I’ll start off by saying that yes, the EOS 40Dreally is a great camera. I bought it as body only, then added a Canon EF 100 f2.8 Macro USM lens. If you’re not familiar with that lens, it is fairly heavy, and so the camera has felt heavy to me since day one. But it was the lens creating that impression.

The 40D starts up, shoots, and shuts down quickly; With the right lenses, it creates clear and consistent photographs; it is hugely flexible, pretty much to any degree you want to flex. Some of the things that have made themselves known to me by how well they work are, in no particular order, the great battery life… I use the LCD a lot, shoot a lot, and generally fuss continuously with the camera, and it just “keeps on going” which is enormously pleasing (this is with the stock battery and a spare BP-511A pack to swap in, which has never been necessary if I go out with a fully charged battery in the camera.) The feel of the camera – just a nice handful of goodness, it really suits my hands, which are large. The clarity of the viewfinder. I wear glasses, and after a little playing with the diopter adjustment, it was perfect, first time ever with any camera. This thing is fast; it really can do 6 or so frames a second (depends on the shutter speed, of course) and the AF is also fast which makes for more images, and more good images. I love all the preset modes, and I’ve already had some fun in manual and a lot of fun in aperture priority, which pretty much suits the way I think. I particularly like the AF display and the way you can control it; I prefer a single central AF point so I can control focus at the half-press point, and the camera was perfectly agreeable to that. More points did some interesting things with depth of field, and I look forward to experimenting with that, too.

I would buy this camera body again in a heartbeat if something horrible happened to mine, like I dropped it down a well or larval (and soon to be deceased) human beings got hold of it and used it as a kickball. It also offers some optional features like wifi that sound like great fun, though I confess I can’t speak to them as I’ve not tried them.

There are some things I think could have been done better, though, and since you’re probably looking at the camera wondering what the downsides are, rather than looking for what made everyone happy, that’s what I’m going to focus on.

o The worst problem, by far: The images that the camera uses to let you review your shots are FAR softer than the actual photos, to the point where you can’t really tell if you got the focus nailed, or not. This is not just a nitpick – this causes me to take extra shots because I literally can’t tell if I’ve hit the mark, or not. I am hoping this can be fixed with a firmware update to the camera.

o That fabulous LCD, huge and bright and crisp, looks awful every time I look at it after shooting through the TTL viewfinder. This is because it has a huge nose-print on it. Has anyone at Canon ever taken a look at a human face? Placement of the monitor should be off-sides and inset so that it isn’t a grease magnet. Or do they expect me to wash my nose every time I snap a picture out in the field?

o While I’m harping on the camera’s ergonomics, the power switch isn’t very easy to manage. I have very short nails (I’m a guitarist and a martial artist, neither of which encourage nail growth) and getting that switch to swing on and off sometimes takes more than one try; that may, someday, lose me a photo I really wanted, especially considering how fast the camera starts up otherwise. I really wish it had a deeper pit for my finger and a more positive tractive surface to drag it on. It’s too short and too smooth.

o When in Live View mode, meaning, you’re presumably shooting using the LCD instead of the viewfinder (after cleaning your latest noseprints off of it, of course), autofocus doesn’t work. But wait, it does. If you press a different button. Apparently the power budget of the camera is pushed a little too close to the edge if you use live view and autofocus because the mirror is locked in the up position. So they… moved AF to another button? Look, either let me do it, or don’t let me do it, but quit changing what the controls do underneath my fingers. That’s just poor interface design. Maybe you should have turned it off by default, then let us blatant power-spenders turn it back on, kind of like how ISO 3200 works on this camera (it’s a menu option, not initially enabled. Requires RTFM or at least someone telling you what to do.) Anyway, I don’t like how this works. At all. But it’s a nitpick.

o When you’re not in live view mode, the camera will display your shot in the LCD for 2 seconds, then blank (this time is adjustable, somewhat, in the menus. But 2 seconds is the shortest time for it to work at all.) You have to wait for the preview to go away (2 seconds) to enter play mode so you can really take a look at it. I think it should directly enter play when it is in that 2-second “grace” period after the shot; the fact that it doesn’t costs me time, at least in some situations. And time, in photography, can mean lost shots.

o Print button – come on. I can think of a hundred things that would be more important to put on a button than “print.” That’s just… silly.

o I would have liked to have infrared remote firing of the camera. This is much more flexible than the 2s or 10s delayed firing option it has now. You can go out and sit with a group and putter around indefinitely with infrared; even 10 seconds isn’t a lot of time to get out there, regulate your breathing, meld into the group photo, and stop staring down your 3rd cousin Hotisha’s bodice. Uh, not that I would do such a thing. No. Not me. Cough.

o It isn’t easy (meaning, you have to use a deep menu) to clean out all the images on the CF card. Should have been, really. it is easy to delete images one at a time.

o The weather flap on the USB connection (and external fire, strobe, and video connectors) are a little difficult to grasp (I have essentially no nails, remember), and they really are just rubber flaps – I fully expect them to wear out, as they don’t have proper hinges or otherwise use reasonable bearing surfaces. I really don’t like having to struggle with the flap every time I want to grab pictures from the camera, which is several times a day on days when I’m not seriously shooting. I might have to buy that wifi accessory…

These are, in the end, mostly problems I would characterize as “nitpicks”, and with the exception of the soft review images, certainly nothing to get in a frenzy over (well, maybe the placement of the LCD screen too… but that certainly isn’t a problem only found in Canon products.) This is a fabulous camera; I can’t imagine anyone actually regretting buying one unless they’ve been working with far, far more expensive gear than this. I gave it five stars, and that’s just how I feel about it.

About my photo creds: I’ve been into photography since about 1965, my last camera was an Olympus E20, a 5 MP camera with an excellent all-occasion lens, macro to telephoto, and an insatiable appetite for batteries. Moving up to a 40D was a great experience for me. I’m not a pro, semi-pro is fair, my experience with cameras includes both BW and color developing, all manner of large format boxes, several 35 mm cameras, and ten or eleven digital cameras from the 320×240 dawn of digital cameras to today. I am also an engineer (EE) and the author of a very extensive image processing software suite and several RAW processing plugins; consequently I am intimately familiar with how digital cameras actually work.

I wrote this review when I first got the camera. Since then, I’ve had time to learn its capabilities in depth; I’ve used a number of lenses, both L and non-L, with it; and I’ve shot over five thousand photos with it. That experience prompted me to write a wish list for it; you can check that out here.