Canon EOS 40D

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Canon EOS 40D


The EOS 40D has nearly everything we could want in an advanced consumer SLR. Or is it an entry-level pro model? We can’t tell, and that’s why we like it. Like many high-end SLRs, the 40D has exceptional manual controls, speedy performance, and fantastic image detail. You can even use the LCD as a viewfinder. Our only major complaint is that it doesn’t get high-ISO performance quite right, especially above ISO 800. Otherwise, we easily recommend the 40D to intermediate shooters shopping beyond budget SLRs, or advanced photographers looking for a bargain.


Like other SLRs, the 40D has a through-the-lens, optical perspective for accurate photo composition. The mechanical shutter instantly causes the sensor to capture the image, so forget planning around the shutter lag common on point-and-shoots. The 40D speeds through other processes too, turning on, focusing, and firing in less than a third of a second. In frantic sports shooting, the 40D writes images to CompactFlash about as quickly as you can compose them. We captured bursts of 22 photos over 10 seconds and rarely found any real-world shooting conditions where we had to wait.


Like other Canon SLRs, the 40D works with Canon’s wide selection of lenses, as well as third-party lenses. Our test 40D shipped without a lens, but we swapped in several options. The comfortable, metal-alloy body feels solid and balanced with either short or long lens attachments.


The comfortable shape and other features would be wasted if the 40D didn’t deliver excellent images—and deliver it does. Details and textures looked stunning in the crisp, 10.1-megapixel outdoor photos. Indoor and night photos were also great, with the pop-up flash throwing a bright, even splash across the frame. The automatic white balance—which sets the baseline color calibration—gave bold and accurate hues across most lighting conditions. However, without a flash, longer exposure shots in dim conditions produced too-warm colors. (Manual white balance or image-editing software can correct the problem.)


ISO settings are another way the 40D compensates for darker situations, amping up light sensitivity with climbing ISO numbers. Many SLRs struggle to reproduce sharp details at high ISOs, and while the 40D improves over previous Canon cameras and many competitors, those details are its biggest weakness. Images are generally well defined through ISO 400, although depending on lighting conditions, random speckles of image noise mar photos at ISO 800 and higher. We got the best results at high ISOs under even lighting with little contrast. Otherwise, dark, shadowy areas can show these pesky dots even if the main subject is smoothly reproduced.


The 40D adds even more features to its strong baseline performance. The camera shimmies away loose dust particles every time it’s turned on, cleaning the sensor. Another option records the location of remaining dust for simple, automated edits back on a Mac. Live View mode mimics a point-and-shoot camera by letting you use the LCD to frame your shot. The large, bright, 3-inch screen helps compose overhead and low-angle photos, and it can even display a live histogram to give feedback on exposure settings. Additional pro-level features open the shutter for as short as 1/8,000 second, give extensive manual controls over the flash, offer customizable menus, and more.


Beginner and intermediate photographers might shoot with the various automatic settings, letting the camera tailor photos for portraits, landscapes, and other common situations. A full auto mode also helps these photographers who aren’t ready for manual shutter speeds, apertures, or both. These auto modes work well, although we’re disappointed that they only record JPEG images. Manual settings add options for RAW and sRAW for complete control. The Live View shooting mode is also disabled in auto configurations.


The bottom line. The Canon 40D bridges entry-level SLRs with expensive, pro options. We can easily overlook its few shortcomings and focus on its excellent image quality and wide array of useful features.




PRICE: $1,299 body only


Excellent image quality. Comfortable, solid body. Live View LCD mode. Complete manual controls and customization.

Noise creeps into extreme-ISO photos. Can’t use Live View or RAW formats in auto modes.





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I agree with your assessment of the Canon 40D. I owned a 20D and was never very satisfied with it. I also own the 1D MkIIn and use it daily. The 40D makes a near perfect back up to the pro model. It's motor is fast enough for sports action and it's weight is significantly less. I love the clean files that it produces. I wish my 1D had the dust cleaning features of the 40D. The battery on the 40D last much longer in the cold than what it did on the 20D as well. I find the 40D excellent at ISO 800 though, by far the best of any camera I've used. I definitely try to stay away from ISO 800 on my 1D MkIIn, but find myself using it on the 40D quite often. I haven't used the 'Live View' yet, but it's nice to know it's there should there be a need for it. The 3" screen is by far the best I've seen or used. I very much approve of the new menu system and find myself frustrated by the system used on the 1D MkIIn which is fiddly and seems counter intuitive when compared to the 40D. Overall, I'd have to say that the 40D is my favourite Canon camera ever. The camera feels substantial in your hand and delivers outstanding images.



Within a day of each other, two reviews were posted on the maclife website. One was this camera, the other was the latest line of macbooks. At roughly the same prices, MacLife took a much tougher stance on MacBooks than they did on this camera. I realize that this magazine is full of maclifers and not canonlifers, but it still seems like this review is heavily lacking.

When I read a review of a $1300 camera (not including lenses or memory cards), I want to compare it to all the other offerings in a similar price range. A review that mentions, near instant startup, great image detail, and manual controls as the main features of the camera really aims too low because these are comparisons to cheap digicams. Jennifer Berger yawned at the upgrade of the santa rosa chip upgrade that the macbook got, where as Zack Stern never mentioned that the resolution, frame rates, or ISO sensitivities were really minor upgrades from the Canon 30D (now only $800).

I didn't think there were many 'awesome' reviews in MacLife so I was incredibly surprised when this one came up.In the words of Ms. Berger, "Where's the 'Wow'"



I got tired of the limitations of my compact digital camera, so I decided to upgrade to a digital SLR. After reading many reviews I chose the Canon EOS 40D. It takes great pictures and works great with my Mac.

Give MacLife a break. If you want an in-depth review of a digital camera go here:

As far as MacLife being tougher in a MacBook review, shouldn't they be? Doesn't there name imply a Mac centric site. I think we should expect more from Apple products, so good tough in-depth reviews are welcome.

MacLife keep up the good work.



I'm fine with maclife being tough on Macbooks. If they think that spending your money elsewhere is the way to go, then I hope they explain fully why that is so. I was perfectly happy with the MacBook review. However I think they should be more critical than they were for a camera that costs more than some macbooks.

My point is that when someone wants to buy a prosumer digital camera they are looking at all the options out there, so a reviewer should make an effort to compare it to other models (Nikon, Sony) of the same price range and also cameras from the same brand of different prices (the Canon 400D, 5D). I think reviewing digital cameras is pretty hard and very few people get it right. Also, most neglect to mention that for those buying a DSLR their audiences are two-fold. One group is upgrading their older DSLR of the same brand (say from the Canon 10D,20D or 300,350D) and want to know if the camera is worth the upgrade. The other group is trying to decide which brand they want to commit too and should make that decision based on not just the current camera but a lot more complicated factors. The $1300 price is misleading because for someone starting at the beginning, they'll need to buy lenses, memory cards, and possibly upgrade their computer (to handle hundreds of large picture files). (correction to your link) tends to over analyze the technical features of a camera, and their reviews tend to trivialize many unimportant parts. Not to mention they are complicated to read, and are probably not the best place to start. However for those willing to sort through the review, they provide the most objective coverage and allow readers to make comparisons to almost every camera out there.

Other popular photography sites that review cameras --reviews mostly canon --reviews mostly nikon --the 20 page review on --tends to be very realistic, but not very objective



I haven't seen the problem with high ISO you describe but I'll give it another look. Maybe this is specific to the model you tested?

I second most of the comments in your review. I am very satisfied with this camera. It is a huge step up from the original Rebel I had before.

One item I've possibly found has to do with viewing images on the camera. I like to zoom in to view 100% crops to confirm focus. These images on the camera are a little softer than what I later see on my MacBook Pro. I'm guessing that with RAW images the camera also keeps a jpg version which is why you can scroll through the images so quickly. (I have selected RAW storage only, not RAW + JPG.)

I'm slightly disappointed that the shutter mechanism isn't quieter. Other than that this is a spectacular camera. The speed is truly wonderful. No longer do you have to wait several seconds to review a photo. It is available instantly.

If you manually set the white balance before shooting the results are great. If you don't do this the white balance is easily corrected in iPhoto by sliding the Temperature adjustment.

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