Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent resolution (much better than we expected from such a small lens)
  • Good metering (improved thanks to the new 'evaluative metering' mode)
  • Good natural light white balance, strong, accurate and balanced colours
  • Good control over cameras internal processing algorithms (saturation, tone, sharpness)
  • Low noise at ISO 50, not as clean at ISO 100 (others are better at ISO 100)
  • Excellent build quality, solid 'brick like' feel to the camera, nice metallic finish
  • Smaller, more portable and more robust design than the G2
  • Shooting priority play mode (a half-press of the shutter release always returns to shooting)
  • Excellent range of manual controls (essentially equal to the G2)
  • Good shot-to-shot times, fairly good startup time (for an extending lens camera)
  • Manual focus has zoomed 'loupe' and 'ruler' readout
  • Flexible continuous shooting modes (buffer after processing)
  • RAW file format maintains 10-bits of data
  • Noise reduction works well, no visible 'black pits'
  • Compact Flash Type II and official Microdrive support
  • Voice annotations feature
  • AF assist lamp works well
  • Remote Capture software with live video feed included
  • USB connectivity
  • Optional waterproof casing

Conclusion - Cons

  • Sharpening / diagonal line artifacts
  • Poor macro performance
  • Average flash performance
  • Poorly designed multi-controller (pressing SET can be hit and miss)
  • Lens slow at telephoto (F4.9)
  • Limited apertures at telephoto
  • Zoom controller does not have enough increments / multiple zoom speed
  • RAW acquire module / RAW convert doesn't have enough functionality
  • Occasionally slow AF at telephoto
  • Barrel distortion at wide angle
  • Manual mode limits in relation to combinations of aperture and shutter speed

Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Canon PowerShot S40: (4 megapixel compact)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 9
Features 9
Image quality 8.5
Lens / CCD combination 9
Ease of use 9
Value for money 9

The PowerShot S40 offers an amazing combination of manual controls, exposures and features in a small, robust and (almost) pocketable package. Canon have essentially used the already good G2 engine in a new external package. The sliding lens cover works well and serves both to protect the lens mechanism and ease the operation of the camera. I also liked the shooting priority play mode and voice annotation feature. There's also something more tactile and usable about the S40 design (compared to the G2), it's a more of an 'every day' camera.

The primary differences when compared to the G2 are its flip-out and twist LCD (with anti-reflective coating), better battery life, a faster lens (F2.0 - F2.5), better flash coverage, external flash and add-on lens capability. The S40 has the advantage when it comes to startup time, portability (size & weight) and design. Image quality and resolution are very close, although the G2's lens was definitely sharper in the corners.

If you're looking for a portable 'take anywhere' digital camera with excellent image quality and strong set of manual controls which will allow you to grow into the camera, the S40 should be placed highly in your considerations. Don't forget also that there's a waterproof case for the S40 (suitable for depths of up to 30 m). If you need add-on lenses, external flash, a faster lens and long battery life then the G2 may be better suited (although it does weigh in at $100 more).

Just like the G2 the S40 was marked down for its occasional sharpening / JPEG artifacts and noise at ISO 100 (thus the 8.5 image quality result).

Highly Recommended

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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