Canon PowerShot A4000 IS review
1/2.3in 16.0-megapixel sensor, 8.0x zoom (28-224mm equivalent), 145g
Camera manufacturers have started to come to their senses and called a truce on the megapixel race – something that has been fairly disastrously for compact cameras' image quality. However, a new battlefront is being drawn over zoom ranges.
Our natural inclination is to roll our eyes wearily, but in fact, this could be a good thing. There's still a fair chance of screwing up a camera by pushing its optical design beyond sensible limits, but unlike a pointlessly huge resolution, a big zoom in a slim camera is a fundamentally good idea. The Canon A4000 IS isn't the most groundbreaking model with its 8x zoom, but other similarly equipped cameras are either significantly chunkier or pricier than this one.
It's closer in appearance to Canon's stylish Ixus cameras than its more utilitarian PowerShot range. The buttons are a little cramped, though, and the navigation pad proved to be quite fiddly for our manly thumbs. Unlike Canon's pricier PowerShot models, there are no dials for changing modes or adjusting settings. There is a Help button – a new feature from Canon – but bafflingly, pressing it while browsing the menu options simply quit the menu. Pressing it again revealed various help topics, but it's lightweight stuff. One entry reads, "Use the menus to set functions like the date, sounds, and shooting settings." However, if you want to know the difference between evaluative and centre-weighted light metering, you're on your own.
Fortunately, this camera gave us little reason to venture away from fully automatic settings, with Canon's usual knack for flattering tones in a wide variety of shooting conditions. Details were extremely crisp in the centre of frames but the edges exhibited chromatic aberrations, where the red, green and blue components of the image didn't line up. This gave slightly vague focus towards the edges of shots and discoloured halos around high-contrast lines, and it got progressively worse as we zoomed in.
Colours are warm and flattering, although there's a red halo to the left of the arm in this shot – evidence of chromatic aberrations - click to enlarge
The Auto ISO mode maxed out at 800, which worked fine in most conditions, although we had to raise it to 1600 manually to avoid blur when we zoomed in in low light. Doing so brought the 16-megapixel sensor's relatively noisy output to the fore, with multi-coloured blotches across darker areas of photos. ISO 400 and 800 shots weren't too pretty either when viewed up close, but they looked decent enough after resizing photos to fit the screen.
Image quality in low light doesn't stand up to scrutiny but it's fine for sharing online - click to enlarge
The A4000 was fairly slow to take photos, taking three seconds on average between shots. Using the flash at full power extended this time to eight seconds. Continuous mode ran at just 0.7fps without live view, which made it extremely tricky to keep up with the unfolding action. The 175-shot battery life is well below average, too.