Canon has half a dozen cameras in its IXUS range, and the $699 4Mp Digital IXUS 40 is one of three cameras in this compact family which the company has launched in the past few months. The others are its sister camera, the 3Mp IXUS 30 and the 5Mp point-and-shoot IXUS i5.
The 4Mp IXUS 40 is the successor to the IXUS 430 and externally the camera sports the same stylish silver body, albeit slightly smaller (86x53x21mm) and lighter, weighing approximately 150g. Although the IXUS 430 camera was also fitted with a 4Mp CCD, the latest version is fitted with a larger LCD screen - 2.0in compared to 1.5in and the newer DiG!C II processor, as opposed to the IXUS 430's DiG!C. The notable difference between processors is that the camera is faster all-round with a quick start-up and less shutter lag.
The IXUS is incredibly easy to use. Novices will have no difficulty and experienced users will be impressed with its ability to capture great shots. Users can leave the camera in Auto mode and almost always be satisfied with the output - which is exactly what you want from a compact camera.
Key to this is the AiAF (Artificial intelligence Automatic Focus) sensor. When the AiAF function is turned on the camera detects the subject/s and highlights them by using the nine available focus points. Green boxes appear on the LCD screen, representing what part of the image is being focused on. If you turn this function off, the camera focuses using the centre AF frame.
Pressing the shutter halfway automatically sets the exposure focus and white balance. The use of beeping sounds allows users to aurally know if they have set focus: two beeps and focus is locked, one beep and it is having difficulty focusing. An indicator also blinks yellow along with the beep sound. For after hours and indoors an AF assist beam is employed. This is a red light which is used to focus on subjects in dark places.
The 3x optical zoom (35mm equivalent: 35-105mm) and 11x digital zoom allow you to get in close to images. However, the digital zoom at its highest zoom setting can produce noisy pictures. Closeups of text, say a street sign, come out much clearer than more general shots such as people or landscapes The camera saves images to a Secure Digital memory card, although it only ships with a meagre 16MB card.
Resolution can be set to Large (2272x1704 or 2048x1536), Medium 1 (1600x1200), Medium 2 (1024x768), or Small (640x480). In addition to this there are three compression settings of the saved JPEG images: Superfine; Fine and Normal. Ideally you would shoot images at Superfine (the least amount of compression), but this does take up more memory space on the card - up to 2MB depending on how detailed the image taken is.
Movie quality is quite impressive. Movies are saved as AVI files and can be shot as Standard, Fast Frame Rate or Compact. Fast Frame is shot at 60fps but only at 320x240 pixels. Standard is shot as 640x480 or 320x240 but at either 30fps or 15fps.
The camera is fitted with eight shooting modes: Auto, Digital Macro (which only selects the image centre and magnifies it with the digital zoom), Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids&Pets (for action), Indoor, Underwater (reduces bluish tones, but requires a separate All-Weather case) and Manual. When you have it set in Manual ISO speeds can be individually set and range from ISO 50 to 400. It also features light metering, plus macro and a timer function.
For low-light and indoor shots there are various flash settings: Auto, Auto with Red-eye reduction, Flash on with red-eye reduction, Flash on, or Flash off. There is also a Slow Syncro mode.
A panorama assist function called Stitch Assist also helps take wide-angled shots in two steps. You take one shot and that image fills part of the LCD screen. When you are ready to pan for the remainder of the shot that image overlaps the already taken shot ensuring you get a perfect join.
After images are taken, the image defaults to a 2sec review but that review duration can be changed to anywhere up to 10sec. Or you can turn it off altogether.
A good feature in Sony's compact cameras such as the 5Mp DSC P100 and 7Mp DSC P150 is a "quick review" button which brings up the last shot taken. This prevents you having to go from the Shooting mode to the Review mode. The IXUS does not have such a feature but after the shot has is taken you can keep it on the LCD screen by either holding down the shutter button immediately after shooting, or by pressing the FUNC./SET while the image is displayed on the monitor.
Battery consumption is impressive. The camera's manual claims 140 shots from the lithium-ion battery can be taken when the LCD monitor is switched on and approximately 400 shots when the LCD monitor is off. PC World tests far exceeded this. We were able to take over 600 shots on the one battery with the LCD screen on, and about one-fifth of these with flash.
The camera allows for continuous shooting at roughly 2.4shots/sec. It keeps shooting until the memory card is full, but the bigger the image size and lower the compression will see the camera pause while writing the data to the SD card. The function is not applicable in Auto mode.
The size of the camera allows users to carry anywhere at any time. The image quality allows users to take shots and have faith that they are worth printing
The IXUS 40 is incredibly hard to fault. It provides great output and on top of that is fun to use. It is worth a looking into.