Playing The Long Game: Outdoor Photography With Telezooms

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Digital Camera Review

The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS has a 35x optical zoom lens, full HD video recording and high-speed shooting, Daniel Bell gives us his opinion.

| Canon PowerShot SX40 HS in Compact Cameras
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Digital Camera Review: Canon PowerShot SX40 HS front angled
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS front angled

The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS was released as an update to the SX30 in September 2011 featuring a 35x optical zoom lens, 12.1 megapixel sensor, full HD video recording, image stabilisation. It is available now for £369.00.

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Digital Camera Review: Canon PowerShot SX40 HS front
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS front

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Features

The headlining feature on the SX40 is the massive 35x optical zoom lens, which is a 35mm equivalent of 24 - 840mm, making it ideal to shoot landscapes and long-range close-ups. The camera has an ultrasonic motor for accurate, near silent zooming. To ensure images are sharp there is Intelligent Image Stabilisation, for use in low light and when using the lens at longer lengths.

Packed with Canon's HS System, DIGIC 5 image processor and high-sensitivity CMOS sensor you can shoot images with low noise and high image quality even in low light, therefore reducing the need for flash or tripod and freezing motion without blur. With High-speed Burst HQ mode you can shoot full 12.1 megapixel images at up to 10.3 fps.

To make picture taking easy there is Smart Auto mode which automatically detects from 32 different scene modes (21 in movies). Multi-area White Balance allows the capture of scenes in their natural colours even when illuminated by multiple types of light.

If you are a more advanced photographer there are full manual controls, allowing you to set your own aperture, shutter speed, white balance and ISO. If you lose your subject when shooting at the maximum zoom you can hit the Zoom Framing Assist button and the lens will automatically zoom out and zoom back the moment it's released.

An optional lens filter adapter lets you attach 67mm lens filters from Canon’s EOS range. A hot-shoe allows use of Canon Speedlite EX flash units to increase flash range.

The SX40 records videos at full 1080p HD with stereo sound at 24fps, optical zoom and can also be connected to a HDTV for playback.

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Digital Camera Review: Canon PowerShot SX40 HS lens extended
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS lens extended

Key Features

  • 35x optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 24 - 840mm) with ultrasonic motor
  • Image Stabiliser (4.5-stop)
  • Intelligent IS
  • 12.1 megapixel sensor
  • HS System with DIGIC 5
  • Full 1080p HD
  • 2.7 inch vari-angle LCD screen
  • Electronic viewfinder
  • Smart Auto
  • Multi-area WB
  • High-speed Burst HQ
  • Manual modes
  • Zoom Framing Assist
  • Range of accessories
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Digital Camera Review: Canon PowerShot SX40 HS top
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS top

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Handling

The SX40 is made of plastic and looks very much like a small DSLR with a mode dial found on the top. Also on the top of the camera is a flash button, you'd expect this to pop up the flash but it doesn't. The flash has to be manually lifted and the button simply switches between the flash modes available. On the rear is a 2.7 inch swivel screen, if you'd prefer you can also shoot using the clear, bright electronic viewfinder. The d-pad also rotates allowing you to quickly cycle through menu options. 

The menu system is typical of Canon compacts and is clear and easy to navigate. The battery has a CIPA rating of 380 shots, which is great if you tend to go out shooting all day. Below we have measured shutter response and focusing speed at both wide angle and telephoto settings. We took 6 shots and calculated the average speed of the camera. The results can be seen below:

Shutter Response Average   0.2 seconds
Wide - Focus and Shutter Response Average   0.6 seconds
Full zoom - Focus and Shutter Response Average   0.6 seconds
Switch on time   2.5 seconds
Shot-to-shot   2.6 seconds
Continuous Shooting   2.1 fps
High-speed burst HQ   10 fps

Both continuous shooting and High-speed burst mode shoot at full 12.1 megapixels.

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Digital Camera Review: Canon PowerShot SX40 HS screen to side
Canon PowerShot SX40 HS screen to side

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Performance

Whether shooting wide or with the lens fully extended, the SX40 takes wonderfully detailed images with a touch of softness in the corners. Pictures tend to be well exposed with excellent colour reproduction with no signs of purple fringing. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 0cm! This allows you to get really close to take great, well detailed, macro images.

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Lens test images

At the lowest settings, ISO 100 and ISO 200, good sharp images with minimal amounts of noise are produced. At ISO 400 you can see a little extra noise appearing with the images becoming softer at ISO 800. Noise continues to increase as you go through ISO 1600 and ISO 3200 but the camera still produces decent image which colours unaffected by the extra levels of noise found at these settings.

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS ISO test images

Below are some examples using some of the scene modes available. The landscapes have good blues and greens, but if you want a more colourful sky you can select Vivid Blue from "My Colours". Also available is Vivid Green and Vivid Red. Portraits have pleasant skin tones and are free from red-eye. The 35x optical zoom lens also means it's possible to take detailed pictures of the moon, but requires the use a tripod to ensure they are sharp.

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Sample Photos

Under the incandescent lighting the AWB preset gives a strong orange cast in the image, with the better result coming from the incandescent preset. Under the fluorescent lights there is very little difference to tell whether using the AWB or fluorescent presets.

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS White-balance test images

For an added touch of creativity there are a range of filters as well as "My Colours" which can be used during shooting. Examples of some are below.

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Digital filters

Video Mode

Below is an example video shot at 1080p HD. Optical zoom is available during recording and you can also record Super Slow Motion videos, examples of which can be seen on the ePHOTOzine YouTube Channel.

Value For Money

The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS is currently available for £369.00. There aren't many other digital compact cameras which offer this amount of zoom, other options being the Nikon Coolpix P500 at £279.00 and Olympus SP-610 UZ at £189.00, both of which offer 36x optical zoom. Other cameras to offer a large amount of optical zoom are the Fujifilm FinePix HS30 EXR at £469.00, Sony DSC-HX100V at £384.95 and Fujifilm FinePix S4500 at £229.00.

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Verdict

If your main requirement from a camera is a large amount of optical zoom you can't go far wrong with the PowerShot SX40 HS. If it is manual controls that you particularly desire then there are a few cameras to consider, particularly with the SX40's price taking it to that of an entry level DSLR. Overall, picture quality is good and the camera has a wide range of features to help you take creative pictures.

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Digital Camera Review:
The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS is a feature-packed camera which also produces great images.

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Pros

Full 1080p HD video recording
0cm minimum focusing distance
35x optical zoom
10 fps High-speed shooting at full resolution
Electronic viewfinder

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Cons

A larger screen would be good
Costs similar to that of an entry level DSLR


Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Specifications

Max Aperturef/2.7 - f/5.8
35mm equivalent24mm - 840mm
Optical Zoom35x
Image Sensor
Pixels12.1Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4000
Pixels (H)3000
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor Size1/2.3 inch
Sensor Size (width)6.16mm
Sensor Size (height)4.62mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 3:2
  • 16:9
  • 1:1
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor2.7in
Screen resolution230,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus0cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Face Detection
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/3200sec
Shutter speeds longest15sec
Bulb modeNo Data
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Centre-weighted - Average
  • Spot
ISO sensitivity100 - 3200
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting10.3fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
  • 320x240 QVGA
Video FPS24
Stereo SoundNo
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeRechargeable Li-ion Battery NB-10L
Battery Life (CIPA rating)380shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens Cap (with strap), Neck Strap NS-DC11, Case for Hot Shoe Cap, Battery Pack NB-10L, Battery Charger CB-2LCE, AC Cable, Interface Cable IFC-400PCU (for USB), User Manual Kit

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Photographs taken using the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS

Coming over the top.Did someone say nuts?Flamborough Lighthouse.You're Barred!Jaguar SS100U turn.Table for one.Big nut.Just looking.Bluebell woodGot my fly.Show Off.Reach For The SkyPandemoniumSunset at Pennington Flash

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franken Avatar
franken Plus
21 5.8k 4 United Kingdom
18 Jan 2012 3:26PM
I never understand as to why camera manufacturers are of the opinion that we don't need the ability to shoot raw especially at the price of this one?
paulbroad Avatar
paulbroad 16 131 1294 United Kingdom
19 May 2012 5:44PM
RAW would be nice, but is this aimed at people who need RAW? I've just bought one for my wife, who is quite a keen photographer, but finds my Canon DSLR's heavy. She can now use my EOS flash should she need to, but has a much lighter camera.

The image quality is very good - difficult in many cases to tell the difference on computer screen to work from my 40D or 7D. I shoot RAW with both cameras when necessary, but usually use best JPG for bulk shooting - RAW + JPG on occasion. It can be very difficult to tell any difference in many cases and most photographers will tend to shoot best JPG for most general purposes.

Try processing 2000 images shot at a car show in RAW - life just isn't long enough!

clint11 Avatar
clint11 11
26 Jun 2012 1:54AM
Ive just ordered this lens .Should get it in a few days .I wanted to get nikon because i wanted the range .But i realized i could not put a filter or hood on it without some adapter and i didnt want to go through the hassle .Then i thought of Sony because of it having the best picture quality .But i realized that also didnt have any facility for attaching the hood or lens directly .Then for a very long time i was going to get the Lumix..but the 600mm range held me back .Lumix is supposed to be the best around because its very fast and has a good picture and also has raw .But its range kept on pulling me back . In the end ,all of a sudden , i got this canon .I know overall its a good camera with all around performance and a good 840mm range .Oh i so much wish it had raw like Lumix .I have seen in a video that lumix has a separate section where one gets both jpeg &raw in 1 place .
I have a good slr which takes super photos . .But not this range 0-840 in 1 go .So that means if im taking a photo of a coin 1in from me and all of a sudden an eagle is flying 20feet over me .I can straight away take several photos of that also . So great isnt it .
bluedog69 Avatar
8 Sep 2012 11:51AM
With a fixed LCD screen (and low res at that), and no evf, this is hardly a replacement for the SX40.

I hope it's not. I'd like to replace my Canon S3 IS - but not this!

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