Canon 40D [2007]

40D As usual, this is not a review per se but more of an opinion piece about a camera I bought. Actually, I did not buy this camera for myself but for my wife who was desperate to own it. She was fed up with her 400 XTI complaining about a 'smeariness' to the files it produced. I couldn't really see what she was talking about but it was a case of either buying the 40D for her or she was threatening to jump ship to the Nikon camp and I didn't relish buying every lens we needed twice. Her birthday was very soon after the 40D release date so I did the necessary and order the highly anticipated successor to the 30D.

The two digit Canon DSLRs have always been a favorite among serious amateur and semi-professional photogs. As my wife falls into this category with a few paying gigs under her belt the 40D is perfect for her. I am still perfectly happy with my digital rebel, the 400 XTI, but I can see the professional image problem of turning up to a client with the same camera as they just bought at Costco. The 40D does set you apart from the beginner DSLR user. At $1300 for the body alone it takes considerably more commitment, or at least more disposable income, than the Rebel. You have to put some thought into this purchase, at least we did. So, for twice the money of the Rebel, do you get twice the camera?

The answer, as usual, is both 'Yes', and 'No'.

If, like me, you are perfectly happy with the results of your 400 XTI, the 40D does seem like something of an expensive extravagance. After all, they share much the same spec in the sensor department; 10 megapixels, APS-C sized, dust-removal. Camera buffs know that you can't reply on specs alone, nevertheless, let's look at a few more specs just for fun:

feature Rebel XTi 40D Result
High ISO 1600 3200 +(H) 40D is twice as fast but also considerably less noisy at most settings
Focus points 1 cross point + 8 others 9, all cross points I only use the center point on my rebel because it is the only cross point one on the camera. All 9 on the 40D are fast, accurate and usable - but I still only use the center one - sorry, force of habit.
Continuous shooting 3 fps (27JPEGS) 6.5 fps (75 JPEGS) The 40D is more than twice as fast in continuous mode and can save more than twice the images at once - the 40D really feels more professional as a result
Bulk 20 ounces(5 x 3.7 x 2.6 in) 29 ounces (5.7 x 4.2 x 2.9 in) The 40D is about a third bigger and heavier but feels much less pasticy the the Rebel
Battery 500 Shots 1,100 Shots Twice as many shots from the larger 40D battery

So the results are starting to weigh up and the 40D is looking like the premium you pay is justified. Stats aside, this feeling is reinforced when you pick up the two cameras. The 40D is more solid and less creaky than the Rebel - many complain that the Rebel was just too small and fiddly in larger hands; an issue the 40D definitely resolves. Most functions are available with a single button press and a roll of a wheel rather than having to navigate menus. The 40D also has a much more professional approach to ISO. I've already mentioned that the 40D is considerably less noisy than the rebel but the 40D also has many more ISO steps for adjustment than the usual, simple doubling and halving of values. It also displays the ISO value in the viewfinder which is appropriate for those of us who use the ISO in a much more dynamic way than we did with film, of the Rebel. The Rebel, like most DSLRs of its kind, invites you to set the ISO setting and then leave it alone, using the shutter speed and aperture to control the exposure from then on. The 40D has a much more integrated approach to the three exposure controls, making the ISO setting as easy to tweak as the shutter speed.

Other professional features include spot metering, which is one feature I really wish the Rebel did have. The 40D's viewfinder is not only more informative than the Rebels but bigger and brighter too. The 40D has a separate LCD screen on the top plate of the camera displaying all your settings whereas the rebel makes dual use of the rear screen for both reviewing pictures and displaying your camera settings. The 40D's rear screen is also bigger, although, for some reason, not higher resolution than the Rebel's.

'What about live-view?' I deludingly hear you ask. Live-view is the ability to frame the shot through the rear LCD. I'll be honest, I haven't used it beyond trying it out and thinking, 'Hmm, that might be useful one day'. That day is yet to come. It seems that everyone wants this feature in their new camera but no one is entirely sure why. We all complained about having to frame our shots using the rear LCD when we had no choice using our digicams before there were affordable DSLRs. Now we want our DSLRs to be digicams too?

40D & 400D So, what is the answer to the $650 (or more) question - is the 40D with the upgrade price from the digital rebel? When the new rebel came out and the 'step up' was the 30D it was a no-brainer; the XTI was more camera for less money. The 40D has restored the correct Canon DSLR line hierarchy and if I were choosing between buying the Rebel or the 40D today, and I had the extra money I'd probably go with the 40D. If you already own the latest Rebel, and, like me, you're pretty happy with it, I can't see the real justification for buying the 40D. If, however, you are like my wife and are starting to shoot for clients and are frustrated by the amateurism of the Rebel then the 40D is worth the money. Does the 40D make better pictures than the Rebel? In some situations it does make getting the shot easier. It is faster to operate and shoot. If you're a sports photographer it's speed will definitely improve your hit rate. If you shoot a lot in low light, it's low light capabilities will come in handy. If you shoot the family on holiday, however, the difference will be negligible. As always, at the end of the day, your mileage may vary and the camera you carry is a matter of personal choice. I keep shooting my Rebel and I don't feel like I'm missing a whole lot most of the time. My wife adores the 40D and looks down on my measly Rebel and the amateur that I am

PS: It is totally a matter of personal taste but I believe that the Rebel sounds better than the 40D so if I were buying on acoustics alone I'd go for the swish of the XTI rather than the muffled clump of the 40D - but that's just me...