Canon SX40 HS: Utility Camera

Canon SX40

For some time I’ve been wanting a replacement for my old Canon S3 IS. I use my Panasonic Lumix G2 and lenses when I’m willing to carry a bag of gear around in order to get my best image quality. For a carry-around I like my Canon S90 as a compact camera. It fits snugly into a belt pack. And for plain fun, I use my iPhone camera because it frees me up from all worry about image quality. But what I’ve been missing is a good ultrazoom utility camera.

I’ve owned ultrazooms before and like them as a simple all-in-one cameras that are lightweight and easy to carry (though not as easy as the S90) but having tremendous zoom range plus macro capability. My favorite of these was a Canon S3 IS that gave me excellent service and made my trip to Alaska a great photo experience. I left it behind when I felt the image quality wasn’t keeping up with the industry.

I was tempted by the SX30 when it was released but reports of bad chromatic aberration plagued all the reviews. With the SX40 Canon appears to have taken the good ideas from the SX30 and fixed them. I’ve been shooting with it for a couple of weeks now and have not seen any noticeable CA in any of my shots.

It also has the larger 2/3-inch sensor and a better Canon processing engine. IQ is good enough for a utility camera. I’m surprised at the quality of images taken with the equivalent of 840mm.

Yes, 840mm! The 35mm equivalence of the camera is 24-840mm. The long zoom is especially helpful to me for shooting ducks, gulls, and boats on the open water where the Credit River empties into Lake Ontario.

Which is not to say the camera is perfect. It’s a little slow to start up and slow to focus. The EVF quality is primitive compared to my Lumix G2. The feel of the camera in the hand is similar to a sculpted brick. None of these things surprised me though because it was the same when I owned an S3 IS. I don’t expect this camera to perform like a more advanced camera. It performs well enough to get the job done, most of the time. Like a utility hitter in baseball. Don’t expect home runs, but he’ll usually get on base.

Because of its convenience and its workmanlike ability, I’m using the SX40 more than my Lumix and more even than my S90. It’s a good practical compromise — the kind of thing Canadians love.

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