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Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom - Digital Camera Review
aka - Canon Powershot SD40 IS Digital Elph / Canon IXY Digital L4

Review Date: 12/03/2007
Rating: Recommended

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Introduction: Announced on the 14th of September 2006, the Canon Powershot SD40 / Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom is one of the smallest Canon Digital IXUS cameras, and is available in four different colours: Pink, Blue, Silver, and Sepia. The IXUS i7 Zoom is a 7.1 megapixel digital camera with a 1.8" screen, and a 2.4x optical zoom lens. The 2.4x optical zoom lens is equivalent to 38 – 90 mm on a 35mm camera. The Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom is available from around £175 this makes it average to good value for money for an ultra compact 7 megapixel digital camera. The camera has a 640x480 30fps video mode with sound. The camera is very compact and is one of very few cameras with a "chocolate bar" sized design, with the majority of other ultra-compact cameras opting for a large 2.5" or 3" screen and an ultra slim body, due to the size and shape of the camera, the screen is small in comparison to other cameras at only 1.8 inches. The i7 measures: 96.1 x 45.1 x 23.9 mm (excluding protrusions), and weighs approx. 105g excluding batteries and media.

Canon have this to say about the camera:

"With its graceful lines and all-metal exterior, the super slim Digital IXUS i7 zoom looks good at any party. Choose from 4 enticing colours* to suit your own individual style. A 7.1 Megapixel CCD sensor captures every scene with enough fine detail for large photo quality prints. An ultra-compact 2.4x optical zoom gives you framing flexibility without sacrificing image quality."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: (in blue) a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Olympus SP-550 Ultra Zoom)


Front - Camera off.


Front view - focus assist lamp, flash, lens, microphone, left: strap loop.


Back - 1.8" screen, status LEDs, mode switch, Print button (doubles as shutter release when the camera is held vertically), 4-way controller (up and down are the zoom control), Function/Set button, Menu.


Top: Speaker, On/off, Microphone, Shutter release.


Bottom / side - metal tripod mount, docking station port, side: battery and memory compartment. 3.7v 760mAh Lithium Ion battery.


Docking station (used for charging and connecting to the computer / TV) and remote control (used in playback mode only).

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.


Size comparison, compared to the Olympus Mju Stylus 770SW.


Size comparison, compared to the Pentax Optio W20.

Specifications / Features:

  • 7.1 Megapixels CCD Sensor
  • 2.4x optical zoom (38mm - 90mm equivalent)
  • Compact, stylish design available in four colours: Steel Grey, Denim Blue, Sepia, Sizzling Pink
  • DIGIC III Image Processor
  • Face Detection AF/AE
  • 1.8" LCD, 118,000 pixels
  • 17 shooting modes including movies
  • My Colors
  • ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and High ISO Auto for flash-free indoor shooting
  • Safety Zoom
  • Vertical Shutter (using the orientation sensor it converts the Print/Share button into a shutter release when the camera is held vertically.)
  • 15 – 1/1600 sec (Shutter speeds of 1 sec. and more available in Long Shutter Mode only)
  • Video at VGA, 30fps with sound - digital zoom available
  • ~10cm macro mode
  • Supports SDHC memory cards

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Strap
  • Battery Pack
  • Camera docking station
  • Compact power adapter (plugs into docking station)
  • Wireless controller / Remote control (used when camera docked in playback mode)
  • USB Cable (connects docking station to computer)
  • AV Cable (connects docking station to TV)
  • Software CD Rom
  • Full Manual on CD Rom
  • 32-page Basic User Guide
  • 16mb SD Memory Card

Better than average box contents - the inclusion of a docking station and remote control (for the docking station) is a nice feature, it's just a shame the remote control doesn't work with the camera in photo mode. There is a very small 16mb memory card provided with the camera - this is worse than a lot of other cameras, and you should invest in a much larger memory card. Some kind of case would be very useful.

Battery usage: Battery life is average for an ultra-compact digital camera, rated at 190 shots according to CIPA standards, I managed around 130 shots before the battery went flat. This is average (not brilliant, but not too bad either) for an ultra-compact but not as good as the excellent 580 shot battery life of the the Fujifilm FinePix F30. Charging takes one hour and thirty minutes.

Camera Operation and OptionsThe mode switch on the back of the camera lets you switch between the main modes: Play, Video, and Photo. You can access the further modes in the Function menu.

Photo mode/menu:

Photo mode Photo Function Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown above, left) The screen resolution with 118,000 pixels is average for a 1.8" screen and pictures look clear on it. The screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. The screen can seem a bit cluttered in use, but the additional icons can be switched off - there is no histogram in photo mode, but there is one viewable in playback mode. Accessing some of the most popular options (such as Flash, Macro) is easily done using the 4-way controller.

Function menu options: (available in M mode) On the left is: Mode (details below ), Exposure compensation, ISO, White balance (including custom), Drive mode (Single, Continuous, Self-timer, Custom self-timer), My Colours (Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black and White, Positive Film, Lighter skin tone, Darker skin tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Colour - this allows you to change Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, Red, Green, Blue, and Skin Tone), Image quality (super fine, fine, normal), Image size.

Modes: In manual mode, you can press the function button and select: Auto, Manual, (Scene modes:) Portrait, Landscape, Night snapshot, Colour accent, Colour swap, Kids and Pets (and other scene modes:), Indoor, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Aquarium, Underwater. Examples of colour accent, and colour swap can be seen below.

Colour Accent (Red) Face-Detect Focus - People

Face-detect focus: the camera manages to focus on upto 9 people. This is a useful feature if you regularly take photos of people, making sure that the focus is on people rather than anything else in the photo.

Photo Menu Setup Menu

Photo menu options: AiAF (Face detect, On, Off), Slow-synchro, Red-eye, Light metering, AF-assist beam, Digital zoom, Review, Auto category, Disp Overlay (Grid lines, 3:2 Guide), Date stamp, Vertical shutter, Long shutter, Stitch assist.

Setup menu options: Mute, Volume, Info Display, LCD brightness, Power saving, Time zone, Date time, Clock display, Format, File numbering, Create folder, Auto rotate, Distance units, Lens retract, Language, Video system, Print method, Reset all.

Optical / Electronic Viewfinder:  As one of the smallest IXUS digital cameras available there is no optical viewfinder on this camera.

Playback (Review) mode/menu:

Playback view (showing colour swap) Playback menu, Print menu (rollover)

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is very quick. Zooming in is very quick and magnifies the image up to 10x. Further photo information (shown above, left) is available by changing the display mode in the menu, although unfortunately it only shows the ISO setting when you have manually selected it when taking the photo. 

Playback menu: Sildeshow, My Category, Erase, Protect, My Colours (Allows you to change the colours in the same way as when you are taking the photo), Sound memo, Rotate, Transfer order, Transition (for the slideshow). Print menu options are: Print selected images, selected by date, category, folder, all images, clear all selections, and print settings.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number will fit in the 16mb SD Memory card provided:

Size
Number of Photos Stored / Quality
Superfine
Fine
Normal
L 7mp (3072x2304)
4
7
15
Wide (3072x1728)
5
9
20
M1 5mp (2592x1944)
5
9
19
M2 3mp (2048x1536)
8
15
30
M3 2mp (1600x1200)
13
24 (Postcard)
47
S VGA (640x480)
52
81
128

As shown in the table above, higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended. You can fit a very limited number of 7mp Fine images on the built in memory, and you will definitely need to buy a larger memory card.

A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you intend to use the PMP or MP3 features of this digital camera then you would be best with a 1GB or 2GB memory card. If you are likely to be away from a computer for a long time (such as when going on holiday) then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in. This camera takes only secure digital memory. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: £6, 512mb: £7, 1gb (1000mb): £7, 2gb (2000mb): £17, 4gb (4000mb SDHC): £47 (with USB reader)
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera's switch on time is very quick and takes around 1.2 seconds to switch on and take a photo. Focusing is quick at around 0.4 seconds - shutter response is quick at around 0.1 seconds. Shot to shot time is around 1.5 seconds (with review off), with flash on this slows down to around 5 seconds between shots. Playback mode is very quick, and its easy to zoom in on your last shot and check for blur with the zoom control. Moving from picture to picture is very quick. Moving around the different menu options is rapid. Continuous shooting is very quick at around 2fps - flash is available whilst in continuous shooting mode - however shot to shot time slows drastically to around 1 shot every 5 seconds.

Ease of use: Using the camera is fairly straightforward, simply switch it on and start taking photos, however, when you want to use some of the more advanced features of the camera it can becomes more complicated, due to some of the hidden functions (such as the sharpness, contrast, and saturation controls). Switching between the modes is easy thanks to the mode switch on the back of the camera and once you find all the options the camera becomes fairly easy to use, and it is fairly easy to use the more basic functions of the camera - for example it's easy to switch between the photo, video and playback modes. The Canon way of using the Function menu as the main controls and the Menu button to access setup options can take some time to get used to, especially if you are used to cameras from other brands. This Canon camera has less buttons compared to other IXUS cameras, for example the zoom control is on the four way controller, and there is no display button, this does slow down operation slightly when trying to access ISO, Drive mode (self-timer), and display options.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc.) The camera feels solid, with a robust metal body. The stylish design and colour scheme and choices look very good. However there isn't much that your thumb can grip onto, and the front of the camera is almost completely flat. The zoom control is fairly easy to use, however, isn't as nice to use (or intuitive) as other cameras, and some people were confused by the non-standard control. The shutter release button feels good. The compact camera fits very easily into small pockets. The camera labels are clear. The buttons and controls are all positioned so that the camera can be operated with one hand. I found the mode switch easy to use with my thumb. The ability to stand the camera vertically for portrait photos, as well as horizontally, is a potentially useful feature that isn't regularly found on digital cameras.

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom / SD40 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (vivid) Group photo

Inside: The camera has very good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is very little red-eye in the photo, although there is a lot of redeye in the group photos. The colour is quite richly saturated and detail is good - saturation can be increased by setting the camera to the Vivid mode and by adjusting exposure compensation by -1/3. It has a slightly weak flash, and will struggle with group photos, especially with more than three or four people - this also means noise is quite high in group photos. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time even in low-light thanks to the focus assist lamp.

ISO Noise Test: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO: 80, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600).

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 6 megapixel, Fujifilm FinePix F30, (which is currently the benchmark compact camera for noise tests due to it's excellent high ISO performance), and 7 megapixel Canon Digital IXUS 850 IS.

Fujifilm FinePix F30 (6mp) Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom (7mp) Canon Digital IXUS 850 (7mp)

ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Fujifilm FinePix F30 on the left, Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom in the middle, Canon Digital IXUS 850 IS on the right. The colour difference is due to automatic white balance.

Fujifilm FinePix F30 (6mp) Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom (7mp) Canon Digital IXUS 850 (7mp)
 
N/A ISO80 - Actual Pixels ISO80 - Actual Pixels
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels
ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels

With the IXUS i7 Zoom noise is noticable in ISO80 shots with noise becoming more and more noticable as the ISO setting is increased. Colour remains good till ISO800 or higher is used. Detail is good until ISO400 and above. The results aren't as noise free as the Fujifilm FinePix F30, but ISO settings 80 - 200 should produce acceptable results, ISO400 - 800 are usable when needed, and ISO1600 should probably be avoided. The Canon Digital IXUS 850 IS appears to produce less noise in images when compared to the i7 Zoom.

Image Stabilisation: The Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom does not have built in image stabilisation - you will need to manually select a higher ISO speed or set Auto ISO to Hi, in order to raise the shutter speed and try and avoid image blur.

Outside:

Liverpool shops (vivid) Super Lamb Banana (in Yellow)

Outside: The camera has great colour - accurate and richly saturated with good contrast and good detail. Saturation can be increased by switching to vivid mode, and by setting exposure compensation down by -1/3 or -2/3. Noise was low in ISO80 photos. The quality was set to maximum to minimise any jpeg artefacts.

Zoom: This camera has a 2.4x optical zoom lens and a built in 4x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the 2.4x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom is capable of.

Wide-angle 2.4x Optical zoom Optical and Digital Zoom

Exposure The photos of the clock tower seem well exposed, with good detail in the dark areas, some blown out highlights in the wide-angle shot. This can be altered using exposure compensation.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens makes some noise in operation. There are only three steps between wide and telephoto zoom, this gives you fairly poor control over how you frame your subject. The majority of 3x optical zoom lens cameras have around 7 steps between wide and telephoto, so you would expect a similar amount on a camera with a 2.4x optical zoom lens. This doesn't matter too much, it just means you'll need to frame your shots by moving your feet some more.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing was low and difficult to detect in any normal photos, while there was some in the wide-angle clock tower, this shouldn't cause any problems in the majority of photos.

Macro:

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels

The macro mode is slightly different on the i7 Zoom compared to other compact cameras - using the macro mode on the wide angle setting you have to be 30cm away from the subject! Thankfully, by using the telephoto zoom, you can be as close as 10cm away from the subject. This means that macro photos are slightly more awkward, but results can still be very good - with good detail and colour.

Video mode: The camera features a good video mode - it records VGA videos at 30fps with sound as AVI files. Compared to other digital cameras the Canon can't fit very long videos on the memory card, as it doesn't use very high compression, such as MPEG4. The video mode also features image stabilisation but doesn't let you use the optical zoom whilst recording. Uniquely the camera can also record 320x240 videos at 60fps.

Conclusion

Image Quality: I was impressed by the camera's image quality - the camera has good detail and excellent colour (accurate, and well saturated with lots of options to fine tune to your liking). Images have good saturation and contrast, with fairly low noise at the lower ISO settings. The higher ISO settings of ISO800 and ISO1600 are probably best avoided and noise is slightly higher than average. Indoors photos were good, although noise was noticable and red-eye was quite frequent. Purple fringing was noticed in one of the shots, but wasn't a problem in the majority of shots. The camera was good at focusing indoors thanks to the focus assist lamp. I did not notice any vignetting, barrel or pincushion distortion. There is a very good range of image sizes, aspect ratio, and compression options. Auto white balance, metering, and exposure seemed to be very good. The camera gives you good control over image quality with custom white balance, sharpness, contrast, saturation options and other colour options (such as Vivid etc). The video mode is good with high resolution, and high frame rate. The macro mode is good, with good detail. (8/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is very compact with a stylish and smooth body available in four colours. The camera has a good 1.8" screen. The camera feels sturdy and is comfortable to hold. The camera is fairly easy to use, thanks to the mode switch. There is a good layout of buttons and controls, although some of the options may take a little time to get familiar with and there are slightly fewer buttons than ideal. The camera speed is good, with a very good switch on time, rapid focusing time, quick shutter response, quick playback mode, quick menus, and excellent continuous shooting (without flash), although sluggish flash recharge time. The camera has a large range of features, plus a lot of imaging options, such as Vivid colour mode, Sharpness, Saturation, Contrast, Custom White Balance etc. Battery life is average for an ultra compact. (8/10)

Value for Money: The Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom is available from around £175, this makes it good value for money for an ultra compact 7 megapixel digital camera. There are few ultra compact digital cameras available that are this small (the majority now feature large screens and are larger as a result), and few give you a choice of colours. (8/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom is an excellent ultra compact digital camera - image quality isn't perfect with slightly high noise and some red-eye - but it is very good with great colour and detail. This camera is one of the smallest digital cameras available and is a camera that you can take anywhere and use in almost every situation. The camera has a few minor issues, such as a weak flash and slow flash recharge time, but if you look past these problems, then you are left with a very capable, stylish, and very pocketable camera that you can take everywhere. The Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom, is as small as a mobile phone, but produces photo quality that is significantly better, and like it's predecessors, produces great colour photos, and is therefore recommended!

Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom Rating: Recommended (8/10)
Only £175 at Amazon - Check for more price below!

What I like:

  • Good image quality - excellent colour
  • Good video mode - VGA, 30fps, Sound
  • Feels good (solid) and looks good with an ultra-compact stylish body
  • Quick in operation - continuous shooting is quick
  • Lots of control over image quality (colour, sharpness, saturation etc)
  • Custom White Balance
  • Docking station and remote control provided
  • Vertical shooting mode
  • Good macro mode (but slightly awkward)

What I don't like:

  • No Info / Display button (takes several button presses to change options - 6 just to get to the right screen, 7 presses in playback!)
  • Videos take up a lot of space - eg 2 minute VGA/30fps video uses 250mb! (MPEG4 compression would be nice)
  • Slightly weak flash means indoor group photos tend to have a lot of noise.
  • Slow flash recharge time
  • Higher than average noise - slightly more noise compared to other Canon cameras
  • Some (slightly) hidden options: Panoramic / Stitch assist at bottom of Photo menu, Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation in My Colours / Custom.
  • ISO setting not displayed / stored in EXIF data unless manually set, shutter / aperture not shown in photo mode or playback.
  • Noticable red-eye in a number of photos

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Canon Digital IXUS i7 Zoom Sample Photo Gallery.
Additional information: Digicamreview.com is a great Internet resource, as informative as it gets. To find additional info on a variety of electronics topics, including a history of Canon camerasMP3 players and the pros and cons of lap tops, visit our site!

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