Steve's Conclusion

By

Steve's SnapShot
canon_sd940_is_front.jpg
  • 12-megapixels of resolution
  • 4x "wide: optical zoom lens covers 28-112mm
  • 2.7-inch LCD with 230K pixels
  • DIGIC 4 processor for speedy performance 
  • 720p HD video recording with sound @ 30fps (640x480 and 320x240 modes available too)
  • Li-ion power source
  • SD/SDHC/MMC memory card slot
  • HDMI output

Pros
  • Pocket-sized
  • Durable metal exterior
  • Good image quality for a compact camera
  • Blazing fast shooting performance
  • Loads of user-friendly exposure options
  • Larger LCD (2.7-inch)
  • Excellent build quality 
  • Captures nice HD videos
Cons
  • LCD could use a better non-glare and anti-fingerprint coating
  • Weak flash unit
  • ISO 1600 is not really usable
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 1.4 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused  = less than 1/10 of a second
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 1-2/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 2.3 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 3.0 - 3.5 seconds
  • Burst w/out flash =  1fps
  • Burst w/flash = 0.7fps
Bottom Line
Canon has created an amazing little pocket-rocket that will make a great camera for those who are looking for a capable digicam that can be tucked away almost anywhere
Pick This Up If...
You want one of the smallest cameras on the market, while still having all the latest features, and great performance
Canon continues to add new models to their popular line of Digital ELPH models, with the PowerShot SD940 IS being one of the latest additions (as of 10/2009). This new model shares most of it's features with the SD780 IS we saw earlier in the year, including the same 12-megapixel image sensor, Canon DIGIC 4 processor, 720p HD video mode, Face detection and i-Contrast technologies, optical image stabilization, 9-point AF system, SD'SDHC/MMC memory car storage, and a Li-ion power source. Canon has upgraded the SD940 with a more versatile 4x optical zoom lens and a larger 2.7-inch LCD screen.

This is a simple to use camera that anyone in your household or office can pick up and start using right away. With an intelligent Auto exposure mode, one only needs to point-n-shoot to capture pleasing snapshots. For those who want to manually choose some of the exposure options, the SD940 offers Program mode, which has access to more advanced settings for ISO, white balance, exposure compensation, focus modes, etc. When the camera is set to Program, you also have access to 18 pre-programmed scene modes, like Portrait, which offer fully automatic operation with settings that are optimized for specific shooting situations. 

The SD940's control layout and body design are almost identical to the SD780s. These models continue the look and feel of classic ELPH models, with their ultra-compact bodies that are made from durable materials. One of the smallest models on the market, the SD940 is still comfortable to hold and operate, even for those of us with larger hands. I enjoyed carrying this camera around everywhere I went, as it slid very easily into the front pocket of my jeans or my coat pocket. 

The various camera controls are also quite small, however I never had any problems operating the camera with them. I was glad to see that that Canon has continued the use of the zoom controls mounted around the shutter release, which offers effortless zooming. The camera's menu system has not changed much from past models, so anyone who has used/owned a PowerShot model in the past will feel right at home. Each menu is logically organized, so even new users will be able to easily browse and find settings.

Like I mentioned above, the SD940 has received a larger 2.7-inch LCD display. This is the only viewfinder on the camera, and is used for framing, menu navigation, and playback. I was glad that Canon opted to upgrade the size of the LCD on the SD940, as more and more compacts these days are featuring a 3.0-inch or larger display. Overall I found the LCD worked well in various lighting conditions, although the coating on the screen does still reflect light at certain angles as well as easily collects smudges and fingerprints.

The SD940 continues the tradition of the Digital ELPH line by offers blazing fast shooting performance. This camera was able to capture its first image in just 1.4 seconds from pressing the power button! Shutter delay, the amount of time between you pressing the shutter release and the time the camera captures the image, was almost instantaneous when prefocused (aka half-press method) and just 1-2/10 of a second including autofocus. When shooting in single drive mode, the shot to shot delay was approx. 2.3 seconds between shots without the flash and between 3 - 3.5 seconds with the flash on. The camera also has a continuous shooting mode that was able to capture 10 images in 9.6 seconds, about 1fps (surpassing Canon's 0.8fps claim). This mode also works with the flash, capturing 10 shots in 14.5 seconds, almost twice as fast as the shooting in single drive mode with the flash. The above times were using Program mode. If you are using Auto, add about 1-2/10 of a second to some of these times, due to the camera's scene recognition process.  All of our tests were completed using an ATP Pro Max (Class 6) 4GB SDHC memory card, Program mode, flash off, image review on, ISO auto and all other settings at the factory defaults, unless otherwise noted. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

The SD940's image quality results were as we expected, great for an ultra-compact digicam. When shooting outside it the bright sunlight, the camera produces sharp images with good contrast and pleasing colors. The Smart Auto exposure mode does an excellent job of detecting the scene being framed, and also keeps the sensitivity as low as possible to produce the best possible images. The 4x optical zoom is also a nice improvement over the SD780. Not only does the lens offer a broader focal range, but it's a much wider lens with a 35mm equivalent range of 28-112mm. Like all of Canon's cameras, the SD940 also features their true lens-shift optical image stabilization system, which will help you capture better quality photos in lower lighting conditions. Overall this lens helped us capture some very pleasing photos, that show moderate barrel distortion at the wide angle extreme as well as slight traces of chromatic aberrations (aka purple fringing) in areas of high contrast.

When shooting indoors, the SD940 also performs well for a compact camera. Like all models of this size, the SD940 features a tiny flash unit. While it will work well for close-up portraits and macro photography, do no expect it to light your friends face from across the room. Canon claims the maximum range is up to 13 feet using ISO auto at wide angle, or 6.6 feet at telephoto. I found that shooting from about 5 feet away using the mid telephoto end of the zoom worked well for close-up portraits. The Face Detect AiAF mode performed great, finding and locking onto my subjects faces rather quickly. It also has no problem detecting small children. Noise levels from the SD940 are typical for a consumer compact. The Auto setting works very well, and is what I recommend most users leave the camera set at. It did a good job of keeping the sensitivity as low as possible. For those who want to manually set the ISO, I suggest keeping it to ISO400 or below, and only use 800 when needed. ISO 1600 should only be used out of absolute necessity. 

The SD940 offers some great video options, with three resolution setting (1280x720, 640x480 or 320x240), all with a fixed frame rate of 30fps. I found this camera has the ability to capture great little HD movies both indoors and out. Playback is nice and smooth, and I saw very little noise as long as there is plenty of ambient light. For those who want to be a bit more creative, there are the Color Swap and Color Accent modes, which allow for some fun video taking. While I was pleased with the quality of our HD clips, don't try to compare them with a HD camcorder.

Battery life was decent. Canon claims the NB-4L, 3.7V 760mAh battery pack can power the SD940 for up to 220 shots. I was able to capture over 165 photos and conclude all of our other tests on a single charge. This included several video clips as well as extended playback and menu navigation times. I highly recommend you pick up a spare pack if you are planning a vacation, or you are one who takes more than 200 photos a day. The battery is charged out of camera, so you can charge one while using the other.  

Bottom Line - like its predecessor, the SD940 is a true jem. This tiny camera is a blast to use, and the carrying options are almost limitless. It can fit into the smallest of pockets, so you can take it with you almost anywhere. The only thing I would love to see Canon add to these models would be some sort of waterproofing or weather-resistance, which would make them true "go anywhere" cameras. Canon has again designed a powerful ultra-compact package that is loaded with easy to use features. With good image quality, robust performance, and excellent build-quality, I have no problem giving the PowerShot SD940 IS a high recommendation. With a street price of US$299 or less, this camera offers a great value, and will be perfect for those who want one of the smallest model out there, without having to sacrifice features and performance.

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