Canon Digital IXUS 40 review

Price when reviewed

As if Canon’s range of digital cameras wasn’t comprehensive enough, the latest round of releases (which also includes the IXUS i5, above) offers even more choice. The IXUS 40 has a 4-megapixel CCD and 3x optical zoom, in a pocketable form factor. It’s the first IXUS camera to contain Canon’s DIGIC II processing, previously only found in the EOS 300D (see A List, p47)

Canon Digital IXUS 40 review

There are fewer compromises here than with the i5; for a start, the larger back allows for a generous 2in TFT, giving a much more useful preview. There’s also an optical viewfinder, although it’s tiny and doesn’t include any form of dioptre control.

The four-way controller at the rear allows instant access to the most common functions, including flash control, macro on/off and Metering mode, which bears the usual spot, centre-weighted and evaluative options.

The IXUS 40 also contains some surprises, such as the continuous shooting mode; the SD card we used managed to write more than two shots per second at highest quality. The Movie mode also supports movies up to 30fps at 640 x 480 and up to 1GB in size. There’s even a Fast Frame Rate mode, which will shoot a minute of 320 x 240 video at up to 60fps.

The usual manual controls are present: five white-balance presets plus auto and evaluative, and an ISO range from 50 to 400, with +/-2EV compensation in 0.3EV steps.

Presets include the usual scene modes, as well as Canon’s Digital Macro mode, which produces much more effective results than the standard macro in low-light conditions.

There’s a stitch-assist mode for creating panoramas (to be used in conjunction with the PhotoStitch software provided as part of Canon’s ample imaging bundle) but it’s only available when in Manual mode.

Image quality itself is much as we’d expect from a compact 4-megapixel camera. There was loss of clarity evident in some images, as well as occasional purple fringing, but for the most part the quality of light and colour was captured well. High contrast scenes, such as a bright overcast sky, resulted in a touch of overexposure, but automatic settings generally produced usable results. High ISO sensitivities in low light resulted in excessive noise though.

Compression settings are reasonable, with images at full quality weighing in between 800KB and 1.8MB. On closer inspection, we noticed artefacts in some of our test images, particularly in textures such as distant foliage. Viewed actual size, it’s a touch disappointing, but won’t be noticeable in prints or at normal TFT resolutions.

Despite these criticisms, there’s still a lot to like about the IXUS 40. It’s the perfect size and weight to take with you everywhere, the lithium-ion battery life can be measured in days, and it allows you to get on with the business of taking pictures with the minimum of fuss. It looks fantastic too.

Just bear in mind that for the same price, the Sony DSC-W1 (see A List, p47) doesn’t suffer from the same image-quality issues, and although it weighs an extra 100g, will still fit in the average pocket.

Considering what’s missing – there are no aperture or shutter priority options, for example – enthusiasts will find it restricting and slightly overpriced. But for the casual user to keen novice, it’s an attractive option.

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