Canon PowerShot SX40 HS Review

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor

Originally Posted: December 18, 2011

Last Updated: December 7, 2012

The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS ($429) is a super zoom camera with one of the most powerful lenses on the market. This 35X zoom lens has an incredible focal range of 24 - 840 mm, which should cover every possible shooting situation that you'll run into.

At full wide-angle (24 mm), Alcatraz is just a spot on the horizon At full telephoto (840 mm), you're up close and personal with "The Rock"

The SX40 is the follow-up to the PowerShot SX30, from which it borrows the lens, design, and feature set (mostly). One of the big differences between the two is that where the SX30 used a CCD sensor, the SX40 uses CMOS. This new "high sensitivity" 12.1 Megapixel CMOS sensor, combined with a new DIGIC 5 image processor, allows the SX40 to take shoot at over 10 frames/second, and record Full HD video.

So what else separates the SX30 and SX40 HS? It's chart time!

  PowerShot SX30 PowerShot SX40 HS
Sensor size / type 1/2.3" CCD 1/2.3" CMOS
Sensor resolution (effective) 14.1 MP 12.1 MP
Processor DIGIC 4 DIGIC 5
Intelligent IS No Yes
Burst rate (full res) 1.3 frames/sec 10.3 frames/sec *
ISO range 80 - 1600 100 - 3200
Flash working range (Auto ISO) 0.5 - 5.8 m (W)
1.4 - 2.8 m (T)
0.5 - 7.0 m (W)
1.4 - 3.0 m (T)
Creative Filters No Yes
Max movie resolution (frame rate) 1280 x 720 (30 fps) 1920 x 1080 (24 fps)
Slow-motion movies No Yes
Movie Digest mode No Yes
Battery used NB-7L NB-10L
Battery life
(using LCD, CIPA standard)
370 shots 380 shots
Dimensions 4.8 x 3.6 x 4.2 in. 4.8 x 3.6 x 4.2 in.
Weight (body only, empty) 552 g 557 g
* For up to eight shots; unlimited shooting is at 2.4 fps

As you can see, the SX40 HS is better than the SX30 in just about every respect. The only thing that appears to be "worse" is the resolution -- but in reality, dropping down to 12 Megapixel is probably a good thing (we'll see later, in the photo tests).

The PowerShot SX40 faces tough competition, especially from Panasonic and Sony. Read on to find out how it fares in our tests!

What's in the Box?

The PowerShot SX40's bundle is typical of what you'll find from Canon. Inside the box, you'll find the following:

  • The 12.1 effective Megapixel PowerShot SX40 HS digital camera
  • NB-10L lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Lens cap w/retaining strap
  • Neck strap
  • Case for hot shoe cover
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Canon Digital Camera Solution and camera/software manuals
  • 34 page Quick Start Guide (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM

Unlike nearly all camera manufacturers, Canon does not build internal memory into their cameras. Therefore, you'll need to buy a memory card right away, unless you have one sitting around already. The PowerShot SX40 supports SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards, and I'd recommend picking up a 4GB card if you'll be mostly taking stills, and 8GB or 16GB if recording Full HD video is a priority. A high speed card -- Class 6 or higher -- is recommended for maximum performance.

The SX40 HS uses the brand spankin' new NB-10L lithium-ion battery. This battery stores less energy than the battery used by the SX30 (6.8 vs. 7.8 Wh), but Canon somehow managed to slightly improve battery life on the SX40. Here's how the SX40 compares to other super zooms in the battery life department:

Camera Battery life
(CIPA standard)
Battery used
Canon PowerShot SX40 * 380 shots NB-10L
Fuji FinePix S4000 500 shots AA (4)
Kodak EasyShare Max Z990 * 500 shots AA (4)
Nikon Coolpix P500 * 220 shots EN-EL5
Olympus SP-810UZ 190 shots LI-50B
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 * 410 shots DMW-BMB9
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V 410 shots NP-FH50

* Full HD video recording

Battery life numbers are provided by the manufacturer

The PowerShot SX40's battery life is just about average in this group of super zoom cameras. Those of you who remember earlier Canon ultra zoom cameras will recall that they always used AA batteries -- that changed on the SX30. If you want a camera that uses AAs, there are two choices listed above. Buying an extra NB-10L battery for your SX40 will set you back just shy of $60.

Canon CB-2LC battery charger

When it's time to recharge the NB-10L, just pop it into this remarkably curvy (by Canon standards) battery charger. It plugs right into the wall (in the U.S., at least) and takes 100 minutes to top off the battery.

There are a couple of accessories available for the PowerShot SX40, which include:

Accessory Model # Price Description
External flash 270EX II
430EX II
580EX II

From $146
From $219
From $254
From $399

Since it has a hot shoe, the SX40 can use these Canon external flashes (among others). The 320EX has an LED lamp that is useful for video recording. The two top end flashes can tilt and swivel and can serve as wireless masters. All of these flashes can be wireless slaves.
Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 From $224 Pricey accessory attaches to the hot shoe and lets you wirelessly control modern Canon external flashes.
Filter adapter FA-DC67A From $19 Attach this to the lens and you can use any commercially available 67 mm filter.
Lens hood LH-DC60 From $26 Reduces flare and ghosting when shooting outdoors. I remember when these used to be included!
Stereo A/V cable AVC-DC400ST $25 Another accessory that used to come in the box, this allows you to connect the SX40 to a television with composite (RCA) cables.
AC adapter ACK-DC80 $70 Power the camera without draining your battery.
Prices were accurate at time of publication

That's a pretty good selection! For those who were hoping for conversion lenses to take the zoom up to 40X+: you're out of luck.

Canon has one of the nicest software bundles out there. You'll first encounter CameraWindow, which will download photos from the camera onto your Mac or PC. The main photo organizing suite is called ZoomBrowser in Windows and ImageBrowser on Macs. The software lets you e-mail or print photos, upload videos to YouTube, and do some editing, as well. Available photo editing features include trimming, redeye removal, level/tone curve adjustment, and color tuning. While the Browser software can view RAW files, it cannot edit them -- see below for another option. Movie editing tools in Image/ZoomBrowser include trimming and frame grabs.

Also included is something called PhotoStitch. This software can take photos that you've lined up using the Stitch Assist feature on the camera, and combine them into a single panoramic image, with very little effort on your part.

Canon certainly is keeping up with the current trends regarding documentation, by providing as little printed material as possible. Inside the box is a leaflet that'll teach you basic camera operation. If you want more details, you'll have to load up the full manual, which is in PDF format on an included CD-ROM. The quality of the manuals is average: they explain everything well enough, but they could be a lot more user-friendly. Instructions for the bundled software are found on the same disc.