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Canon 40D vs Olympus E-420

The Canon EOS 40D and the Olympus E-420 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2007 and March 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (40D) and a Four Thirds (E-420) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 10.1 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 10 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Canon 40D versus Olympus E-420
Canon 40D Olympus E-420
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Canon EF mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
10.1 MP, APS-C Sensor 10 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 100-1,600 (100 - 3,200) ISO 100-1,600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 230k dots 2.7 LCD, 215k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
6.5 shutter flaps per second 3.5 shutter flaps per second
750 shots per battery charge500 shots per battery charge
146 x 108 x 74 mm, 822 g 130 x 91 x 53 mm, 440 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon EOS 40D and the Olympus E-420? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

The physical size and weight of the Canon 40D and the Olympus E-420 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon 40D vs Olympus E-420
Compare 40D versus E-420 top
Comparison 40D or E-420 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-420 is notably smaller (25 percent) than the Canon 40D. Moreover, the E-420 is substantially lighter (46 percent) than the 40D. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the 40D nor the E-420 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Canon EF Lens Catalog (40D) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-420).

Concerning battery life, the 40D gets 750 shots out of its BP-511A battery, while the E-420 can take 500 images on a single charge of its BLS-1 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Canon 40D 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 750 n Aug 2007 1,299i
 
Olympus E-420 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 n Mar 2008 599i
 
Canon T3 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 17.5 oz 700 n Feb 2011 449i
 
Canon 60D 5.7 in 4.2 in 3.1 in 26.6 oz 1100 Y Aug 2010 1,399i
 
Canon 50D 5.7 in 4.3 in 2.9 in 29.0 oz 800 Y Aug 2008 1,299i
 
Canon XS 5.0 in 3.9 in 2.6 in 17.7 oz 500 n Jun 2008 449i
 
Canon XSi 5.1 in 3.9 in 2.4 in 18.5 oz 500 n Jan 2008 799i
 
Canon 30D 5.7 in 4.2 in 2.9 in 27.7 oz 750 n Feb 2006 1,399i
 
Canon XTi 5.0 in 3.3 in 2.6 in 19.6 oz 370 n Aug 2006 799i
 
Canon 20D 5.7 in 4.2 in 2.8 in 27.2 oz 700 n Aug 2004 1,499i
 
Canon 10D 5.9 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 30.0 oz 500 n Feb 2003 1,999i
 
Nikon D90 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 24.8 oz 850 n Aug 2008 1,299i
 
Olympus E-450 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 n Mar 2009 499i
 
Olympus E-620 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.4 oz 500 n Feb 2009 699i
 
Olympus E-520 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 18.9 oz 750 n May 2008 699i
 
Olympus E-410 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 n Mar 2007 699i
 
Olympus E-400 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 n Sep 2006 699i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-420 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 54 percent) than the 40D, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down.

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Sensor comparison

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon 40D features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-420 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-420 is 32 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.6 and 2.0. The sensor in the 40D has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-420 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Canon 40D and Olympus E-420 sensor measures

With 10.1MP, the 40D offers a slightly higher resolution than the E-420 (10MP), but the 40D nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.73μm versus 4.74μm for the E-420) due to its larger sensor. However, the E-420 is a somewhat more recent model (by 6 months) than the 40D, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

The Canon EOS 40D has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 100-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-420 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

40D versus E-420 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under review, the 40D has a notably higher overall DXO score than the E-420 (overall score 8 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.6 bits higher color depth, 0.9 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.4 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
 
Canon 40D APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.370364
 
Olympus E-420 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.452756
 
Canon T3 APS-C 12.2 4272 2848720/30p21.911.075562
 
Canon 60D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.581366
 
Canon 50D APS-C 15.1 4752 3168none21.811.469663
 
Canon XS APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none........
 
Canon XSi APS-C 12.2 4272 2848none21.910.869261
 
Canon 30D APS-C 8.2 3504 2336none21.510.873659
 
Canon XTi APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none22.111.066462
 
Canon 20D APS-C 8.2 3504 2336none21.911.072162
 
Canon 10D APS-C 6.3 3072 2048none21.110.957157
 
Nikon D90 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.597773
 
Olympus E-450 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.551256
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.454855
 
Olympus E-410 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.110.049451
 
Olympus E-400 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none........
Both the 40D and the E-420 offer Live View, so that they make it possible to use the rear screen for framing. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The 40D and the E-420 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (95%), but the viewfinder of the 40D has a higher magnification than the one of the E-420 (0.59x vs 0.46x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon 40D, the Olympus E-420, and comparable cameras.

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Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
(000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
 
Canon 40Doptical Y 3.0 230 fixed n 1/8000s 6.5 Y n
 
Olympus E-420optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
 
Canon T3optical n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Canon 60Doptical Y 3.0 1040 swivel n 1/8000s 5.3 Y n
 
Canon 50Doptical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/8000s 6.3 Y n
 
Canon XSoptical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Canon XSioptical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
 
Canon 30Doptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
 
Canon XTioptical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Canon 20Doptical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n
 
Canon 10Doptical Y 1.8 118 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D90optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 4.5 Y n
 
Olympus E-450optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
 
Olympus E-620optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y
 
Olympus E-520optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y Y
 
Olympus E-410optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Olympus E-400optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n

One feature that is present on the 40D, but is missing on the E-420 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

The 40D writes its imaging data to Compact Flash cards, while the E-420 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-420 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the 40D only has one slot.

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Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon EOS 40D and Olympus E-420 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
 
Canon 40DY-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-420Y-----2.0---
 
Canon T3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Canon 60DYmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Canon 50DY----mini2.0---
 
Canon XSY-----2.0---
 
Canon XSiY----mini2.0---
 
Canon 30DY-----2.0---
 
Canon XTiY-----2.0---
 
Canon 20DY-----1.1---
 
Canon 10DY-----1.1---
 
Nikon D90Ymonomono--mini2.0---
 
Olympus E-450Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-620Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-520Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-410Y-----2.0---
 
Olympus E-400Y-----2.0---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Canon 40D (unlike the E-420) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the 40D and the E-420 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The 40D was replaced by the Canon 50D, while the E-420 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Olympus websites.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Canon 40D or the Olympus E-420 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Arguments in favor of the Canon EOS 40D:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (8 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.9 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (0.4 stops ISO advantage).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.59x vs 0.46x).
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (6.5 vs 3.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 500) on a single battery charge.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2007).

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-420:

  • More compact: Is smaller (130x91mm vs 146x108mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 382g or 46 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (54 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (6 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the 40D is the clear winner of the match-up (11 : 5 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

40D 11:05 E-420

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon 40D and the Olympus E-420 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the 40D or the E-420 perform in practice. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Review Scores
  Camera
Model
camera
  labs  
dp
review  
ephoto
  zine  
imaging
resource
photography
  blog  
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Canon 40D+ ++ +4.5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,299i
 
Olympus E-42085/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Mar 2008 599i
 
Canon T380/10069/1004/54/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449i
 
Canon 60D+79/1004/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 1,399i
 
Canon 50D+ ++ +4.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299i
 
Canon XS82/100+ +3.5/54/54.5/5 Jun 2008 449i
 
Canon XSi+ ++ +4/55/54.5/5 Jan 2008 799i
 
Canon 30D+ ++ +oo.. Feb 2006 1,399i
 
Canon XTi+ ++ +o4.5/54/5 Aug 2006 799i
 
Canon 20D..+ +..o.. Aug 2004 1,499i
 
Canon 10D..+ +..o.. Feb 2003 1,999i
 
Nikon D90+ ++ +4/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299i
 
Olympus E-450....4/5..4/5 Mar 2009 499i
 
Olympus E-62088/10072/1004.5/5o5/5 Feb 2009 699i
 
Olympus E-52087/100+ +4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699i
 
Olympus E-41086/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Mar 2007 699i
 
Olympus E-40085/100..4/5..4/5 Sep 2006 699i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Canon 40D:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-420:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just use the search menu below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Canon 40D vs Olympus E-420

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Canon 40D Olympus E-420
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Canon EF mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date August 2007 March 2008
    Launch Price USD 1,299 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Canon 40D Olympus E-420
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 22.3 x 14.9 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 332.27 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 26.8 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 1.6x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 10.1 Megapixels 10 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3888 x 2592 pixels 3648 x 2736 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 5.73 μm 4.74 μm
    Pixel Density 3.03 MP/cm2 4.44 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 1,600 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    ISO Boost 100 - 3,200 ISO no Enhancement
    Image Processor DIGIC 3 TruePic III
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 64 56
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.1 21.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.3 10.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 703 527
    Screen Specs Canon 40D Olympus E-420
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.59x 0.46x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 2.7inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 215k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon 40D Olympus E-420
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 6.5 shutter flaps/s 3.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Canon 40D Olympus E-420
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon 40D Olympus E-420
    Battery Type BP-511A BLS-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)750 shots per charge500 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 146 x 108 x 74 mm
    (5.7 x 4.3 x 2.9 in)
    130 x 91 x 53 mm
    (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)
    Camera Weight 822 g (29.0 oz) 440 g (15.5 oz)

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