I'm new and Nikon d40x and shooting in the dark


TPF Noob!
Oct 12, 2010
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Hi guys,
I just joined today. I'm looking forward to getting to know everyone and learning about my camera. I've just started learning and have been trying to learn the basics. This question may not be basic but I have been unable to find anything on the internet, so I thought I would just ask here. I have a Nikon d40x with the factory 18 to 55 lens. If I try to take a picture in the dark (Once we were in a cave and I could not get it to take any pics) I always push the button half way down to focus it but when it is pretty dark it won't ever focus so it will never fire. Is there a way around this short of going to manual focus. I did try that but I literally would have to focus a little, shoot see how out of focus it was adjust and try again. That's a pain. So, is there something wrong with my camera that it is doing this or how does other people accomplish pictures in the dark.
Bring a flashlight, thats what I always use in dark situations like this when it won't focus.
Thanks for idea on the flashlight. Never thought of that. So, does that mean that it is normal for a SLR camera to not fire under very dark conditions.
Thanks for idea on the flashlight. Never thought of that. So, does that mean that it is normal for a SLR camera to not fire under very dark conditions.

If autofocus is enabled your camera might not find focus and therefore prevent an exposure. You can use a flashlight to focus on a near object or prefocus the camera before dark and turn autofocus off.

Shooting in a dark environment often require higher ISO and/or long shutter speeds. A tripod is needed for long shutter speeds and even a remote shutter trigger or timed shutter delay.

Research this subject, a couple sentences don't cover the entire topic.
I have a D40x too and I know what you mean.

Having the play lit up would definately help but what AF mode does is it looks for an object to af on. If your doing stand still and taking your time type things. Get an external flash (SB-600) light up your object, AF on it, then switch the lens to M focus and shoot. This really works well from what I have tried or just light up the object focus and shoot. Best of luck and if you have any questions about the D40x feel free to PM me.
I recommend you read the users manual, several times.

Page 76 of the Nikon D40X Users Manual describes AF-Assist.

The D40X has a light built into the front of it, to assist with auto focusing in low light. However, there are limits to the distance it is effective. Auto focus works by detcting contrast. In low light situations there is little contrast and auto focus may need some help

If you don't have a D40X users manual you can download it here:
I own a d40x as well and one of the things that really helped me shoot in low light/dark situations was by using a lens with a larger aperture. I bought the Nikon AF-S 35mm 1.8G. It's worked really well and will autofocus with the D40x. This is something to consider in addition to what everyone else has suggested.

best wishes
Thank you so much to everyone for your ideas on this. I will definitely have to check some of them out. I'm hoping that I may have figured out the prob. Thank you Keith for posting that about the manual. I do have my manual and the pencil (custom menu) where you turn auto assist off/on, did not have auto assist as an option. I've got my d40x book for dummies (I know, but it is simple to understand) and I had somehow turned off the full menu and turned on my menu (which I have not set up yet). I tried taking a pic in a dark room and that worked. It's the middle of the day here so I can't test out a pitch black situation, but I'm hoping that will help at least some. I do eventually want to get an external but if this doesn't help at least I do have some ideas of things to try thanks to you guys!

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