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Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS First Look
by Jim Keenan -  5/21/2010

Canon's recently introduced SD4000 IS becomes the latest compact digital (and first Canon ELPH) to employ back-illuminated CMOS sensor technology that promises enhanced imaging performance in the form of increased sensitivity and low noise. Long-time Canon watchers may have wondered why a company that has traditionally almost always increased resolution in their latest cameras would choose 10 megapixels for an ELPH that moves right to the front of the mid-range Canon lineup, at least from a price standpoint.

Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS

The answer lies with the sensor, whose development has been generally limited to 10 megapixels thus far. Canon has combined the new sensor with their proven Digic 4 processor and a fast (at wide angle) f/2 zoom lens to produce what they call the Canon HS "High Sensitivity" System for "improved low light performance and better image quality," according to Canon's website.

Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS

Barely a week after Canon's announcement on May 11, a shiny new (actually a flat black) SD4000 IS showed up on my doorstep. Once the battery acquired a full charge in went a 16GB SDHC memory card and off I went in search of subjects. While the SD4000 IS may be optimized for the low light environment, its coming out party with me involved a harsh, midday overhead sun. Even so, colors looked good and accurate at the default settings, and sharpness appeared to be pleasing as well.

Canon SD4000 Test Image

Canon SD4000 Test ImageCanon SD4000 Test Image

Canon SD4000 Test Image

The SD4000 IS has an i-contrast (intelligent contrast) tool in the playback menu that let me make quick work of fixing the shadows on the squirrels occasioned by the overhead sun.

Canon SD4000 Test Image
Original
Canon SD4000 Test Image
With i-contrast applied
Canon SD4000 Test Image
Original
Canon SD4000 Test Image
With i-contrast applied

Shutter lag seemed quick, but AF acquisition times seemed to be a bit slower than the best cameras I've experienced in this class. Time (and timings) will tell if this first impression holds up. The camera is small and easily shirt-pocket portable, with few dedicated control buttons - but menus for shooting settings can generally be brought up fairly easily on the monitor.

Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS Canon PowerShot SD4000 IS

The SD4000 IS also pulled some duty once the sun had gone down, but we weren't exploring all those low-light enhancements this first day. The camera went onto a tripod and a few long exposures at the base 125 ISO was the result.

Canon SD4000 Test Image Canon SD4000 Test Image

So, after a couple hours with the SD4000 IS in the field, it seems to start promptly, acquires focus in average time and shoots quickly. Image quality and color fidelity look good at default settings. We only just touched the tip of the SD4000 IS iceberg today - there's a lot more exploration ahead before our full review of Canon's new compact is fit to print.