If you have a bit more photography knowledge, you’ll be pleased to hear the Canon SX40 HS also offers fairly comprehensive manual control over your pictures. However, the physical interface is perhaps less well-designed for this purpose.
With just the two main dials at your disposal to set ISO, aperture and shutter speed, some significant finger-flicking is required to set everything as desired. Factor-in manual focus too, which is an option alongside Macro and Auto focusing, and it’s easy to get your fingers in a twist if you don’t have enough time to carefully compose your shot.
As with the other manual settings, focus is achieved via the back dial. It’s not an ideal set-up but nonetheless the SX40 does well here; a zoomed-in window on the display allows you to see whether you’re in focus or not. Of course, it can’t compete with a dedicated manual focus ring on a DSLR lens, but it still works ok.
The general camera settings on offer are somewhat limited. ISO settings available are unremarkable, topping out at 3200, and while the 15-second “minimum” shutter speed is fine, you lose all control over ISO settings once you go beyond a 1-second exposure. For most, this won’t prove a practical limitation, but if you’re a stargazer it’s hardly ideal. At 24mm, maximum aperture is a handy f/2.7, although when the zoom is fully extended this stops stops down to f/5.8.
If you’re after a full manual camera, we’d advise looking for something more specifically geared towards manual operation – either with a less beginner-friendly interface, or more physical controls. The SX40 doesn’t make it hard to set your own aperture, shutter speed and so on, but it does make it relatively slow. And that will often mean the difference between getting a fantastic shot and missing the opportunity altogether.
What the SX40 does give you is easy access to is its toy box of effects; there’s even a separate notch for it on the main mode dial. Yes, they’re pretty much the opposite of what most serious, manual-focus-loving photographers are after, but they are undoubtedly good fun. Here’s a few samples showing each of the eight modes in action.
Vivid cranks up the colour for a highly saturated look.
“Color Accent” lets you pick a single colour – or colour range as here – to display, leaving the rest monochrome.
Good old Black & White is exactly that.
Colour Swap lets you pick a colour to exchange for another. Here we’ve swapped the yellow of the table and pig for purple.
Fish-eye distorts the image as if you were using a fish-eye lens, making our piggie look big-headed.
Miniature Effect blurs the top and bottom of an image, mimicking the effect of a tilt-shift lens.
Posterize fiddles with the colour to create deliberate colour banding.
Toy Camera serves up a Lomo-style effect by vignetting the image.