After reluctantly relinquishing my film cameras, I have used a wide range of digital SLR cameras, from entry-level models to the top-of-the-line pro choices. I’ve found that once I’ve flexed the muscles of a professional camera, it’s tough to go back to a lesser-featured DSLR. Lately, for a lot of my magazine work, I have been renting the drool-worthy Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III featuring a 21.1-megapixel full-frame Canon CMOS sensor that delivers astounding image quality. So, when the folks at Canon sent me their new DSLR, the 10.1 megapixel EOS 40D, I wasn’t too sure if it had enough techno-oomph to excite me.
I packed the Canon EOS 40D on a two-week family trip in April and I am really, really impressed by its speed, accuracy and overall performance. The EOS 40D has enough high-powered features to appeal to snappers upgrading from an entry-level DSLR as well as to professionals looking for a backup camera. This camera has a 10.1-megapixel, 1.6-focal-length-factor CMOS imaging sensor — up from 8.2 megapixels on its predecessor, the EOS 30D.
Shake and shoot: The EOS 40D has an automatic sensor cleaning mechanism.
Other improvements bring the EOS 40D closer in line with the Canon’s pro series cameras, which include the same page-by-page menu system, both RAW and sRAW (2.5 MP), 14-bit A/D converter and 14-bit RAW, 9-point AF sensor that reads horizontal and vertical areas and is fast and accurate, a larger and brighter viewfinder, interchangeable focusing screens, a larger 3-inch LCD monitor and faster continuous shooting rate of 6.5 frames per second.
The menus and controls on the EOS 40D are similar to those of other models in Canon’s digital SLR line and I didn’t take long to master this model. I particularly liked how the jog dial worked with the four-way joystick to navigate through the clean menu system, making for fast and easy operation. On the shooting front, the shutter speed ranges from bulb and 30 seconds to 1/8,000th at the fast end. The ISO range runs from 100-1,600, with a menu-activated Hi option of ISO3200. A great feature on the camera is the dust reduction system, also found on the mighty EOS-1D Mark III, that automatically cleans the sensor. In most outdoor shooting conditions, dust inevitably finds its way to the sensor and image quality takes a nosedive. Canon’s system has a filter on the front of the sensor, that does a little shiver and shake to dislodge dust every time the camera’s powered on or off. After two weeks of shooting and lens swapping, my shots look clean and free of particulates. The process is so quick that it doesn’t cause any tangible delay in shooting.
The 40D has Live View, which lets you preview shots through the rear LCD — and you can pull up a magnified view to help with manual focusing. The EOS 40D has two control wheels and the great thing about this design is that you can easily access drive mode, ISO, metering mode, auto focus, white balance, exposure compensation, flash exposure compensation, focus point selection, exposure lock, and program shift, all with the forefinger and right-hand thumb.
The EOS 40D has the standard focus modes of any Canon SLR: Manual, Single-shot auto, “AI Servo” (continuous, normally used for sports), and “AI Focus”, where the camera tries to figure out whether or not your subject is moving. Auto-focus performance is excellent, even in dim light, with the 9 AF sensors distributed around the frame.
The viewfinder shows a little bit less of the image (95%) than the sensor will capture and your photo will be a little wider and taller than what you saw in the viewfinder. It’s easy to view the viewfinder image even if you’re a four-eyed photog like me. If you don’t want to wear eyeglasses, the Canon 40D has a built-in diopter adjustment (-3 to +1).
The Canon 40D takes a single Compact Flash card, either Type II or I. Each RAW image is 12-13MB, which means that you can store about 80 images per gigabyte (GB). Remember that the RAW images are 3,888x2,592 pixels and carry a fistful of CF cards if you prefer shooting in this format and tweaking the image with your favourite image-editing program. Canon includes software with the camera, but it is not as good as Picasa (free), Adobe Lightroom, or Adobe Photoshop/Bridge. The Adobe Camera Raw 4.2 plugin (for Lightroom and Photoshop CS3) can decode RAW images from the Canon 40D. The Picasa program from Google also can understand the 40D’s RAW files.
There’s a lot more to this camera than I’ve space to write, but suffice to say the EOS 40D offers high resolution, great build and fast shooting speeds, all taking you as close as you can get to near pro performance and image quality for a fraction of the cost of Canon’s pro DSLRs.
Canon recommends an MRP of Rs73,995 (including the Canon 18-55mm kit lens and 1GB card), but GG’s investigations show that dealers can be beaten down to a more amenable Rs64,000.
Harsh Man Rai is managing editor, Rolling Stone, India. Tell him which gadgets you want reviewed at email@example.com