The rest of the SX40's features remain the same as that found on the SX30, like a sweet 2.7-inch rotating LCD, an extremely versatile 35x optical zoom lens (24-840mm equivalent), high-resolution EVF, manual pop-up flash unit, hot shoe for external speedlites, HDMI output, and a plethora of exposure modes and options that will fit the needs of most any user; from beginner's to advanced enthusiasts.
Like the SX30, the SX40 offers a dSLR-like feel in your hands. This gives you a good firm hold on the camera with an enlarged hand grip on the right and easy to reach controls both on the grip and back of the camera. We found that all of the controls were well placed and easy to access with the thumb and finger of the right hand. The SX40 continues the use of a sweet vari-angle 2.7-inch LCD screen, which gives you a great deal of versatility in composing your shots thanks to the ability to manipulate the LCD screen to various angles, helping you see your subject when shooting in difficult positions; like over a crowd, at waist level, etc. I find that this also comes in handy when shooting on a tripod, whether you're doing product type photography, or you just want to give your subject a peak at the photo without having to disconnect the camera from the tripod. Canon notes that the display can be rotated 175 degrees horizontally or 270 degrees rotationally. Other handy controls include the Zoom framing assist button, which allows you to quickly zoom out to wide angle when you're using the telephoto end of the zoom range. This helps you locate your subject while the button is held down, then immediately zooms back in to the focal length you were at initially.
During our testing, the SX40's 2.7-inch LCD was a pleasure to use in most all lighting conditions. While the surface of the display can reflect bright light sources at certain angles, we had no problems seeing our subjects outdoors in right sunlight. Indoors the display gains up well, helping you see in no so perfect conditions. While you may see a bit of graininess when shooting in marginal lighting, this should not be frowned upon when you consider the fact that you can actually see your subject; something that can be much more difficult in these conditions when shooting with an optical only viewfinder. For times when it's just too bright outside, or for those who like a most classic framing approach, the SX40 offers a high-resolution EVF. The EVF is made up of a tiny LCD in a magnified eye-piece, which offers 202,000 dots of resolution. I found the EVF's picture to be high-quality, however the magnification would be better; seems a bit small inside the eyepiece. The rubber eye-cup is more comfortable than some others, however it's still a bit hard. When in lower lighting, I found that sometimes the screen would show some anomalies when zooming in or out, which would not show up until just after you stop zooming. The white balance also seems to be a bit off compared to the LCD, showing slightly different colors than the rear display. Overall, I had no hard complaints against the EVF.
When it comes to composing your shots, there's very few cameras on the market that can match the SX40's versatility, thanks to its impressive 35x optical zoom lens. This unit covers a 35mm equivalent focal range of 24 - 840mm!! That's sufficient for vast landscapes, large group shots, portraits, close-ups, and zooming across the football field to tightly frame a player. The zoom mechanism is not continuous, however it does offer various steps from wide angle to telephoto (about ), which allows you to precisely frame your subject(s). The barrel of the lens has focal range marks to help you determine the approx. 35mm equivalent range you are currently shooting at. To help decrease the likelihood of blurry images, Canon has incorporated their true lens-shift Optical Image Stabilization technology into the SX40's lens. This not only helps when using the telephoto end of the zoom handheld, but also when shooting in lower lighting conditions. They also added their newer Intelligent IS technology, which automatically chooses between the available IS modes to best fit the needs of the scene being framed. To further enhance your low-light shooting, the lens on the SX40 boasts a maximum aperture range of F/2.7 - 5.8 (wide - telephoto), which is quite fast for such a broad zoom lens. We found this lens helped the SX40 capture tack sharp images throughout the zoom and aperture ranges with minimal to average instances of distortions (barrel distortion, pincushioning) and other aberrations (CA, etc.).
Image quality is pleasing for a camera with a 1/2.3-inch image sensor. For those of you who follow Canon's SX-series, you may wonder why Canon dropped the megapixel rating on the SX40 compared to the SX30 (12-megaixels vs 14). The reason for this is they wanted to incorporate their new HS system, which uses a faster, more sensitive CMOS image sensor; compared to the CCD unit found in the SX30. This sensor was also added to help boost the camera's high-speed burst capabilities from a max. of 1.3fps on the SX30 to a whopping 10.3fps on the SX40. 12-megapixels is still way more resolution that the average user needs, and even those who like large prints will be covered by the SX40's output. The majority of our photos captured with the SX40 HS were of high quality, showing excellent exposure with rich color saturation. Images are nice and sharp with a hig degree of fine detail, and contrast is also pleasing. Luminous image noise was a bit higher than I had hoped to see when looking in shadow areas, even at the lower ISO settings. Of course, this can only really be seen when critically inspecting photos at the pixel level (100% viewing, aka pixel peeping). Otherwise, the SX40 HS handles image noise rather well all the way up to its maximum ISO setting of 3200. Even at this high of a setting, the SX40 HS is able to retain a good amount of fine detail, thus producing an image that looks pretty good at full screen viewing. Of course, the lower the lighting on the subject, the more likely it is that the noise will become more noticeable. If you look at our M&M man photos, you can see that the SX40 HS does better than the a large percentage of point-n-shoots when when shooting at ISO 1600 and 3200. This makes the SX40 HS yet another "HS" labeled PowerShot that produces above average results at higher sensitivity levels, meaning that Canon's HS system is working.
Moving indoors we saw the SX40 continued to produce nice photos. Thanks to a powerful built in flash, you'll have plenty of illumination in marginal lighting conditions. With an effective range of up to 23 feet at wide angle (or 9.8 feet at full telephoto), the SX40's manual pop-up flash unit is one of the more powerful units out there. Looking over our indoor close-up portraits, we can see that even when using the mid telephoto end of the zoom to tightly frame our subjects face we have plenty of illumination to light up both our subject and the background. Our flash images show pleasing facial features and natural looking skin tones. The camera performed well in Smart Auto, thanks in part to the fact that the camera uses Face Detection as the default Focus mode. When Face Detection is being used, the camera is able to quickly find and lock onto faces within the frame; even in marginal lighting. Overall, the SX40 HS did very well indoors, especially for the posted portraits we captures of my daughter. If you need even more lighting versatility, the SX40 HS does offer a hot shoe for attaching external speedlites, like the affordable 270 EX ($159.99 USD), all the way up to the professional level 580EX II ($499.99 USD).
Like we mentioned earlier, Canon has beefed up the SX40's video capabilities over its predecessor. You now have the ability to capture full HD video at 1080p (1920x1080) resolution, with a frame rate of 30fps (29.97fps to be exact). You also have access to some lower resolution settings, like 720p (1280x720) and VGA (640x480). For Apple users, you'll be happy to see that the SX40 HS offers an iFrame shooting option, which records video in the Apple iFrame format for easier integration and editing on Macs and other Apple devices. Another cool feature on the SX40 is Super Slow Motion Movie. Here the camera records video at super fast rates, which when played back look like slow motion clips. You can shoot at either 240fps (320x240) or 120fps (640x480). Lastly, unlike most super or mega-zoom cameras, the SX40 does allow you to have full use of the 35x optical zoom lens while you are recording video. This adds greatly to flexibility of this camera in movie mode, giving you freedom to be more creative with your videos; and it ensures you won't miss the action if it moves further away. Overall, the SX40 can capture so good quality video using current point-n-shoot standards. Will the SX40 beat out even an inexpensive HD camcorder; No. However, if you need or want to capture some video to share with friends and family, the SX40 should have no problem stepping up to the plate.
Canon has also upgraded the SX40's power supply. The camera now uses a NB-10L, 7.4V 920mAh Li-ion battery pack instead of the NB-7L pack used with the SX30. Battery life claims are about the same, 400 shots with the EVF used 100% of the time, or 380 shots using the LCD 100% of the time. Either way, this is excellent battery life that is above average by far. We had no problem shooting over 125 photos, several short video clips, and completing our other routine tests with power to spare. The battery should be sufficient for most users needs and usage requirements, however we do recommend you consider adding a second battery pack to you purchase if the budget allows. This is due to the fact that the NB-10L pack is charged in a handy AC charger, which has fold away prongs for easy storage. You can always have a spare pack charged or charging, while you are using another; almost eliminating the possibility of loosing a once in a lifetime shot due to a dead battery.
Bottom Line - Canon continues to create powerful mega-zoom cameras in their SX-series, and the SX40 HS is no exception. This camera oozes with versatility, thanks to the inclusion of their HS system, a massive 35x optical zoom with optical image stabilization, and a host of exposure options to fit the needs and experience of most any user. The SX40 HS is a robust camera with excellent shooting performance, and very good image quality. Like every camera, it does have some downfalls, but overall this is a solid camera. With a MSRP or $429.99 USD, the SX40 will set you back a good amount. However, with the quality, versatility and performance you are receiving, we feel it offers excellent "bang for your buck" and we highly recommend this camera to those looking for a more capable camera system, but are not quite ready to jump into the EVIL or dSLR worlds.
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