The EOS 40D arrives with all the latest high-tech gadgetry tick boxes suitably ticked: Live view? Check. Increased resolution? Check … the 40D sports a 10.1-megapixel CMOS sensor. Sensor cleaning system? Check. Latest image processing engine? Check … Canon’s latest DIGIC III processor is present and correct. Custom functions and image parameter setting adjustments? Check … the 40D gets a hatful for you to play with, plus downloadable additions to your palette should you need more.
In other words, the 40D is as bang up to date as you’ll get in Canon’s Prosumer range of DSLRs. Other excellent additions include a new, brighter and higher magnification viewfinder (similar in use to the EOS 1D Mk III, so it’s excellent) with more detailed information read out, which makes framing assessment and controlling the camera much better than the 30D.
Other improvements include an increased frame rate of 6.5fps for up to 75-shots and a wide-area AF set up that has nine AF zones with cross-type sensors for improved focusing accuracy with faster (above F/5.6) optics in place. And it has to be said, the focusing is fast and accurate, particularly when snapping some fast moving chickens in a field, where the focused upon hen remained sharply focused throughout a 10-frame burst as it ran about.
The new 3-inch LCD is a 230k-pixel device that is extremely nice to use and provides both live view for composing and shooting without using the optical viewfinder, with manual focus assessment. The new LCD also doubles up as display device allowing shooting information and the like to be repeated from the top LCD for example. Both these systems are ideal for tripod use where you cannot always easily assess the scene and shooting information.
The camera’s new CMOS sensor has on-board processing for each pixel and that combined with the DIGIC III processor and 14-bit analogue to digital conversion aids the fast processing and shooting speeds and helps keep noise to a minimum and reduces power consumption as well.
In fact, the “standard” ISO range of 100 to 1600 is expandable to ISO 3200 and provides a good range to play with. However, the way the camera and sensor on this camera combine to deal with any noise means its noise performance (or the lack of it) is quite simply excellent, since the camera’s on chip processing and signal amplification work extremely well.
Overall, the image quality is stunning, with colour white balance control and sharpness out of the box ideal for most general shooting plus you get RAW and JPEG snapping to a fine level of controllable settings, 20 in fact, at a variety of resolution and RAW or JPEG compression values.
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There are many other adjustable parameters and picture style settings plus the additional downloadable (visit www.canon.co.jp/Imaging/picturestyle/file/) picture styles and user customisable styles, the latter via the excellent software package that comes with the camera. The fully customisable settings allow you to tweak the cameras colour response and use presets for portraits, landscapes and monochrome capture for example.
The camera’s handling will be familiar to any EOS user, even film SLRs, and, although the camera is quite chunky – and can get chunkier with the addition of a new vertical grip that incorporates Wi-Fi connectivity – the magnesium alloy body is very tough indeed. Environmental seals protect it from dirt and dust and water splashes, so it is certainly designed to withstand the rigors of, say, heavy professional use.
While the build is great, the handling suffers slightly from crammed in buttons round the new, larger screen. However, on balance the key button combinations needed to adjust shooting settings are very good. The main shooting control buttons are placed on the top plate behind the shutter button and control dial. Pressing one, say the ISO/exposure/flash compensation button for example and then spinning either the control dial or the large dial on the back plate adjust one of the variables the button deals with. Ditto the metering, AF, and white balance buttons also ranged across the top plate.
This is fast and very easy to get to grips with. The central “Set” button within the large back plate control dial activates the Live View mode and confirms selections in the excellent menu system. The only oddity here is the separate joystick style control for scrolling through main menu headers, leaving the large control dial to move through the chosen menus options once a menu has been chosen.
Other back plate buttons are pretty cramped spaced around the periphery of the new screen and although this doesn’t affect the controllability of the camera per se, I doubt we’ll be seeing larger screens on future models without a complete back plate revamp.
Other features include USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connectivity, the aforementioned Wi-Fi capability with the accessory WFT-E3/E3A vertical grip and compatibility with all Canon EF/EF-S lenses, that’s over 60 optics and a small built-in flash that is okay for fill-in but underpowered form most other uses.
However, there is one black mark in the otherwise blot free copybook that is the 40D: the metering. The evaluative metering system on the 40D seems predisposed to underexpose by around a stop, itself quite common on Canon’s I’ve tested over the years. However, the balance of the metering system is – or at least seems – biased to underexpose on most shots, particularly high contrast scenes where on each occasion it would underexpose heavily.
It’s as if (even with evaluative metering) it is trying to spot meter (you get centre-weighted average too) and when using the full compliment of AF sensors. I was able to bracket or compensate for the problems, and while general shooting scenarios were okay, as this is the only real problem with the camera, it has stopped the camera from providing an otherwise perfect performance.
Overall, the Canon EOS 40D is a more than able update of the 30D and since the introduction of the first Canon prosumer DSLR, the 3.1-megapixel EOS D30 back in 2000, it is light years ahead on that base line.
In a nutshell, this is a cracking camera and one marred only by the odd metering performance, otherwise it is quite simply excellent and worth a close inspection for anyone either trading up or for those pros’ that need a back up body that is not a compromise to far.