Canon PowerShot SD940 IS review: Canon PowerShot SD940 IS

Not that more is expected, but the SD940 is limited to three shooting modes. A small switch on back moves you between Canon's improved automatic scene recognition called Smart Auto, Program/Scene, and Movie. The Smart Auto mode is very reliable and since it's now picking from 22 different scenes (up from 18 on the SD780), the bases are well covered. In Program you can control things such as ISO, white balance, light metering, and autofocus type or you can switch to one of 17 scene shooting options including common ones like Portrait and Indoors or specialty choices such as Long Shutter and Color Accent. The Movie mode is capable of recording at an HD-quality resolution of 720p. (For quickly connecting to an HDTV, there's a mini HDMI output behind a small door where your thumb naturally rests while shooting.) But sadly, the 4x optical zoom doesn't function while recording.

The SD940's performance is mixed. For a camera this size, a fast startup time is expected and that's what we got at 1.4 seconds. Its shutter lag was on the long side at 0.6 second in good lighting and 0.9 second in dimmer conditions. Regrettably its shot-to-shot times are not good either, taking 2.9 seconds without flash and more than 6 seconds with it on. In addition, its continuous shooting mode comes in well under some of its competition at 0.6 frames per second.

The SD940's photo quality is very good, but it is still subject to problems characteristic of point-and-shoot cameras of this size and price. Some smudginess from noise reduction starts appearing at ISO 200, but for the most part, photos are sharp with good fine detail. Subjects get noticeably softer and smoother as the ISO gets higher, but detail remains reasonably good up to and including ISO 800. While large prints may be out of the question, the noise is suppressed just enough to make 4x6-inch or smaller prints and Web use possible. A lot of the credit goes to this Canon's ability to produce photos with very good exposure, white balance, contrast, and color--especially if you like your colors vibrant, but not unnatural. There's some mild barrel distortion on the left side--typical of compact wide-angle lenses--and chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is in good supply in high-contrast areas and, depending on the picture, is visible in prints of 8x10 inches or larger.

Just like the SD780 IS, the Canon PowerShot SD940 IS is a fun camera to use. The combination of its incredibly small, simple, attractive design, ease of use, and generally fantastic photos makes it a fairly irresistible ultracompact. Performance could be better and the amount of purple fringing in my test shots bugs me, but neither are real deal breakers for me in this class of camera.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time (flash)  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T900
Canon PowerShot SD940 IS
Canon PowerShot SD780 IS
Samsung TL320
Nikon Coolpix S230

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Canon PowerShot SD940 IS

Find out more about how we test digital cameras.

Editors' Top PicksSee All


Join the discussion

Conversation powered by Livefyre

Where to Buy See all prices

Canon PowerShot SD940 IS (Back)

Part Number: 3965B001 Released: Aug 19, 2009
MSRP: $399.99 Low Price: $267.95 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Aug 19, 2009
  • Digital camera type Ultracompact
  • Optical Zoom 4 x
  • Optical Sensor Type CCD
  • Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical (image sensor shift mechanism)
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.3"