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Canon SX40 vs Nikon D3100

The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS and the Nikon D3100 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in September 2011 and August 2010. The SX40 is a fixed lens compact, while the D3100 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX40) and an APS-C (D3100) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 12 megapixels, whereas the Nikon provides 14.2 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Canon SX40 versus Nikon D3100
Canon SX40 Nikon D3100
Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
24-840mm f/2.7-5.8 Nikon F mount lenses
12 MP, 1/2.3" Sensor 14.2 MP, APS-C Sensor
1080/24p Video 1080/24p Video
ISO 100-3,200 ISO 100-3,200 (100 - 12,800)
Electronic viewfinder (202k dots) Optical viewfinder
2.7 LCD, 230k dots 3.0 LCD, 230k dots
Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
10.3 shutter flaps per second 3 shutter flaps per second
380 shots per battery charge550 shots per battery charge
123 x 92 x 108 mm, 600 g 124 x 96 x 75 mm, 505 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS and the Nikon D3100? 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 SX40 and the Nikon D3100. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The D3100 can be obtained in two different colors (black, red), while the SX40 is only available in black.

Size Canon SX40 vs Nikon D3100
Compare SX40 versus D3100 top
Comparison SX40 or D3100 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Nikon D3100 is notably larger (5 percent) than the Canon SX40. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the SX40 nor the D3100 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the SX40 has a lens built in, whereas the D3100 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the D3100 and their specifications in the Nikon Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the SX40 gets 380 shots out of its NB-10L battery, while the D3100 can take 550 images on a single charge of its EN-EL14 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, just use the right or left arrows in the table to switch to the respective camera. Alternatively, you can also navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from the full list of cameras there.

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Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life 1
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch 2
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
 
Canon SX40 4.8 in 3.6 in 4.3 in 21.2 oz 380 n Sep 2011 429i
 
Nikon D3100 4.9 in 3.8 in 3.0 in 17.8 oz 550 n Aug 2010 599i
 
Canon SX60 5.0 in 3.7 in 4.5 in 22.9 oz 340 n Sep 2014 549i
 
Canon G1 X 4.6 in 3.2 in 2.6 in 18.8 oz 250 n Jan 2012 799i
 
Canon SX50 4.8 in 3.4 in 4.2 in 21.0 oz 315 n Sep 2012 429i
 
Canon T3 5.1 in 3.9 in 3.1 in 17.5 oz 700 n Feb 2011 449i
 
Canon SX30 4.8 in 3.6 in 4.3 in 21.2 oz 370 n Sep 2010 429i
 
Canon SX20 4.8 in 3.5 in 3.4 in 21.2 oz .. n Aug 2009 399i
 
Canon SX10 4.8 in 3.5 in 3.4 in 21.2 oz .. n Sep 2008 399i
 
Nikon D3200 4.9 in 3.8 in 3.0 in 17.8 oz 540 n Apr 2012 599i
 
Nikon D5100 5.0 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.8 oz 660 n Apr 2011 749i
 
Nikon D7000 5.2 in 4.1 in 3.0 in 27.5 oz 1050 Y Sep 2010 1,499i
 
Nikon D3000 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 18.9 oz 500 n Jul 2009 599i
 
Nikon D5000 5.0 in 4.1 in 3.1 in 20.8 oz 510 n Apr 2009 749i
 
Panasonic FZ200 4.9 in 3.4 in 4.3 in 20.7 oz 540 n Jul 2012 599i
 
Panasonic FZ150 4.9 in 3.2 in 3.6 in 18.6 oz 410 n Aug 2011 499i
 
Panasonic FZ100 4.9 in 3.2 in 3.6 in 19.0 oz 410 n Jul 2010 499i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.
(1) Number of images that can be taken on a full battery charge according to the CIPA-standard; (2) Official announcement.

Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The SX40 was launched at a lower price than the D3100, despite having a lens built in. 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. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

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Sensor comparison

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Moreover, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more control over depth-of-field in the image and, thus, the ability to better 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.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon SX40 features a 1/2.3-inch sensor and the Nikon D3100 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the D3100 is 1171 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 5.6 and 1.5. The sensor in the SX40 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the D3100 offers a 3:2 aspect.

Canon SX40 and Nikon D3100 sensor measures

With 14.2MP, the D3100 offers a higher resolution than the SX40 (12MP), but the D3100 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.01μm versus 1.53μm for the SX40) due to its larger sensor. However, the SX40 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year) than the D3100, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the SX40 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Nikon D3100 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the D3100 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 15.4 inches or 58.5 x 39 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 12.3 inches or 46.8 x 31.2 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.4 x 10.2 inches or 39 x 26 cm. The corresponding values for the Canon SX40 are 20 x 15 inches or 50.8 x 38.1 cm for good quality, 16 x 12 inches or 40.6 x 30.5 cm for very good quality, and 13.3 x 10 inches or 33.9 x 25.4 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Canon PowerShot SX40 HS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Nikon D3100 are ISO 100 to ISO 3200, with the possibility to increase the ISO range to 100-12800.

SX40 versus D3100 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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"). 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 SX40 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p........
 
Nikon D3100 APS-C 14.2 4608 30721080/24p22.511.391967
 
Canon SX60 1/2.3 14.2 4608 30721080/60p19.210.812739
 
Canon G1 X 1.5-inch 14.2 4352 32641080/24p21.710.864460
 
Canon SX50 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/24p20.311.217947
 
Canon T3 APS-C 12.2 4272 2848720/30p21.911.075562
 
Canon SX30 1/2.3 14.0 4320 3240720/30p........
 
Canon SX20 1/2.3 12.0 4000 3000720/30p........
 
Canon SX10 1/2.3 10.0 3648 2736480/30p........
 
Nikon D3200 APS-C 24.1 6016 40001080/30p24.113.2113181
 
Nikon D5100 APS-C 16.1 4928 32641080/30p23.513.6118380
 
Nikon D7000 APS-C 16.1 4928 326410800/24p23.513.9116780
 
Nikon D3000 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.311.156362
 
Nikon D5000 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872
 
Panasonic FZ200 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/60p19.110.811437
 
Panasonic FZ150 1/2.3 12.0 4000 30001080/60p19.410.913240
 
Panasonic FZ100 1/2.3 14.0 4320 32401080/60i........

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, and both provide the same movie specifications (1080/24p).

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the SX40 has an electronic viewfinder (202k dots), while the D3100 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon SX40, the Nikon D3100, 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 SX40202 n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/3200s 10.3 Y Y
 
Nikon D3100optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Canon SX60922 n 3.0 922 swivel n 1/2000s 6.4 Y Y
 
Canon G1 Xoptical n 3.0 922 Swivel n 1/4000s 1.9 Y Y
 
Canon SX50202 n 3.0 461 swivel n 1/2000s 2.2 Y Y
 
Canon T3optical n 2.7 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Canon SX30202 n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.6 Y Y
 
Canon SX20202 n 2.5 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.7 Y Y
 
Canon SX10202 n 2.5 230 swivel n 1/3200s 0.7 Y Y
 
Nikon D3200optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Nikon D5100optical n 3.0 921 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Nikon D7000optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n
 
Nikon D3000optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
 
Nikon D5000optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n
 
Panasonic FZ2001312 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/4000s 12.0 Y Y
 
Panasonic FZ150202 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/2000s 12.0 Y Y
 
Panasonic FZ100202 n 3.0 460 swivel n 1/2000s 11.0 Y Y

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the SX40 and the D3100 write their files to 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 SX40 HS and Nikon D3100 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 SX40Ystereomono--YES2.0---
 
Nikon D3100Ymonomono--mini2.0---
 
Canon SX60YstereomonoY-mini2.0YY-
 
Canon G1 XYstereomono--mini2.0---
 
Canon SX50Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Canon T3Ystereomono--mini2.0---
 
Canon SX30Ystereomono--YES2.0---
 
Canon SX20Ystereomono--YES2.0---
 
Canon SX10Ystereomono---2.0---
 
Nikon D3200YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D5100YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D7000YmonomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Nikon D3000Y-----2.0---
 
Nikon D5000Ymonomono--mini2.0---
 
Panasonic FZ200YstereomonoY-mini2.0---
 
Panasonic FZ150Ystereo---mini2.0---
 
Panasonic FZ100Ystereomono--mini2.0---

Both the SX40 and the D3100 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D3100 was replaced by the Nikon D3200, 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 and Nikon websites.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Canon SX40 or the Nikon D3100 – 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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Reasons to prefer the Canon PowerShot SX40 HS:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10.3 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the D3100 requires a separate lens.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year after the D3100).

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Arguments in favor of the Nikon D3100:

  • More detail: Has more megapixels (14.2 vs 12MP), which boosts linear resolution by 11%.
  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for higher quality imaging.
  • Richer colors: The pixel size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger pixels capture a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger pixels means good image quality even under poor lighting.
  • Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
  • 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 (1/4000s vs 1/3200s) to freeze action.
  • More flexible: Makes it possible to change lenses and thus to use specialty optics.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (550 versus 380) out of a single battery charge.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2010).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the D3100 is the clear winner of the contest (12 : 8 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 wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

SX40 08:12 D3100

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX40 and the Nikon D3100 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Superzoom Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings 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 partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the SX40 or the D3100. 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 expert reviews are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear 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 SX40+..4.5/55/54/5 Sep 2011 429i
 
Nikon D3100+ +72/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Aug 2010 599i
 
Canon SX60+ +75/1004/5..4.5/5 Sep 2014 549i
 
Canon G1 X+76/1004/54/54.5/5 Jan 2012 799i
 
Canon SX50+ +72/1004.5/5..4.5/5 Sep 2012 429i
 
Canon T380/10069/1004/54/54.5/5 Feb 2011 449i
 
Canon SX30+ +..3.5/54.5/54/5 Sep 2010 429i
 
Canon SX20+ +73/100..4/54/5 Aug 2009 399i
 
Canon SX10+ +....4.5/54/5 Sep 2008 399i
 
Nikon D3200+ +73/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2012 599i
 
Nikon D5100+ +76/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Apr 2011 749i
 
Nikon D7000..80/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,499i
 
Nikon D3000+72/1004/53.5/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599i
 
Nikon D5000+ +75/1004/55/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749i
 
Panasonic FZ200+ +80/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Jul 2012 599i
 
Panasonic FZ150+ +76/1004/55/54.5/5 Aug 2011 499i
 
Panasonic FZ100+..4.5/5..4.5/5 Jul 2010 499i
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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Canon SX40:
Check Ebay offers
Nikon D3100:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Canon SX40 vs Nikon D3100

    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 SX40 Nikon D3100
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens 24-840mm f/2.7-5.8 Nikon F mount lenses
    Launch Date September 2011 August 2010
    Launch Price USD 429 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Canon SX40 Nikon D3100
    Sensor Technology BSI-CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format 1/2.3" Sensor APS-C Sensor
    Sensor Size 6.17 x 4.55 mm 23.1 x 15.4 mm
    Sensor Area 28.0735 mm2 355.74 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 7.7 mm 27.8 mm
    Crop Factor 5.6x 1.5x
    Sensor Resolution 12 Megapixels 14.2 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4000 x 3000 pixels 4608 x 3072 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.53 μm 5.01 μm
    Pixel Density 42.74 MP/cm2 3.98 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/24p Video 1080/24p Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 3,200 ISO 100 - 3,200 ISO
    ISO Boost no Enhancement 100 - 12,800 ISO
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 67
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 22.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 11.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 919
    Screen Specs Canon SX40 Nikon D3100
    Viewfinder Type Electronic viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.53x
    Viewfinder Resolution 202k dots
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.7inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 230k dots
    LCD Attachment Swivel screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon SX40 Nikon D3100
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 10.3 shutter flaps/s 3 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no no
    Connectivity Specs Canon SX40 Nikon D3100
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port YES HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon SX40 Nikon D3100
    Battery Type NB-10L EN-EL14
    Battery Life (CIPA)380 shots per charge550 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 123 x 92 x 108 mm
    (4.8 x 3.6 x 4.3 in)
    124 x 96 x 75 mm
    (4.9 x 3.8 x 3.0 in)
    Camera Weight 600 g (21.2 oz) 505 g (17.8 oz)

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