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DCRP Review: Canon EOS-40D
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: October 24, 2007
Last Updated: December 17, 2007

The EOS-40D is Canon's midrange digital SLR, replacing their popular EOS-30D, which was introduced back in February of 2006. While the 30D was a relatively minor update to the 20D, the new 40D has some significant new features. They include:

There are many other new features, but those are the big ones. Things that haven't changed on the 40D include support for EF and EF-S lenses, full manual controls, and all the accessories you could possibly imagine.

Ready to learn more about the EOS-40D? Read on, our review starts now!

What's in the Box?

The EOS-40D comes in two "kits". One includes the body and accessories only ($1299), while the second includes all that plus an F3.5-5.6, 28 - 135 mm IS lens (for $1499). Here's what you'll find in the box for both of those:

If you buy the 40D lens kit then you'll get Canon's venerable 28 - 135 IS lens in the box. While I was unable to try the lens, it is generally VERY well liked in the Canon community. If you have any other EF or EF-S lenses, they'll work just fine with the 40D. Just remember that there's a 1.6X focal length conversion at work here, so that 28 - 135 will have a field-of-view of 44.8 - 216 mm.

Something you definitely won't find in the box is a memory card. Thus, if you don't have a CompactFlash card laying around, you'll need to buy one. The 40D supports both Type I and II CompactFlash cards, which include things like the Microdrive (does anyone even use those anymore?). I'd recommend a 2GB card as a good starter size. Buying a high speed card (100X or above) is strongly recommended. Unlike the Nikon D300 and the Olympus E-3, the EOS-40D does not support UDMA-enabled memory cards.

The 40D uses the same BP-511A battery as its predecessor. This battery packs a powerful punch, with 10.3 Wh of energy stored in its plastic shell. That means that you can expect big battery life numbers out of the camera. The chart below shows you how many shots you can squeeze out of the 40D, as well as its competitors:

Camera Battery life, live view off
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon Digital Rebel XTi 500 shots NB-2LH
Canon EOS-30D 750 shots BP-511A
Canon EOS-40D 800 shots BP-511A
Fuji FinePix S5 Pro 400 shots NP-150
Nikon D300 1000 shots EN-EL3e
Olympus E-3 610 shots BLM-1
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 450 shots DMW-BLA13
Pentax K10D * 480 shots D-LI50
Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 650 shots NP-FM500H

* Equivalent to the Samsung GX-10

Battery life numbers are provided by the camera manufacturers

The EOS-40D's battery life numbers are an improvement over the 30D's, and in the group as a whole, they're well above average. Only the new Nikon D300 can beat it.

Although none of the cameras above support AA batteries (which some people, including myself, prefer) straight out of the box, quite a few support them via their optional battery grips.


The 40D with the optional battery grip
Image courtesy of Canon USA

Want even better battery life? Then pick up the new BG-E2N battery grip. This holds two BP-511A or six AA batteries, for double the battery life of the camera alone. You can use the old BG-E2 battery grip as well -- the different is that the new one has weather-sealed compartments. Both battery grips have additional buttons, which are handy for shooting in the portrait orientation.

When it's time to charge the BP-511A battery, just snap it into the included charger. It takes about 100 minutes to fully charge the battery. This is my favorite type of charger, too, as it plugs directly into the wall (though it may not in some countries).

Digital SLRs support a load of accessories, and the table below covers just a selection of those available for the EOS-40D:

Accessory Model # Price * Description
Lenses Varies Varies The 40D supports all EF and EF-S mount lenses, with a 1.6X focal length conversion
External flash

220EX
430EX
580EX II

From $119
From $235
From $350
You'll get more flash power and less chance of redeye with an external flash. These two models fully integrate with the camera.
Macro ring lite MR-14EX From $430 Light up your macro shots
Macro twin lite MT-24EX From $626 For taking close-up flash photos
Right angle finder Angle finder C From $176 For looking into the optical viewfinder from above
Wired remote control RS-80N3
TC-80N3
From $48
From $125
Basically a shutter release button on a 2.6 foot-long cable. The RS model is a shutter release only, while the TC model has a self-timer
Wireless remote control LC-5 From $350 A pricey, long range (330 ft) wireless remote with self-timer function
Battery grip BG-E2N From $169 Get double the battery life and a comfortable vertical grip
Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E3A $799 Transfer images to your computer via Wi-Fi or Ethernet; can also be used for remote capture from a Mac or PC
AC adapter ACK-E2 From $52 Power your camera without draining your batteries
* Prices were accurate at time of publication

Like I said, those are just a few of the available accessories. You can also buy diopteric adjustment lenses (for the viewfinder), dual battery chargers, and different focusing screens.

One accessory I want to touch on briefly is the optional (and quite pricey) Wireless File Transmitter. As it's name implies, the WFT allows you to transfer photos wirelessly to a computer or FTP site. It even has a built-in web server, so you can view files that are stored on the camera remotely. There's more, though -- the WFT also allows you to remotely control the camera from your compute, just as you can over USB (more on that below). If that's still not enough, there's are also Ethernet and USB ports, with the latter supporting both GPS and USB flash drives. I didn't get the chance to use the WFT, so that's all I can tell you, but you'll find much more on Canon's WFT website.


EOS Utility in Mac OS X

Canon includes version 15.1 of their EOS Digital Solutions Disk with the 40D. The first application that you'll probably bump into is EOS Utility, which you can use for transferring photos from the camera, adjusting settings, or controlling the camera remotely. You can choose to transfer some or all of your photos to your computer, and they end up in ImageBrowser or ZoomBrowser, which I'll describe in a second.


Remote shooting in EOS Utility, complete with live view

The next feature in EOS Utility is a big one -- you can control the camera remotely, whether over a USB cable or a wireless connection (assuming you've bought the WFT described below). You can adjust many of the camera's settings (though not the custom functions), and images are saved on directly onto your computer hard drive. What more, the live view feature on the 40D works here too, with the same benefits. You can compose your photo, zoom in on an area of your choosing, and tweak the focus precisely using those arrow buttons right in the center of the screenshot above. There are also interval and bulb shooting options available in this part of the software.


Customizing the My Menu settings in EOS Utility

EOS Utility also lets you set up the My Menu feature on the camera (click on the "star" icon in the remote shooting window). Just pick up to six of your favorite settings using the software tool, and they'll be transferred over to the 40D.


Picture Style Editor in Mac OS X

From EOS Utility you can also get to the Picture Styles editor. To use this, you must first open up a RAW image. You can then tweak the tone curve, color settings, contrast, and sharpness, and then save a new Picture Style, which can be used both on the camera and in the Digital Photo Professional software (see below).


ImageBrowser (Mac OS X)

One of the included options for editing images are the ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser "twins" that come with all of Canon's cameras. ImageBrowser is for the Mac, while ZoomBrowser is for Windows PCs. The Mac version is not Universal, so it doesn't run as fast as it could on Intel-based Macs. However, a Universal version now exists (it comes with the PowerShot G9), so it may be worth contacting Canon for an upgrade.

After you download photos using EOS Utility, you'll end up with the screen above, which has a standard-issue thumbnail view. Photos can be organized, printed, and e-mailed from this screen.


The JPEG viewing/editing window in ImageBrowser

Double-click on a thumbnail and you'll bring up the edit window. Editing functions include trimming, redeye removal, and the ability to adjust levels, color, brightness, sharpness, and the tone curve.


RAW editing in ImageBrowser

ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser can also be used to edit your RAW images. The software lets you adjust nearly of all major RAW properties, including exposure, white balance, sharpness, contrast, and color, Picture Style, noise reduction, and color space.


Digital Photo Professional in Mac OS X

For slightly more powerful RAW editing plus a batch image conversion tool, you'll want to fire up Digital Photo Professional. The main screen isn't too different from Image/ZoomBrowser, with your choice of three thumbnail sizes, plus a thumbnail w/shooting data screen. The batch processing tool lets you quickly resize and rename a large number of photos.


Editing JPEGs in DPP

If you're working with a JPEG, you'll find several editing tools available. They include brightness, contrast, hue, saturation, sharpness, and chrominance noise. You can also adjust the tone curve, with the software offering an "assist" tool if you need a little help.

You can also apply remove dust from your photos by applying the Dust Delete Data information that you gather on the camera itself.


RAW editing in DPP

The RAW editor can do everything that I listed above, and more. You can adjust RAW properties including exposure, white balance, Picture Style (which contains contrast, color tone, saturation, and sharpness), and both luminance and chrominance noise. The software is very responsive, making adjustments almost instantly.

I've been talking about RAW for several paragraphs without explaining what it is. RAW images contain unprocessed image data direct from the camera's sensor. Thus, you can adjust settings like white balance and exposure without damaging the original image, so it's almost like taking the photo again. The downside is the large file size (compared to JPEG) and the need to post-process each image on your computer before you can turn it into a more common format like JPEG.

The 40D offers two RAW file formats: regular and small. The only difference is that the small (sRAW) files are 2.5 Megapixel, allowing for much smaller file sizes. Of course, this limits your output options, but if you're shooting for the web or making small prints, it's worth a look.

I should mention that Adobe Photoshop CS3 (paired with the latest Camera Raw plug-in) also supports the 40D's RAW image format.


PhotoStitch in Mac OS X

A separate program called PhotoStitch can, well, stitch together separate photos into one giant panorama. The interface is simple, the process takes seconds, and the results are impressive, as you can see. The camera doesn't have the Stitch Assist feature found on Canon's point-and-shoot cameras, so you won't get any help composing your photos.

A camera as complex as the EOS-40D requires a detailed manual, and Canon has delivered a book nearly 200 pages in length. It'll answer any question you may have about the 40D, though it's not exactly what I'd call user friendly. You'll definitely want to give it a read to get the most out of the camera.

Look and Feel

From a distance, the EOS-40D could easily be mistaken for its predecessors. Once you get closer, though, you'll see that the 40D is noticeably larger, as Canon needed more real estate to make room for that 3-inch LCD. The camera's build quality is exceptional: it has a magnesium alloy and stainless steel frame, with a outer shell made of high grade plastic and rubber. The grip is enormous, giving the camera a very "safe" and comfortable feel when it's in your hands. While the camera has more than its share of buttons and dials, they're logically placed and fairly well labeled.

One of the new features on the 40D (in terms of design) is that certain parts of the camera are now weather-sealed. These parts include the battery and memory card compartments, and the I/O ports. The various doors and covers on the optional battery grip and wireless file transmitter are sealed as well. This doesn't mean that you can take a shower with the 40D -- it's really just extra protection against dust and moisture.

Now, here's a look at how the EOS-40D compares to other D-SLRs in terms of size and weight (body only, of course):

Camera Dimensions (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) Volume (bulk) Mass (empty)
Canon Digital Rebel XTi 5.0 x 3.7 x 2.6 in. 48.1 cu in. 510 g
Canon EOS-30D 5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9 in. 69.4 cu in. 700 g
Canon EOS-40D 5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9 in. 69.4 cu in. 740 g
Fujifilm FinePix S5 Pro 5.8 x 4.4 x 2.9 in. 74 cu in. 830 g
Nikon D300 5.8 x 4.5 x 2.9 in. 75.7 cu in. 825 g
Olympus E-3 5.6 x 4.6 x 2.9 in. 74.7 cu in. 810 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10 5.3 x 3.8 x 3.1 in. 62.4 cu in. 480 g
Pentax K10D 5.6 x 4.0 x 2.8 in. 62.7 cu in. 710 g
Sony Alpha DSLR-A700 5.6 x 4.3 x 3.3 in. 79.5 cu in. 690 g

I know, I know, I just told you that the 40D is larger than the 30D. Then why does the chart show the same dimensions? When measuring the camera dimensions in inches, the 30D and 40D's numbers are identical. If you look at it in millimeters then you'll see the difference: the 30D measures 144.0 x 105.5 x 73.5 mm (W x H x D), while the 40D comes in at 145.5 x 107.8 x 73.5 mm.

In the group as a whole, the 40D sits right in the middle in terms of both size and weight.

Enough about that, let's move on now to the tour portion of the review now.

Here you can see the front of the EOS-40D, with the lens removed and the sensor visible. This APS-C sized CMOS sensor features 10.1 million effective pixels, producing images 3888 x 2592 in size. The sensor, coupled with the DIGIC III image processor, produces images that are 14-bit (compared to 12-bit on the 30D), which allows for finer color gradation, according to Canon.

Surrounding the sensor are two of the three components of Canon's EOS Integrated Cleaning System, which first appeared on the Rebel XTi. This system attempts to remove unsightly dust from the sensor, and it does so in three ways. First, the IR filter (in front of the low-pass filter) has an anti-static coating, which helps to repel dust. If dust manages to stick, the camera can shake it off with ultrasonic vibrations. You can run this cleaning cycle at startup, or once the camera is up and running. If you still have dust after all that, then you can create a "dust map", which you import into the Digital Photography Professional software. The camera can then automatically remove these dust spots from your images.

The camera's lens mount is unchanged from the 30D. It supports both EF and EF-S lenses, with a 1.6X focal length conversion ratio. Canon (as well as Sigma, Tamron, and the like) literally have dozens of lenses to choose from. To release an attached lens, you simply press the button to the right of the lens mount.

Canon did not build image stabilization into the 40D, or any of their D-SLRs for that matter. Instead, they put IS into their lenses. If you want a camera that has image stabilization for every lens you attach, you may want to consider offerings from Olympus, Pentax, or Sony.

Directly above the camera's lens mount is its pop-up flash, which is released electronically. The flash has a guide number of 13 meters at ISO 100, which is slightly more powerful than the competition, save for the Olympus E-3, which also has a GN of 13. If you want more flash power, or the flexibility of wireless flashes, then you can attach an external flash to the hot shoe or flash sync port that you'll see in a bit.

The flash doubles as the camera's AF-assist lamp, firing quick bursts until the camera locks focus. This results in locked focus a lot quicker than your typical compact camera. If you don't actually want to take a flash picture, you can simply close the flash after focusing is complete.

The only other items to see on the front of the camera are the shutter release button, and the self-timer / redeye reduction lamp to its right.

There's lots to talk about on the back of the EOS-40D, and I'll start with that gigantic 3-inch LCD. The screen is big, bright, and sharp, though I'll be honest here, I've been spoiled by the screens on the Nikon D300 and Sony A700. Those two cameras have 3-inch LCDs with 923,000 pixels, compared to 230,000 here -- and it shows. Still, it's comparable to what you'll find on almost every other camera on the market, and I never found the resolution to be a problem.

You can get a composition grid in live view mode ... and a histogram, if you turn on exposure simulation mode in the custom settings menu, though it blocks a large portion of the frame

One of the big new features on the 40D is support for "live view" on the LCD display. This means that you can compose your photos in real-time on the LCD, just like you could on your compact camera. One hundred percent of the frame is shown (obviously), as opposed to 95% with the optical viewfinder. The image on the screen is bright and easy to see (even in low light), and noticeably better than on Olympus' digital SLRs (though I have not seen the E-3 yet). The camera can preview exposure and white balance in live view mode, and you can overlay a composition grid and/or histogram as well, though the latter takes work to find.

Live view is only available in the "creative zone" shooting modes, which means that you cannot use the automatic or scene modes if you want live view. As I mentioned in the software section, you can also compose images in real-time on your computer screen, either via USB or Wi-Fi.


Checking manual focus in live view mode

Live view is really intended for use with manual focus, as you can't just halfway press the shutter release to have the camera lock focus, as you could on a compact camera. If you do want to autofocus, you can press the AF-On button, and the camera will do some mirror flipping and then return to live view mode with the focus locked. If you are using manual focus, then you're in for a treat. You can enlarge an area of the frame (center or otherwise) by 5 or 10 times, which allows for precise adjustments to focus.

The live view mode also offers two "silent shooting" modes, made possible by the fact that the camera is using an electronic (rather than mechanical) shutter in this mode. Thus, the 40D can take pictures without making nearly as much noise as it would with LV disabled. Do note that the silent shooting modes will reduce (or disable entirely) the camera's continuous shooting ability.

When the LCD is not being used for live view, you can use it for showing the current camera settings. You can choose to view current exposure settings, or more general camera settings.


Changing settings

When you press any of the direct buttons on the top of the camera, the available options are shown on the main LCD, as well as on the top LCD info display.

Okay, enough about the LCD, let's get back to the tour. Directly above the screen is the camera's optical viewfinder, which shows 95% of the frame. The viewfinder is larger than the one on the 30D, with a magnification of 0.95X (compared to 0.90X). Below the field-of-view is a line of green-colored data, containing such information as shutter speed, aperture, ISO sensitivity, exposure, shots remaining, and more. A diopter correction knob on the top-right of the viewfinder can be used to focus what you're looking at.


Direct Transfer menu

To the left of the viewfinder are the Menu and Print/Share buttons. The first one's function is self-explanatory, while you may not know about the second one. The Print/Share button lights up when you're connected to a computer or printer, and the LCD displays the Direct Transfer menu you see above. You can press it to transfer photos, set one of your photos as a desktop picture on your computer, or print photos on a PictBridge-enabled photo printer.

Jumping now to below the LCD, we find the following five buttons:

Some of the available Picture Styles The actual settings for the landscape style

While the 30D had Picture Styles, it didn't have a dedicated button for them. Picture Styles are sets of parameters that are optimized \for various situations (kind of like scene modes). You can adjust any of them to your liking, and you also create three Styles of your own, either on the camera or in the bundled software. Canon offers a few extra Styles on their website, as well. The parameters that you can adjust with Picture Styles include:

Moving on with our tour -- to the immediate right of the Picture Styles button is the power switch. There are three settings: off, on, and on with the quick control dial unlocked. Speaking of the quick control dial, which can be used for menu navigation, adjusting exposure, and working with the "direct buttons" that you'll see on the top of the camera.

Above the quick control dial is the "multi-controller", used for selecting a focus point, menu navigation, scrolling around an enlarged image, and more.

Our look at the back of the camera ends with three last buttons:

I mentioned the 40D's refined autofocus system back in the introduction to this review, but here are a few more details. On the EOS-30D, only the center focus point was cross-type (imagine a "plus" with focus detectors on it). On the 40D, all nine are cross-type, and there's also an X-shaped focus point in the center of the frame that's available when lenses faster than F2.8. What this means is that the 40D's focusing system is faster and more accurate than the 30D.

There's plenty more to see on the top of the EOS-40D. I'll start with the mode dial, located at the left of the photo. The options here include:

Option Function
Flash off Disables the flash (including for AF-assist)
Night portrait These are all scene modes; note that live view is not available in these modes
Sports
Close-up
Landscape
Portrait
Full auto mode Point-and-shoot, with many menu options locked up; live view is not available
Program mode Point-and-shoot but with access to all camera options; a Program Shift feature lets you use the main dial to move through various shutter speed/aperture combinations
Shutter priority (Tv) mode You set the shutter speed and the camera selects the appropriate aperture; shutter speed range is 30 - 1/8000 sec
Aperture priority (Av) mode You set the aperture, and the camera selects the appropriate shutter speed; aperture range will vary depending on your choice of lens
Full manual (M) mode You select both the shutter speed and aperture, with the same ranges as above; a bulb mode is also available, allowing you to take exposures for as long as the shutter release button is held down (AC adapter and remote shutter release strongly recommended)
Auto depth-of-field (A-Dep) mode All subjects covered by a focus point will be in focus
Custom 1/2/3 Your favorite camera settings, easy to reach

As you'd expect on a $1300 digital SLR, the 40D has a full set of manual exposure controls. One new feature is the ability to save three sets of camera settings to individual spots on the mode dial.

There are automatic and scene modes available as well, though do note that the live view feature is not available in any of them.

The next item on the top of the 40D is the hot shoe, one of two ways in which you can connect an external flash to the camera. Canon's own 220EX, 430EX, and 580EX II Speedlites will work best with the camera, as they integrate with the camera's metering system. They can also be used to control groups of wireless Speedlites. The 580EX II really integrates with the camera -- you can adjust its settings right from the 40D's menu system. If you're using a third party, you may need to adjust the flash's settings manually. The 40D can sync as fast as 1/250 sec with a compact flash, and 1/60 sec with large studio strobes.

Continuing to the right, we find the camera's LCD info display, which shows every setting you could possibly imagine (I'm not going to list them all). You can turn on an orange backlight by pressing the button located to its upper-left.

The last things on the top of the camera are the four buttons above that info display. They include:

Lots to talk about before we move on, though I'll get to white balance later in the review.

There are three AF modes on the 40D: one-shot is for stationary subjects, AI servo is for moving subjects, and AI focus automatically selects one based on what's going on in the frame.

The 40D's continuous shooting mode is top-notch, with a burst rate just edging out the Nikon D300 (on paper, at least). In high speed continuous mode, the camera took 22 RAW, 26 sRAW, and a whopping 184 Large/Fine JPEGs at 6.2 frames/second, slightly lower than advertised. If you downshift to "regular" continuous mode, the frame rate drops to exactly 3 frames/second. It appeared that you could keep shooting JPEGs, while the camera stopped or slowed down after 24 RAW and 57 sRAW images. Two notes about the 40D's continuous mode. First, you'll need a high speed memory card to get the most out of the camera (I used a 4GB Sandisk Ultra II card myself). Second, while you can use live view to compose your photo, the feature will be disabled when continuous shooting starts.

The camera lets you select the ISO manually, and it has an auto mode as well. The auto ISO setting really varies depending on what shooting mode you're using. Sometimes it varies (e.g. from 400-800 in Program mode), while other times it's locked (e.g. at 400 in shutter priority mode). Naturally, you can select the ISO manually as well, in either 1/3 or 1/2-step increments. If you turn ISO expansion on, you'll be able to go all the way up to ISO 3200 ("high"). I'll have more on the camera's ISO performance later in the review.

On this side of the 40D you'll find the flash release and depth-of-field preview buttons and the I/O ports. Let's peel back those rubber covers and get a closer look at those ports:

The ports here include:

As you'd expect, the camera supports the USB 2.0 High Speed standard, for fast data transfer to your Mac or PC.

On the other side of the 40D you'll find its CompactFlash slot. This supports "regular" Type I as well as thicker Type II cards, including things like the Microdrive. I did notice that camera manual warns against using the Microdrive and Live View at the same time -- maybe it's a heat thing?

The door over the memory card slot is sturdy, and sealed against dust and moisture.

Our tour ends with a look at the bottom of the camera. There you'll find a metal tripod mount, an "expansion port connector" (for the WFT), and the battery compartment. The door over the battery compartment is of decent quality, and it too is sealed against moisture.

The familiar BP-511A lithium-ion battery can be seen at right.

Using the Canon EOS-40D

Record Mode

If you have auto dust reduction turned off, then the 40D is ready to start shooting as soon as you hit the power switch. If dust reduction is on, expect to wait about 1.5 seconds.

While, naturally, focus speeds will vary depending on what lens you're using, they were very fast overall. In the best case scenario, the 40D locked focus almost instantly. Heck, even at the telephoto end in low light, it still took a fraction of a second to lock focus. The only time I got the 40D to approach a one second focus time was in low light with the flash-based AF-assist going. Speaking of which, low light focusing was accurate and fairly quick, even without using the AF-assist flash. All-in-all, the 40D's focusing performance was very impressive, and a real step up from my own EOS-20D.

If you're shooting with the optical viewfinder then shutter lag won't be a problem. There's a tiny bit of shutter lag with live view, but it's really not much, as the mirror is already out of the way, and the focus is locked.

As with all digital SLRs, there's no delay between shots, regardless of image quality or flash use. You can shoot as fast as you can compose the next shot.

You can delete a picture as it's been saved to the memory card by pressing the delete photo button.

Now, here's a look at the numerous image size and quality choices available on the camera:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 1GB card (optional)
Large
3888 x 2592
RAW 12.4 MB 76
Fine 3.5 MB 274
Normal 1.8 MB 523
Medium
2816 x 1880
Fine 2.1 MB 454
Normal 1.1 MB 854
Small
1936 x 1288
sRAW 7.1 MB 135
Fine 1.2 MB 779
Normal 700 KB 1451

The chart above is greatly simplified compared to the one in the camera manual. You can shoot in two RAW modes (normal and small), either alone or with a JPEG at the size of your choosing. Thus, if you want to know how much space a RAW+Large/Fine shot will take, just "do the math" using the above table. Hopefully I explained the pros and cons of RAW earlier in the review.

Images are named XXX_YYYY.JPG (or .RAW), where X=100-999 and Y=0001-9999. File numbering is maintained as you swap or erase memory cards.

Now, let's talk about the 40D's menus.

The 40D's menus have changed since the 30D. No longer is the menu one continuous list of items -- now it's been broken up into several tabs, which makes it a bit easier to navigate. Keeping in mind that some of these options are unavailable in the automatic modes, here's the complete list of menu items:

Shooting 1
  • Quality (See chart)
  • Redeye reduction (on/off)
  • Beep (on/off)
  • Shoot w/o card (on/off)
  • Review time (Off, 2, 4, 8 sec, hold) - post-shot review
Shooting 2
  • AE bracketing - see below
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, white fluorescent, flash, custom, color temperature) - see below
  • Custom white balance - see below
  • WB shift/bracketing - see below
  • Color space (sRGB, Adobe RGB)
  • Picture Style (Standard, portrait, landscape, neutral, faithful, monochrome, user 1/2/3) - I described these earlier
  • Dust Delete Data - obtains data to aid in dust removal on your computer
Playback 1
  • Protect images
  • Rotate
  • Erase images
  • Print order - tag photos for printing
  • Transfer order - tag photos for auto transfer to your computer
  • External media backup - backup data to a USB flash drive when you're using the WFT-E3

Playback 2

  • Highlight alert (on/off) - shows blown highlights
  • AF point display (on/off) - shows the AF points that were used
  • Histogram (Brightness, RGB)
  • Auto play - slideshow

Setup 1

  • Auto power off (Off, 1, 2, 4, 8, 15 mins)
  • File numbering (Continuous, auto reset, manual reset)
  • Auto rotate (Camera+PC, PC only, off)
  • Info button (Normal display, camera settings, shooting functions) - what's displayed on the LCD in record mode
  • Format memory card
  • WFT settings - control the wireless file transmitter
  • Recording function+media select - for use when a USB flash drive is attached to the optional WFT
Setup 2
  • LCD brightness (1-7)
  • Date/time
  • Language
  • Video system (NTSC, PAL)
  • Sensor cleaning (Auto, clean now, clean manually) - this last one flips up the mirror so you can use a blower to remove dust from the sensor
  • Live view function settings
    • Live view shooting (enable/disable)
    • Grid display (on/off)
    • Silent shooting (Mode 1, mode 2, disable) - see below
    • Metering timer (4, 16, 30 secs, 1, 10, 30 mins)
  • Flash control
    • Flash firing (enable/disable)
    • Built-in flash func. setting
      • Shutter sync (1st-curtain, 2nd-curtain)
      • Flash exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV)
      • E-TTL II (Evaluative, average)
    • External flash func. setting - these next two will vary depending on which EX-series external flash you have attached
    • External flash custom func. setting
    • Clear external flash custom func. setting

Setup 3

  • Camera user setting (C1, C2, C3) - save current settings to a spot on the mode dial
  • Clear all camera settings
  • Firmware version

Custom functions

  • Exposure
    1. Exposure level increments (1/3-stop, 1/2-stop)
    2. ISO speed setting increments (1/3-stop, 1-stop)
    3. ISO expansion (on/off) - opens up ISO 3200
    4. Bracketing auto cancel (on/off)
    5. Bracketing sequence (0/-/+, -/0/+)
    6. Safety shift (enable/disable) - whether the shutter speed or aperture are automatically adjusted in Av or Tv mode to get a good exposure
    7. Flash sync speed in Av mode (Auto, 1/250 sec)
  • Image
    1. Long exposure noise reduction (Off, auto, on)
    2. High ISO speed noise reduction (on/off)
    3. Highlight tone priority (enable/disable) - improves highlight detail, but increases noise in shadow areas
  • Autofocus/Drive
    1. Lens drive when AF impossible (Focus search on/off) - whether the camera keeps trying to focus when it's having trouble
    2. Lens AF stop button function (AF stop, AF start, AE lock, AF point selection, focus mode, IS start) - for super telephoto lenses only
    3. AF point selection method (normal, multi-controller, quick control dial)
    4. Superimposed display (on/off) - whether focus points are illuminated in the viewfinder
    5. AF-assist beam firing (Enable, disable, only external flash emits)
    6. AF during live view (enable/disable)
    7. Mirror lockup (enable/disable) - to avoid blur caused by the vibrations of the mirror flipping
  • Operation/Others
    1. Shutter button/AF-On button (Metering + AF start, Metering + AF start/stop, Metering start/Metering + AF start, AE lock/Metering + AF start, Metering + AF start/disable) - define what these buttons do
    2. AF-On/AE lock button switch (enable/disable) - swap the function of these two buttons
    3. SET button when shooting (Disabled, image quality, Picture Style, menu display, image replay)
    4. Dial direction during Tv/Av (Normal, reverse)
    5. Focusing screen (Ef-A, Ef-D, Ef-S)
    6. Add original decision data (on/off) - whether image verification data is stored along with the photo
    7. Live view exposure simulation (enable/disable) - enable this to get the live histogram
  • Clear all custom functions

My Menu settings

  • Up to six of your favorite menu items can go here

The AE bracketing feature takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure value. The exposure interval can be ±1/3EV, ±2/3EV, or ±1EV. If you've got a large memory card, this is a good way to ensure properly exposed photos every time.


WB shift and bracketing (at the same time, no less)

The EOS-40D has plenty of manual white balance adjustments. First, you can use a white or gray card as a reference, for accurate color in mixed and unusual lighting. Another option is to manually set the color temperature, which can be adjusted between 2500K and 10000K, in 100K increments. If either of those are a little off, you can use the white balance shift to move the white balance in the green, blue, magenta, and amber directions (see screenshot). If that's still not enough, you can bracket for white balance, with the camera taking three shots in a row, each with a slightly different WB setting.

I mentioned them before, but I want to touch on those live view "silent shooting" options in more detail here. Mode 1 is the standard silent shooting mode, which is noticeably quieter than regular, non-live view shooting. Do note that the continuous shooting mode drops 0.5 fps when using this feature. Mode 2 is a little weird -- it's initially just as quiet as Mode 1, but if you keep your finger on the shutter release, the electronic shutter won't reset itself, which removes that noise from the shooting process. Continuous shooting is not available in mode 2. You can also disable silent shooting, which Canon recommends for use with a tilt-shift lens or non-Canon external flash.

Alright, it's time to move onto photo quality now. Two notes first, though. One, since I didn't have the kit lens, there's no distortion test available. Second, I used a variety of lenses for these tests, and I'll mention which one I used in the discussion of each test. Okay, let's go!

It took some work, but I ended up getting a nice macro shot out of the 40D, using the Sigma F2.8, 50mm EX macro lens. When shooting in JPEG mode, I could never get the white balance right, no matter how much I tweaked it. So, I ended up shooting in RAW mode, where I was able to get rid of that annoying color cast. Here, the colors are quite saturated -- especially the reds -- and the subject has the smooth appearance that's typical of a Canon digital SLR.

How close you'll be able to get to your subject depends on your choice of lens. Canon (and others) make dedicated macro lenses, if you're so inclined. The Sigma macro lens I used has a minimum focus distance of 18.9 cm.

It was a heck of a night for photos of San Francisco a few days ago, as you can see. The 40D and its Canon 70-200 F4L lens captured some beautiful reflections on the still water. The camera took in plenty of light (as it should, with its full manual controls), the buildings are sharp, and even the way-too-bright US Bank sign is readable. There is some purple fringing to be found here, though I probably could've eliminated it by closing down the aperture a bit. As for noise... there isn't any.

I have two ISO tests for you in this review, and the first one uses the night scene you see above. In each shot, I increased the ISO in full-stop increments. The long exposure noise reduction option was set to "auto". Here we go:


ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

The 40D produces shots that are as smooth as butter through ISO 400. At ISO 800 we see a tiny amount of noise, but it doesn't destroy much in the line of detail, so a large print is still easy at this point. Noise becomes more visible at ISO 1600, but it's still very usable. Only at ISO 3200 do you really see any noise, but it's still very low and very usable, especially if you run it through some noise reduction software.

I was surprised to see that the 40D picked up some redeye in our flash test shot. I think this is due to the relatively weak redeye reduction lamp, which isn't bright enough to shrink your pupils. While you may not have any redeye problems, it seems to be at least a possibility.

Here's that second ISO test I promised you. This one is taken in the studio, and the results can be compared to those from other cameras I've reviewed. While the crops give you a hint about the noise levels at each ISO setting, I highly recommend viewing the full size images to get the most out of this test. And with that, here are the crops of the above scene:


ISO 100

ISO 200


ISO 400


ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 3200 w/high ISO noise reduction

As you can see, the 40D turned in an impressive performance in this test, as well. There's really no noise to speak of until ISO 800, but even then, it's barely noticeable. There's a bit more at ISO 1600, but there's really no detail lost. There is some slight detail loss at ISO 3200, and turning on high ISO noise reduction helps a bit with that, but still, wow -- this is why you buy a D-SLR.

With a quality lens attached to it, the EOS-40D can produce spectacular results. I lot of the photos in the gallery were taken with the Canon 17-85 IS EF-S lens (that I brought on vacation with me), which really isn't all that great, due to softness, blurry corners, and vignetting. However, with a better quality lens, the 40D's photo quality was superb.

The camera produces very smooth-looking photos, which some may consider soft -- and if so, you can play around with the Picture Styles to find a sharpness setting you like. Colors were spot-on -- no complaints there. As for noise, there wasn't much, and you had to get the ISO pretty high to see any of it. Purple fringing is going to depend a lot on your choice of lens. It did pop up here and there, but it was fairly minor in most cases. My only photo quality complaint is that the the 40D has the tendency to underexpose. I took hundreds of photos on my vacation, and the majority of them were underexposed by 1/3 or 2/3-stop. I'm sure a lot of this had to do with the crummy UK weather, but I wanted you to at least be aware of this possibility.

Now, I invite you to have look at our extensive photo gallery, which has over two dozen sample photos. Be sure to view the full size images, and maybe print a few of them if you can. Once that's done, you should be able to decide if the 40D's photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

Digital SLRs do not have movie modes.

Playback Mode

The EOS-40D has a pretty basic playback mode, with no gimmicks. Features include slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. This last feature lets you enlarge your photo, and then move around in the zoomed-in area -- perfect for checking focus. By using the quick control dial, you can move from one photo to another (maintaining the zoom setting), which is more handy than it sounds like.

The only "editing" tool on the camera is image rotation. There's no way to resize or crop photos on the camera.


Jumping through thumbnails by date

Pressing the Jump button lets you quickly move through your photos in several ways: by 10 or 100 photos, by "screen" (as in thumbnail screen), or by date.

Photos can be deleted one at a time, several at a time, or all at once.

By default, the 40D doesn't tell you much about your photos, but if you press the Info button, you'll see a lot more. Pressing the button again switches the histogram from brightness to RGB.

The camera moves through photos instantly, as you'd expect on a D-SLR.

How Does it Compare?

With the EOS-40D, Canon has created a very capable midrange digital SLR that offers excellent photo quality, snappy performance, live view, and a well-designed body. Since I'm yet to test the equivalent cameras from Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic, and Sony, it's hard to say how the 40D compares. Standing on its own, however, the 40D is a camera that easily earns my recommendation.

The 40D is a midsize D-SLR that's built like a tank. It's frame is a mix of stainless steel and a magnesium alloy, and the outer shell is made of high grade plastic and rubber. Add in a large right hand grip and you have a camera that feels safe and secure in your hands. The camera does have its share of buttons, though most of them are easy to figure out without having to pop open the manual. Like the 30D before it, the EOS-40D supports both EF and EF-S lenses, with a 1.6X focal length conversion. New to the camera is Canon's three-pronged dust reduction system, which combines a dust-repelling coating on the sensor, ultrasonic dust "shaking", and a digital "dust map", so you can get rid of this annoyance in software.

On the back of the camera is an enormous 3-inch LCD display. While it's bright and sharp, it pales in comparison to the amazing screens on the Nikon D300 and Sony DSLR-A700. One of the big new features on the 40D is live view, which allows you to compose your photos on the LCD in real time. While it's really designed for use with manual focus (with a handy frame enlargement feature), you can activate autofocus by pressing the AF-On button on the back of the camera. The view on the LCD is bright and fluid, and low light visibility is pretty good (though Canon's compact cameras are brighter in those situations), and you can superimpose both a histogram and a composition grid on the screen. The shutter release sound is quieter in live view mode, as the camera's using an electronic shutter instead of a mechanical one. You don't have to be seated behind the camera to enjoy the live view feature, either, as it's available on your PC as well, via USB or the optional Wireless File Transmitter.

The 40D's optical viewfinder has been enlarged since the 30D, with a magnification of 0.95X. The doors over the camera's memory card slot and battery compartment, plus the I/O port covers, are sealed against dust and moisture. The 40D supports the newly redesigned BG-E2N battery grip, which also has sealed compartments.

While the EOS-40D has a couple of auto and scene modes, it's really geared more toward enthusiasts. The camera has full manual controls, including those for exposure, white balance, and (of course) focus. The white balance controls allow for manual color temperature adjustment, fine-tuning, and bracketing. The 40D has quite a few "Picture Styles", each of which has preset settings for things like color, contrast, and sharpness. You can tweak the Picture Styles, or create your own if you'd like. The camera is customizable too, with three spaces for custom settings on the mode dial, plus a "My Menu" that can hold six of your favorite camera options. And, as you'd expect, the 40D supports the RAW image format -- and in two sizes (normal and small). You can take a RAW image with or without a JPEG attached.

Camera performance was superb in all areas. The camera is ready to take pictures instantly with auto dust reduction turned off, or in about 1.5 seconds with it on. Autofocus speeds are noticeably faster than the 20D and 30D, and they should be, as the 40D has an all new AF system. Focus times ranged from near-instantaneous to around a second in the worst case scenarios. Shutter lag wasn't a problem with live view off, and barely noticeable with it turned on. Shot-to-shot delays were minimal, as you'd expect. The 40D's continuous shooting mode is one of the best out there -- I was able to take 22 RAW or 184 JPEG images in a row at 6.2 frames/second (a little lower than advertised) in the high speed mode. If that's too fast for you, you can use the 3 frame/second "regular" continuous mode, as well. Battery life was well above average (as long as you don't use live view too often), and the camera's USB 2.0 High Speed support means that your photos will be quickly transferred to your computer.

The EOS-40D is capable of producing excellent quality photos, especially with a high quality lens attached (read: not my 17-85 IS lens). The camera produces very smooth-looking (yet still sharp) photos, with pleasing color, and minimal purple fringing (this last one is really more of a lens issue, though). Noise isn't really noticeable until you get near ISO 1600, and even then, it's more than manageable. Even the ISO 3200 is usable, especially if you do some cleanup work in software. The camera does tend to underexpose a bit, most notably when the sun's not out, so keep that in mind. Much to my surprise, the 40D has a slight redeye problem, probably due to its weak redeye reduction lamp.

It's hard not to like the Canon EOS-40D. It's a digital SLR that does just about everything you could possibly want -- and it does them all well. While it remains to be seen how it will compare to new offerings from the competition, the 40D is still good enough to recommend without the slightest hesitation.

What I liked:

What I didn't care for:

Some other midrange D-SLRs to consider include the Fuji FinePix S5 Pro, Nikon D300, Olympus E-3, Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10, Pentax K10D, and the Sony Alpha DSLR-A700.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the EOS-40D and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photos turned out in our gallery!

Feedback & Discussion

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.

If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation or technical support.

Want another opinion?

You'll find more reviews of the 40D at Digital Photography Review, Imaging Resource, and CNET.com.

 

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