I was looking for an SLR camera having had one in my young days, but found the price was too high with the zoom that I wanted. I plumped for the sx40 having read reviews that indicated that the images produced from this camera were generally good. I am very pleased with the camera having owned it several weeks. I have experimented with as many features as I can, and have found the auto setting to be very good at producing natural looking images, which are generally fairly sharp with very good colour reproduction. Do not expect SLR sharpness as the sensor on this camera is just not capable of this given its size limitation. Having said this, the image can be sharpened with any basic photo software. The zoom on this camera is very good and the lens is really all you need for any situation. This was a major reason for my purchase of this camera.
I am especially impressed with the nightshot feature which can produce some very good results with very little available light. I think this may be assisted by the backlit cmos sensor. There are numerous scene functions, and you can perform all the manual functions that you would get on a SLR. The only niggle that I have found is that the mamual focus can be a bit fiddly, as it involves turning of a wheel that also has other functions on it. It is very easy to enable these inadvertently whilst trying to focus.
All in all, if you are looking for a bridge camera, I think this is one of the best.
I have only given 4 stars due to the focussing issues.