Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent resolution, good per-pixel sharpness
  • Good tonal response, dynamic range extended compared to competition, EOS 30D
  • Highlight tone priority option delivers even more dynamic range with very little downside
  • Trademark Canon CMOS noise free images, remain detailed even at high sensitivities
  • New 'High ISO speed noise reduction' option removes any trace of chroma noise, film grain like
  • Confidence to use camera at high sensitivities (ISO 1600, 3200)
  • A/D conversion now 14-bit (questionable real-world advantage), RAW files recorded as 14-bit
  • Excellent long exposure capability, no noticeable hot pixels even at 30 seconds with NR off
  • Wide range of image parameter adjustment (-4 to +4 for most)
  • Live view on LCD with 5x and 10x live magnification and 'drop mirror' auto-focus
  • Instant power on time, excellent operational speed, always feels responsive
  • Just over six frames per second continuous shooting, although high shutter speeds required
  • Good nine point auto focus system, works well even in low light
  • Slightly larger viewfinder, optional focusing screens
  • ISO sensitivity now permanently displayed on top LCD and viewfinder status bar
  • New warning screen if CF door opened during write (no more lost images)
  • Quieter mirror mechanism, very quiet in live view (3 silent shooting options)
  • Supports both EF and smaller, lighter EF-S 'digital' lenses
  • Excellent build, very robust, compartment door weatherproofing, good ergonomics
  • New AF-ON button brings consistency of control with EOS-1D series
  • Proper RAW+JPEG with immediately selectable JPEG image size
  • Optional sRAW reduced resolution RAW
  • Dust reduction from Canon's 'Integrated Cleaning System'
  • Excellent supplied software bundle, remote capture and good RAW conversion (DPP)
  • Quick magnification up to 10x (perfect for checking focus), easier panning (joystick)
  • Excellent battery life, light weight and small batteries
  • E-TTL II flash metering, includes distance information from lens
  • Even larger 3.0" LCD (although no increase in pixel count)
  • Playback jump by 10, 100 images or by shot date or screen
  • Fully customizable 'My menu' surprisingly useful
  • Three user memories via 'C1/C2/C3' on mode dial
  • Optional WFT-E3 wireless transmitter (802.11 b/g) / vertical grip

Conclusion - Cons

  • Average automatic white balance performance, still very poor under incandescent light
  • Picture Style tone curve not indicated in camera menu (contrast is an offset, not absolute)
  • Continuous shooting rate slower than specified, 6 fps @ 1/500 sec, 6.3 fps @ 1/4000 sec
  • No contrast detect AF in Live View
  • Flash must be up for AF assist lamp (although AF is good even in low light)
  • Virtually pointless print button, should be customizable 'FUNC' button
  • No mass storage USB support (although pretty fast WIA throughput)

Overall conclusion

Seven years since the EOS D30, the sixth incarnation of that camera displays all of the advantages of a progressive evolution in both features and quality. With each step up the evolutionary ladder to the EOS 40D Canon has demonstrated improvements in image quality, performance, usability and features. They also demonstrated that as well as meeting the 'requirements of the market' they also listened to owners and reviewers by implementing the most commonly requested feature changes. With the EOS 40D these include permanent display of ISO sensitivity on both the top LCD and viewfinder status bar, the warning message with the CF compartment is opened during a write process and the addition of the AF-ON button.

From an image quality point of view the combination of the Canon CMOS sensor and DIGIC III processor means equally detailed images at all sensitivities (except maybe ISO 3200), low noise and a complete lack of unnatural artifacts. The new high ISO speed noise reduction option has no effect on luminance detail but removes any lingering chroma noise , giving high ISO images a more film-like grain; something Nikon has been doing for some time. We would be interested to see Canon using a less strong anti-alias filter which would mean that JPEG images would require less sharpening and would be naturally 'crisper' straight off the sensor, but it's a minor point and would really only be seen by 'pixel peepers'.

One surprise came from our testing of the cameras dynamic range, it delivered a consistently higher range than both the competition and its predecessor. The majority of this improvement, however, was in the shadow range, a function we presume of the new 14-bit processing pipeline.

Negatives? We're always more critical of cameras such as the EOS 40D, which come with such a strong heritage, but even with that in mind it's truly difficult to find any serious issues. Automatic white balance in artificial light is still pretty poor, there's no indication of the tone curve applied by different Picture Styles and continuous shooting speed wasn't quite as fast as specified, but really, we’re splitting hairs here.

When I first started using the EOS 40D a simple description came to mind: that this is a 'well sorted camera'. It feels well rounded - the result of years of evolutionary improvement, it delivers in almost every area, and it inspires confidence. From a usability point of view the viewfinder feels larger, ergonomics are good, the user interface is clear and easy to learn, there are no in-use performance issues, metering and auto-focus show good consistency and the results speak for themselves; colorful (yet accurate) detailed images with low noise even at high sensitivities.

Detail (D-SLR)
Rating (out of 10)
Build quality 9.0
Ergonomics & handling 8.5
Features 9.5
Image quality 9.0
Performance (speed) 9.0
Value 8.5

Highly Recommended

Highly Recommended

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