The Canon SX40 HS features an articulated 2.7in LCD moniotor offering a resolution of 230k-dots. This is distinctly low-res compared to the 460k-dot displays offered by competitor models such as the Panasonic FZ48 and Fujifilm HS20, while the Nikon P500 trumps all three with its 920k-dot display.
The 2.7in preview display up-close
The screen swings back 180 degrees and rotates 270 degrees vertically, letting you position it as you like for those tricky-to-capture angles. This works well, and the hinge action feels strong and reliable. There’s an electronic viewfinder too, but this offers an even lower resolution of 202k-dots and is barely 0.2in across. In use it's a bit like looking at a postage stamp very close-up and offers a poor image that lacks both contrast and clarity. Ultimately, you're better off using the 2.7in display instead.
Turning to the in-camera menu, if you’ve used a Canon in recent years then you’ll find yourself in familar territory from the get-go. If, however, you are new to Canon cameras then thankfully the SX40's interface remains pretty simple to get the hang of. Your main control dial sits up top and, like the camera body itself, is ergonomically shaped for easy and comfortable usage. It can be used to select between the various Automatic, semi/fully Manual and various Scene modes, as well as the built-in effects, video and custom presets.
The SX40's design also allows the more ambitious (or reckless) among you to adjust the main shooting settings with only your right mitt, using a combination of the main mode dial, the real thumbwheel and the directional-pad wheel. It will test the limits of your dexterity though.
Needless to say, there’s a fully automatic mode that handles virtually everything for you. With this engaged, you only need to worry about the ratio to shoot in (1:1 and 16:9 at up to 9-megapixels, 3:2 and 4:3 at up to 11- and 12-megapixel res respectively) and the quality. The SX40 is JPEG only with no facility to record images as lossless RAW files. While this will undoubtedly dissapoint serious photography enthusiasts – RAW offers significantly more post-processing flexibility – it does mean that images taken at the full 12MP rarely stray above 5MB. Indeed, they are often around the 2MB mark, meaning thousands could be stored on a 8GB SD card.
In total there are 13 Scene modes to choose from. Here’s a quick summary of what they are and what they do.
The Canon SX40 is destined to be used by many as a simple point-and-shoot camera, to which it offers the added bonus of a gigantic zoom. And as such, it performs pretty well. The auto mode is reliable and the Scene modes are intuitive enough for those who don’t know their aperture from their ISO.