

It's worth bearing in mind that the shutters in DSLRs do not last indefinitely and that (as a guideline) Nikon only guarantee the shutter of the D40 for 50,000 shots. This page has some good data on D40 shutter life.

In this sense, whether spending $150 on it is worthwhile rather depends on how long it will be until the next problem with the camera arises. The D40 is a perfectly decent camera, and so if you've not used it much, and looked after it well, then mending it for $150 might be worthwhile since it sounds like you've been satisfied with the D40.

You can find out how many pictures you've taken by looking in the EXIF data (of a recent photo, obviously).
posted by mattn at 1:15 PM on May 21, 2011

Response by poster: mattn, I'm glad you brought that up because it might help to know what the repair is going to be. The problem I was having was a shutter error (it said Error: Press shutter button again; doing that made no difference). In the repair estimate, my "repair category" says "Moderate Repair, Major Parts Replaced." I'm assuming they are probably replacing the shutter. I do think I wore it out. I would say it's likely I'm near the 50,000 shot mark if not over it.

BUT, if they're replacing the shutter, will that give me 50,000 MORE shots? Because then a repair might be worthwhile...?
posted by hansbrough at 1:23 PM on May 21, 2011

Response by poster: Also, before we sent the camera to them, we tried a DIY fix that had worked for some other people on forums, etc. It involved taking the bottom of the camera off and squirting in some WD-40 to lubricate a gear connected with the shutter.
posted by hansbrough at 1:26 PM on May 21, 2011

I'm afraid I can't answer your question about how many more shots you could reasonably expect from a replacement shutter, but hopefully someone else might be able to offer some advice.

Just to clarify my previous post, Nikon's figure of 50,000 is probably not the best guide to the life of the D40 shutter, since we don't know how they come up with their guarantees policy. I just mentioned the 50,000 figure because it very approximately shows the kind of figures we're dealing with here.
posted by mattn at 1:47 PM on May 21, 2011

I have a D40 and recently got a D3100 for work. It's fantastic, and I highly recommend it. If the D40 did everything you needed it to do, a D3100 is your next stop. The video capability is much better than you'd expect (except the sound is of course terrible) but even on a plain photo level it is a joy to work with above the D40 due to... I don't know what, but it's great.
posted by soma lkzx at 2:57 PM on May 21, 2011

If you're using it enough to wear it out, then you would probably benefit from not only a replacement, but an upgrade. I'd say buy the best your budget can afford. Read the reviews carefully. The D5100 apparently shares with the D7000 a fantastic sensor, which is significantly better than older cameras at a higher ISO.

As to whether the repair is worth it - the Nikon D40 seems to be going for over $150 on eBay, so it might be worth repairing it just to sell it for profit. Probably worth a bit of research at least.
posted by Magnakai at 4:10 PM on May 21, 2011

I have had fantastic experiences with cameras repaired by Nikon. In my specific case, the motor just wore out after 4 years of use. The entire motor was replaced, and it lasted another 4 years. If the camera is doing what you need it to do, you might be well served by having it repaired instead of spending more money on bells and whistles that don't hold a lot of value to you.

All that said, I did just get the new D5100 this month, and it is fantastic.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 6:16 PM on May 21, 2011

Nikon does not guarantee any finite number of shutter actuations.

The number "50,000" is the number of actuations for which the shutter is rated by the engineers and designers at Nikon, but this in no way is under any kind of guarantee or warranty.

One hundred fifty dollars is, in the grand scheme of things, a cheap Nikon repair. It's money well spent if you like the camera otherwise.

If you don't, you'll see a significant leaps in everything from high ISO image quality to operational speed and general usability in any of the current production Nikon DSLR bodies.
posted by imjustsaying at 10:03 AM on May 22, 2011

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