Nikon 's popular entry-level digital SLR camera, the D50, is being replaced by the 6.1-megapixel D40 just in time for Christmas.

The Nikon D40 maintains most of its predecessor's features but with added new technology pinched from the more expensive D80 (including an internal processor).

The D40 is poised to take on Canon 's recently released EOS 400D (the upgraded version of the 350D) in this year's Christmas sales. The launch follows the trend of SLR giants such as Olympus, Samsung and Pentax, as well as Nikon and Canon, releasing compact digital SLR models to entice first-time camera buyers.

The D40 is Nikon's most compact SLR to date. It's almost as small as the lightweight Olympus E-400 and a little smaller than the Canon EOS 400D.

Priced at £450, the Nikon D40 includes an 18-55mm (3x zoom) lens in a black housing. It has a quick response time of 0.18sec, which means it starts up with a barely noticeable shutter delay for those all important snapshots.

Its 2.5-inch LCD screen is half an inch larger than that of the D50. The camera has an on-screen guide to explain its various functions, and has common subject and scene modes ranged around a mode dial.

It features a light sensitivity ranging from ISO200 up to ISO1600 (with a ISO3200 booster setting if needed) with noise reduction at higher settings, and standard JPEG or best-quality RAW capture. Eight scene modes are preset for those who don't want to mess around with manual settings.

Nikon claims the rechargeable battery is good for up to 1,000 shots if you don't use flash.

The Nikon D40 is expected to go on sale on 8 December.

Key features:

  • 6.1-megapixel DX format CCD
  • Nikon Image processing engine
  • 3D Colour Matrix Metering II, 420 pixel sensor
  • New Multi-CAM530 three area AF sensor
  • ISO sensitivity range 200-1600 plus HI 1 (3200 equivalent)
  • Custom Auto ISO (selectable maximum ISO, minimum shutter speed)
  • 2.5fps continuous shooting, unlimited in JPEG
  • No status LCD, new LCD monitor based status/settings screens
  • Help suggestions on LCD monitor (e.g. scene too dark, try using flash)
  • Large 2.5in 230,000 pixel LCD monitor
  • Bigger viewfinder view (x0.8 magnification, 95 per cent coverage)
  • Short shutter lag and viewfinder blackout
  • Support for SDHC (e.g. SD cards over 2GB in capacity)
  • In-camera retouching
  • D-Lighting (shadow/highlight enhancement)
  • Red-eye reduction
  • Trimming
  • Monochrome
  • Filter effects
  • Small picture
  • Image overlay
  • USB 2.0 with PTP and Mass Storage device support
  • Very compact, light body (smaller, lighter than the Nikon D50)
  • Improved menu user interface
  • New EN-EL9 Lithium-Ion battery (7.2V, 1000 mAh)
  • New 'Version II' AF-S DX 18-55mm kit lens