In a crowded field of 3 to 5x point-and-shoot cameras, the SD4000 stands out with better-than-average high ISO performance and a fast f/2 lens.
Announced on May 11, 2010 for an end of the month entry into the market, the Canon Powershot SD4000 IS Digital ELPH carries more than just that mouthful of a name and the highest MSRP in Canon's self-described SD line of "performance and style" compact digitals.
The really big news with the SD4000 IS lies in the 10 megapixel sensor and 3.8x optical zoom lens which offers a 28 to 105mm focal range (35mm equivalent). Here's what that focal range looks like at the beach:
Sound like fairly mundane specs for a compact digital? Read on.
That sensor is one of the new back-illuminated designs that have begun popping up in compact digitals of late. Very generally, backside illumination involves placing the light sensor for each pixel on the back side of the entire sensor wafer instead of on the front side along with other circuitry.
Isolating the sensors from the circuitry reportedly increases sensor efficiency (signal to noise ratios) since the absence of the circuitry contributes to less scattering of light before it can reach the image sensor. My first experience with a back-illuminated compact digital was Nikon's P100 ultrazoom, and it appeared to have improved ISO noise performance in the higher sensitivity ranges over its predecessor, the Coolpix P90.
As for the SD4000's lens, it features a maximum aperture of f/2 at wide angle, making it at least a stop faster than just about any other compact digital on the market. Canon calls this combination of fast lens with the new design sensor the HS (high sensitivity) system. The camera also features Canon's Digic 4 processor, a 3.0-inch LCD monitor, 720p HD video, auto and scene shooting options along with partial manual controls, and smile detection technology.
There is no internal memory, but the camera can accept SD/SDHC/SDXC, MultiMediaCard, MMCplus, HC MMCplus or Eye-Fi memory media. Canon includes a lithium-ion battery pack and charger, wrist strap, AV and USB cables, "getting started" user's manual and CD-ROM software with each camera. Let's see what that fast lens and new sensor technology have to offer.
BUILD AND DESIGN
Our SD4000 IS review unit featured a matte black finish overall with glossy black highlights on some panels and controls. The main finish has a slightly rough texture to it, almost like a very fine grit sandpaper. Generally rectangular and sized about like a deck of cards, the body has a number of subtle curves and rounded edges incorporated into its design, and its metal construction gives the camera a solid feel. The camera will also be offered in silver, red and white bodies.
Ergonomics and Controls
Canon has placed the SD4000 IS flash at the upper left edge of the front of the body, a location that invites fingers of the left hand to obstruct the flash during two-handed holding. Truth be told, the camera is small enough so that was probably the best available location, but flash shooters, you've been warned. Otherwise, the body has been sculpted and rounded so most folks should be able to come up with a fairly comfortable and secure grip. This camera is easily shirt pocket portable.
Control layout on the SD4000 IS is simple and sparse - the mode switch, power button, zoom lever and shutter button sit atop the camera body, with the monitor, playback and menu buttons and the control dial (with its associated functions) taking up the rear. Not a lot of dedicated function buttons on the SD4000 IS - you're going to be scrolling through menus to make changes to camera settings in most cases.
Menus and Modes
Folks familiar with Canon compacts should feel right at home with the SD4000 IS, and those of you who aren't will find a largely intuitive menu system. The mode switch atop the camera body selects movie, shooting or auto capture mode. From there, the function button in the control dial brings up an available list of settings based on the particular mode chosen.
The 3.0-inch LCD monitor of the SD4000 IS is of about 230,000 dot composition and is adjustable for five levels of brightness. It can be difficult to use for image composition and capture in some bright outdoor conditions. Coverage is approximately 100%. There is no viewfinder.
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