Canon 40D Review
|Full model name:||Canon EOS 40D|
(23.7mm x 15.6mm)
|Viewfinder:||Optical / LCD|
|Native ISO:||100 - 1600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 3200|
|Shutter:||1/8000 - 30 sec|
5.7 x 4.3 x 2.9 in.
(146 x 108 x 74 mm)
|Full specs:||Canon 40D specifications|
4.5 out of 5.0
Canon EOS 40D
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.
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.
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.
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
Canon EOS 40D vs Digital Rebel XTi
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Though I prefer to shoot with primes when I can, this lens is an excellent all-around choice for general photography.
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).
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.
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
- 10.1 megapixel CMOS sensor
- Kit lens EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM
- Optical Viewfinder plus Live View via LCD
- 3.0-inch LCD
- ISO range of 100 to 3,200
- Shutter speeds: 30 second to 1/8000
- Uses Compact Flash Type I and Type II, Microdrive
- Lithium-ion battery
- 5.7 x 4.3 x 2.9 inches (146 x 108 x 74mm)
- 29.7 ounces (844 grams)
- MSRP: $1,299 body-only, $1,499 kit
Canon 40D Special Features
- 6.5 fps continuous-mode speed (30D was 5 fps)
- 75 large/fine JPEG, 17 RAW buffer size (30D was 28 large/fine frames)
- sRAW mode, 1/4 resolution RAW format
- New Live View mode (similar to 1D Mark III, but enhanced)
- Live View mode allows AF by pressing AF-ON button (drops mirror to focus)
- Live View mode offers 5x/10x magnification to aid manual focusing
- Live View mode has electronic 1st-curtain shutter option for fast, quiet shutter release
- 14-bit digitization (up from 12-bit)
- Highlight Tone Priority mode
- All 9 AF points are cross-type
- Center AF point offers enhanced accuracy along both axes with lenses f/2.8 or faster
- Expanded metering range, down to EV 0 (30D went to EV 1)
- AE system adds 3 "Custom" modes
- LCD is brighter than 30D's, but viewing angle is reduced to 140 degrees from 170.
- 7-step LCD brightness adjust (30D was 5 steps)
- Expanded custom function menu (24 vs 17 for 30D)
- Menu format follows tabbed design of 1D Mark III
- Ultrasonic sensor cleaning system (Similar to Rebel XTi)
- DIGIC III processor (up from DIGIC II)
- Manual color temperature range extends down to 2,500K (30D was 2,800K)
- Viewfinder magnification 0.95x (up from 0.90x on 30D)
- Viewfinder eyepoint raised from 20 to 22mm
- Interchangeable focusing screen (30D's screen is fixed)
- More information in viewfinder readouts
- Compatible with Picture Style Editor (PSE) software to adjust style, color, and tone curves
- Compatible with latest Digital Photo Professional and EOS Utility 2.1 to support Remote Live View and Dust Delete Data functions
In the Box
The Canon EOS 40D ships with the following items in the box:
- EOS 40D body (plus 28-135mm lens if purchased as a kit)
- Body cap (plus front and back lens caps if kit is purchased)
- Wide Strap EW-100DGR
- Battery Charger CG-580
- Battery Pack BP-511A
- USB Interface Cable IFC-200U
- Video Cable VC-100
- Software, including Digital Photo Professional for RAW conversion
- Large capacity CompactFlash memory card. These days, a 1GB or 2GB card is inexpensive enough.
- Camera case for protection
- Accessory lenses
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.