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Canon PowerShot SD940 IS review: Canon PowerShot SD940 IS

Canon PowerShot SD940 IS

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman

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Joshua Goldman is a senior editor for CNET Reviews, covering laptops and the occasional action cam or drone and related accessories. He has been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software since 2000.

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A follow-up of sorts to the SD780 IS, the Canon PowerShot SD940 IS is another very small, very lightweight 12-megapixel camera. It drops the SD780's optical viewfinder, and in its place gets a larger 2.7-inch LCD in back, and a wide-angle 28mm-equivalent lens with a 4x zoom in front. Aside from a couple minor interface tweaks, everything else basically stays the same; this includes the earlier model's mixed performance and tendency to produce purple fringing. However, neither is extreme for this class of camera, and all things considered, the SD940 IS is one of the best ultracompacts available.

canon-powershot-elph-sd940-is-digital-camera-compact-12-1-mpix-4-x-optical-zoom-silver.jpg
7.6

Canon PowerShot SD940 IS

The Good

Very small; simple operation; very good photo, HD movie quality; HDMI out.

The Bad

No optical zoom in Movie mode; mixed performance.

The Bottom Line

One of the best ultracompacts available, the Canon PowerShot SD940 IS nonetheless falls short of greatness in performance and photo quality.

Despite the SD940's slight build, it feels very sturdy. However, if you plan to keep it loose in a bag, invest in some manner of protection or risk scratching up its beautiful body and screen. The model is available in silver, blue, black, and brown. The lens barrel color closely matches the body, too, giving it a peculiar uniform look.

Using the camera is remarkably comfortable, even for large hands. All of the controls are flat and flush with the body. It gives the camera a very smooth appearance, but using the four-way directional pad and center Func/Set button can be a little difficult and may lead to frequent mispresses on the center button when trying to adjust the exposure, change focus and flash modes, or pick timer settings from the outer ring.

The SD940 has a revamped menu and help system with hints and tips for choosing the appropriate settings or simply telling you what the shooting mode you're in is going to do. For example, if you don't know what the camera's Servo AF does, just select it in the settings menu and at the bottom of the screen it'll tell you that it continues to adjust focus while pressing the shutter button halfway down. Help systems certainly aren't uncommon, but Canon executed this well considering the limited screen space.

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
1.4
2.2
1.4
0.7
0.4
Canon PowerShot SD940 IS
1.4
6.2
2.9
0.9
0.6
Canon PowerShot SD780 IS
1.5
4.7
2.4
0.6
0.4
Samsung TL320
1.9
3.6
2.4
0.8
0.5
Nikon Coolpix S230
3.5
3.3
3
1
0.5

Typical continuous-shooting speed (in fps)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Find out more about how we test digital cameras.

canon-powershot-elph-sd940-is-digital-camera-compact-12-1-mpix-4-x-optical-zoom-silver.jpg
7.6

Canon PowerShot SD940 IS

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7Image quality 7