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Flash Performance

The SD4000 IS's flash is entirely typical of this class of camera - it's small and not very powerful, with a range of only 2m at the long end of the zoom, even with ISO set as high as 800. However, despite its flash not having much 'reach', the SD4000 IS can (on occasion) get a bit over-keen and produce images with rather overpowering flash if working within its rather limited range.

Skin tone - slightly too warm (our subject isn't quite this rosey-cheeked), but exposure is accurate Color chart - good color, good exposure

Macro Focus

The SD4000 IS is pretty good when it comes to macro, with it able to focus 3cm from the front of the lens, capturing an area of 37 x 27 mm (about 2/3rds the area of a Compact Flash memory card), meaning 98 pixels are being used to describe each mm of subject while allowing you to stay a reasonable distance from the subject.

Impressively the distortion remains relatively low and the corner sharpness relatively high even at this greatest magnification, making the resulting images very usable. The magnification is less impressive at the telephoto end of the zoom but still considerably better than many cameras that only effectively macro focus at the widest settings of their lenses.

Wide macro - 37 x 27 mm coverage
98 px/mm (2493 px/in)
Distortion: Low
Corner softness: Low
Equiv. focal length: 28 mm
Telephoto macro - 90 x 67 mm coverage
40 px/mm (1027 px/in)
Distortion: Low
Corner softness: Low
Equiv. focal length: 105 mm

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

The SD4000 IS does very well in terms of distortion. Because it doesn't produce raw output, it's impossible to tell whether this is due to great optical design or whether the lens is being helped-out by a little software correction. Frankly, though, it doesn't matter - the image corners are sharp enough that it is irrelevant how the result is achieved. Chromatic aberrations are clearly visible at the lens' wide-angle setting but it's not to a degree that's likely to be problematic in real-world photos.

Barrel distortion: 0.5% at Wide angle
Equiv. focal length: 28 mm
Pincushion distortion: 0.3% at Telephoto
Equiv. focal length: 105 mm

The distortion figures are 0.5% or lower throughout the lens' range, easily low enough that distortion will never be apparent in photos.

Movie mode

As you'd expect of a contemporary compact the SD4000 IS can shoot 720p high definition movies. These are compressed using the comparatively sophisticated H.264 method and stored in the easy-to-use MOV format with stereo sound. As you'd expect of an essentially point-and-shoot there are no options to control shutter speed or aperture during movie shooting. You can zoom the lens while shooting - the zoom slows down in order to reduce noise, though there is still a faint chirping noise audible when you use it.

Sample movie: 1280 x 720 pixels @ 29.97 fps
File size: 40.3 MB, 14.2 secs

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: very large file)
Sample movie: 1280 x 720 pixels @ 29.97 fps
File size: 16.9 MB, 5.7 secs

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file)

The video quality seems acceptable, rather than great - the color is generally good but the camera appears to take time to refocus, meaning moving subjects can become rather blurry as the drop out of focus.

Slow-motion movies:

One of the SD4000 IS's party pieces is its slow-motion video capture - recording at 240fps and playing back at 30fps to show the world slowed-down to one-eighth speed. Sadly there's no control over this ratio so you can't match the playback rate to the subject. It's also restricted to the extremely low 320 x 240 pixel resolution - but it's quite fun to play with (or useful for winning equestrian wagers, perhaps).

It'll record for up to 30 seconds, which may not sound like much until you realize that it takes four minutes to play back the resultant footage.

Sample movie: 320 x 240 pixels @ 29.97 fps
File size: 7.3 MB, 25.5 secs

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file)

Overall Image Quality / Specifics

For the most part, the SD4000 IS produces very nice images. They don't hold up to very close scrutiny at the pixel level - even at lowest ISO there are slightly unpleasant artefacts if you zoom too much. These appear to be caused by over-sharpening, which creates rather odd textures from any noise and diffraction blur in the image. But viewed as standard sized prints or at screen resolution (which we believe will be the main use of this camera's output), they look good, with great color rendition and generally good exposure.

It is worth mentioning that sharpness, contrast and R/G/B saturation can be adjusted from within the 'custom color' tab of the 'my colors' line in the Func menu. Depending on your priorities, you may find that you get better results by dialling sharpness right down here, and applying some sharpening post-capture.

A combination of noise, noise reduction, diffraction and sharpening st default settings means the very finest detail isn't spectacular (particularly at the long end of the zoom). But viewed as a whole, the images will still make lovely prints.

The performance at high sensitivity (ISO) settings is pretty good too - the noise reduction robs them of much of their fine detail above ISO 400 but retains the pleasant color and saturation without the noise becoming off-putting. The results will do as well for standard minilab prints as can reasonably be expected from a camera of its type. As always, we provide plenty of images for you to check that they suit your needs and uses, but we think most people would be perfectly happy with the SD4000's output.

The only other stand-out quirk of the SD4000's images is the occasional tendency for blooming - particularly bright areas of the image can smear across to adjacent pixels. This isn't a common problem, however, so isn't something we'd particularly worry about.

Extremely bright regions on contrasting backgrounds can exhibit blooming - giving a bright halo around the region.
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