*** Update 16th Sept 2007 – I have now added a new 40D gallery processed with Adobe Lightroom. You can view it here.
*** Update 16th Sept 2007 – I have tested out the 40D’s continuous shooting performance with a Sandisk Ultra II CF card and have updated the review. I thought it would be interesting to compare the result from this old relatively “slow” card by by today’s standard with one of the fast CF cards widely available nowadays. Please scroll down to read it.
*** Update 15th Sept 2007 – I have tested out the 40D’s continuous shooting performance with a fast CF card and have updated the review with a section near the end of the review. Please scroll down to read it.
*** Update 8th Sept 2007 – I have now added a section on “high ISO speed noise reduction test” comparing high ISO crops with noise reduction off and & on. You can scroll down to near the end of the review for this section.
*** Update 5th Sept 2007 – I have added a section for high ISO 100% crops comparison between the 20D and 40D due to many request. please scroll down to see the new section. I will also add more photos to the sample gallery later tonight.
Hong Kong was one of the first places to get the new 40D and I managed to get one soon after it hit the streets. I have previously written some initial impressions and did some test shots. I will leave the comprehensive technical review to publications like dpreview.com. I will be mainly concentrating on the design changes compared to the 20D/30D and new features and improvement in the 40D. After hearing many comments and questions, I hope this review will answer most of them. I will be mainly using my old 20D for comparison purposes. However, the 30D is identical to the 20D in many ways other than a larger LCD and addition of spot metering, most differences between these 2 cameras are very minor. So most of the comparison will apply to the 30D as well.The main changes and improvement with the 40D according to Canon are:-
1. 10.1MP APS-C CMOS sensor, compared to the 8.2MP APS-C CMOS sensor in the 20D/30D.
2. 3 or 6.5fps continuous shooting, compared to 3 or 5 fps in 30D and 5fps in 20D. Canon also claimed 30% greater focusing speed with the 40D.
3. 75 jpeg or 17 RAW burst, compared to 30 jpeg or 11 RAW with 30D and 23 jpeg or 6 RAW with 20D.
4. New AF sensors, 9 sensors, all cross-type, compared to 9 AF sensors only center sensor is cross-type in 20D/30D
5. Digic III image processor, Digic II in 20D /30D
6. 3″ LCD 230,000 pixels, 2.5″ 230,000 pixels LCD in 30D and 1.8″ 118,000 pixels in 20D
7. Live View mode.
8. Automatic sensor cleaning.
9. Increased size in viewfinder view.
10. Interchangeable focusing screen.
The 40D is bigger and heavier than the 20D and 30D. You can see the difference in the following photos with the 40D next to the 20D.
The 40D looks even bigger with the battery grip attached
The most obvious difference at the back is of course the huge 3″ LCD of the 40D compared to the tiny 1.8″ LCD of the 20D. The difference of course is smaller compared with the 2.5″ LCD of the 30D. The layout of the buttons is different from 20D and 30D.
The most obvious change in external appearance compared to the 20D (and partially with the 30D) is of course the huge 3″ LCD at the back of the camera.
Changes in features and design
Besides different buttons layout on the back of the 40D compared with the 20D and 30D, there is a new AF-ON button now.
The AF-ON button has many functions.
- in the creative zones (P, Tv, Av, M and A-DEP modes), pressing the AF-ON button will have the same effect as pressing the shutter button halfway
- holding down the AF-ON button in Live View mode will lift the mirror and activate autofocus
The AF-ON button can perform different function depending on custom setting:-
a) during autofocusing, you can press the AF-ON button to stop autofocusing
b) in AI Servo mode, you can press AF-ON button to repeated start and stop AI Servo AF operation
c) press AF-ON button to meter and autofocus, and press the shutter button halfway to attain AE lock
d) you can disable the function of the AF-ON button
There are some obvious changes on the top of the camera too. The top LCD on the 20D and 30D does not permanently display the ISO setting, you need to press the ISO button before you can see the ISO setting. On the 40D, ISO setting is now permanently displayed. the layout of the buttons are slightly different too. ISO is now controlled by the right side button. On the 20D and 30D, ISO is controlled by the middle button.
The most obvious change with the shooting mode dial on the left side of the 40D is the addition of 3 camera user settings.
The hotshoe on the top is now stainless steel rather than black painted. The black paint of the hotshoe of the 20D and 30D would partially wear off. The new stainless steel hotshoe should be more hard wearing.
The 40D is now partially environmentally sealed. You can see the seal around the CF compartment. The material is a kind of “felt” rather than rubber.
The seal around the battery compartment is on the small removable door. The seal material is also made of felt.
You can use the rear 3″ LCD to display settings (as on the top LCD), like in the EOS 400D. Of course the EOS 400D does not have a top LCD to display settings.
According official Canon literature, the viewfinder view of the 40D is bigger and better than 20D and 30D:-
“The upgraded viewfinder increases optical magnification from 0.90x to 0.95x, expands the viewing angle from 25.1 degrees to 26.4 degrees and raises the eye point from 20mm to 22mm.”
Well, I have no way of objectively measuring the size of the viewfinder, but my subjective impression comparing with the 20D is that, the viewfinder view is definitely larger. The following diagram represents my VERY SUBJECTIVE comparison of the sizes of the viewfinder view between the 40D and 20D.
REMEMBER THIS IS ONLY A ROUGH SUBJECTIVE PERSONAL ESTIMATION!
One other major improvement with the viewfinder is that, ISO value is permanently displayed inside the viewfinder just like aperture and shutter speed. I would think this is a pretty low tech feature, but previously, Canon in their infinite wisdom, only kept this feature for their professional 1 series cameras.
There are some changes in image playback in the 40D, compared to the 20D and 30D.
Probably because of the increase to 3″, shutter speed, aperture and folder-file number are displayed even in the most basic review mode, a feature not present on either 20D or 30D
Press the INFO button once and the view include include image recording quality
Press the INFO button again will change the view to shooting information and B&W histogram
Press the INFO button once more, and you will get color and luminance histogram. Color histogram was not available in the 20D. In the 30D, luminance histogram cannot be displayed together with color histogram.
One the new features in the 40D is the inclusion of auto ISO. I personally do not like using Auto ISO as I always prefer to set ISO myself. But for those who want to use auto ISO, the following will tell you how auto ISO behaves in different shooting mode. I have tested auto ISO in different modes and can confirm they behave as stated by Canon.
In most of the auto shooting modes in the BASIC zone (Full Auto, Landscape, Close-up, Night Portrait,Flash Off), ISO speed is set automatically within ISO 100-800.
In the Sports shooting mode, ISO is set between 400-800.
In the Portrait shooting mode, ISO is fixed at 100.
In P, Av and A-DEP modes, The ISO will be set between 400-800. If overexposure would result at ISO 400, a lower ISO, as low as ISO 100 will be set.
In Tv mode, normally ISO 400 is set. For very bright or dark scenes, ISO will be set automatically within 100-800.
In M mode, ISO is fixed at 400
With flash, ISO will be set to 400 in all shooting modes. If overexposure would occur, a lower ISO ,as low as ISO 100, will be set.
Automatic Sensor Cleaning
Predictably, Canon has added this feature to the 40D, as it has been already included in the low end 400D since last year.
The automatic sensor cleaning operates every time you turn the camera on and off. You can also activate sensor cleaning at any time in the menu.
If automatic sensor cleaning cannot remove all the dust, you have to option to take a “dust map” and let the software during post-processing to remove the erase the dust spots in the images during post-processing. Unfortunately, this only works with Digital Photo Professional and not with any 3rd party RAW conversion software.
The 20D has a very loud shutter/mirror noise. The 40D shutter mirror noise is much quieter. The quality of the noise is different too. The 20D noise sounded like a very loud “CLARRK”. The 40D sounded like a subdued “claff“. As I don’t have a sound meter, I can’t give you an objective measure, but subjectively, I would say the shutter/mirror noise of the 40D is about 30% volume of the 20D. Overall, a very welcome reduction.
Changes in Menu Structure
The menu structure has changed compared to the 20D/30D. In the 20D/30D, after you press the MENU button to access the camera’s menu, all the different choices are arranged in one long list and you turn the large scroll wheel ( Quick control dial) on the back of the camera to find the item you want.
In the 40D, the items are now broken up into different parts, which you can first select and access by either using the Multi-controller at the back of the camera or the Main Dial behind the shutter release button.
Internal Flash Settings
One new and little known or publicized feature of the 40D is that there is a separate menu for flash function settings for the internal flash. You can set curtain sync to 1st or 2nd curtain, use Flash Exposure Compensation (FEC) and set different metering mode for ETTL-II. Since there is another menu for external flash, you can now now have different flash function settings for the internal and external flash since there are 2 separate independent menus.
Camera User Settings
The 40D has 3 custom user settings. You can preset a certain set of shooting modes and custom function to one of the three Custom User Setting position (C1, C2, C3 on the shooting mode dial). Say you can set M shooting mode, Long Exposure Noise Reduction and Mirror Lock Up in the custom menu and then register this combination to one of the 3 Custom User Setting position. So for example, you can have one set of setting for shooting long exposure night photography and set it ti C1. Another set of setting for shooting fast action sport and set it to C2 and yet another set of setting for shooting portrait and set it to C3.
My Menu Setting
You can select up to 6 of your most commonly used menus or custom functions and register it to your My Menu setting.
One of the new features in the 40D is Live View. You will need to first make the appropriate settings in the custom menu before you can use Live View.
To enable autofocus in Live View, you will also have to make enable it in the custom menu.
Once you have made the correct setting in the custom menu, you can activate Live View at any time by simply pressing the SET button.
There is a small rectangle which you can freely move around. This rectangle represents the area which you can magnify by up to 10x to assist with accurate manual focusing.
To use autofocus during Live View, you will need to have set AF to the center focusing point only. Simply press and hold the AF-ON button for a second or so until you hear a “beep”, then release the button again. The camera will lower the mirror to get autofocus and raise the mirror again after you release the AF-ON button.
A few words about “Silent Shooting” mode in Live View. Silent in Silent mode does NOT really mean silent as in no sound at all. Silent in silent mode is really just a “quieter” mode or “delayed” noise mode. There are 2 Silent shooting modes.
In mode 1, you can shoot single shoot or continuously for up to 6 shots per second. Since the mirror is up, there is only the shutter noise, which is probably subjectively around 30-40% of the usual shutter+mirror noise. In mode 1, if you shoot continuously, you lose Live View as long as you are shooting.
In mode 2, you can only shoot single shot. When you press on the shutter release button the camera will take the shot with minimal noise. SO long as you keep your finger on the shutter release button, there will not be any shutter noise. The moment you release your finger though, the shutter noise will occur. This maybe the preferred mode to use if you are trying to shoot an insect or animal that may be scared away but the shutter noise. By delaying the shutter noise, you will be able to get your shot before the shutter sound will scare away your subject.
Highlight Tone Priority
This is a new feature in the 40D. As the term suggests, it is supposed to preserve highlight detail better. According to the information in the instruction manual, enabling this feature “Improves the highlight detail. The dynamic range is expanded from the standard 18% gray to bright highlights. The gradation between between the grays and highlights becomes smoother.”
To enable this feature, you have to set make the setting in the custom menu.
With Highlight Tone Priority enabled, the ISO setting will be limited to 200-1600. ISO 100 and 3200 will not be available.
I have made some shots to test out this new feature. the following shot was shot with Highlight Tone Priority disabled, the subsequent shot was shot with Highlight Tone Priority enabled.
I can see a subtle increase in detail in the clouds in the second photo. I have taken other test shots for which I could not detect any difference between the photo with this feature enabled and the one without. For the moment, I have to say the effect of Highlight Tone Priority is subtle at best and the effect can quite easily to achieved during post-processing. However, I will reserve judgment until I have time to test out this feature more thoroughly.
Probably due to the fact that all 9 autofocus sensors are cross-type sensors in the 40D, autofocus with the peripheral sensors have much improved over the 20D/30D especially under low-light low or low contrast situation. Previously, with the 20D, it was very difficult to get the focus to lock on with the peripheral sensors under lowlight or low contrast scenes. The focusing would hunt quite a bit before being able to find a focus, sometimes, it would be impossible to focus with the peripheral sensors at all. With the 40D, all the peripheral sensors locked on focus almost instantly even under low light or low contrast scenes.
I have tested out the focus tracking using AI Servo mode and found the focus tracking to be good.
The following are 2 test sequences using AI servo. The first sequence showed tracking of bicycle.
The following sequence showed a car coming towards me. Note that autofocus was not fooled by the barrier on the side and there was a woman crossing the road at the end of the sequence and she did not affect autofocus on the car.
40D vs 20D test photos ISO 100 to 3200
I have gone through most of the important new and updated features of the 40D. In this section, I will post some test shots of 40D at different ISO settings with comparison to similar shots by 20D. In the following sequence, 20D will always be the first shot and 40D will be the subsequent shot.
High ISO 100% crop comparison
Due to many requests for 100% crop comparsion between the 2 cameras at high ISO, I have added this section. I have done 100% crops for ISO 800 to 3200. 20D crops are on the left side and 40D crops are on the right side
High ISO Speed Noise Reduction Test
The 40D has a new custom function that allows you to set noise reduction for high ISO. I have made some test shots comparing shots from ISO 800 to 3200 with noise reduction off and on. The following are 100% crops, the left side crops had noise reduction turned off and right side crops had noise reduction turned on.
New BG-E2N Battery Grip
40D can use and is fully compatible with the old BG-E2 battery grip. However, Canon has replaced the BG-E2 grip now with a new BG-E2N battery grip. This new grip can be used on the 20D, 30D or 40D.
Actually, from what I can see, there is no difference between the new and the old grip other than a provision for environmental seal around the battery compartment. There is no AF-ON on the new BG-E2N grip. The AF-ON button is only available on the new WFT-E3 wireless file transmitter grip. If you are keeping your 20D or 30D with the old grip attached, and you need a new grip for the 40D, then it’s fine to buy the new grip to go with the 40D. But if you have a spare BG-E2 grip lying around doing nothing, then you don’t really need to buy the new BG-E2N grip.
You can see the new and old grip together in the following shots.
In the old grip, there is no environmental seal around the battery compartment.
You can clearly see the environmental seal around the door of the battery compartment
Continuous Shooting buffer Performance
Canon officially quotes a 6.5fps continuous shooting performance of 75 jpeg or 17 RAW burst.
I have just bought a fast CF card today, a Kingston 8GB 266X Ultimate. I managed to shoot a continuous burst of 22 RAW burst before the buffer was filled and shooting slowed down. When I switched to jpeg, the 40D just continued shooting at 6.5fps without slowing down at all. It just went on and on and way past the official 75 jpeg burst. I decided to lift my finger off the shutter release anyway since I did not want to waste too many shutter counts. When I checked how many I have shot, I found out that I have actually shot 185 jpeg burst! And the buffer actually was not filled yet and I could have continued shooting at 6.5fps if I wanted. My guess is that, if you use a fast CF card, you can probably shoot continuously at 6.5fps until the card is full.
I tried the same test with my old Sandisk Ultra II 4G CF card, a relatively slow card by today’s standard. The 40D shot a continuous burst of 20 RAW before the buffer was filled and shooting slowed down, 2 RAW burst less than with the Kingston 8GB 266X Ultimate. Still better than the official specifications quoted by Canon though. When I witched to jpeg, the 40D just continued shooting at 6.5fps without any signs of slowing down. Again even though there was no sign of the buffer filling up, I decided to lift my finger from the shutter release as I did not want to waste too many shutter counts. I found out that I have shot a burst of 181 jpeg burst, and remember that was not the limit as I could have continued shooting.
Overall, I think this is exemplary continuous shooting performance with the 40D.
I will post some sample shots from the 40D here. They have only been resized and sharpened. No other post-processing was done. I will add to this gallery later when I have time.
You can see additional sample shots at the 40D gallery here.
*** Update – I have now added a new 40D gallery processed with Adobe Lightroom, you can view it here.
Personally, I think Canon has done a good job with the 40D and has upgraded and added many new useful features. Image quality wise, I don’t think there is any significant differences between the 40D and 30D/20D. There is little difference in real resolution between a 10MP and 8MP sensor. In my opinion, Canon has managed to maintain the high ISO noise level while increasing the megapixel count. However, there was no major breakthrough in technology and the 40D is not lower in high ISO noise than the 20D or 30D. I have previously done some high ISO test comparing the 40D to 20D. You can see them here if you have not seen them yet:-
Canon 40D vs 20D high ISO test
Overall, I think the 40D provide a nice feature upgrade over the 20D and 30D and at an attractive price. Whether it is worthwhile for you to upgrade to the 40D is something only you can decide for yourself. For me, I am really happy with the 40D. However, my 20D is still working fine and can still take great photos. So I will be keeping my 20D as a 2nd and spare body.