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Canon SX20 vs SX40

The Canon PowerShot SX20 IS and the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in August 2009 and September 2011. Both the SX20 and the SX40 are fixed lens compact cameras that are equipped with a 1/2.3-inch sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 12 megapixels.

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

Headline Specifications
Canon SX20
versus
Canon SX40
Canon SX20 Canon SX40
Fixed lens compact camera Fixed lens compact camera
28-560mm f/2.8-5.7 24-840mm f/2.7-5.8
12 MP, 1/2.3" Sensor 12 MP, 1/2.3" Sensor
720/30p Video 1080/24p Video
ISO 100-3,200 ISO 100-3,200
Electronic viewfinder (202k dots) Electronic viewfinder (202k dots)
2.5 LCD, 230k dots 2.7 LCD, 230k dots
Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive) Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive)
0.7 shutter flaps per second 10.3 shutter flaps per second
123 x 88 x 87 mm, 600 g 123 x 92 x 108 mm, 600 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS and the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS? 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 side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon SX20 and the Canon SX40. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon SX20 vs Canon SX40
Compare SX20 versus SX40 top
Comparison SX20 or SX40 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Canon SX40 is somewhat larger (5 percent) than the Canon SX20. In terms of weight, the two cameras are very close. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the SX20 nor the SX40 are weather-sealed.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. 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
1.
 
Canon SX20 123 mm 88 mm 87 mm 600 g .. n Aug 2009 399 i
2.
 
Canon SX40 123 mm 92 mm 108 mm 600 g 380 n Sep 2011 429 i
3.
 
Canon SX730 110 mm 64 mm 40 mm 300 g 250 n Apr 2017 399 i
4.
 
Canon SX60 128 mm 93 mm 114 mm 650 g 340 n Sep 2014 549 i
5.
 
Canon SX50 123 mm 87 mm 106 mm 595 g 315 n Sep 2012 429 i
6.
 
Canon SX30 123 mm 92 mm 108 mm 601 g 370 n Sep 2010 429 i
7.
 
Canon SX10 123 mm 88 mm 87 mm 600 g .. n Sep 2008 399 i
8.
 
Canon SX1 128 mm 88 mm 88 mm 615 g .. n Sep 2008 599 i
9.
 
Canon XS 126 mm 98 mm 65 mm 502 g 500 n Jun 2008 449 i
10.
 
Leica V-LUX 2 124 mm 80 mm 95 mm 520 g 410 n Sep 2010 849 i
11.
 
Panasonic FZ150 124 mm 82 mm 92 mm 528 g 410 n Aug 2011 499 i
12.
 
Panasonic FZ100 124 mm 82 mm 92 mm 540 g 410 n Jul 2010 499 i
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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The SX20 was somewhat cheaper (by 7 percent) than the SX40 at launch, but both cameras fall into the same price category. 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 size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a 1/2.3-inch sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 5.6. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the smaller-sensor digicams that favor affordability and compact design. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Canon SX20 and Canon SX40 sensor measures

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 12 megapixels. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the SX20 and the SX40 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the SX40 is much more recent (by 2 years) than the SX20, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that neither of the two cameras has an anti-alias filter installed, so they are able to capture all the detail the sensor resolves.

The Canon PowerShot SX20 IS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS offers exactly the same ISO settings.

SX20 versus SX40 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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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
1.
 
Canon SX20 1/2.3 12.0 4000 3000720/30p...... ..
2.
 
Canon SX40 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p...... ..
3.
 
Canon SX730 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p...... ..
4.
 
Canon SX60 1/2.3 14.2 4608 30721080/60p19.210.8127 39
5.
 
Canon SX50 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p20.311.2179 47
6.
 
Canon SX30 1/2.3 14.0 4320 3240720/30p...... ..
7.
 
Canon SX10 1/2.3 10.0 3648 2736480/30p...... ..
8.
 
Canon SX1 1/2.3 10.0 3648 27361080/30p...... ..
9.
 
Canon XS APS-C 10.1 3888 2592none...... ..
10.
 
Leica V-LUX 2 1/2.3 14.0 4320 32401080/60i...... ..
11.
 
Panasonic FZ150 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/60p19.410.9132 40
12.
 
Panasonic FZ100 1/2.3 14.0 4320 32401080/60i...... ..

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The two cameras under consideration both have sensors whose read-out speed is fast enough to capture moving pictures, but the SX40 provides a better video resolution than the SX20. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/24p, while the SX20 is limited to 720/30p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The SX20 and the SX40 are similar in the sense that both feature an electronic viewfinder, which is helpful when framing images in bright sunlight. Moreover, their viewfinders offer an identical resolution of 202k dots. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon SX20, the Canon SX40, 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
1.
 
Canon SX20202 n 2.5 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.7 Y Y
2.
 
Canon SX40202 n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/3200s 10.3 Y Y
3.
 
Canon SX730none n 3.0 922 tilting n 1/3200s 5.9 Y Y
4.
 
Canon SX60922 n 3.0 922 swivel n 1/2000s 6.4 Y Y
5.
 
Canon SX50202 n 3.0 461 swivel n 1/2000s 2.2 Y Y
6.
 
Canon SX30202 n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.6 Y Y
7.
 
Canon SX10202 n 2.5 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.7 Y Y
8.
 
Canon SX1202 n 2.8 230 swivel n 1/3200s 4.0 Y Y
9.
 
Canon XSoptical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
10.
 
Leica V-LUX 2202 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/2000s 11.0 Y Y
11.
 
Panasonic FZ150202 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/2000s 12.0 Y Y
12.
 
Panasonic FZ100202 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/2000s 11.0 Y Y

Both the SX20 and the SX40 have zoom lenses built in. The SX20 has a 28-560mm f/2.8-5.7 optic and the SX40 offers a 24-840mm f/2.7-5.8 (focal lengths in full frame equivalent terms). Hence, the SX40 provides a wider angle of view at the short end, as well as more tele-photo reach at the long end than the SX20. The SX40 offers the faster maximum aperture.

The SX20 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the SX40 uses SDXC cards.

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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 PowerShot SX20 IS and Canon PowerShot SX40 HS 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
1.
 
Canon SX20Ystereomono--YES2.0---
2.
 
Canon SX40Ystereomono--YES2.0---
3.
 
Canon SX730-stereomono--micro2.0YYY
4.
 
Canon SX60YstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon SX50Ystereomono--mini2.0---
6.
 
Canon SX30Ystereomono--YES2.0---
7.
 
Canon SX10Ystereomono---2.0---
8.
 
Canon SX1Ystereomono--YES2.0---
9.
 
Canon XSY-----2.0---
10.
 
Leica V-LUX 2Ystereomono--mini2.0---
11.
 
Panasonic FZ150Ystereo---mini2.0---
12.
 
Panasonic FZ100Ystereomono--mini2.0---

Both the SX20 and the SX40 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The SX20 was replaced by the Canon SX30, while the SX40 was followed by the Canon SX50. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon website.

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Review summary

So how do things add up? Is the Canon SX20 better than the Canon SX40 or vice versa? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Reasons to prefer the Canon PowerShot SX20 IS:

  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in August 2009).


Arguments in favor of the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS:

  • Better video: Provides higher definition movie capture (1080/24p vs 720/30p).
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.7" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10.3 vs 0.7 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Better light gathering: Has a lens with a wider maximum aperture (f/2.7 vs f/2.8).
  • Wider view: Has a wider-angle lens that facilitates landscape or interior shots.
  • More tele-reach: Has a longer tele-lens for perspective compression and subject magnification.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years of technical progress since the SX20 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the SX40 is the clear winner of the contest (7 : 1 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.

SX20 01:07 SX40

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX20 and the Canon SX40 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Superzoom Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the SX20 or the SX40 perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). 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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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon SX20..+ +73/100..4/5 Aug 2009 399 i
2.
 
Canon SX40..+..4.5/54/5 Sep 2011 429 i
3.
 
Canon SX730..+..4/54/5 Apr 2017 399 i
4.
 
Canon SX603/5+ +75/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2014 549 i
5.
 
Canon SX503/5+ +72/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 429 i
6.
 
Canon SX303/5+ +..3.5/54/5 Sep 2010 429 i
7.
 
Canon SX10..+ +....4/5 Sep 2008 399 i
8.
 
Canon SX1..+ ++..3.5/5 Sep 2008 599 i
9.
 
Canon XS..82/100+ +3.5/54.5/5 Jun 2008 449 i
10.
 
Leica V-LUX 2.......... Sep 2010 849 i
11.
 
Panasonic FZ1503/5+ +76/1004/54.5/5 Aug 2011 499 i
12.
 
Panasonic FZ100..+..4.5/54.5/5 Jul 2010 499 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Canon SX20:
Check Ebay offers
Canon SX40:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, 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 SX20 vs Canon SX40

    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 SX20 Canon SX40
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Fixed lens compact camera
    Camera Lens 28-560mm f/2.8-5.7 24-840mm f/2.7-5.8
    Launch Date August 2009 September 2011
    Launch Price USD 399 USD 429
    Sensor Specs Canon SX20 Canon SX40
    Sensor Technology CCD BSI-CMOS
    Sensor Format 1/2.3" Sensor 1/2.3" Sensor
    Sensor Size 6.17 x 4.55 mm 6.17 x 4.55 mm
    Sensor Area 28.0735 mm2 28.0735 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 7.7 mm 7.7 mm
    Crop Factor 5.6x 5.6x
    Sensor Resolution 12 Megapixels 12 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4000 x 3000 pixels 4000 x 3000 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.53 μm 1.53 μm
    Pixel Density 42.74 MP/cm2 42.74 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter no AA filter
    Movie Capability 720/30p Video 1080/24p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 3,200 ISO 100 - 3,200 ISO
    Screen Specs Canon SX20 Canon SX40
    Viewfinder Type Electronic viewfinder Electronic viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification
    Viewfinder Resolution 202k dots 202k dots
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5inch 2.7inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Swivel screen Swivel screen
    Shooting Specs Canon SX20 Canon SX40
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 0.7 shutter flaps/s 10.3 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Canon SX20 Canon SX40
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port YES HDMI YES HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon SX20 Canon SX40
    Battery Type 4xAA NB-10L
    Body Dimensions 123 x 88 x 87 mm
    (4.8 x 3.5 x 3.4 in)
    123 x 92 x 108 mm
    (4.8 x 3.6 x 4.3 in)
    Camera Weight 600 g (21.2 oz) 600 g (21.2 oz)

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