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9/10

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It's been nearly two years since I reviewed the Canon EOS 30D, and in that time the market for mid-range semi-professional digital SLRs has become a lot more crowded. While Canon is still the undisputed worldwide DSLR market leader, it no longer has only Nikon to worry about. The EOS 40D faces some pretty determined competition, so is this upgrade of the popular EOS 30D good enough to hold onto the lead?

Launched in August last year, the 40D is currently selling for around £630 body-only, or around £860 with the EFS 17-85mm lens seen here. By comparison, the new 14.2-megapixel Sony A350 is priced at £499 body-only or £569 with an 18-70mm lens, the 14.6-megapixel Pentax K20D is £769 body-only or £799 with an 18-55mm lens, and the 10-megapixel Olympus E-510 is £398 with a 14-42mm lens. Nikon's 10-megapixel D80 is £489 body only or £645 with an 18-70mm, while the 12-megapixel D300 is £989 body only. At first glance this makes the 40D look a bit over-priced.

While the EOS 30D was only a detail upgrade over the ESO 20D, the EOS 40D is a much more substantial improvement. The most obvious change is the increase from 8.2 to 10.1 megapixel resolution, with Canon's proprietary CMOS sensor getting a thorough overhaul including improved photocell design and on-chip noise reduction, as well as 14-bit processing for better colour depth and dynamic range. When most its immediate competitors are sporting 12 or even 14 megapixel sensors the 40D could be seen as lagging behind in this department, but in reality the gains from a couple of extra megapixels are much less significant than improvements in overall picture quality. It is also possible that Canon don't want to tempt buyers away from the aging but still impressive EOS 5D professional camera, with its 12.8 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor.

Externally the body is slightly larger and 40g heavier than the 30D, reflecting its more robust construction and improved environmental sealing. The rubber seals over the I/O ports have been upgraded, but there is still no seal around the lens mount, battery hatch or buttons, and the card slot hatch has a simple sliding snap closure rather than the locking mechanism found on most other semi-pro cameras. While the camera isn't as fully weatherproof as some other DSLRs such as the Pentax K20D or Nikon D300, it is certainly tough enough to survive regular professional use. The extra weight doesn't really affect the handling, and does make the camera nice and stable for hand-held use. The shape of the handgrip has also been revised, with an indent for the second finger, and it is now more comfortable and provides a more secure grip.

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