The SD series started out as a very boxy, stylized series of cameras. In the years since then the hard edges have increasingly been smoothed away but the comparatively unadorned metal cases have been retained. The SD4000 IS continues this trend and is one of the most pebble-shaped SD/IXUS cameras yet. The red, white and silver versions are pleasant enough but it's the matte black version that everybody in the office immediately wanted to look at and it's continued to attract attention almost everywhere it's been taken.
And there is something attractively low-key about the camera, even if this does mean that button labeling has been foregone in the name of subtlety. To avoid the camera operation becoming complete guesswork, on-screen prompts appear if you gently press the control dial on the back. Even so it means that to operate the camera quickly you either have to learn to press softly enough to get prompts without actually activating one of the functions, or just learn what each button does (of course, if you've used IXUS cameras before, their positions should be familiar).
In your hand
Despite its pebble-like appearance, the SD4000 IS is surprisingly easy to get a good grip on. The small zoom rocker isn't to everybody's tastes but generally the controls are easy to operate one-handed. The control dial is one of the better examples of its type, but although it moves very precisely, we would like it to be a little stiffer, to completely avoid the risk of shifting it accidentally.
There's been a recent trend in high-end compact cameras to regain the fast lenses that used to be commonplace.
In this instance by fast we mean 'large maximum aperture' and, while you may have read the SD4000 IS has an F2.0 lens, it's actually better described as F2.0-5.3, since it isn't particularly bright at the long end of the zoom.
The SD4000 IS isn't exactly brimming over with controls - there's a Menu button, a playback button and a menu for accessing the function menu and confirming options.
In addition the four cardinal points on the control dial act as a four-way controller (with on-screen prompt displayed if you lightly touch the dial).
The SD4000 IS has a 3.0", 230,000 dot LCD. It's a good looking screen that is bright with high contrast and a wide viewing angle. Like all LCDs it can be a little hard to see in bright sunshine but is generally impressive.
However, the 230,000 dot resolution is not terribly high by contemporary standards.
This is compounded by the fact that the screen's 16:9 aspect ratio is not the same as that of the camera's sensor - most of the time only the middle 75% of the screen is used.
The controls on the top are limited to an on/off switch and a slider that selects the shooting mode: video, manual or auto.
Within manual mode you get a choice of aperture priority, shutter priority or program.
Within program mode the camera will still choose all of its settings but, unlike auto mode, allows you to override its decisions. You can still point-and-shoot quite happily but with access to key features such as exposure compensation.
The battery and memory card slot into the base of the camera and, despite the SD4000's small size, the NB 6L battery manages to produce 3.5Wh, which gives it a rating of a respectable 250 shots under industry standard test conditions.
You may not actually get this many shots from a charge but the number is comparable with the figures quoted for other models.
The SD4000 IS has just two external connectors - the first acts as both A/V out and USB connector, while the other is a standard mini-HDMI connector for high-definition output.