Buying a camera before the digital era used to be relatively simple – you either went for the point ‘n’ click type (Polaroid, Instamatic) that did it all for you, or you went for full manual control from low-to-high spec SLRs. Now you have an ever-expanding middle-tier, such as the ‘system’ and ‘hybrid’ digital cameras that appeal directly to the serious amateurs.
Canon’s PowerShot SX40 HS falls into the hybrid category as it doesn’t have detachable lenses, but it goes a long way to providing many of the bells and whistles of a full-on DSLR. It’s a significant upgrade on the previous SX30 IS and although the exterior has barely altered, there’s plenty for Canon aficionados to get excited about with the new model.
For a start, there’s now a new HS System that combines Canon’s powerful DIGIC 5 processor, with a new 12.1 megapixel 1/2.3 type back-illuminated high-sensitivity CMOS sensor. The main emphasis here is on producing high quality, sharp images, even in low light conditions or at the end of the zoom. You still have the excellent 35x optical zoom (24 – 840 mm equivalent) as the SX30 IS, but the addition of an Ultrasonic Motor removes the annoying whirring noise that bedevils so many other digital cameras. The bespoke Zoom Framing Assist button has also been retained, making it so much simpler to track a moving subject when it strays out the frame, at full zoom.
Thanks to the HS System and the Intelligent image stabilising, we were extremely impressed with the quality, vibrancy, colour balance and sharpness of the images produced, as well as the effectiveness of the AF when shooting movies. This is another area that has been beefed up, so you can now have full HD (1080p) videos at 24fps in full stereo, with HDMI output. The other major leap forward is in the reduction of noise in dim conditions – with perfectly acceptable definition even at ISO 1600. This is partially achieved by the light balancing capabilities of the novel Multi-area White Balance facility.
However, the small (2.7″) low-resolution (230,000 dots) vari-angle LCD has been carried over from the SX30 IS. This is together with the disappointingly unhelpful electronic viewfinder, where there’s still no RAW capture possibilities – perhaps these can be addressed next time round? Also, in terms of speed of performance, there’s a dedicated scene mode called High-speed Burst HQ which can manage 8 shots at 10.3fps, but the standard continuous shooting setting manages 2.3fps and less than 1fps, with continuous autofocus on. Ultimately, it’s a question of how much you value speed over quality. The price is as low as £340 online – with the SX40 HS remaining an outstanding purchase for a hybrid camera.
Contact: 01737 220000
- Stunning quality even at full zoom and low light.
- Slow frame capture rate and no RAW.
Canon has raised the bar considerably in terms of image quality, quietness of operation and low light performance. This is thanks to its new HS System, but it's not as speedy as its rivals and it could do with a display upgrade and a RAW option.