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*During the past year, Canon’s point-and-shoots and DSLRs have performed exceptionally well in our color accuracy test. Like other high-end Canon cameras, the 40D has a Picture Style menu, with options that each handle color differently. Options include Standard, Faithful, and Landscape. Two Picture Styles that have a large impact on color accuracy are Standard and Faithful. Standard saturates colors, making them look vibrant but slightly unnatural. Faithful aims to keep colors as accurate as possible so users can enhance them as they wish during post-processing.
To test the color accuracy of the 40D, we set the camera to Faithful and photographed an industry standard GretagMacbeth ColorChecker test chart. The ColorChecker chart consists of 24 color tiles that represent colors from around the color spectrum. We determine color accuracy by comparing the colors the camera reproduces with the known colors of the test chart. The image below shows these colors side by side. The outside squares show the colors the camera reproduces, the inside squares show the ideal colors of the chart corrected for luminance, and the inner rectangles are the ideal chart colors at a perfectly even exposure.
Comparing the outer squares with the inner squares, you can see how many of the tiles match up well. There is, however, some differences in the color tiles in the third row, which represent very saturated colors. The 40D's colors look slightly undersaturated compared to the ideal chart colors. The graph below shows the color error in a more quantitative way. The ideal colors of the ColorChecker are shown on the color spectrum as squares, while the colors the 40D reproduces are shown as circles. The lines connecting the squares and circles show the magnitude of the color error for each color tile.
The graph confirms that many of the chart colors are accurate, except for a couple of the yellow and blue tiles. The 40D slightly undersaturates these colors, which is a bit disappointing considering 'Faithful' mode should be representing the colors as accurately as possible. Yet overall, this issue is nitpicky; the 40D's color accuracy is excellent, and the variety of shooting modes gives users many options to customize their color preferences. Canon cameras, DSLRs and point-and-shoots both, have shown tremendous color accuracy throughout the past year, a trend we hope to see continue.
*With 10 megapixels on its CMOS sensor, the 40D offers more resolution than its predecessor, the 8-megapixel 30D. We test resolution by photographing an industry standard resolution test chart at varied focal lengths, apertures, and shutter speeds. We then run the images through Imatest to determine the sharpness of the camera and the settings that produce the sharpest image. Imatest measures resolution in terms of line widths per pixel height (lw/ph), which represent the number of equally spaced black and white lines that can fit across the image frame before becoming blurred. Imatest also analyzes the amount of sharpening (or lack of sharpening) applied to images by the camera. Too much sharpening can destroy image information and lead to image artifacting, but too little sharpening requires significant post-processing.We tested the 40D’s resolution using a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens.
The 40D proved to be sharpest in Standard mode at ISO 100, f/11.0, and a focal length of 42mm. The camera resolved 1710 lw/ph horizontally with 1.9 percent undersharpening, and 1782 lw/ph vertically with 5.0 percent undersharpening. These amounts of sharpening are ideal because they provide sharp images without destroying information. Shots taken at shorter focal lengths tend to have great sharpening levels, but shots taken at longer focal lengths were much more undersharpened. In Neutral mode, the images were undersharpened as much as 35 percent. This mode is designed with post-processing in mind. The overall resolution, however, was good but not great. The camera actually scored slightly lower than the 30D, as well as below most other comparable DSLRs on the market, such as the Nikon D200 and D80, and the Canon 5D. Overall, the resolution is rather disappointing, though it should still allow for fairly large printing.
**Noise – Manual ISO ***(11.10) *
All electronic devices are subject to signal noise, whether it’s static in TVs, background hiss in stereos, or image noise in digital cameras. Image noise in photographs often takes the form of sandy graininess or small colored splotches that look unpleasant and hide fine image detail. From an engineering perspective, noise is increased when more megapixels are added to a sensor. This is because the pixels must be smaller to fit on a sensor of the same size. Smaller pixels capture less light, and thus have a worse signal-to-noise ratio than bigger pixels. The engineering challenge in keeping noise levels low is to decrease the amount of noise created in each pixel, or to use the image processor to smooth over or subtract noise after a photo is taken. The latter choice, however, can lead to degradation of image sharpness and detail. The 40D has an option to apply noise smoothing, called High ISO Speed noise reduction, which can be found in the Custom II menu.
We evaluate noise performance and characteristics by photographing a test chart under bright studio lights at every ISO setting, with the High ISO noise reduction set to both on and off. We run the photos through Imatest, which measures noise levels in terms of the percentage of image detail the noise drowns out.
The 40D’s 10-megapixel 22.2 x 14.8mm CMOS sensor keeps noise levels impressively low throughout the ISO range. Noise levels are extremely low at ISO 100, and increase slowly and steadily up to ISO 1600, where noise levels are still low. Closer examination of the noise characteristics show the noise to be fine-grained, slightly colored splotches. With noise reduction turned on, the color in the noise is mostly removed, with very little loss of detail. The only perplexing aspect of this impressive noise reduction is that, as the graph shows, it not only reduces noise in High ISO shots, as stated, but in shots taken at all ISO sensitivities. As impressive as the low noise levels are in the 40D, however, they do not quite reach the performance of the pro-level EOS 1D Mark III.
**Noise – Auto ISO ***(5.28)*
Under the same bright studio lights, we shoot our test chart with cameras set to Auto ISO to see how they handle noise. The 40D automatically shot at ISO 400, a rather high ISO speed for such bright lighting, but still kept noise levels nice and low. This is good news for users who like to keep settings on auto.
**White Balance ***(8.39)
*Accurate white balance is essential for producing accurate colors. Each kind of lighting source has a different color cast to it, and a camera must be able to adjust appropriately to each. We test white balance accuracy by photographing the ColorChecker test chart under four types of lighting: flash, fluorescent, outdoor shade, and tungsten. We shoot the chart using Auto white balance and the appropriate white balance preset. We have noticed an interesting trend over the past year or so; white balance accuracy in DSLRs is often worse than in point-and-shoots.
Fortunately, the 40D has managed to buck this trend, though not in every respect. Set to Auto white balance, the camera is extremely accurate using its flash, solidly accurate under fluorescent light, but poor in outdoor shade and tungsten. As is usually the case, manually white balancing or shooting in RAW and white balancing on your computer will be much more accurate than using the Auto or preset settings.
*Using the appropriate white balance presets, the 40D is very accurate with its flash. It performs poorly under fluorescent and outdoor shade, but well under tungsten. Always use the tungsten preset when shooting under tungsten lights unless you like the extremely yellow cast your images will take.
**Still Life Sequences
***Click to view the high-resolution images.*
**Low Light ***(9.36) *
In addition to our bright light color and noise tests described above, we test cameras in less-than-ideal light conditions. To test color and noise accuracy in low light, we photograph the ColorChecker at light levels of 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux. Sixty lux corresponds to the amount of light in a room softly lit by two lamps, 30 lux is equal to a room lit by a single 40-watt bulb, 15 lux is similar to a room lit by a television, and 5 lux is about as bright as standing in a closet with the glow of an MP3 player. All shots are taken at ISO 1600, with High ISO speed noise reduction on and off.
Noise levels stay quite low in low light, especially with noise reduction on. Color accuracy fares well, too, except at 5 lux, where accuracy suffers. As mentioned in the noise section above, the High ISO speed noise reduction does an impressive job removing noise without sacrificing much, if any, image detail. This camera looks great at ISO 1600, and is excellent overall in low light.
We also test long exposure performance by shooting the ColorChecker at different shutter speeds, from 1 to 30 seconds. We take these shots at ISO 400 with Long Exposure noise reduction on and off. In long exposures, noise stays impressively low, and color accuracy is maintained fairly well. The Long Exposure noise reduction appears to have almost no effect on the noise levels, nor does it show a visible difference in the images.
**Dynamic Range ***(10.09) *
Dynamic range is an important image quality factor that describes the range of tones a camera can discern. A camera with good dynamic range will not blow out highlights and lose image detail in dark areas of the same photo. This is especially important for wedding photography (white dress and black tux), and nature or architectural photography in direct sunlight (bright highlights and dark shadows). We test dynamic range by photographing a backlit Stouffer test chart, which consists of a long row of rectangles, each a slightly darker shade of gray, ranging from brightest white to darkest black. The more rectangles a camera can distinguish, the better its dynamic range.
The 40D’s dynamic range at ISO 100 is excellent, and falls off slowly up to ISO 1600. Keeping the camera at as low an ISO setting as possible always yields the best dynamic range, but anything up to ISO 400 on the 40D is fantastic. It doesn’t fall off too badly at higher ISO speeds, either. Overall, the 40D edges out its predecessor, the 30D, and comes impressively close to the 1D Mark III. This is an excellent camera for wedding photography, either on its own or as a backup to a pro model.
**Speed/Timing **– All speed tests were conducted using a 2GB SanDisk Ultra II Compact Flash Card, with the camera shooting large, superfine JPEGs.
Startup to First Shot (9.7)
The 40D takes a mere 0.3 seconds to start up and take its first shot.
In Continuous shooting mode, the 40D takes approximately 55 shots, each 0.3 seconds apart. In Continuous High mode, the camera takes approximately 50 shots, each 0.17 seconds apart.
The 40D has no measurable lag when prefocused or not prefocused.
*The camera takes 1.0 seconds to process one 5 MB superfine JPEG taken at ISO 400.
The 40D’s Eye-level pentaprism on the 40D is a lofty step up from its predecessor. With increased magnification from .90x to .95x, the view is notably larger and brighter than that of the 30D. Canon didn’t improve framing accuracy, however, retaining the same 95 percent coverage as previous models in the line. The 5 percent leniency was weighted towards the bottom of the frame on the model we evaluated, adding more to the captured image than what had been composed.
The 40D is backed by an interchangeable Standard Precision Matte (Ef-A) focusing screen. There are two accessory options available: a Precision Matte Grid (Ef-D) screen, which contains a 4x2 matrix superimposed across the center of the frame, and a Super Precision Matte (Ef-S) screen that is said to make it easier to see the point of focus when working manually.
Canon updated the shooting information visible in the 40D’s viewfinder. The 40D shows a constant display of ISO speed; previous models in the line only indicated the sensitivity when the setting was being adjusted. Canon has also added a signifier for its black and white setting and a two-digit burst readout.
The Canon 40D features a 3-inch LCD screen, composed of 230,000 pixels. The screen is larger than the display on the 30D, though formed of equal resolution. The additional surface area makes the 40D easier to see, though the quality is inferior.
The display is brighter than previous iterations, and the sharpening applied to thumbnail images is said to have been increased, though we still found images looked soft on screen. We were also disappointed with the rendering of colors, which appeared more vibrant and saturated than the actual file.
The LCD is aligned with the far left portion of the back of the camera. Canon positioned the screen further towards the edge than on previous models, consuming the space where the control buttons were arrayed on the 30D. The slightly unusual placement may make it challenging to hold the camera with two hands without rubbing your thumb across the screen or obscuring portions of the display.
Some competing DSLRs with Live View capabilities couple the feature with an articulated display screen that can be tilted or rotated to remain visible at extreme angles. The 40D’s screen does not move, though is viewable off-axis. The screen offers a wide angle of view in all directions, quoted by Canon at 140 degrees. The visibility range has been reduced from the 170-degree viewing angle of the EOS 30D’s screen, in an attempt to increase performance in bright outdoor conditions.
Canon increased the maximum screen brightness on the 40D to offer manual adjustment along a 7-step range. Canon also advertises an expanded color gamut on the new LCD. During our evaluation, the screen’s slightly saturated rendering of images was more apparent, particularly in red and green tones. The monitor does remain surprisingly defined at extreme angles – particularly when viewed from below – although there’s no significant improvement in bright light performance; visibility is still minimal.
**The 40D offers a Live View setting, which supplies a "real-time" display of lighting, tonalities, color balance, and composition on the LCD or computer screen prior to capturing an image. The live view displayed on the LCD screen carries 100 percent frame coverage, unlike the viewfinder, so recorded images appear exactly as they were composed. It is only available in Creative Zone modes, however.
In Live View, users can magnify images up to 10x, preview depth-of-field, and view a grid overlay to justify subjects. A live histogram is also available, which can be set to show either a Brightness or RGB display. For many users, the histogram will likely serve as the most useful element of the live preview, providing an accurate gauge of exposure levels across the tonal range. Variable Metering Timer settings are offered, with options from 4 seconds to 30 minutes, selectable in the dedicated Live View menu.
The 40D provides optional autofocus functionality in Live View mode. It can be enabled or disabled in the Custom Settings menu, and is accessed during capture with the AF-On button. Depressing the button drops-down the mirror and engages the autofocus; the mirror will remain down for as long as the AF button is held. The process itself is quite loud, and focusing performance was marginal at best; we found it often took multiple attempts to catch and lock in properly.
*Canon has included a selection of "silent shooting" modes, available in Live View. The settings aim to minimize noise by reducing the shutter release time. Three options are available: Silent Mode 1, Silent Mode 2, and Disabled. We found the Silent modes to be more interesting in concept than in usage. When engaged, the shutter will produce less audible noise than ordinary shooting without the setting; however, the effect is somewhat overstated by Canon. Even at its most reserved, the 40D isn’t inconspicuous enough for fly-on-the-wall photojournalism.
**Consistent with previous models in the line, the EOS 40D retains a monochromatic LCD display on the top of the camera. The informational screen presents the following shooting data: Shutter Speed, Flash indicator, Image Quality/Size, White Balance, Battery level indicator, Exposure scale, Bracketing range, Card writing status, ISO, B&W shooting, Custom function, Metering Mode, Drive Mode, AF Mode, White Balance correction, Self-timer & Bulb countdown, Shots remaining indicator, CF warning, and AF point selection. An orange illuminator is available for viewing in low light, and the data presented is generally easy to read.
The EOS 40D has a pop-up flash built into the camera body and a Hot Shoe on the viewfinder hump for attaching dedicated flashes. Canon reports a guide number of 13 (in meters) at ISO 100, and an angle of view that covers 17mm lenses and longer for its pop-up unit. The flash has a 3-second recycle time.
The 40D also has max sync speed of 1/250 second, which is consistent with its direct competitors.
We evaluated the flash output at f/4 at 10 feet and the results were solid. Coverage was uniform edge to edge, with consistent illumination across the frame.
Flash options and settings are somewhat randomly distributed throughout the interface. For example, red-eye reduction is activated in the Shooting menu and flash exposure compensation has a dedicated button on top of the camera. A Flash Control submenu is housed within the Setup menu, which accesses the following options:
Like the EOS 1D Mark III, the 40D can adjust settings on external Speedlites within the Camera menu. Among the controllable settings are: Flash mode, sync, bracketing, flash EV compensation, and zoom. The 40D can also control communication settings across multiple flashes – channels, groupings, and brightness ratios – when a 580 EX II Speedlite is locked into the Hot Shoe to trigger slave flashes. This feature resembles Nikon’s Commander mode (included on some of its DSLRs); however, Nikon’s version is far more innovative and pragmatic since it constructs the master trigger into the pop-up flash. At the very least, Nikon’s design saves the cost of an extra Speedlite, which for the 40D equates to about $400.
*The 40D accepts Canon’s vast assortment of EF and EF-S lenses. The selection is considerable, and there are a number of key focal lengths offered at multiple max apertures (e.g. 70-200 f/4, and 70-200 f/2.8), granting a bit more flexibility in price and optical design than most manufacturers provide.
The EOS 40D – like all Canon DSLRs – lacks body-based image stabilization. Canon does, however, offer select lenses (primarily telephoto) with moving optical elements to compensate for camera shake. Canon’s "IS" lenses are effective, but generally quite costly, and the selection limited. Sensor-shift stabilization systems, now employed by a number of DSLR manufacturers, offer a more practical system for DSLRs since it impacts all applied lenses.
Canon sells the 40D in a few different kits. All three kit lenses carry optical image stabilization. The least expensive package supplies a modified version of the 30D’s kit lens that now includes IS and lists for $1,299. Two more costly, though far more capable packages are also available; the first pairs the camera with an EF-S 17-85 IS USM lens and sells for $1,799, while the other includes an EF 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 IS lens and costs $1,499.95.
Design / Layout
Model Design / Appearance*(8.5)
*The 40D is designed for usage rather than aesthetics, but for a mid-priced DSLR, it holds its own in both respects. The external styling is similar to the 30D, with the exception of a slight reworking of the rear layout. The 40D comes off a bit smoother than the 30D, with rounder edges and less defined contours.
Canon claims increased protection against the elements; dust and weatherproof sealants have been applied to the base plate and battery compartment door to help prevent dirt and moisture from getting in. We didn’t attempt to test the effectiveness of these additions (tempting as it was), but we could only observe a slight foam outline around the edge of the door. The camera is slightly heavier than its predecessor, which carries the same dimensions. The shutter is now also rated at 100,000 actuations, an accepted benchmark connoting professional-grade durability.
The 40D houses Canon’s 3rd-generation Integrated Cleaning System. Central to the system is an automatic mechanism to shake dust off the sensor. The operation can be set to run automatically when the camera is powered on/off, or can be accessed manually through the menu. A Dust Delete Data function serves as the next line of defense. It essentially takes a test shot and generates a map of the dust detected on the low-pass filter. The information can then be used in conjunction with Digital Photo Professional (packaged software) to automatically remove the dust spots from the photo. Additionally, Canon has applied coatings to the shutter and anti-aliasing filter to repel dust and prevent particles from attaching to the sensor.
The cleaning system is fairly consistent with other manufacturers’ iterations, and for the most part, proved equally effective.
Size / Portability* (7.25)*
DSLRs aren’t designed to be thrown in a bag or stuffed in a pocket. This series of Canon cameras is lighter than the 1D series, but puts a little more weight in the hand than the entry-level XT series. Like the 20D and 30D, the Canon 40D measures 5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9 inches. At 26.1 ounces, it weighs slightly more than the 24.7-ounce 30D. The 40D’s size and weight are on par with its competitors.
For longtime Canon shooters, handling the EOS 40D will feel like driving an old car - at times frustrating, but still, comforting and familiar. The 40D layout is logical and relatively intuitive, though not as friendly and sensible as Nikon’s designs. On the 40D, like all EOS bodies, Canon has included one jog dial above the shutter button, and applied a Quick control dial to the back of the camera body. The quick control may take a little getting used to for those new to Canon DSLRs, but it’s a strong design and efficient for both shooting and playback once the acclimation period ends.
A recurring question mark in EOS architecture is the continued placement of the power switch on the lower back portion of the camera body. While this leaves the control out of the way of accidental depression, the positioning and sloping design forces users to power the camera on with their left hand while gripping the camera with their right. The two-handed design differs from the more logical construction utilized by Nikon and Pentax, which places the power control around the shutter release. When integrated with the shutter button, users can power the camera on and snap a quick shot much faster, using just their right hand. This also frees shooters up to walk with the camera powered off – conserving battery juice – until they’re ready to fire off a shot.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size*(7.5)
*Retaining the same basic layout as the EOS 30D, the 40D’s control array has been modified from its predecessor to make room for the enlarged 3-inch LCD. In doing so, the vertical array of buttons has been shifted from the left side of the display to below it. This is detrimental for handling, as the expanded display results in less physical space to hold the camera and make adjustments – an issue that’s impacted usability on point-and-shoot cameras for a while. Alternatively, this is not an issue on the competing Nikon D300, which also touts a 3-inch LCD; Nikon was able to expand the display without removing buttons from either side of the screen. The buffer space is where your hands naturally fall, and is invaluable for comfort and control.
The biggest issue with the 40D’s layout, however, is its seemingly unnecessary re-pairing of settings and buttons on the top of the camera. The 30D had the same three buttons, in the same place, but they controlled different settings. With each button, one setting was changed, while the other was kept the same. The buttons on the 40D access Metering/White Balance, Autofocus/Drive mode, ISO/Flash exposure compensation; the same controls on the EOS 30D cover Autofocus/White balance, Drive/ISO, Metering/Flash exposure compensation. Collectively, the same six settings are accessible, with the same three buttons, just not the same buttons for each setting. Make sense? We were under the impression that Canon implemented its Picture Styles (which gain a dedicated button on the 40D) to help streamline compatibility across multiple bodies. It seems like 20D and 30D shooters may oddly face a steep adjustment curve.
The dedicated Picture Styles control, along with the direct print button, also appears to be an impractical use of the 40D’s external real estate. Both features are convenient, and may appeal to a small segment of users; however, we suspect the majority of shooters would have preferred more critical settings (Bracketing, Mirror Lock-Up, Picture Size/Quality Options, Live View menu) assigned to those buttons. Further, neither control is customizable. User-specified button assignments are increasingly common on DSLRs, and we hope Canon furthers its profusion. If not, hopefully 40D (and 5D) users do a lot of direct printing!
Canon added an AF-On button on the back of the camera that we found particularly useful. The AF-On button is adjustable (in the Custom Settings menu), and can be used to separate autofocus and auto exposure lock functions, and engage autofocus in Live View mode. The button is flexible, logically placed opposite the shutter release on the top back portion of the camera, and improves shooting efficiency.
The Menu system is organized in nine tabs; two Shooting, two Playback, three Setup, one Custom, and one My Menu tabs. The tabs are color coded; red for Shooting, blue for Playback, yellow for Setup, orange for Custom Function, and green for My Menu.
The 40D’s menu layout is a break from its predecessors, which have list-style menus that require users to scrolls through options with the Quick Control dial. The tabbed menus are logically arranged and closely resemble the 1D Mark III. Menu options fit on the displayed screen, eliminating the need to scroll through lengthy lists.
Ease of Use*(6.75)*
The 40D supplies a range of modes that allow users to determine the degree of control they’d like to assume over the camera. For those looking for point-and-shoot usability, the Full Auto mode transforms the camera into a one click device; those interested in more advanced functionality can shoot remotely, manually adjusting each setting on their PC. The all-inclusive approach offers a versatile platform for users looking to grow into the medium, and the logical layout should be reasonably intuitive for all level shooters.
Ironically, the biggest roadblock in usability applies to existing 30D shooters. Canon, for some reason, has reassigned the three control buttons on the top of the camera. The buttons access critical shooting parameters - ISO, White Balance, and Metering mode – and are likely to disorient 30D shooters who have become familiar enough with the camera to shoot by feel. 30D users expecting to adjust ISO with the center control will actually end up switching the Drive mode on the 40D. If they’d like to change the ISO on the 40D, they will have to use the rightmost control, which set the Metering pattern on the 30D. We feel for any professional on a shoot with both 30D and 40D bodies – hopefully the additional weight or enlarged LCD will help the association along. Perhaps a future Picture Style will emerge for unifying button assignments?
*The 40D straddles the line between consumer ease and manual functionality. In doing so, the 40D has two dedicated Auto modes: Full Auto and Program Auto. The Full Auto setting distills operation down to a point-and-shoot capacity. Canon describes the level of simplicity in this mode, noting "all you do is press the shutter button." The Auto mode sets aperture, shutter speed, ISO, metering pattern, drive mode, and focus setting. Users are locked out of these controls in Auto mode to prevent accidental adjustments from being made.
The Program mode on the 40D only assumes control over aperture and shutter speed, setting the camera for an even overall exposure at the selected ISO setting. All other controls remain under the helm of the user. Program shift is available, enabling users to scroll through different pairings of aperture and shutter speed combinations while retaining the same exposure value. A common feature on most DSLRs, program shift offers a comfortable way for shooters to concentrate on the visual effects in an image without worrying about recording a proper exposure.
*The 40D has a Live View setting, so it could feasibly record video. However, there is no way to record the feed.
Drive / Burst Mode*(8.75)
*Fitted with a new DIGIC III image processor, the EOS 40D is 30 percent faster than its predecessor, increasing its maximum burst rate from 5 to 6.5 frames per second. Also included is a low-speed continuous shooting setting that shoots at speeds up to 3.5 fps. Beyond its refined image processor, Canon attributes the increased speed to the camera’s DDR SDRAM memory, 4-channel per line sensor readout, and separate motors for shutter and mirror operation.
The 6.5 fps capture speed is impressive. It’s slightly slow (by modern standards) for sports and action photography, though blazingly quick for events and casual shooting. This is perhaps the most significant upgrade on the 40D, and makes the camera far more capable than preceding models in the line. Its primary competitor, the Nikon D300, shoots at a slightly slower 6 fps, but can be increased to 8 fps with the application of an optional battery grip. Below these two models, the next fastest competitors (aside from previous generations of these cameras) linger in the 3 fps area. The quickest cameras on the market currently move at 8 to 10 fps, though they generally cost 2 to 3 times the 40D’s sticker price.
Canon enhanced the computing power of the camera as well, expanding the buffer capacity to 75 Large JPEGs and 17 RAW files in a given burst. The 30D, by comparison, can only amass 30 Large JPEGs and 11 RAW files before taking a breather. The combination of increased speed and storage capacity results in a much faster camera in use.
A less glamorous, though still welcome addition to the 40D, is the inclusion of a 2-second self timer. The camera can now be set for either 2- or 10-second delays, though mirror lock-up still needs to be activated manually in the Custom Settings menu.
*Images can be viewed one at a time or in groups of four or nine. Both the quick control and control dials can be used to scroll through images. The jump button can be set to move through 10 or 100 images, jump to days images were taken, or screen of images when they are viewed in groups.
There is 1.5x to 10x magnification available for reviewing details in an image. When an image is magnified, the four-way controller can move the part of the image in view.
Various amounts of information can be displayed by pressing the info button. The default display shows shutter speed and aperture. When the info button is pushed once, image size and number of images on the memory card is displayed. When pushed twice all shooting information and the RGB histogram is displayed. Three times brings up the brightness histogram.
In the Playback mode menu, the Highlight Alert function can be turned on or off. The parts of an image that are overexposed will blink, warning users to make the necessary adjustments on future exposures.
Print orders are also created in Playback mode. The 40D can be set to print up to 99 copies of an image when connected to a printer via a USB cord.
Custom Image Presets*(7.0)
*Many prosumer-oriented DSLRs omit automated Scene modes in an effort to make the design more efficient for manual shooters, and help characterize the camera as a "serious" DSLR. Canon axed the Scene modes on its more expensive EOS 5D, though it has maintained a selection of presets on the 40D’s line. Six Preset modes are arranged around the "Basic Zone" portion of the camera’s mode dial.
Manual Control Options
The EOS 40D offers full manual control over exposure, fine tuning of White Balance, ISO expansion, and 3 sets of user-defined settings and 24 custom functions.
Consistent with previous models in the line, the EOS 40D has nine autofocus points arranged in a horizontal diamond-shaped pattern around the center of the frame. All nine points are cross-type, however, unlike the EOS 30D that had just a lone cross sensor in the center. The central focus point on the 40D has been also reworked; the diagonally-oriented, high-precision sensor is now sensitive to vertical and horizontal lines with f/2.8 lenses and faster. High-precision autofocus sensors in previous EOS cameras were only sensitive to vertical lines with f/2.8 lenses.
Three focusing modes are offered: One-shot (focuses for single shot), AI Servo (automatically switches between focus points to track moving subjects), and AI Focus (moves between one-shot and AI Servo).
The system sounds impressive on paper, but in use, it didn’t meet Canon’s marketing bravado. We found the 40D struggled to find focus in low contrast scenes, and would often hunt when the Nikon D200 would lock in. The EOS 40D fared better than the 30D in low light scenes, but needed a good deal of contrast to be effective. In low light, low contrast scenes, there wasn’t much discernable difference between the 30D and 40D. Tracking performance was decent using its AI Servo setting, though twice we found it jumped off subjects we were following without reason. In general, the 40D offers upgraded autofocus from the 30D, though the improvement is not as significant as we had hoped.
Manual Focus (9.25)
The Standard Precision Matte (Ef-A) focusing screen that ships with the camera is surprisingly contrasty and makes it easy to judge focus in the viewfinder, even using the kit lens. Unlike the 30D, however, the 40D carries a Live View LCD that allows users to gauge focus on a small television rather than in the viewfinder box. The difference is significant. Users can magnify the subject up to 10x on screen, displaying an enlarged, visible detail of the subject. For manual focusing, we found the live view immensely beneficial. At 10x, however, it can be difficult to keep the camera steady enough for it to be effective without a tripod.
The 40D offers a variety of exposure controls. It has Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, and Manual modes. The Program mode can be shifted, allowing users to select the desired shutter speed/aperture combination.
Exposure compensation can be adjusted up or down 3 stops in 1/3 or 1/2 stops. The 30D, the 40D’s predecessor, can only be adjusted 2 stops.
The camera has a 35-zone TTL system with the following metering options: evaluative (linked to the selected autofocus point), partial (meters from 9 percent of the frame), spot (meters from 3.8 percent of the frame), and center-weighted average.
*Like the 30D, the 40D has daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, white fluorescent, and flash white balance presets. The custom white balance setting allows users to manually select a color temperature from 2,500 to 10,000K.
There are white balance bracketing and white balance shift features. White balance bracketing writes three files to the memory card with variations in white balance +/- 3 levels, in full stops. White balance can be fine tuned +/- 9 levels along the blue/amber and magenta/green axis.
The Canon 40D has a 100-1600 ISO range, with the option to expand it to 3200 ISO. ISO can be adjusted in 1/3 or full-step increments. Auto ISO is now also available in Creative Zone modes.
*The 1/8000 to 30-second shutter speed range is adjustable in 1/3-step increments. There is also a bulb setting for longer exposures. The shutter speeds allow users to capture everything from sports action to star-lit skies. The 40D has a maximum sync speed of 1/250.
Aperture is adjusted in 1/2 or 1/3 stops when a compatible EF, EF-S, TS-E, or MP-E lens is attached to the camera.
Picture Quality / Size Options*(9.5)
*The Canon 40D can shoot three JPEG sizes; large (3.5MB or 3,888 x 2,592 pixels), medium (2.1MB or 2,816 x 1,880 pixels), and small (1.2MB or 1,936 x 1,288 pixels). JPEGs can be set to two quality levels; normal and fine. The 40D can simultaneously record JPEG + RAW or JPEG + sRAW files.
Like the 1D Mark III, the 40D has two raw file sizes. RAW files are 12.4MB (3,888 x 2,592 pixels) and sRAW files are 7.1MB (1,936 x 1,288 pixels). sRAW files, introduced on the 1D Mark III, allow the same editing flexibility as standard-sized RAW files. The smaller size takes up less storage space and allows for faster write times to memory cards. This is an upgrade from the 30D, which has only one RAW size.
Picture Effects Mode*(9.0)*
The 40D retains the Picture Styles from the 30D. New on the 40D is the dedicated button that accesses the Picture Styles menu. They are also accessible through the Shooting menu. The presets are: Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, and Monochrome. They have predefined sharpening, saturation, contrast, and color tone settings that are adjustable by the user. There are three custom settings available.
As we’ve mentioned in past reviews, the Standard setting sharpens images significantly. It’s better to use the Neutral setting if you plan to do significant post-processing.
Connectivity / Extras
The 40D packages an EOS Digital Solutions disk with the camera. It includes the following utilities: Digital Photo Professional v3.1, Zoom BrowserEX 5.8, EOS Utility 2.1, Photostitch 3.1, a TWAIN driver, Original Data Security Tools 1.1, WFT Utility 3.1, and Picture Styles Editor 1.0.
Within the various applications, users can sort, file, stitch, and browse images, covert RAW files, and remove mapped dust particles. The RAW converter supplies controls for color, white balance, saturation, exposure, contrast, and sharpness. Users can also apply Picture Styles or reduce noise. Batch processing is also available.
We found RAW conversions made with Digital Photo Professional at its default settings were slightly less saturated, though more contrasty, than the same image processed in Adobe Camera RAW. It’s a powerful program in its own right, but the interface isn’t as clean and fluid as Adobe’s.
Jacks, ports, plugs (7.5)
All of the same jacks and ports that are on the older 30D are also on the 40D, although they are aligned in a cleaner design on the new model. On the left side of the camera body are two vertical rectangular rubber flaps that sit next to each other. There is a shared wide finger grip below them that makes it easier to pry open than the traditionally smaller grips under individual panels. The rubber flap on the right opens to reveal the AV-out and USB jacks. The left flap opens to terminals for PC flash and remote control accessories. A power adaptor can be fitted into the battery compartment; there is a tiny rubber flap on the inner lip of the front of the hand grip that allows the wire to pass through. On the bottom of the camera is another rubber flap that covers a terminal for an extension system. All in all, this selection covers the necessities and then some.
The 40D claims improved weather sealing over the 30D, particularly around the card and battery doors. Also if the card door is opened while the camera is still recording data to the card, a warning appears, but the writing continues, unlike in the past when all buffered frames would be lost.
Direct Print Options (8.0)
With an included USB cable, the EOS 40D is equipped to print images directly from the camera. It is PictBridge compatible and can also print to Canon’s CP, Selphy, and Pixma printers. With all of the manual controls and RAW shooting capability, it is unlikely that the direct print feature will be used often – although it can be handy at times. Canon felt that it deserved a designated button on the camera body, so there is a button in the upper left corner of the back marked with an LED in its center and labeled with printing and transferring icons. This is Canon’s print/share button, which is used to send print orders to the connected printer. Users can choose images to add to the order along with how many of each print to make, the size of the paper, type of paper, printing effects, and layout. There are also a few editing features – trimming and tilt correction – that can be used in conjunction with direct printing. The tilt correction feature isn’t compatible with all printers though.
The Canon EOS 40D takes a BP-511A lithium-ion battery pack. This is the same battery that fits into the 30D, 20D, 5D, and older PowerShot G-series digital cameras. When the flash is turned off and the camera is at room temperature (73 degrees Fahrenheit), the battery lasts 1,100 shots. When the flash is used half of the time, the battery life shortens to 800 shots. In colder temperatures, the battery is strained even more. Without the flash, the battery can get 950 shots at freezing point (32 degrees Fahrenheit). With the flash turned on for half of the pictures, only 700 shots can be taken in the cold. There is also a CR2016 coin-type lithium backup battery, but this won’t power the camera; it will only power the camera enough for it to remember saved exposure settings and such. This backup battery will need to be replaced about every five years. A convenient, small wall-mount CG-580 battery charger is included with the 40D. When users need extended power, an optional AC power adaptor kit can be purchased and loaded into the battery compartment. The cord threads through a rubber flap on the front of the camera; it can barely be seen because it sits at the bottom of the inner lip of the hand grip.
*Images can be saved to CompactFlash type I and II memory cards that can be loaded into the right side of the camera body. CF is the most common media format for DSLRs although some entry-level models are now accepting SD cards. Despite its slightly larger size, CF cards are still the preferred media because they have faster read/write speeds than other types of memory cards. There is a plastic door that slides open to reveal the card slot. Images can also be saved to a hard drive via the USB cable or through the optional WFT-E3A wireless file transmitter.
Highlight Tone Priority* – According to Canon, this mode is designed to expand the dynamic range in the highlights, which they define as middle gray (18 percent) to the whitest highlight. The setting minimizes the apparent transitions from grays to highlights and creates more continuous tonalities. Canon cautions users to expect to see an increase in noise in the shadow values. The setting also limits Auto ISO to 200 – 1600.
WFT-E3A Wireless Transmitter – An accessory option for the 40D, the WFT-E3A transmitter allows the 40D to send files to external recording media or communicate with a GPS device. Images can be recorded separately to different media, or can be set to record to multiple sources simultaneously. With both the wireless transmitter and live view enabled, studio shooters can manipulate camera controls remotely, watching a video feed of the scene. Unfortunately, the crafty gizmo sells for $699.99.
Custom Settings – The 40D offers 3 sets of user-defined settings and 24 custom functions. The options aren’t quite as extensive as Nikon’s D300, though they cover most necessities.
*The Canon EOS 40D retails for $1,299 for the body and $1,499 when an EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens is included. The price is fair. The 30D originally retailed for $1,399 for the body only, and the 40D makes several marked improvements over its predecessor: more resolution, larger LCD screen with live view, faster burst mode, ISO 3200 extension, dust removal, and a few weatherproofing features. Granted, this is a year later and since the 30D’s release, the market has matured; there is more competition this year than last. The DSLR prosumer market is no longer solely dominated by Canon and Nikon. Fujifilm, Panasonic, and Sony all have formidable alternatives within a $100 of the 40D.
**Who It’s For
***Point-and-Shooters* – Point-and-shooters can easily adjust to the 40D. Canon has included a set of automatic modes (Basic Zone), six preset scenes, and a Live View LCD to ease the transition.
Budget Consumers - Professionals on a budget will find the 40D as friendly on their wallet as any for its capabilities. First time SLR owners, however, may find its sticker price a bit steep for experimentation.
Gadget Freaks – Canon added some newfangled gadgetry to its well-aged design; the 40D drops sRAW files, Highlight Tone Priority, Live preview, an Integrated Cleaning System, and two Drive motors. We’re not sure if that’s really enough to satiate true gadget freaks, however.
Manual Control Freaks – There’s plenty to twiddle on the 40D, with full manual control over exposure, ISO, focus, white balance, and image size/quality. This Canon also carries Picture Style settings and a range of custom options to tailor the interface and rendering properties to the shooter’s personal preference.
Pros/Serious Hobbyists – Like the 30D, there’s sure to be a number of professional shooters who opt to make a living off the 40D. At $1,299, it’s an economic alternative with outstanding image quality – ultimately what this constituency demands.
**Canon EOS 30D – This DSLR is a bit lighter but the measurements are about the same. Compared to the 40D, the 30D has less resolution and a slower 5 fps Burst mode. It also has a smaller 2.5-inch LCD screen although the 230,000-pixel resolution is the same. The 8.2-megapixel 30D has the same exposure modes and settings though, for the most part. There are a few minor differences, such as the 30D’s 100-1600 ISO range that doesn’t have a 3200 extension. The Canon EOS 30D has an older Digic II image processor, but still produces accurate colors and excellent dynamic range, along with great noise control. The body originally retailed for $1,399 but now sells for about $1,000.
Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro – This DSLR is very similar to the Nikon D200 and is designed for wedding and portrait photographers. It has post capture Face Zoom, along with excellent performance: low noise, great 12.3-megapixel resolution, good colors, and impressive dynamic range. The S5 Pro has an 11-point autofocus system and a slower 3 fps Burst mode. The camera body is bigger and accepts Nikon’s Nikkor F-mount lenses. There are no Scene modes, but there are three "film simulation modes," similar to Canon’s picture styles. The Fuji S5 has a 2.5-inch LCD screen with a live view and 230,000-pixel resolution. It is compatible with CF and Microdrive media but has a weak 400-shot battery. The S5’s body sells for about $1,600.
Nikon D300 – The D300 spruces up the specs with 12.3 megapixels and a 6 fps Burst mode that moves even faster at 8 fps when an optional battery pack is purchased. The autofocus system has 51 points along with an interesting focus tracking mode. Nikon introduced picture control settings similar to those on Canon DSLRS: standard, neutral, vivid, and monochrome are included on the D300. It has a 3-inch LCD screen with two live preview modes and superior 920,000-pixel resolution. The Nikon D300 has a bigger and heavier body with an optical viewfinder that has 100 percent accuracy, as compared to the 40D’s 95 percent accurate viewfinder. The Nikon D300 has a dust reduction system that shakes grime off the image sensor and a Nikon F-mount for Nikkor lenses. This DSLR retails for much more at $1,799.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 – This DSLR is the second release from Panasonic; the first was the overpriced 7.5-megapixel L1 that retailed for $1,999. The L10 improves upon the resolution with 10.1 megapixels and puts the price at a realistic $1,299. It comes with a face detection system that recognizes up to 15 faces at a time and throws in a few Scene modes to appeal to point-and-shooters who are stepping up from compact digital cameras. The Panasonic L10 has a 2.5-inch live view LCD screen with sub-par 207,000-pixel resolution, but the monitor folds out from the camera body and rotates 270 degrees. Like the 40D, the L10’s optical viewfinder is 95 percent accurate. The L10 has a 9-point autofocus system and a dust reduction system to keep the Four Thirds image sensor clean. The L10 has an unimpressive 3 fps Burst mode. The body is much lighter weighing in just over a pound and accepts SD, SDHC, and MMC cards rather than CompactFlash like most DSLRs. The Panasonic Lumix L10 comes with a Leica 14-50mm lens.
Sony α DSLR-A700 – The Sony A700 has 12.1 megapixels and comes with a $1,400 price tag for the body. It has an 11-point autofocus system and a hand grip that activates the autofocus system when touched. Along with its slew of manual controls and settings, the A700 includes 14 "creative style settings" that sound similar to Canon’s picture styles with options like "vivid" and "autumn leaves." The Sony A700 is weather resistant and comes with a 3-inch LCD screen that has ultra-smooth 920,000-pixel resolution. It does not have a live view like the Canon 40D. The A700 has a slower 5 fps Burst mode. There is a dust reduction system included along with built-in image stabilization. High definition output is available with an optional cable, and the camera accepts CF and Memory Stick Duo media.
The EOS 40D stands as a solid successor to Canon’s popular EOS 30D. It offers increased resolution, 30 percent faster continuous shooting, and enhanced computing power. A number of innovations, such as sRAW files, Live Preview, automatic dust reduction, and additional weather seals, also make their first appearance in the series, collectively creating a more dynamic and contemporized feature set.
In terms of image quality, the 40D’s photos look great, but not significantly better than the 30D’s. The 40D's noise levels are very low, though not any lower than the 30D. The 40D's dynamic range is excellent, and slightly improves on the 30D. Color accuracy is almost identical, but the 40D’s resolution is less than impressive, even with the extra megapixels.
There's a lot of competition in this price range. Some of the 40D's competitors offer very attractive features that Canon has not included. Features such as body-based image stabilization (Sony A700), a commander flash mode (Nikon), and rotating Live View LCDs with better resolution (Panasonic L10) may capture some of its target market.
Current 30D owners who use multiple bodies, such as wedding photographers, may be put off by the reassignment and repositioning of the buttons on the top and back of the camera. But for first time DSLR owners or single body shooters, the 40D provides Canon's characteristically excellent image quality, solid build, and convenience.
**Click the thumbnails to view the high resolution images
Specs / Ratings
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