My college age son has been bugging me to give him a camera. I want to pick-up a used starter kit for about $300, including a kit zoom, charger and battery. I have a D50 (which was my first DSLR) from seven years ago, but I want to keep that for myself. It works perfectly, and I still use it for snaps and other non-critical work. It lays around my house with a normal lens on it for grab shots. I don't mind putting it in situations where I wouldn't risk damage to my newer cameras. I use a D7000 for my important shots. Also, I have a lot of pre-AFS lenses that still work on the D50 - Nikon's newer low-end DSLR's don't AF with those.
Sooooo, I can get a D50 or a D40 kit for my budget (with the same 18-55 lens). I've never shot with the D40, but I know it has a newer sensor with more resolution, and it has a vastly superior rear LCD (which is my biggest beef with the D50). Some of the D40 kits also come with the newer VR version of the kit lens. On the other hand, the D50 can share all of my older lenses. It also has the top LCD, which I would really miss (but would he?), and has more external controls (again, is this an issue with a complete beginner?).
My son will probably use this mostly for people shots of his friends, and occassional site-seeing when he travels. He'll probably not use it much in low light without flash, or for action shots.
What do you think? Newer, better sensor and bigger/better LCD...or...backward lens compatibility and external better controls? If anybody has shot with both, I'd appreciate your feedback on whether the D40 has a significant increase in image quality over the D50.