Camera preview: Canon EOS 40D DSLR

On August 20, just three days ago, Canon announced the new EOS 40D DSLR, the successor to the very good EOS 30D camera. The camera will begin selling in September, and Amazon has already started taking pre-orders. After reviewing the specs and photos, I am impressed. Canon has made the 40D better than the 30D exactly where it mattered, and more.

Canon EOS 40D (front)

The 40D is a bargain considering its features. Let me run through the important ones:

  • 10.1 megapixel CMOS imaging sensor, capable of up to 3200 ISO natively
  • DIGIC III image processor
  • Redesigned AF
  • 6.5 fps continuous shooting capability up to 75 large/fine JPEG or 17 RAW files
  • 3-inch LCD with a higher brightness level and broader color gamut than the 30D
  • Upgraded viewfinder: 0.95x magnification, 264 degrees viewing angle and 22mm eye point)
  • Magnesium-alloy body with dust and weather resistant construction, unlike the 30D
  • Live View (yes, this isn’t a typo)
  • Integrated sensor cleaning

Although the sensor has the same resolution as the Rebel XTi, it is not the same sensor. The 40D’s sensor has microlenses over each pixel to enable increased sensitivity up to 3200 ISO. More importantly, the sensor can recognize four times the number of colors recognized by the 30D, due to its 14-bit color depth (wow!). In addition to this, the 40D also features Highlight Tone Priority and High ISO Noise Reduction functions as the 1D Mark III professional DSLR.

The amazing frame-rate, which is more than the 5 fps rate of the 30D, is achieved through the new DIGIC III processor, DDR SDRAM memory buffering, four-channel per line sensor readout, and two separate motors for shutter and mirror operation.

The on-screen menu now has the same tabbed format as the 1D Mark III DSLR. The viewing angle had to be decreased from 170 to 140 degrees, in order to make the screen more viewable during bright daylight — this is in addition to the improvements cited for the LCD in the bullet points above.

Canon EOS 40D (back)

AF has been re-designed to produce greater precision at all focal points, up to f/5.6, and increased precision for center AF on lenses at or faster than f/2.8. AF calculations are 30% faster on the 40D than the 30D. Photographers can also opt for two focusing screens: a grid-type screen that makes it easy to compose the shots, or a matte screen re-designed for AF precision.

Not many other reviewers have spotted this, but the 40D offers Live View! Yes, indeed, you can now compose your shots using either the viewfinder or the LCD screen. A quick aside: Olympus was the first company to use Live View on their prosumer DSLRs.

Usually, there’s increased shutter lag with Live View, since the mirror has to swing back down to block out the light, then back up to allow for the proper exposure. The shutter lag with the 40D is said to be minimal because the mirror stays up and only the shutter opens when you click the shutter button. This also helps reduce noise and vibration. Oh, did I mention that you can zoom in on the LCD screen to make sure your focusing is tack sharp during Live View?

The Live View function also works with the EOS Utility software, which means you can see just what the camera sees on your computer’s monitor, and control it remotely for studio sessions.

The EOS Integrated Cleaning System shakes off dust from the low-pass plate installed in front of the sensor with ultrasonic vibrations when the camera is turned on or off. A special adhesive collar installed around the sensor collects the dust and holds it there.

There’s a redesigned vertical grip/battery holder, with weather and dust resistance built-in, and a new Wireless File Transmitter (WFT-E3A) has also been introduced. The battery life’s been improved over the 30D, and my guess is you’ll be able to get about 1,500 shots/battery/charge. That means about 3,000 shots altogether with the vertical grip in place.

You can buy the 40D by itself, or with the new EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS Standard Zoom (available in October), or the EF 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Zoom (as pictured below).

Canon EOS 40D (side)

More information:


9 Thoughts

  1. Thanks Keith! I’m amazed by this camera. If I didn’t already have my 5D, I’d purchase it. Which really makes me wonder what Canon will do with the next-generation 5D… I wonder when they’ll release that?

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  2. Nice write-up, Raoul. I expect that the 40D is going to be a huge seller for Canon. The price point on the body is essentially double that of the XTi, but you’re getting a professional-grade DSLR. And the drastic technical improvements over both the XTi and the 30D make that price very easy to digest.

    For those considering a kit lens: I can’t speak to the quality of new EF-S 18-55mm IS USM (one would assume that it’s a quality lens), but the EF 28-135mm is terrific. Great for portraits and landscapes, with tolerable macro performance (it is, after all, a zoom lens). Focus on subjects over a foot or so away is fast and quiet. Image quality is superb. And the IS makes low-light shooting at higher focal lengths a possibility, even for mediocre operators such as myself! Overall, it’s a great daily shooter. Add to the above the fact that it’s a ~$380 lens, included in the kit for only $200.

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