Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS (IXUS 300 HS / IXY 30S)
Category: Premium Enthusiast Compact Camera
Conclusion - Pros
- Good image quality, particularly at lower ISO settings
- Pleasant image color
- Reasonable levels of detail (it drops at the long end of the zoom or high ISO)
- Straightforward control system
- Handy zoom range with a fairly fast lens
- Fast continuous shooting
- Very good battery life
- Wide range of extra modes and features (some useful, some fun)
Conclusion - Cons
- Images don't always stand up to very close scrutiny
- Limited control over flash (so you can't prevent the occasional over-exposure)
- Function menu not as quick to use as previous generations of SD/IXUS
The SD4000 IS fits into a very well established line of cameras that have tended to get good reviews for being dependable, well-polished little cameras. And, despite our sample's matte-black finish, the SD4000 IS has that same lustre. It does exactly what you expect, does it well and without fuss. There are the now almost compulsory flourishes - miniature mode and face self-timer being prime examples, but we found most of them to be either fun or functional and, on the whole, well implemented.
The SD4000 IS has the same tiny sensor size as the majority of compact cameras and, as such, is never likely to rock the world with its image quality. But, by the standards of its peers, it's very pleasant. Colors are rendered well and are maintained well even at high ISO settings. The images are sharp and detailed at the wide-angle end of the lens but some of the finest detail loses definition at the other extent of the zoom. The default processing appears to concentrate on producing images that will make colorful, low-noise prints, rather than retaining very fine detail, which we suspect will be exactly what most buyers will want.
The SD4000 IS is a tiny camera which fits nicely in both the pocket and the hand. It's easy both to hold and to operate, despite its small size and lack of buttons. The function menu, while not quite as slick as on previous Canons, is pretty and easy to navigate. I found it a little hard to resist pressing left and right on the control dial when adjusting exposure compensation (you have to rotate the dial - left and right continue to control the flash and focus mode), but again you learn your way around it soon enough.
The totally black-on-a-black-background control dial scores ten out of ten for style but minus several thousand for good thinking. In the end it's useable though - you either get used to pressing lightly enough to display the on-screen guide to its functions, or just start to remember what they are. The function menu and context-sensitive dial/controller mean that you have easy-access to all the camera's key functions very quickly, despite the apparent dearth of external controls.
We have absolutely no complaints about the Canon's performance - it's a snappy little camera, quick and responsive to use and capable of several high-speed party tricks. A shooting rate of 3.7fps, even if it does slow down at higher ISOs, is still pretty impressive. Just as with its appearance and demeanor, the SD4000 IS's performance is unobtrusive - it just gets on with things.
The Final Word
As already stated, the SD4000 IS has pedigree and that is apparent all the time you're using the camera. It's a well-chosen specification, a well-put together interface and a well-sorted image processing pipeline squeezed into a stylish little body. It's not Earth-shattering but, if you want a point-and-shoot (with entirely optional user control), the SD4000 IS pretty much peerless.
Ergonomics & handling
Exposure and focus accuracy
Image quality (jpeg)
Low light / high ISO performance
Movie / video mode
The SD4000 IS is born into a long and well-respected line of compact cameras and does its family proud. It offers flexibility, image quality and a good level of user control while remaining distinctly easy to use. Only the screen (large chunks of which are regularly unused), is a disappointment.
Scoring is relative only to the other cameras in the same category.
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