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Canon PowerShot SX40 HS preview

The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS is a 12 Megapixel super-zoom camera with a massive 35x optical range. Announced in September 2011, it replaces the best-selling PowerShot SX30 IS. The new model keeps essentially the same body, lens, screen, controls and battery as its predecessor, but switches its 14 Megapixel CCD for a 12 Megapixel CMOS sensor.

This reduction in resolution and adoption of CMOS technology is part of Canon’s High Sensitivity, HS, system which claims to reduce noise levels; the SX40 HS is also one of the first PowerShots to employ the company’s latest DIGIC 5 processor. The combination of CMOS and DIGIC 5 also allow the SX40 HS to offer 1080p video at 24fps and faster continuous shooting at up to 10.3fps (for eight frames). Both are very welcome upgrades over its predecessor with only offered 720p video and 1.3fps continuous shooting. The SX40 HS also adds new slow motion movie effects with 120fps VGA and 240fps QVGA options. A selection of Creative Filters can also be applied live, including a miniature effect which also works on movies.

The 35x zoom may deliver the same 24-840mm equivalent range as its predecessor, but Canon’s added Intelligent IS technology which automatically switches between different stabilisation modes to best suit the subject and conditions, whether it’s normal handheld, panning, macro or tripod-based.

   
   

By sharing essentially the same body as its predecessor, the SX40 HS inherits stereo microphones, a flash hotshoe for mounting external SpeedLite flashguns and a fully articulated 2.7in / 230k screen. It’s also powered by the same Lithium Ion battery as the SX30 IS, and like that model still doesn’t offer RAW recording.

As such, the SX40 HS may be little more than the SX30 IS equipped with a new sensor, but since that brings 1080p video, fast continuous shooting and the promise of lower noise images to what was already a best-seller, Canon could have another winner on its hands. As before though, the SX40 HS is up against a number of key rivals, most notably Panasonic’s Lumix FZ150 and Sony’s HX100V. Here’s how the features compare.

Compared to Panasonic Lumix FZ47 / FZ48

     
 
 
     

Panasonic actually has two super-zoom rivals to the SX40 HS, the FZ47 / FZ48 and the FZ150. Both share the same body and lens, but the FZ150 adds a number of additional features for a correspondingly higher price tag. While the FZ150 is a closer match to the SX40 HS, I’ll start with the cheaper Lumix as many will still be wondering how the two models compare.

The biggest difference concerns their optical zoom ranges: 24x (24-600mm) on the FZ47 / FZ48 compared to 35x (24-840mm) on the SX40 HS. So like last year’s models, the Canon matches the Panasonic at the wide end, but out-reaches it by more than a third at the telephoto end. This alone will swing the decision for those who want to get really close to distant action, and to minimise the wobbles, Canon has also updated the stabilisation to detect various subjects and conditions and adapt accordingly.

As before, another physical benefit to the Canon is a fully articulated screen which can twist and flip in any direction, giving it greater compositional flexibility over the FZ47 / FZ48. The SX40 HS also sports a flash hotshoe, allowing it to mount external flashguns.

Both the SX40 HS and FZ47 / FZ48 share the same 12 Megapixel resolution, but with different types of sensors. Panasonic has stuck with a CCD on the FZ47 / FZ48, while Canon has switched to a CMOS for the SX40 HS. This allows the Canon to support faster continuous shooting at up to 10.3fps (for eight shots) compared to 3.75fps on the FZ47 / FZ48 (which actually worked out closer to 2.3fps in my tests).

In terms of video, both cameras can shoot Full HD 1080, although Panasonic has opted for interlaced video at 50i or 60i depending on region, whereas Canon has gone for progressive at 24p. This decision may seem a little odd to some, but film-makers love capturing at 24fps, and having this capability in a super-zoom gives an added weapon in their arsenal. Both cameras also support live effects to be applied to videos, including a miniature mode.

In its favour, the SX40 HS additionally offers high-speed video capture at 120fps in VGA resolution or 240fps in QVGA resolution, each played back at one quarter or one eight normal speed respectively. Neither camera however supports RAW recording.

It’s not all one-sided though, as the Lumix FZ47 / FZ48’s screen may not articulate, but it’s both bigger (3in vs 2.7in) and more detailed (460k vs 230k). The Panasonic also offers manual control over exposures in its movie mode and most importantly of all is cheaper too. Panasonic also offers the better-featured FZ150 for those who want to spend a bit extra. It’s a clever strategy which allows Panasonic to compete with the SX40 HS on many features, or undercut it if you don’t need all the bells and whistles.

As such, while the FZ47 / FZ48 is out-gunned by the SX40 HS in most respects, it remains a very solid and capable super-zoom camera that’s priced lower than most of its rivals. See my Panasonic FZ47 / FZ48 review for more details.

Compared to Panasonic Lumix FZ150

     
 
 
     

The second rival to the SX40 HS from Panasonic is the Lumix FZ150. The FZ150 is the higher-end Lumix super-zoom and a much closer match to the Canon in terms of features. It shares essentially the same body and lens as the cheaper FZ47 / FZ48, but adds a number of features which are aimed at enthusiasts.

By sharing the FZ47 / FZ48’s lens though, the biggest difference with the SX40 HS remains the optical range: 35x (24-840mm) vs 24x (24-600mm). Beyond this though, many of the features are very similar.

Both cameras sport full articulated screens, although the FZ150 wins this battle with a larger and more detailed panel (3in / 460k vs 2.7in / 230k). Both cameras feature hotshoes to mount external flashguns, although the Canon enjoys the edge there with a greater range of units to choose from. Both cameras can shoot 1080p video, although Panasonic arguably wins this one with 50p / 25p or 60p / 30p depending on region, compared to 24p on the Canon – although some film-makers may prefer the native 24p output from the SX40 HS. Both cameras also offer a selection of live effects including the ubiquitous miniature mode. Both additionally sport slow motion video modes at QVGA and 220fps / 240fps, although the SX40 HS also has a VGA option at 120fps.

In terms of continuous shooting, both cameras offer a fast burst with a limited buffer, but the FZ150 enjoys a small edge, in terms of specs anyway: up to 12fps for 12 images compared to 10.3fps for eight images on the SX40 HS. I’ll wait until I test both before making any grand conclusions here though.

In terms of still images, the FZ150 enjoys two key advantages over the SX40 HS: the ability to generate a 3D image and support for RAW recording. The latter is something which is sadly lacking from most super-zooms; indeed it’s only offered by the FZ150 and Fujifilm HS20. Finally, cameras also share the same 12 Megapixel resolution, captured by (C)MOS sensors. I can’t comment on their respective quality until testing final production samples of each though.

Ultimately both cameras are pretty well-matched in terms of features and much will boil-down to whether you prefer the RAW, 3D, quicker shooting and bigger screen of the Panasonic to the bigger zoom on the Canon. For more information, see my upcoming Panasonic FZ150 review.

Compared to Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX100V

     
 
 
     

The Sony Cyber-shot HX100V is the other major rival for the Canon SX40 HS, and like the Panasonic FZ150, both cameras are packed with features.

Once again the biggest difference concerns the zoom range: 30x (27-810mm) on the HX100V versus 35x (24-840mm) on the Canon, so this time the Sony roughly matches the reach at the telephoto end, but doesn’t quite zoom as wide.

In terms of the screen, Sony has equipped the HX100V with a larger and much more detailed panel (3in / 920k vs 2.7in / 230k), although it only tilts vertically as oppose to the SX40 HS which twists and flips in any direction. Both cameras can shoot 1080p video, but like the FZ150 above, the HX100V does so at 50p or 60p depending on region compared to 24p on the SX40 HS; again though, some may prefer the native 24p output from the Canon.

Moving onto continuous shooting, both are fairly well-matched: ten frames at 10fps on the Sony compared to eight at 10.3fps on the Canon.

Both cameras of course have popup flashes, but the Canon sports a hotshoe to mount external flashguns whereas the Sony does not. Both cameras also offer composite shooting modes which stack frame to reduce noise, but Sony takes the lead with multiple options including its innovative sweep panorama function (now higher resolution than ever before) and 3D image generation. The HX100V additionally sports a built-in GPS, something that’s unusually absent on the other super-zooms here.

The final big difference concerns their respective sensors: like Panasonic, Canon has reigned-in its Megapixels in an attempt to reduce noise, with the SX40 HS offering 12 Megapixels. This trend clearly hasn’t got through to Sony though which continues to push boundaries, equipping the HX100V with 16 Megapixels. I’ve yet to test the SX40 HS, but you can see an indication of how it compares against the HX100V in our earlier SX230 HS vs HX9V noise results, as I believe the sensors are re-used in these bigger super-zooms.

It’s another tough comparison to weigh-up, with the Canon boasting a slightly broader lens range, fully articulated screen and flash hotshoe against the Sony’s bigger, more detailed screen, Sweep and 3D Panoramas, and built-in GPS.

See our Sony HX100V review for more details.

Canon PowerShot SX40 HS final thoughts

 
   

The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS may be little more than the SX30 IS equipped with a new sensor, but this single change has a significant impact on the camera as a whole. The 720p video and paltry 1.3fps continuous shooting of the SX30 IS have now been upgraded to 1080p and up to 10.3fps (for eight frames anyway), while the drop in resolution and switch in technology should result in lower noise levels too.

I say should since we’ll have to wait until final production samples are available to see for certain. But I believe the sensor in the SX40 HS is the same as that in the SX230 HS, which in my tests managed to pip its rivals to the post in terms of noise levels. Check out my Canon SX230 HS noise results for an indication of how the SX40 HS may perform in practice.

That’s all I can say for now, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about the Canon SX40 HS in the Cameralabs forum!

 

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