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Canon EOS 40D
Overview

by Shawn Barnett, Dave Etchells, and Siegfried Weidelich
Preview Date: August 20, 2007
Full Review: October 24, 2007

Hardcore Canon digital SLR fans need wait no more for their next camera. The Canon 40D has arrived. Some updates that appear on the 40D are a little late, others are a sign of the times.

With the same rugged, conservative shape, the Canon EOS 40D will be mostly familiar, save for a few moved controls, an extra button or two, and a very large 3.0-inch LCD.

Its 10.1-megapixel sensor finally gives Canon's semi-pro digital camera parity with the majority of its competitors, and a 6.5-frame-per-second continuous mode helps speed things up over the current competition at this price level.

The Canon 40D also has an improved viewfinder, an enhanced Live View mode, better dust sealing, and the DIGIC III image processor that allows 14-bit analog to digital conversion for better color rendition. Canon's improved upon the standard 9-point AF array on the EOS 40D by making all points Cross-type, which, combined with other improvements, results in a claimed 30% greater AF speed.

Other additions on the Canon 40D include interchangeable focusing screens, a much-needed AF-ON button, the EOS Integrated Cleaning System for sensor dust reduction, and three new optional accessories: an IS version of the 18-55mm kit lens; a new backward-compatible, weather-sealed battery grip; and a new Wireless File Transmitter that will allow remote control of the camera as well as transmission of a Live View image from the camera to the computer.

At first blush, the Canon 40D consists mostly of incremental improvements, once again. The EOS 40D is not as groundbreaking as some would like, but it's arguable that serious photographers don't want to have to learn whole new ways using their main tools. It's also important to note that Canon's semi-pro SLRs, both the 20D and 30D, are much loved by their owners, producing excellent image quality despite the "mere" 8-megapixel sensor. The line in general has never been about sex-appeal, but about solid, reliable performance.

History. Canon's EOS SLR system is the oldest and still the largest lens line where the focus motor is built into the lens itself, with no mechanical coupling between the lens and camera body. Other lines, like Nikon, Pentax, and Minolta/Sony, have a mixture of "screw-drive" lenses and electronically coupled lenses. Dating back to 1987, the EOS (Electro-Optical System) line has a huge and growing selection of lenses, some of which Canon has recently updated to meet the greater demands of digital imaging technology.

As the first major manufacturer to use large CMOS sensors in their SLRs, Canon was an early leader in delivering amazing image quality from its sensors even at high ISO. Canon was also the first to deliver a digital SLR with a full-frame sensor, and they delivered it years before anyone else in the form of the 11.4-megapixel EOS-1Ds, which shipped in 2003 (see our preview of the latest in this line, the 1Ds Mark III, announced simultaneously with the EOS 40D). As of this writing, Canon is the only SLR manufacturer to ship a full-frame (35mm-sized) digital SLR.

And Canon was the first SLR manufacturer to introduce a digital SLR priced under $1,000, the EOS Digital Rebel (300D). That revolutionary SLR was also introduced on August 20, back in 2003.

Subsequent semi-pro SLRs from Canon got nearer the $1,000 mark, dropping from the EOS 10D's $2,000 to the 20D's $1,499. The 30D dropped to $1,399, and now the EOS 40D debuts at $1,299. Its price and improved functionality allow it to compete more favorably against both the more expensive Nikon D200 and less expensive Nikon D80, both of which had the 30D surrounded with a long list of impressive features, if not necessarily superior image quality (though both certainly have higher resolution than the 30D).

 

Canon EOS 40D User Report

by Shawn Barnett

A little bigger in so many ways, the Canon EOS 40D is nevertheless familiar. Canon made important additions, some to keep up with the market, and others to meet needs expressed by users. The final product is a mostly improved high-end digital SLR camera that, while not a compelling upgrade for most 20D and 30D owners, is a great digital SLR camera.

Look and feel. True to the line, the Canon EOS 40D appears very similar to its predecessors, especially the EOS 30D and 5D. From the back, however, there is one very large difference: the 3.0-inch LCD. Its influence on the back control layout is so great that they had to move four of the buttons that are usually arrayed to the left of the screen to the bottom, under the LCD. When it comes to viewing images, composing in Live View, or changing menu settings, the large LCD is great to have.

The Canon 40D's Rear Command dial and the Multi-controller joystick are roughly where they are on other models, including the 30D, EOS-5D, and EOS-1D Mark III.

Prominent on the back of the Canon 40D is one new button heretofore only seen on the 1D Mark III: the AF-ON button. Perched about where it is on the Nikon D200, this button's purpose is obvious: it activates autofocus. By default when shooting in Creative zone modes (Program, Shutter, etc.), it works much the same as a half-press of the shutter button.

Also of note from the back and top image below is the gasket around the hot shoe, designed to mate with and weather-seal the 580EX II flash, introduced earlier this year with the 1D Mark III.

Status. Click for callouts.

The top deck of the Canon 40D is more familiar, with only a few differences. The mode dial on the left has a few extra icons, C1, C2, and C3, which are convenient storage areas for oft-used configurations; a welcome addition. On the right, the major difference is a special area on the Status LCD dedicated to constant display of the current ISO, also optimized for the word "Auto," another interesting addition to the 40D's "Creative Mode" abilities (Auto ISO is the default in Full Auto and Scene modes). On past models, you had to press the ISO button to see the current setting.

Also new is a B/W icon to indicate Black and White mode, as well as a two-digit buffer capacity counter.

Grip. There's a nice comfortable divot for the long finger, and the front of the body has some sculpted relief as well.

Heft & Grip. The EOS 40D feels similar to the EOS 30D, weighing only 1.4 ounces more than its predecessor, and it's also very slightly larger in all dimensions, most noticeable is its height. The grip has a good-sized indent for the middle finger, as we've enjoyed on the EOS 5D and other recent SLRs we've handled. The indent on the 40D seems a little broader than the 5D, and a lot bigger than the 1D-series. Regardless of size, this divot improves control, and better centers the hand for the right grip every time.

Body. The Canon EOS 40D's body is still magnesium alloy, but Canon says they've improved seals against dust and water. New seals protect connection ports, the battery compartment, and the compact flash door. The frame is stainless steel, and the mirror box is high-strength engineering plastic. Holding the Canon 40D is like gripping a well-sculpted rock: solid, with no twisting or creaking. The EF lens mount is metal, compatible with all Canon EOS EF and EF-S lenses.


 

Canon EOS 40D vs Canon 20D

40D vs 20D. The 40D is a little larger in all dimensions, but not as noticeable except in the vertical height of the grip. The bright chrome of the Canon 40D's hot shoe really stands out in the top view.

Canon EOS 40D vs Digital Rebel XTi

Bigger difference. I thought I'd toss this one view in for Rebel XTi owners considering the upgrade. It is a significant difference stepping up from the XTi to the Canon 40D. And if you use an infrared remote on your XTi, note that you'll lose that capability with the 40D, because it has no infrared remote sensor. I've long thought this an incomprehensible omission, especially considering that to add a wireless remote to this series of prosumer Canon SLRs requires a ~$400 optional accessory, while Rebel owners can have this functionality with a $25 RC-1 remote control.

LCD. Also stepping up in size from the EOS 30D is the main color LCD display, now at 3.0 inches. The brightness has been raised as well, to help with bright sunlit conditions, and they both broadened the available color gamut of the display and narrowed the available viewing angle to 140 degrees. Canon says this concentrates more of the light in a smaller cone, rather than spreading it out over a 170 degree area. That means fewer people can crowd around you to see your pictures -- which could be a good thing -- but those who find room will see a brighter image. It also means that you have a dimmer view of the LCD when holding the camera at extreme angles and shooting in Live View mode.

Live View. Speaking of Live View, the Canon EOS 40D's implementation is enhanced when compared to Canon's first Live View camera, the 1D Mark III. If you set C.Fn III-6-1, you can press the AF-ON button to close the mirror and autofocus; release it and Live View returns. This is the same basic technique we've seen on the Olympus E-510, except the Canon 40D doesn't display the selected focus points like the Olympus models do; you can see them if you look through the viewfinder, but that rather defeats the purpose.

You can also magnify the image by five or ten times to check and fine-tune focus in Live View mode, and move the magnification area around with the Multi-controller. This works remarkably well. Once you've achieved focus, either press the Enlarge button again to return and frame, or trip the shutter, and you're shown the captured image and returned to the non-magnified view.

Canon also offers that using Live View on a tripod can reduce vibration by moving the mirror out of the way long before the exposure is made via the shutter mechanism. Unlike the E-510, the 40D doesn't drop the mirror to verify exposure and focus before firing, which should result in faster shutter lag times. Unfortunately that makes capturing moving subjects in Live View mode a little more difficult.

The Live View Function is only available in "Creative Zone" modes -- Program, Shutter, Aperture, and Manual modes -- not in Scene modes. Below is a sample shot that shows a few of the onscreen details in Live View mode.

To bring up the Histogram display, you have to turn on the Live View exposure simulation option under Custom Function IV: Operation/Others. Unfortunately, the histogram is not translucent as I'm used to seeing on digital cameras with live histograms, so it blocks a significant part of the frame. You can turn it on and off with a few presses of the Info button, however. Not shown in the photo above is the optional grid for framing and alignment.

As I've mentioned with the Four-Thirds cameras, Live View is great to have on occasion, but I don't recommend it for most of your shooting. Canon seems to have tuned the system to work more for tripod-mounted shooting. They've added two optional modes to reduce noise in Live View mode. Called "Silent Modes," the first leaves the first shutter curtain open while you fire off up to 6.5 frames per second.

First a little explanation. It turns out that the new CMOS sensor is a little more special than we thought, performing a trick more common on CCD sensors, yet still requiring a little assistance. Regardless of the camera, at high speeds, a mechanical shutter never fully exposes the sensor. On the 40D, in order to get a fast exposure above 1/250 second (the X-sync on the 40D), the second curtain has to follow right behind the first, creating a slit that moves across the sensor. Well, it turns out that the 40D's sensor can simulate the first part of this mechanical slit by scanning the pixels in a line from top to bottom. Then the second curtain does have to come into play to close off the slit and finish the exposure. That means you can open both mirror and shutter once to enter Live View mode, then fire off 6.5 frames with only the sound of the second shutter, because the mirror and first curtain don't move.

Mode 1 is quite fast, with less noise and vibration, both because the mirror's not flapping around, and because of the electronic first curtain trick. When shooting in RAW mode, it takes about 14 seconds for the final image to display and another two to return to Live View (this depends on the Review Time you have set).

The other quiet mode, Mode 2, is more about spreading the sounds out. It's a single-shot mode, regardless of what Drive mode you have set before you enter Live View. Just press and hold the shutter down. All you hear is a quick "tick." That's the second curtain shutting. The image appears onscreen for two seconds, and then the screen goes black, because the second curtain is still closed. Hold the shutter for as long as you like. When you decide to release it, the rest of the camera functions will run, resetting for the next shot, and Live View will return to the LCD. These reset sounds are also pretty quiet, so I'm sure Mode 2 would be helpful when photographing wildlife.

Like the 1D Mark III, the Canon 40D can be remote controlled via USB cable or WiFi with the included software, and a full Live View from the sensor can be displayed on a computer screen. This connection can be made via USB or via WiFi with the optional WFT-E3A (more on that below).

LCD Status Display. Because the Canon 40D has a monochrome Status LCD on the top deck, its LCD by default does not have a Status display like the Rebel XTi. But press the Info button, and you can see the camera's overall status, then a second press brings up a status display that's similar to the XTi's (you can set one or the other to display by default in the Setup Menu). You can't navigate it like you can with recent Olympus and Sony digital SLRs, but if you press certain buttons while in this mode, you'll get a corresponding screen for those items.

For example, press the Metering Mode/White Balance Selection button, and you can use the Main dial on the top deck to adjust the Metering Mode, and the Quick Control dial on the back to adjust White Balance. In some circumstances, like when operating the camera high on a tripod, this is helpful, removing the need to peer up over the back of the camera to the other status display. Because it leaves the LCD backlight on, however, it will burn a little more power. Unlike the XTi, there are no infrared sensors on the back of the Canon 40D to sense when you put your eye to the camera, so there will be a little extra glare to contend with when shooting with the Info display on.

Viewfinder. The 40D's viewfinder has also been improved, with a welcome magnification increase to 0.95x, up from the 30D's 0.90x magnification. The viewing angle is increased to 264 degrees, up from 251, and the eyepoint is raised by 2mm: 22mm instead of 20mm on the 30D. There is a slight difference when I use the Canon 40D with my glasses, as I don't have to squint as much as I do with the 20D or Rebel XTi. For the record, the XTi is actually even less magnified than the 20D, something I can see clearly when holding both cameras up to my eyes. I don't recommend doing this in public, because you look pretty silly, but you can take my word that it is indeed a good, if subtle, improvement over both past cameras.

Though the viewfinder display is similar to the 30D, Canon has added a constant ISO display, a Black and White shooting mode icon, and a two-digit maximum burst display counter. These improvements bring the 40D more in line with current benefits found in the Nikon D200. It is nice to be able to change the ISO on the fly without having to take your eye out of the viewfinder. Once you know your button locations by touch, it all comes together. See the Viewfinder section under the Operation tab.


Left to right are the new focusing screens, Ef-A, the standard screen; Ef-D, the grid; and the Ef-S Super Precision Matte.

Focusing Screens. Finally, Canon has added the ability to change the 40D's focusing screen. Two optional "Ef" focusing screens are available in addition to the standard screen (which is called "Ef-A"). The Ef-D screen is a precision matte design with a grid overlay, for verifying horizon lines and perspective. The Ef-S screen has a Super Precision Matte design that should allow for finer focusing with fast lenses (those with maximum apertures under f/2.8). Both are priced at $45 each.

Sensor. The Canon 40D's sensor is based on the 10.1 megapixel unit in the Digital Rebel XTi. Each pixel is 5.7 microns, down from the 30D's 6.4 microns, but Canon has compensated with a finer grid array that allows for larger microlenses. The added light gathering ability enables inclusion of ISO 3,200, which was left out of the Digital Rebel XTi. I admire Canon's care when deciding what maximum ISO to allow on a given camera. In an era when companies are overreaching in pixels and ISO numbers to pad the spec sheet, Canon seems to be making careful analysis, improving technology incrementally, and setting maximum limits to assure greater image quality.

Image sizes from the Canon 40D are identical to the XTi, recording a maximum image of 3,888 x 2,592 pixels. The focal length crop factor remains 1.6x.

The Canon 40D's sensor has obviously been enhanced to support Live View mode as well.

Canon says one of the ways they've gained speed with the 40D is by adding a four-channel-per-line sensor readout. Faster readout makes for faster followup shots, and surely helps with Live View.

A new sRAW mode captures a "small-RAW" image, with all the benefits of RAW capture, but at a smaller size. Some photographers have requested sRAW for shooting pictures that they know they won't be printing large, but that they know they're going to need to adjust after capture. Wedding photographers in particular will use RAW for portraits, but switch to sRAW for candids. Then they don't have to burn the massive amounts of card and post-capture disk space on snapshots that will never be printed larger than 4x6 inches. The buffer can also hold more in sRAW mode, so it's a smart option, even if it's only for a few 40D customers.

Shutter. The shutter and mirror mechanisms in the Canon EOS 40D have also been beefed up to support 6.5 frames per second. Each now has its own motor dedicated to its function, probably both to speed things up and enable Live View's quiet modes without the shutter being dependent on the motor for the mirror mechanism. The overall shutter mechanism has an expected life of 100,000 cycles. It's also Canon's quietest shutter to date, with no annoying winding sound.

Processor. Image quality is further improved on the 40D thanks to the new DIGIC III processor, which enables 14-bit Analog-to-Digital conversion. This means that the saved images are formed from four times the color information than was available to the Canon EOS 30D, which was only able to recognize 4,096 colors per channel. The 40D can recognize 16,384 colors per channel, which should mean smoother tones and more accurate color overall. Though JPEGs will still be saved as 8-bit color, RAW images will benefit from the 14-bit depth, making for more accurate 16-bit images in programs like Photoshop.

DIGIC III is also expected to deliver 1.7 times faster signal processing, and lower power consumption.

Highlight Tone Priority. The new DIGIC III processor also allows the 40D the same Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) mode first seen in the 1D Mark III, introduced earlier this year. HTP is designed to keep highlights from blowing in brightly lit scenes, a common problem with digital cameras.

Imatest Density Plot Imatest Density Plot

Standard. Here you can see the Canon 40D's standard tone curve, quite good as it is, really.

Highlight Tone Priority Enabled. With HTP on, you can see the subtle difference at the top of the tone curve, where highlights fall off very slowly. This is because there more subtle change going on, and hence more detail in the highlights. Below, however, you can see the tradeoff in terms of more noise in the shadows.

HTP starts at ISO 200, and while it will improve retention of highlights, it will introduce more noise in the shadows, as shown below. To see the benefits of HTP, see the Exposure tab.

Highlight Tone Priority Disabled. Note that this is the deep shadow area of our simulated outdoor shot with the mids turned way up (2.66). It's actually pretty impressive detail retention, considering that his area is very dark. ISO is set to 100.

Highlight Tone Priority Enabled. Here you can see where the detail is lost in the shadows thanks to greater noise, since HTP mode shifts most of the dynamic range to the brighter end of the histogram. Because the model moved here, there was actually more light hitting the fingers, which should have produced more detail. ISO is set to 200, the lowest available in HTP mode.

When you set Highlight Tone Priority to Enable in the Custom Function menu (under Image), the Canon 40D's ISO is restricted to between 200 and 1,600. To let you know that you are in HTP mode, all ISO settings will read with smaller zeros: ISO 200 becomes ISO 2oo. This is true for the top Status display, the rear Status display, and the Viewfinder display, as well as when reviewing the images in Playback mode. Canon also notes that noise in shadow areas will be higher in HTP mode. For more on this see our Imatest page.

Dust cleaning. All new Canon SLRs from the XTi on include the EOS Integrated Cleaning System. Not only does the system shake dust from the low-pass filter, but the camera has been designed to shed less dust from its internal parts, so that the camera's creating less dust of its own. You can also clean the sensor yourself (as you'll inevitably need to do regardless of any built-in anti-dust system as of this date); but if you've found dust in your images and have no time to do a full manual cleaning, you can map the dust for later removal on a computer with Canon's Digital Photo Professional software, bundled with the camera.

Software. Both the 40D and 1Ds Mark III benefit from several new and improved items in the software bundle. The main new item is Canon's Picture Style Editor 1.0, an application that allows photographers to create their own processing parameters, as well as download them from Canon's website. Settings like style, color, and tone curves can be programmed to suit a given photographic situation and then be distributed among several cameras. The EOS 40D is already shipping, long before the 1Ds Mark III, so it will include Digital Photo Professional 3.1 and EOS Utility 2.1, which are necessary for Remote Live View mode and the Dust Delete Data function. The 1Ds Mark III will ship with DPP 3.2 and EOS Utility 2.2. These later versions are designed to speed up workflow, but will also offer improved image processing capability. A new Lens Aberration Correction Function can compensate for chromatic aberration, vignetting, color blur, and distortion. This version will initially be compatible with 11 other cameras and 29 EF and EF-S lenses.

Storage and Battery. Images are stored on CompactFlash cards, Type I or II, including Microdrives. No news here, except that buffer capacity is greater, handling up to 75 JPEG or 17 RAW images before slowing down. One caution I found in the manual is that Canon recommends against using Microdrives when shooting in Live View mode, as the drive's additional heat can combine with the heat generated by the sensor and start to degrade images. Worthy of note.

The Canon EOS 40D uses the same BP-511A that the EOS 30D uses, and is compatible with the BP-511 and BP-512. The DIGIC III processor is said to offer lower power usage, but that's likely taken up by other functions, like the bigger and brighter 3.0-inch LCD display. The 40D is expected to capture around 1,100 shots with the BP-511A, just like the 30D; reduced to around 800 shots at freezing temperatures. Since I've used Live View a lot in my testing, I was surprised to see the battery die more quickly than I'm used to. The good news for existing 20D and 30D owners is that they likely already have a few batteries at the ready to swap in if need be.

Autofocus. Still in a 9-point diamond array, the EOS 40D's f/5.6 autofocus points are all cross-type, meaning that they're all sensitive to vertical or horizontal lines. Nestled in the center is an additional precision AF sensor that is arrayed diagonally and comes into play when you mount a lens of f/2.8 or faster. It has the advantage of detecting both horizontal and vertical lines simultaneously, adding another dimension to the overall capability of the AF array.

Canon says that the various improvements make the EOS 40D's autofocus calculation speed 30 percent faster and more accurate than the EOS 30D, and better in low light. The 20D and 30D have what I consider to be the best low light AF system on the market for the price, focusing on a person lit only by a television screen, and it does seem that the 40D can best them in some situations.

However, there have been quite a few situations where the Canon 40D kept on seeking when the 20D just quickly found and locked focus, specifically when the 40D was in Multi-point AF mode. I've found a few situations where the Canon 40D just seeks and seeks, and never stops. Most cameras give up after a few seconds. This is the first autofocus SLR of any make that I've seen do this. You can turn Focus Seek off in the Custom Function menu, but that still doesn't stop the endless seeking. Oddly, this occurs more for me in vertical mode.

In horizontal mode, Dave had a heck of a time getting the Canon 40D's top center AF point to focus on Marti's hair during the indoor shots. Hair isn't the best place to focus, of course, but it works well enough when we do it with other cameras. In Dave's case, the camera said it was in focus, but it was either front- or back-focusing.

When shooting a soccer match in AI Servo mode recently, the Canon 40D had a hard time finding and keeping focus on my subject. It was usually okay if I could keep the player over the center point, but not always. It still randomly focused many yards behind a player for one frame, then snapped back to proper focus, then back out. Soccer is an extreme example -- and I am spoiled by shooting the 1D Mark II N, and even the 1D Mark III -- but the 20D does better than the 40D in these situations. I got better results shooting in AI Focus mode, which is probably more appropriate for a more random movement game like soccer.

Shooting. As one familiar with shooting everything from a Rebel XTi to a 1D Mark III, I find the Canon EOS 40D very easy to use. Many of its control features go back to the 3.25-megapixel Canon D30, Canon's original digital SLR (not to be confused with the 8-megapixel 30D), and most of those controls came from earlier EOS cameras; so if you're familiar with EOS, you'll probably find the Canon 40D as familiar as I do.

I like the grip change, and the big screen combined with the new navigation method (introduced on the 1D Mark III) make menus very easy to navigate. Since I regularly shoot a Rebel XTi and a 20D as well, I do have to readjust as I move from camera to camera. With the 20D I'm used to just spinning the Quick control dial on the back to get through the menus, using Jump to move from category to category. With the XTi, however, I have to use the navigator buttons for most menu selections. The 40D uses the Multi-controller more than the 20D or 30D did, and it's not always clear when one control will work and the other won't, so be aware that this will take some adjustment if you're upgrading from another EOS.

Once you get used it, it's quite a bit easier to navigate a tabbed menu when you don't have to scroll all the way to the top to move between tabs; instead, you just move the Multi-controller left and right. Perhaps more convenient, the last selected menu item stays highlighted as you move from tab to tab; that's helpful if you're adjusting the same parameter over and over.

Despite my problems with autofocus as mentioned above, I generally shoot with a single AF point selected; and mostly that's the center AF point. I haven't had nearly the trouble I had with the multi-point mode selected. In low light, the Canon 40D outperforms the EOS 20D and Rebel XTi. The 20D and 30D do better than the XTi with the same subjects and same lens, and the 40D bests them all. My former extreme test subject of a person in light from a television proved the 40D better than all three. Testing in the lab proved that the EOS 40D does even better than the company claims, focusing accurately at less than -0.5 EV (1/4 foot candle), all the way down to 1/16 foot candle, the lowest light level we test. Of course, that's with a high-contrast black and white test target, and we have no way of knowing what Canon's test conditions are.

Portrait shoot. Shot after shot with the Canon 40D and EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro was beautifully exposed and sharply focused. The Canon 40D performs very well in a controlled environment. (Click, and then click again to see the full-size image.) Download the 12.5MB CR2 RAW file here.

In summary, I've found the Canon 40D's AF system to be stronger in some ways and weaker in others when compared to the more predictable 20D and 30D AF system. I got more consistent results in single-point AF mode.

Image quality. As is typical of this particular line of Canon digital SLR cameras, images from the Canon 40D are excellent. High ISO images printed at 13x19 inches are usable from ISO 100 to 800, with little noticeable noise, and little evidence of noise suppression. You can see a more gradual degradation as you move up the ladder when viewing onscreen at 100 percent, but it's hardly noticeable when printed. Impressive.

I managed the time to shoot in my basement studio, and the results are quite crisp, made easier by the Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 Macro USM lens. The camera didn't miss a beat, and before long I had a few dozen shots of my daughter all gussied up. There were very few out-of-focus shots, which was a surprise after all the other experiences I had, but most cameras I test do well with my simple studio lighting setup.

Overall my experience with the Canon 40D was very good. The troubles I had with the Multi-point AF system disappeared when I switched to my usual single-point shooting mode, and I'm guessing that most photographers considering the 40D will care as much about the Multi-point AF problem as if I said that the Landscape mode underexposed by one stop (it doesn't; that's just an example). Most of the 40D's target audience won't use either mode. However, if you do use Multi-point AF on occasion, and especially if you're already used to a 20D or 30D, be prepared for an occasional mis-focus now and then. The older models weren't perfect, to be sure, but the 40D's behavior often caught me by surprise.

Kit Lens. Canon didn't get us one of the EF 28-135mm IS lenses that is bundled with the kit version of the 40D, but I was still able to shoot with my own. It's an older design, so it doesn't focus quite as fast as the newer 17-85mm EF-S lens, and its image stabilization system isn't as advanced as others, but it's a great optic in its own right, made better by the crop factor, which cuts out most corner softness. It also looks and feels great on the larger Canon 40D body, striking a good balance. The only major drawback is the lack of a true wide angle, since 28mm is roughly equal to a 45mm lens on a 35mm camera. On the plus side, the 135mm end is equivalent to a 216mm lens, which makes it a good medium-to-telephoto lens without a lot of chromatic aberration to worry about, all for only about $200 extra. It's a very good lens for the money, and doesn't suffer from the same magnitude of distortion and chromatic aberration found on the EF-S 17-85mm.

Though I prefer to shoot with primes when I can, this lens is an excellent all-around choice for general photography.

 

Accessories.

Vertical grip. You can expand the EOS 40D's battery capacity by adding the new optional Battery Grip: BG-E2N. The new grip is water and dust sealed, and doubles the number of shots possible when you load two BP-511A batteries. The BG-E2N also includes a tray for loading six AA batteries as a backup power solution. The pack serves as a vertical grip, with complete duplication of the controls found on the 40D's main grip. The new grip is also backward compatible with the EOS 20D and 30D. This accessory will be priced at $270.

Wireless grip. If you'd rather have WiFi than extra shots, you can opt for the Canon WFT-E3A. Also serving as a vertical grip for the Canon 40D, the WFT-E3A offers 802.11b/g compatibility via an access point or ad hoc (direct to a computer).

Expected range is 492 feet (150m), and supported protocols are FTP, PTP, and HTTP. Security methods include Open, shared key, WPA-PSK, and WPA2-PSK with encryption options for WEP, TKIP, AES, and IPsec (they lost me at WEP, but the rest sounds important). You can use the USB 2.0 High-speed connection to attach GPS devices or flash memory keys; and an RJ-45 Ethernet 100 port is also built in. A small LCD reports the different available settings, what file sizes are being stored to an external device or computer, and signal and battery strength. The WFT-E3A is not backward compatible, but exclusive to the 40D.

Taking a brief look at the EOS 40D's bottom panel, you can see why. Unlike the battery grip, the Wireless grip doesn't provide power to the camera. Instead, both the camera and transmitter need their own BP-511A to operate. The WFT-E3A communicates with the camera via contacts under the rubber door you see in the bottom's upper left corner. Though we haven't received a WFT-E3A for testing yet, it appears you'll need to remove the unit to change batteries in the 40D.

Lenses. Introduced simultaneously with the Canon 40D is a third version of the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 that first debuted with the Digital Rebel. Oddly, however, this new image-stabilized lens won't be bundled with the EOS 40D. We're told that the new optic isn't much bigger, because they used one of the new smaller stabilizer motors from the PowerShot line of digicams. The system is supposed to deliver up to 4 stops of latitude when shooting in low light. The new lens is compatible with any EF-S camera, and will be available in October for $199.99.

Pricing and Availability. The Canon EOS 40D is available body-only for $1,299 suggested retail. It will also be bundled with the EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM mentioned above for $1,499. That's only $200 more for a good quality, image-stabilized lens that retails for between $400 and $500. The Canon EOS 40D began shipping in September 2007.

Analysis. At long last Canon intermediate and pro photographers have a new tool, one with a quite a few advanced features and a little more resolution. It's still familiar, and works pretty well. Most important, though, is its excellent image quality. See the Exposure tab for more on that. This series of digital SLR has always been more practical and purposeful than flashy or showy. It's somewhat analogous to a Milwaukee Sawzall, a funny looking saw that doesn't seem too useful or appealing until you see it open a door by ripping through its hinges, something it does in mere seconds. Now that's a saw. The Canon 40D doesn't blow your mind when you first see it or run through its specs, but wait until you see the photos: You'll be hooked.

For me, it's not about Live View or the larger LCD, nor even the higher resolution, but the faster frame rate is good, the sealed body is reassuring, and the larger viewfinder is always welcome. The new menu is easier to use and the grip is a pleasure to hold. The final bit of excellence is how many aspects of the Canon 40D are similar to previous models. Because, frankly, they weren't broke and didn't need fixin'.

 

Canon 40D Basic Features

 

Canon 40D Special Features

 

In the Box

The Canon EOS 40D ships with the following items in the box:

 

Recommended Accessories



 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Excellent 10.1 megapixel sensor with impressively low noise and superb detail
  • ISO 100 to 800 usable at 13x19 inches
  • Dust removal technology reduces sensor cleaning chores
  • Excellent kit lens
  • 3.0-inch LCD
  • Status display includes more detail
  • Print/Share button enables quick and easy printing and image transfer
  • Fast image transfer eliminates the need for a card reader
  • Excellent grip for most hand sizes
  • Larger viewfinder
  • Live View mode is great when shooting from odd angles
  • Live View works from computer via cable or WiFi (with adapter)
  • Higher sensitivity AF system works better in low light
  • Picture Styles makes choosing and customizing color modes fast and easy
  • Compatible with over 50 lenses and accessories
  • Uses CF cards like all other Canon digital SLRs
  • Selectable auto-rotation feature rotates on the camera or only in the computer
  • Improved buffer depth allows for more followup shots
  • Excellent detail from the sensor
  • Highlight detail is well preserved at default settings
  • Highlight Tone Priority makes it even better
  • Images are sharp, but not oversharpened, and noise suppression is kept well under control
  • Color is very accurate, with only red being a little off, which consumers generally like
  • Auto white balance handles most situations very well
  • High ISO images are impressive, all the way up to ISO 1,600; 3,200 cleans up well
  • Print quality is excellent, making sharp 13x19 inch prints
  • Great shot-to-shot, shutter lag, and cycle time numbers
  • RAW files are very clean
  • Under 3-second flash recycle time
  • Sealed flash hot shoe
  • Bigger than predecessors
  • AF assist lamp only works in flash-on mode, making available light photography more difficult (somewhat offset by the improved AF sensor)
  • Auto-rotation doesn't play well with all computer programs
  • Kit lens doesn't really reach wide angle
  • Indoor white balance is a little yellow
  • Battery capacity is reduced from the larger screen and dust off system
  • Autofocus sometimes just seeks and seeks
  • AI Servo autofocus mode is not reliable
  • Some horizontal banding at ISO 3,200

 

The new Canon 40D offers a very mature set of features in a camera that's priced lower than its predecessors. It also offers as much value and image quality as competing designs that are hundreds of dollars more. Canon's pro SLR designs have always been conservative, and they didn't try to leap-frog the market with a higher resolution sensor; instead they stuck to a 10-megapixel sensor size that would deliver the quality that Canon fans are used to.

Live View is the most significant advancement in technological terms in the Canon 40D, offering a true 100% view of the image, as well as the ability to zoom in either five or ten times to focus manually, or verify focus. You do have to enable the AF-ON button with a Custom Function, but once you do, you can autofocus in Live View mode with just a brief interruption of the LCD display. The 40D's new quiet shooting modes should make nature photography a little easier, thanks to the innovative electronic first curtain. The Canon 40D's faster frame rate of 6.5 frames per second is a nice speed improvement, and the larger image buffer means you can capture more images than before. Canon's inclusion of Highlight Tone Priority has made the EOS 40D even more suitable for portrait and wedding photography,

The Canon 40D's larger LCD is a welcome improvement as well, offering more space for image review, and a very clear look at menu items and the new Status display. The new menu system is easy to use once mastered, and the addition of ISO to both the monochrome Status display and viewfinder makes adjusting and monitoring the Canon 40D easy.

As I've said in the past about other cameras in the line, the Canon EOS 40D is an excellent photographic tool, slightly evolved to take advantage of recent technological advances. This time there are more bells and whistles, but they don't take away from the Canon 40D's ability to make great pictures. The Canon EOS 40D is a sure Dave's Pick.

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