Before we discuss the Canon SX40’s image quality any further, we should flag up the obvious – while Superzoom cameras may look a bit like DSLRs, they use physically smaller sensors and therefore can’t hold a candle to the real deal in terms of overall image quality. If image quality tops your list of priorities, then you should probably be on the lookout for a budget DSLR and forget all about the ear candy of this camera’s fabulous 35x optical zoom.
However, within its category the SX40 HS is a great performer, with very sharp images, fairly decent colour reproduction and hugely improved speed over the SX30. Low-light performance is not stellar as you might expect, but is commendable given the SX40’s relatively small-sensor. This may be in part down to the backlit sensor technology that allows more light through to the sensor – which should, in theory at least, reduce noise. As you can see in our ISO test, the SX40 HS jumps the shark in imaging terms at ISO 1600, where noise really starts to creep in and rob images of their detail.
Shot at 840mm, full zoom
As is de rigeur for all top cameras of the moment, the Canon SX40 can record video at 1080p full HD resolution, at 24fps. Autofocus remains operational while recording too, making it genuinely useful to take videos with while you’re on holiday. As with photos, it gets a bit noisy in low-light conditions, but it can handle motion just fine – so no need for any of those interminable super-slow pans.
On top of its standard video shooting modes (1080p, 720p and VGA capture) the SX40 HS also presents you with a pair of high-speed shooting modes. These capture images at 120fps and 640×480 pixel resolution or 240fps and 320×200 pixels. This is too low-quality for any serious usage, but it is bags of fun, slowing down action as if it were a part of some cheesy action movie.
If you can bear the limitations of a Superzoom camera and can live with the fact that images will be noisier than a DSLR, and that it’s not 100 per cent tailored to manual use either, then the Canon SX40 HS is a near-perfect choice. It offers a longer zoom than the Panasonic FZ48, a competent CMOS sensor and a wide, if not flawless feature set. Overall, it’s a very worthy successor to the SX30.
The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS is a brilliantly versatile bridge camera whose key feature, that 35x optical zoom, is made all the more attractive by an excellent image stabilisation system. Picture quality is good and overall speed is much improved over its series precursor, the SX30. If you can live without the picture quality perfection and improved low light performance of a DSLR, this is a great buy.