Canon EOS 40D initial impressions

 *** I have already published a full review article for the 40D, you can view it here.

I have played with my new 40D for a few days now since I bought it on Sunday, so it’s time to write about some of my initial impression on this new camera.

1. The viewfinder view is bright and is much bigger than the 20D/30D. Definitely a nice upgrade. It’s great to finally have ISO visible in the viewfinder at all times.

2. The Canon 20D makes a really loud shutter/mirror noise. The 40D is much quieter, the sound is very muted. If the 20D sounds like a gun, the 40D sounds like a 20D with a silencer on.

3. Autofocus seemed faster especially under low light situation. Probably because all the 9 focus points are now cross-type, all the focus sensors are much more sensitive than on the Canon 20D/30D. Previously, on the 20D, the peripheral sensors hunt a lot under low light situation, sometimes it was almost impossible to lock on a focus. On the 40D now, the peripheral sensors all locked focus instantly just like the centre focus point.

4. The 3″ LCD is positively a huge improvement over the tiny 1.8″ LCD on the 20D. It is probably not such a big improvement over the 2.5″ LCD on the 30D though. Without comparing the high resolution 3″ LCD on Nikon D3 and D300, which I have not seen and are not on sale yet, I would just say the 3″ LCD on the 40D is bright and clear with good viewing angle.

5. The menu structure has changed a lot compared to the 20D/30D, but is easy to use nevertheless.

6. Liveview and autofocus with Liveview is easy to use, once you have made the correct settings in the custom menu.

To switch between Liveview and normal shooting (provided you have enabled Liveview in the custom menu), all you need to do is press the “SET” button and the mirror would be raised instantly and you’ll get a Liveview on the LCD.

For autofocus in Liveview, there is a small rectangle in the LCD which is the focus area, you can move this rectangle freely to the point where you want to focus with the multi-controller. You can then magnify the view at he rectangle up to 10x for manual focusing.

To autofocus, press the AF ON button once and the mirror will raise up for a second or so, only the centre AF point works though. To shoot, just press the shutter release button as usual and it will shoot instantly.

To get out of Liveview mode, all you need to do is to press the SET button again.

7. Image quality with the 40D is very similar to the 20D/30D. At high ISO setting of 1600, my impression is that, their noise level are very similar. However, the 40D sensor has 2MP more photocells than the sensor in the 20D. So the size of the photocells in the 40D sensor would be smaller than on the 20D. Theoretically, if all other things being equal, you would expect that the 40D will be noisier than the 20D at high ISO, but since they essentially showed the same level of noise, Canon has actually improved the noise profile on the 40D.

Personally, I have never had any complaints with the high ISO performance with the 20D, so I am happy with the high ISO performance of the 40D also. Of course it would be nice if Canon was able to achieve some major breakthrough in technology and achieve ultra low high ISO noise in the 40D, but my personal view is that the 40D high ISO performance is already very good and certainly good enough for the majority of user.

You can see some test shots at ISO 1600 and ISO 1600 comparison with 20D at the links below:-

Canon EOS 40D ISO1600 Test Shots

Canon 40D vs 20D ISO 1600 Comparison

*** I have a few new updates today:-

Canon 40D vs 20D high ISO test

Canon EOS 40D vs 20D External Appearance

The new BG-E2N grip vs the old BG-E2 grip

33 thoughts on “Canon EOS 40D initial impressions

  1. Thanks a lot for the review!
    It seems that the major improvement of the 40D is the brighter viewfinder. That alone would make it a worthy upgrade from my 350D.


  2. Hi R, nice little preview there bud. My 20D’s work hard and i’m happy with the performance generally, exept auto focus which has always been a real Achilles heel. for the work i do i should really use pro bodies, but i live in africa and camera kit is just absurdly expensive. Therefore i tend to spend more on good L glass (for the time being). I must now however upgrade. Would dearly love to have at least a 5D, but money issues dictate that i should look at stepping up to the 40 platform for now.

    Can you give me more info in regard to auto focus lock on moving targets. I do quite a bit of fashion ramp stuff as well as other local sports images. For mountain biking the 20 auto focus is just absurd, so i trap focus mostly. Can you mabe get out on the street and try and focus lock on targets like an approaching cyclist, maybe some people walking towards you (maybe under different light – indoors?) conditions? Regards and keep reports comming. It’s good stuff!

  3. Hi Andreas,

    The 350D has a very small viewfinder even comparing to the 20D/30D. Compare to the 40D, I am sure you will find a huge improvement with the viewfinder view.

    Hi JP,

    I will try and do some testing of 40D focus tracking ability on moving subject in the next few days. I will keep everyone update on this blog.


  4. Pingback: Wens’ blog » Blog Archive » Initial impression of 40D

  5. Hi,
    I have been wondering if the supplied Picture Style Editor software that ships with the 40D is able to produce pf2 files to use on the 30d …

    Can you confirm?

  6. Hi Luis,

    I haven’t tried the Picture Style Editor yet. I have never really used it before either. Anyway, I’ll give it a try in the next few days and will let you know the answer.


  7. Pingback: Canon 40D first review? - Pixalo Photography Community

  8. Nice review. I haven’t tried any of the Canons — 20D, 30D or 40D as I shoot Nikon. Still, interesting to read about the features of Canon’s 40D from someone who knows what they are talking about.


  9. Dear Roland, Thank you for the initial review.It is clear, succinct and above all non biased unlike many of the Dp review partisans.I have owned the Canon 10D and 20D and two areas concern me.One is fast focusing in street photography-My China shots cactusklaw/pbase and the incredible amount of sensor dust which the 20D attracted.Has there been any improvement in these areas. Lastly has there been in your opinion any improvement in not blowing out highlights.Thanks for your attention and thoughts Alan – The Desert-New Mexico U.S.A.

  10. Hi Roland
    I’ have read in a German forum from a new Custom Function, (C.Fn III-AF/Drive; 1. Lens drive on AF fail), can you tell me what is it?

  11. Hi Mr. Lim,

    Congratulation on your new camera!! 🙂 As always, I know you will put it to excellent use and will produce some extraordinary photos. I can’t wait!! Very very looking forward to your new works.

    Tony Quan

  12. Hi to everyone who left a comment after I went to bed last night,

    I just woke up today and found all the new comments. I will look into your questions and try to fidn the answers for you later. Thanks!

  13. very interesting review, specially viewfinder lines, I had many doubts about “general” “super-cool-new-viewfinder” description of canon press release and it really seems to be a great improvement. (over my 400D tunnel-view at least)

    regards from Spain!

  14. Hi Roland, thanks for the quick review on this camera. I myself have owned 20D and consider an upgrade to 40D.

    Where are you located btw ? Hongkong ? How much did you buy for the 40D ? I heard it was cheaper there compare to the US $1299 retail price.

    Next month I will go to HK so I’m wondering if I should hunt the 40D there if it’s cheaper. Would you mind to tell me the store as well ? Thanks !

  15. hi charles.

    i brought may 30D two months ago but i not impress too much saturation but i love my 20D i like to more from you about the 40D.

    thank you very much,


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  17. Hi Roland,

    Thanks so much for your hand’s on review of the Canon 40D. I believe your review is the first. Your review was very informative and covered the points of the camera that most of us are interested in.

    I plan to order one as soon as they become available in the US.

    Thanks again,
    Houston, Texas

  18. Hi Roland,

    For your test shots are you shooting RAW or JPG? If RAW, what conversion program are you using as I assume there’s no updates yet for Lightroom or Camera RAW?

    Raleigh, NC

  19. Pingback: Le Canon EOS 40D et 1Ds MarkIII sont (enfin) l !! - Page 36 - EOS-Numerique

  20. One thing hat has not been mentioned is the flash performace with the 580II. If your a wedding guy like me and live and die by the flash you, will be pleased to know that I’m seeing a huge improvement over the 20D. I’t’ well known that most 20’s shoot 1 to 2/3 under with a 580 or 580II. I’m pleased to report that my 40D and 580II combination is exposing dead on. It actually exposes to the right a little which is even better. I have not done a wedding with it yet since I have only had it since Tuesday but I’m really looking forward to using it on one this weekend. I’t will be interesting to see how it will do on preserving white dress details, holding on to good skin tones and what a group with black tuxes will do to the metering. But…. we now have a spot meter for the skin tones so I think that will be a big plus too.


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