Steve's Conclusion

Steve's SnapShot
  • 10-Megapixel BSI CMOS Imaging Sensor
  • 3.0-Inch LCD Screen
  • Fast F2.0 3.8x Optical zoom lens: 28-105mm (35mm equivalent)
  • Smart Auto mode
  • Face Detection
  • Li-Ion Battery power source
  • SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slot (Eye-Fi compatible)
  • 720p HD Video Capture
  • Body comes in four stylish colors (Black, Sliver, Red, White)

  • Nice compact and stylish body
  • Superb low-light performance thanks to the HS System and fast F2.0 lens
  • Typical (good) Digital ELPH performance
  • High-speed burst mode settings; 3.2fps @ full 10-megapixel resolution or up to 8.3fps @2.5M
  • Capable Smart Auto
  • Excellent high ISO performance up to ISO 1600
  • Still offers some manual options; Av and Tv modes
  • Captures nice HD video
  • Optical zoom is operable in movie mode
  • Good battery life
  • LCD uses a wide aspect ratio, which creates a smaller view when using the highest 10M still image setting due to standard 4:3 aspect
  • Metering system produced some strong exposures with some subjects in harsh sunlight
  • Higher price tag of $349 US
Timing Test Results
  • Power up to first image captured = 2.1 seconds
  • Shutter lag when prefocused = almost instantaneous
  • Shutter lag with autofocus = approx. 2/10 of a second
  • Shot to shot delay wo/flash = 2.2 seconds
  • Shot to shot delay w/flash = 3.7 seconds
  • Sequential burst = 3.2fps @ 10M (we captured 20 frames with not buffer slow down)
  • Sequential burst w/flash = 0.92fps
  • High Speed burst mode = 8.3fps @2.5M
  • All tests taken using a high-speed SDHC card, Smart Auto mode, flash off, review on, and all other settings at default unless noted
Bottom Line
The Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS is a very appealing compact model that boasts pleasing image quality, robust shooting performance, high-quality HD video, and loads of exposure options for all users. This one comes highly recommended from the staff here at Steve's.
Pick This Up If...
You are looking for a capable pocket camera that will work well in various conditions, including lower lighting, that can also capture usable HD video.
Canon continues to produce powerful compact point-n-shoot cameras, and the new PowerShot SD4000 IS Digital ELPH is no exception. This unit's specification list reminds us of the popular PowerShot S90, with several features that are quite similar. These include 10-megapixels of resolution, a fast F2.0 3.8x optical zoom lens, optical image stabilization, and a 3.0-inch LCD screen. The SD4000 IS was designed for those who want a simple, yet powerful little pocket rocket with settings like Smart Auto. However, it does still offer a few advanced settings, like aperture and shutter speed priority.

The exterior of the SD4000 is very appealing to the eyes, especially if you've picked up the bright Red model we tested. The camera fits well in your hands if you are use to holding a compact camera, with all of the controls falling just beneath your right index finger and thumb. Controls are minimal, with most of the them built into the 4-way controller. Not only does this unit offer directional control, but there's also a handy control wheel built-in, which allows for quick navigation or changes to certain camera settings (depending on the mode being used).

To frame and view images on the SD4000, Canon equipped the camera with a nice 3.0-inch LCD screen. This unit worked well in various lighting conditions, and only shows some reflections when using it in bright sunlight; however, it never caused any real framing issues. The screen is Very prone to collecting fingerprints, so you'll want to clean it off with a cotton t-shirt or cloth often. One issue we've seen on many new compact cameras is a lessened field of view when using the maximum resolution setting of the camera; 10-megapixels in this case. Because this is a wide aspect LCD, when using the standard 4:3 aspect, 10M (Large/Fine) image quality setting, the LCD looks more like a 2.7-inch screen with black lines on both the left and right sides of the LCD. When using the widescreen still image or HD video more options, this is not the case; the camera utilizes the entire LCD area. While not a huge "con", it does reduce the viewing area when using the best image quality settings available.

Speaking of image quality, the SD4000 IS does deliver quite well in the IQ department for an ultra-compact camera. The first ever Digital ELPH model to use Canon's new HS System (High Sensitivity), the SD4000's 10-megapixel back-illuminated CMOS imager was able to produce nice clear images that show pleasing sharpness and contrast. Colors are bright an vibrant when using Smart Auto, however they are not always natural looking. You can see some examples on our samples page where we compare Auto with Program, the latter of which shows more natural looking colors. The vibrancy of the Smart Auto photos will appeal to many, as it does add a good amount of "pop" to your photos and prints. Exposure was a bit strong at times, which does result in some blown out highlights and sky detail. This is seen mostly on bright sunny days where the sun's light is quite harsh.

The 3.8x optical zoom lens offers typical coverage, with an equivalent focal range of 28 - 105mm. This will afford nice indoor snapshots of your friends and family, along with nice wide landscapes, close-up macros and portrait photos. The fast F2.0 maximum aperture at wide angle will help you produce brighter, blur-free images in lower lighting, further enhancing the SD4000's low light capabilities. Overall I feel this lens compliments the camera's HS System nicely, producing nice sharp images throughout the zoom and aperture ranges.

When shooting indoors, the SD4000 does very well for a camera of this size. Like most cameras in the compact and ultra-compact categories, the SD4000's flash unit is tiny. This means you can not expect the camera to illuminate mid to large sized rooms. I found that the flash performed well when shooting subjects that were no more than 10 feet away, depending the the zoom and ISO settings used. In Smart Auto, the camera did a great job of utilizing the SD4000's fast lens and higher ISO settings. Noise levels are below average for a compact camera. Our typical M&M man photos show that the SD4000 performs great all the way up to ISO 800. Noise levels are quite low up to this point, and even ISO 1600 looks very usable for large sized prints. You do start to see some fine detail loss, however images still look good when viewing them full screen (about 25%). ISO 3200 shows a good amount of noise and fine detail loss, however it still blows away the competition in most areas. Again, Canon has done a wonderful job of creating a true low-light pocket camera.

When shooting some of our portraits, I noticed that Smart Auto would produce some bright photos in marginal lighting, however it would also bump up the color saturation. This resulted in some unnatural looking skin tones at times, which were quite warm or "red". While this is not always a wanted look, I was still impressed at how well the camera performed in these conditions.

I was also pleased with our video results. The SD4000 can record movies at 1280x720 (720p HD), 640x480 and 320x240 resolutions, with a frame rate of 30fps for each setting. The camera also records Stereo sound, thanks to two small stereo mics mounted on each side of the lens. Another cool option on the SD4000 is the Super Slow Motion movie setting. It records video at 320x240 with a super fast frame rate of 240fps. When played back in real-time (approx. 30fps) you get a cool slow motion video. This is a very useful tool, especially if you have children or friends in sports and you want to critique their throw, swing, etc. Overall I found the SD4000 captured very nice HD videos, and thanks to the fast F2.0 lens, if did quite well in dark conditions where most cameras would have to boost the ISO to capture similar video; with increased noise to boot. You can see several movie examples on our sample photos page, including a low-light sample taken under some very dark conditions.

Powering the SD4000 is a 3.7V 1000 mAh NB-6L Li-ion battery pack. This is a robust little battery, which Canon claims can power the SD4000 for up to 250 shots on a single charge. I found this to be pretty accurate, if not a bit understated. We had no problem capturing over 245 still images, along with several short video clips (under 2 minutes each) on a single charge. This included a good amount of time sharing captured videos and photos with friends and family. Overall, I feel the SD4000 offers excellent battery life for such a compact package, and only recommend you pick up an extra battery if you're planning a vacation.

Bottom Line - Canon's PowerShot SD4000 IS continues the traditions set forth by past Digital ELPH models by offering excellent quality, performance, and features. I truly enjoyed carrying this little pocket rocket with me just about everywhere I went, and have no problem giving it our highest recommendation for those looking for a capable ultra-compact digicam. It excelled in low light both in the still photo and video departments, offers some cool and useful features (Super Slow Motion video to name one), and is quite stylish with four cool color options (Red, White, Black, and Silver). The only real issue I saw was with exposure on bright sunny days, where with some subjects (like our Cannon shot for example), the camera produced a very strong exposure blowing out several details. That said, with a street price of $349 US, the PowerShot SD4000 IS offers an outstanding value in this category. Some may feel it's expensive, however you are basically getting a slimmed down PowerShot S90 for $50 less than the S90's original MSRP.

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