Canon PowerShot SX40 HS

The SX40 is ideal for photographers who want one of the longest lenses currently available on a superzoom camera.

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Lexy spent her formative years taking a lot of photos and dreaming in technicolour. Nothing much has changed now she's covering all things photography related for CNET.

Looking for a camera to take you closer to the action than ever before? We may have found it for you. Enter stage left the SX40 HS from Canon.

Design and features

Shaped a bit like the love child of Darth Vader and a digital SLR, the SX40 HS has one of the longest optical zooms currently on the market at 35x. Although the SX40 HS doesn't look that much different from its predecessor (in fact, hardly any external changes have occurred), the insides have been given an overhaul. Namely, the sensor has been changed to a backlit CMOS one, like the other Canon cameras with the HS tag.

The lens itself is unchanged from the SX30, sporting an f/2.7-5.8 maximum aperture at either end of the telephoto range, and the screen still rotates and flips out. The resolution is somewhat disappointing, though, at 230,000 dots and just 2.7 inches, which puts it way behind the bigger, brighter screens from its competitors. The electronic viewfinder, located just above the screen, is small but useful when composing images in bright situations. Its resolution also pales in comparison to other models on the market, at just 202,000 dots.

Shooting control is provided via the indented mode dial with a rounded centre, providing a convenient thumb rest when gripping the camera with the right hand. Photographers can choose between full PASM controls, on top of automatic, portrait, scene, landscape and sports modes. The usual fish-eye, toy camera, miniature and colour modes, as found on other Canon cameras are available on the SX40, as well. Full HD video recording is available at 1080p.

The SX40 HS also features Canon's latest image-stabilisation technology, which identifies what sort of stabilisation needs to be applied to the scene: either normal, macro, shooting while walking, using a tripod, panning or shooting with telephoto zoom.

Connectivity is provided by mini-HDMI and USB out on the side of the camera.

Compared to

FZ150 vs. P500 vs. SX30
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 Nikon Coolpix P500 Canon PowerShot SX40 HS
12.1-megapixel MOS sensor 12.1-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor 12.1-megapixel backlit CMOS sensor
3-inch, 460,000-dot articulating LCD 3-inch, 920,000-dot flip-down LCD 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot articulating LCD
24x optical zoom, 25mm wide-angle 36x optical zoom, 22.5mm wide-angle 35x optical zoom, 24mm wide-angle
HD video (AVCHD, 1080p, 30fps) HD video (MPEG-4, 1080p, 30fps) HD video (H.264, 1080p, 24fps)
Pop-up flash, hotshoe Pop-up flash Pop-up flash, hotshoe
AU$799 AU$599 AU$599


General shooting metrics (in seconds)

  • Time to first shot
  • JPEG shot-to-shot time
  • Shutter lag
    Panasonic Lumix FZ150
    Nikon Coolpix P500
    Canon PowerShot SX40 HS

(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Continuous shooting speed

  • 5.5
    Panasonic Lumix FZ150
  • 2.2
    Canon PowerShot SX40 HS
  • 2.1
    Nikon Coolpix P500

(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Canon rates the battery at 380 shots when using the LCD, and 400 shots when using the viewfinder. The SX40 can take images in various continuous modes; the mode measured above was standard continuous, where the camera can take an almost unlimited burst of images at 2.2 frames per second. There is also continuous-shooting AF mode, which autofocuses between shots and a high-speed burst mode (through the scene mode menu) that takes eight shots in quick succession.

Image quality

The SX40 uses the same 12.1-megapixel high-sensitivity (backlit CMOS) sensor that the other HD cameras from Canon are using, such as the 1100 HS. As such, image quality is reasonably consistent between them, apart from the inevitable variations because of the SX40's longer lens. Expect punchy colours on default settings, and good lens sharpness from end-to-end, with only a little distortion visible at its widest reach.

A shot taken without flash (left) and with flash (right), showing the warmer colour cast caused by the flash.
(Credit: CBSi)

Suffice to say, image quality has definitely improved from the SX30, and the tweaks to the image stabiliser have made photos taken at the telephoto length of the lens much better and sharper. Still, there is a degree of over-processing visible when inspecting photos at their full magnification, and using the pop-up flash does produce a much warmer and slightly more yellow colour cast. The lens isn't perfect, either, still exhibiting a degree of fringing on images and some chromatic aberrations in situations with contrasts between highlights and shadows.

A full-resolution crop (inset) of an image taken at 35x optical zoom. As you can see, the image at reduced resolution behind the crop is perfectly usable for web and small prints, showing the improvement in image quality over the previous generation's sensor used in the SX30.
(Credit: CBSi)

The lack of RAW capabilities is a shame, as we're sure that the straight image from the sensor can be made a lot cleaner than the JPEG version processed by the camera. Video quality is good, with clear and well-defined sound from the microphone, and a reasonably sharp video image. The image-stabilisation system also works very effectively to compensate for a range of vibrations, such as when walking.

Image samples

Exposure: 1/1250, f/4, ISO 160

Exposure: 1/50, f/4, ISO 500

Exposure: 1/30, f/2.7, ISO 800

Exposure: 1/20, f/4.5, ISO 1600

(Credit: CBSi)


The SX40 is ideal for photographers who want one of the longest lenses currently available on a superzoom camera. Its top-of-the-line specs, including a small LCD screen, unfortunately fall behind those of the rest of its competitors, and the images from the SX40 don't match those delivered by the current best-in-class superzoom. However, wildlife photographers or travellers looking for a huge zoom will find few faults with the images from the SX40.

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mouldfield posted a comment   

How do you find the sx40 performs for portraiture?


JoelXray posted a comment   

Is this camera good at recording indoors? If so does it record a LED tv well? i would like to start recording gaming on my tv, but my current camera only does up to 480p. I know that the SX40 HS does full 1080p(1920 x 1080 frames), and it has the option of using 720p(1280 x 720 Frames) which I want to use, I dont want to use 1080p recording because its only 24fps (frames per second) which will make the video a bit choppy. Soo summing all that up I want to know if it records indoors with good sound and whether it will record a tv or not. Thank you to anyone that replys


TommyC posted a reply   

No problem, it will record any thing indoors, even at dawn or dusk, you can even make 120 or 240 fps slow motion recordings, though not in HD.

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