Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Camera Review

The Canon SX40 HS is a compact bridge camera with an extreme zoom lens. It offers focal length settings between 24mm and 840mm (35mm film camera equivalent), which allows users to shoot nice wide-angle shots to extreme telephoto images. Adjusting the zoom lens between 24mm and 300mm is easy and allows a nearly continuous setup of the desired field of view. However, zooming between 500mm and 840mm requires more work.


Top: The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS is a bridge camera with an ultra zoom lens (35x) and 12MP resolution. It offers numerous manual settings (including custom-defined settings on the mode dial), easy handling, and Full HD video recording (including high-speed recording for slow motion). Center: The zoom lens offers a focal length of 24mm to 840mm (35mm film equivalent), which allows users to shoot wide-angle to extreme tele shots. The built-in flash system offers fill in a distance of about 10 to 15 feet. Above: The camera offers a large mode dial for fast and intuitive set up of the most important image parameters. It offers a SCN mode with 14 scene modes (available in the LCD menu) and two user-defined settings.

The camera offers a large dial on top to access exposure programs like P, S, A, and M. It allows users to define two custom settings, which can be chosen with the C1 and C2 indicators on this dial. It offers numerous scene modes via the SCN setting. In addition, it offers two very special modes directly from the mode dial: a fisheye effect, which zooms into the wide-angle image and distorts it, and a sports scene mode, which uses very fast shutter speeds to take freeze frames of fast-moving objects.

The camera is able to record Full HD video with 24 frames per second and allows zooming while recording video, but the zoom servo motor is quite loud and you will hear the zoom motion in the final video. It offers a second shutter release button on the back for starting video recording.

Both viewfinders have fairly low resolution. The electronic viewfinder offers 202,000 RGB dots, the LCD on the back offers 230,000 RGB dots. The setup dial, which encircles the cursor field, helps to set up all parameters.

The swivel LCD is fully articulated and can be flipped to the left and to the front for self-portraits.

The camera uses a fully articulated swivel LCD on the back. The photographer can flip it to the left side of the camera and rotate it by 180 degrees to the front for self-portraits—in all, 270-degree rotation is possible. The LCD screen has a quite low resolution of 230,000 RGB dots and a diameter of 2.7”. The built-in viewfinder also uses an LCD screen, which offers 202,000 RGB dots.

The camera has an SLR-like design with a large and handy grip on its right side. This grip allows the user to easily reach the shutter release button and the zoom switch. For menu navigation the camera uses a combination of a four-way cursor field and an additional dial ring which encircles the cursor field. The result is that the photographer can choose and change all parameters quickly and easily.

Skin tones are reproduced with a high red rate. Sharpness is fine and differentiation in the hair structure is very good. However, differentiation in the red fabric of the T-shirt isn’t as good as in images taken with other digital cameras.

Image Quality
Color: The SX40 HS boosts red nuances like nearly all Canon compact cameras. The mean saturation is high but still on an acceptable level for compact cameras. The error level is low, only skin tones have a slightly high red rate which is noticeable in the portrait test shot.

The white balance system showed very good performance with a slight tendency toward cooler colors, which shows in the standard test box shot with its light bluish-gray background.

The SX40 HS reproduced the standard test box with high sharpness and high saturation. The red elements have quite high saturation and therefore less differentiation. The automatic white balance setting causes a light bluish touch in the gray background.

Sharpness: Resolution results are very good. The camera offers a nominal resolution of 3000 lines per picture height and gains up to 2763 lines in picture height in our tests. This value is also a result of the intense sharpness filtering. The overshot factor is 16.4 percent, which isn’t very high for a compact camera; even some SLR systems are using higher digital sharpening settings. When breaking down this value the resolution will be 2046 lines per picture height. This is still a very good result for a camera with an extreme zoom lens.

Noise: The SX40 HS shares the same noise problems with nearly all compact cameras with a small sensor with small pixel size. Nevertheless, the noise results are good because the Canon has a moderate resolution of 12MP. Up to ISO 800 the luminance noise level stays below y=1.0 percent and the color noise is filtered in a very intelligent way. In images taken with ISO 800 the “noise spectrum” starts to get rough and more colored pixels are noticeable in the images.

The dynamic range results are very good for a compact camera. The SX40 HS shows 11.1 f/stops, which is a remarkable result for a bridge camera.

The SX40 HS boosts red nuances like nearly all Canon compact cameras. The mean saturation is high but still on an acceptable level for compact cameras.


• Astonishingly sharp images even though it uses an extreme zoom lens
• Wide-angle shots with 24mm
• Swivel LCD for comfortable shooting
• Easy handling, a lot of scene modes plus standard exposure modes like S, A, and M

• No Raw mode
• Low-resolution LCD screen

Lab results and test images by BetterNet, our TIPA-affiliated testing lab. Edited by George Schaub.

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