Getting serious about photography is not a cheap endeavour. Buying a basic DSLR setup isn’t so painful, with decent models like the Nikon D3100 now available for under £400. But once you start adding the cost of the additional lenses needed for anything approaching all-purpose flexibility, you can expect to spend at least double that. If this is beyond your budget, then the Canon SX40 HS could be worth a look. It’s a super zoom bridge camera that gives you a hugely flexible focal range and plenty of potential for manual control – if not quite DSLR-rivalling image quality.
The Canon SX40 HS represents a significant upgrade over its predecessor, the SX30. It offers much faster performance, full HD video recording and improved light sensitivity for improved low-light performance. The effective resolution of the SX40's sensor is lower at 12.1 megapixels (instead of 14.1), but the sensor type has changed to a 1/2.3in CMOS type instead of the CCD type used in the SX30. Fingers crossed, this should result in better image quality. We’ll find out whether it does later.
The build hasn’t changed drastically, however. The Canon SX40 is made of hard matt black plastic, and while it doesn’t feel quite as immaculately constructed as one of Canon’s metal-bodied cameras, like the 60D or G12, it is tough and creak-free.
Some care and attention has gone into making it feel great in-hand too. The front side of the right hand grip has a lightly rubberised finish, giving it greater friction than the rest of the body, which is otherwise very smooth. Although smaller than standard SLR size, this hand grip feels comfortable and gives you a good sense of mastery over the camera’s position for one-handed shooting. It also gives you confidence that you’re not going to drop it.
The flip-up flash mechanism is wholly manual. No springs here.
There’s a thumb rest on the back too that's textured with embossed dots, giving the SX40 a bit of added purchase. If you’re used to handling a compact camera rather than a DSLR, the Canon SX40 will feel pretty chunky - it’s a lot bulkier than a regular compact. In fact, the SX40 is closer in size to the Olympus E-420, a bonafide DSLR, than it is a regular ultracompact. Of course, if you’re happy to carry around your camera in a rucksack rather than a pocket, “man bag” or handbag, then this needn’t be a problem.
On its right edge is a flap covering the miniUSB and mini HDMI ports. The latter is noteworthy because it’s CEC-compatible, meaning you can control your camera using a TV remote using it – all the better to bore your nearest and dearest with.