Canon PowerShot SX40 HS - Display, User Interface and Automatic Modes Review


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.
Canon SX40 HS 1
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.
Canon SX40 HS 7
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.

  • Sports mode lets you continuously take photos by holding down the shutter button, at a speed of roughly one per second. This is slow enough to write to SD with a fast card, so there’s no limit to the number you can take.
  • Movie Digest takes a short video clip alongside each still image, to help you keep those joyful memories even more faithfully.
  • Portrait optimises settings for portraiture.
  • Landscape does the same for landscape photography.
  • Smart Shutter takes photos either when someone winks, smiles, or when a new person enters the camera’s field of vision. Twee, but potentially quite useful for group portraits when you want to be in the shot too.
  • High-speed Burst HQ takes up to eight full-resolution shots in a row. The full eight take under two seconds to capture.
  • Handheld NightScene is for low light photography without a tripod.
  • Low Light enhances image quality in poor light but reduces overall resolution to 3MP 
  • Beach optimises the settings for those all-important holiday snaps.
  • Foliage boosts colour saturation for eye-catching nature shots.
  • Snow combats the confusion caused by all-white snowy scenes.
  • Fireworks increases the vividness of fireworks shots.
  • Stitch assist helps you to make panoramic shots.

Sports and Burst mode in particular highlight the benefits that the new DIGIC 5 image processor brings to the table, most notably the increased shooting shooting speed that the SX40 enjoys over the SX30. The eight-shot burst mode is particularly useful for sport and nature photography and yet maintains excellent image quality. Even pixel-peeping reveals no loss of clarity of detail through the eight photos. Adding further flexibility are the ten My Colours options, which subtly (or at times un-subtly) alter the colour tone of your images. In addition, the SX40 also offers the full range of white balance options.

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.