Canon PowerShot SX40 HS review: Canon PowerShot SX40 HS


Canon kept the shooting-mode dial uncluttered so you can quickly find the option you're after.

With its new CMOS sensor and Digic 5 image processor, I had high hopes that the SX40 HS would be significantly faster than its predecessor. It's not. I mean, it's improved, but not by much. It goes from off to first shot fairly quickly at 1.6 seconds and then slows down to 2.5 seconds from shot to shot. Shutter lag--how long it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture--is very good at 0.4 second in bright lighting and 0.6 in dimmer conditions. That was in lab tests, though, and in my testing the camera felt slow to focus. What did show more improvement were continuous shooting speeds. Canon includes a full-resolution, eight-shot-burst scene mode that is capable of up to 10 frames per second. This sets focus and exposure with the first shot, but that's common with these modes. There is also a continuous shooting setting that hits about 2.3fps (again, with focus and exposure set with the first shot) and a continuous with autofocus that is far slower, but at least it's an option.

The SX40 HS uses the same design from 2010's SX30 IS, looking somewhat like a compact version of a Canon EOS Rebel dSLR. At the front of the large, comfortable grip is a shutter release with a lever for operating the extreme 35x zoom lens followed back by a shooting mode dial and power button. Though the motor moves the lens smoothly, it's slow and takes too long to move the lens in and out. A Zoom Frame Assist button on back next to the thumbrest helps a bit by pulling the lens back and sending it forward again when released, but it's still too slow when trying to track a moving subject.

Below the Zoom Frame Assist button to the right of the thumbrest are Play and AF Frame Selector buttons, the latter allowing you to move your AF frame according to where you want the camera to focus and change the size of the frame. Below that is a control dial that sits on top of a four-way directional pad. The dial is used for navigation as well as changing settings. This includes changes to shutter speed and aperture; notably absent is a thumb dial for doing these things. The dial moves too freely with no real stops, too, so it's pretty easy to blow past whatever it is you're trying to set.

The directional pad also sets focus type, exposure compensation, ISO, and the self-timer. The Func/Set button at the center of the dial selects options and brings up shooting-mode-specific settings. A separate Menu button below the dial brings up the rest of the camera options. It's joined by a Display button.

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS controls
It's great Canon includes a programmable shortcut button, but switching between the EVF and LCD is infuriatingly slow using the Display button.

The Display button is what's used to move back and forth from the 2.7-inch rotating LCD to the small and somewhat dim electronic viewfinder (EVF) for framing shots. That would be fine if you didn't have to cycle through different display settings to switch from one to the other: low-info LCD, detailed LCD, low-info EVF, detailed EVF. What's worse is that there are some modes that use the Display button to access secondary functions, so if you're in one of those and want to switch from the LCD or EVF, you have to leave the shooting mode you're in first. Or, you can flip out the LCD, which automatically turns on the LCD if you're using the EVF. Similarly, flipping the LCD to face into its cavity turns on the EVF. It's ultimately a very frustrating design choice and Canon should have used an LCD/EVF button placed next to the EVF like every other manufacturer. There are buttons on either side of the EVF, though. On the left is a programmable shortcut button, and on the right is a one-press record button for capturing movies. If you want additional movie shooting options, though, you can select a full Movie mode on the shooting mode dial.

In the end, the controls are fairly easy to use, but definitely take some practice if you're not familiar with Canon's menus and controls. Even seasoned Canon users will want to examine the full manual, though, included on the software disc bundled with the camera.

If you're looking for AA-size batteries for power, you'll have to look elsewhere; the SX40 uses a large lithium ion rechargeable pack that's rated for up to 400 shots, which was backed up in my testing. The battery is located in a compartment in the base of the grip, which is where you'll also find the memory card slot. The compartment cover doesn't lock--an odd omission for a high-end camera. Out of the box you may think Canon dropped the hot shoe from previous versions, too, but it is there on top; it's just covered up. (There's also a lift-up flash activated by a button on the left side on top.) For connecting to displays and computers there are Mini-HDMI and Mini-USB/AV ports under a door on the right side.

Conclusion
The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS doesn't offer all the bells and whistles of competing full-size megazooms and its shooting performance lags behind them, too. However, it has plenty of positives including some of the best JPEG photo quality you'll find in this class as well as an extraordinarily long lens. If those things matter most to you, the SX40 HS is the way to go.

Shooting speed (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Time to first shot  
Typical shot-to-shot time  
Shutter lag (dim)  
Shutter lag (typical)  
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150
1.9 
1 
0.8 
0.3 
Nikon Coolpix P500
1.1 
1.4 
0.6 
0.3 
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V
2 
1.5 
0.6 
0.3 
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS
1.6 
2.5 
0.6 
0.4 
Canon PowerShot SX30 IS
1.8 
3.5 
0.8 
0.5 

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in frames per second)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Release date Oct 1, 2011
  • Digital camera type Full body
  • Optical Zoom 35 x
  • Optical Sensor Type BSI-CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 12.1 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.3"