The Bottom Line
For a beginner-level camera with a sub-$200 price point, it's not really surprising to see that the Canon PowerShot A4000 IS is a pretty good camera when shooting outdoors in good light and tends to struggle when shooting indoors in low light. Those types of pluses and minuses are pretty common with a beginner-level camera.
Unfortunately, the areas where the A4000 struggles are pretty significant, as blurry photos from camera shake and a soft autofocus will cause some photos shot indoors to be unusable. The camera's autofocus mechanism works a bit too slow for my liking, too, which leads to some lost photos because of shutter lag.
There are two areas where the PowerShot A4000 works really well, and that's why it's at least worth considering. The outdoor photos with this model offer really good colors, and indoor photos shot with a flash are surprisingly good most of the time. Throw in 16MP of resolution and an 8X optical zoom lens, and the A4000 will provide a pretty good value for the beginning photographer who wants to shoot most photos under those particular conditions.
The image quality with the A4000 is a bit hit and miss.
For the most part, outdoor image quality is very good, which is typical of budget-priced cameras. Colors are very realistic, and the sharpness is good ... at least at first glance. (More on that later.)
However, indoor photos can be a bit of a struggle for the PowerShot A4000 IS. The biggest problem occurs with this camera's autofocus in low light, as it's not accurate often enough for my liking. You will achieve slightly better results if you pre-focus by holding down the shutter button halfway, but the autofocus is just slow indoors, which leads to some poor photos.
Another problem that occurs more often than I like to see is slightly blurred photos from camera shake. This issue is more common when you're trying to shoot indoors without the flash.
One area where the PowerShot A4000's image quality is a bit better than you'd expect from a sub-$200 camera is with its flash photos. Even though the A4000 IS has a pretty small built-in flash unit, it performs well, and the camera's autofocus is much better indoors when you use the flash.
The unit's focus overall is a little soft. It's not something that you might notice unless you're blowing up the photos to a pretty large size, but the number of pin-sharp photos you'll have with the A4000 is a pretty small percentage.
It's nice to find an 8X optical zoom lens with the A4000 IS, and the speed of the zoom lens moving through its range is about average. The top panel of the camera has the zoom ring, power button, and shutter button, so it's uncluttered and easy to find the right buttons.
The camera's response times are average or below average with indoor photography, as the autofocus is pretty slow, leading to shutter lag. Shot to shot delays are longer than I like to see indoors, too.
When shooting outdoors, the A4000's response times are also average to below average. You're going to miss a few spontaneous photos of moving subjects when using this camera, because of the shutter lag.
The PowerShot A4000 does start up pretty fast, which is a nice feature that's not always found in a beginner-level camera. You can shoot that first photo just a fraction of a second after pressing the power button.
You cannot shoot at different aspect ratios with this camera, outside of the standard 4:3 ratio, and only five different resolution settings are available, including 16MP, 8MP, 2MP, 0.3MP, and a wide-screen 12MP resolution.
You will have access to a few manual control features when shooting in Program mode, including limited control over ISO, white balance, and exposure. Don't expect to be able to make a lot of significant adjustments with these controls, but they are nice in certain situations.
Finally, Canon included some fun special effect features with the A4000, such as fisheye, miniature, toy camera, monochrome, vivid, and poster. Within many of the effects, you can drill down through the menus to find more options, such as sepia or a blue tint. Another option is to use Canon's "live" function, where you can use a slider bar to make slight adjustments to the image while you're shooting, such as changing between neutral and vivid or between warm and cool.
My biggest complaint with the A4000 IS deals with the four-way button on the back, which allows you to control the menus. It's too small, and Canon didn't raise it away from the camera body, making it very difficult to use comfortably. Because there's no mode button or dial with the PowerShot A4000 IS, you have to make all choices about the camera's settings using this button, which is unfortunate. Some of the menus are a little tough to work through, too, making the lack of a mode dial very annoying.
The 3.0-inch LCD is a nice size, and Canon is offering five brightness settings with it. Canon really aimed this camera at beginners, and you can have hints and tips appear on the screen. You even have a chance to read through advice for shooting in some odd photography situations, which is a great feature.
Canon also included a separate battery charger with the PowerShot A4000 IS, which is not always the case with an inexpensive model, where the manufacturers try to save some money by forcing you to charge the battery inside the camera. I much prefer having a separate battery charger, so this is nice to see.
The A4000 IS measures less than 1 inch in thickness, and the lens fully retracts when the camera isn't in use, which makes it easy to fit this camera in a pocket. However, when the lens is extended while you're using the camera, you can end up with a few shadows from the lens housing on your images when shooting with the flash. You have to shoot at some odd angles to avoid this shadow.