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|Canon Powershot A400 Digital Camera Review|
The camera offers good value for money - being competitively priced for a compact 3mp, 2.2x optical zoom digital camera, it is one of the cheapest Canon digital cameras available.
Canon have this to say about the camera:
"From the Canon Visionary Technologies that deliver great shot after shot to the easy access special scene modes, everything about the PowerShot A400 is designed to make photography simple. A camera that takes the hard work out of super results, leaving you to focus on capturing the right moment. And with 3.2 Megapixels, you'll be delighted at the detail and quality of your digital images and photo prints."
You can find out more about the Canon Powershot A400 at Canon's website.
The Camera: It's compact and made out of shiney silver plastic.
Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic, this camera is quite a
lot shorter (height), but roughly the same length and depth.
Specifications / Features:
Full Specifications can be found on the Canon site.
Average box contents - it's a shame no case is included as standard, although it's good to see a decent manual.
Features / Options: The camera mode is selected using 4-way switch/dial:
The camera keeps things quite simple, in that there are 4 modes: playback mode, photo mode, scene mode and video mode.
The camera then has a Menu button, which is like the Setup menu on other cameras, and the Canon also has a Func button, which is like the normal menu's on other cameras and lets you change things like picture size and compression etc.
The menus available are: Rec. Menu, Setup, My Camera (video menu and playback menu are different to Rec. Menu)
Rec. Menu: Quick shot,
AiAF, Red-eye, Self-timer, AF-assist beam, digital zoom, review, date
stamp (available on postcard setting)
The 'Func' menu options are: Mode (auto, manual, panoramic), Size (3mp etc), Compression (Superfine, Fine, Standard), Effect (Off, Vivid, Neutral, Low Sharpening (records images with softened outlines), Sepia, Black and White), ISO (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400), White Balance (Various settings including custom), Exposure (+/- 2). These options are all applied whilst taking the photo and are limited in Auto mode and Scene mode.
The scenes available are (accessed by pressing Func): Portrait, Night scene, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Underwater, Indoor.
Video Func options
(accessed by pressing Func): Video size (640x, 320x, 160x), Effect (Vivid,
Neutral, Low Sharpening, Sepia, Black and White), Exposure.
Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures / and the following number of images will fit in the 16mb provided memory: (an extra memory card is definitely recommended)
The "Postcard" setting appears to be equivelant to using the 2mp, Fine setting, but shows you the picture with a border at the top and bottom so that the photo appears with an aspect ratio of 3:2, although the picture when saved is still the usual 6 x 4.5 ratio.
You can't fit very many images on the provided 16mb memory card - a larger memory card is definitely needed, unless you want to use the lower megapixel settings and higher compression levels. There is a fairly good choice of image size and compression levels available, although no RAW or TIFF mode.
Speed, ease of use: The camera is easy to use, fairly quick to switch on and fairly quick to take photos, the dial on the back of the camera makes it easy to switch between the different modes. The screen updates are quick and smooth. The camera speed in use, seems quick to average when taking a photo, but shot to shot time is a bit slow, especially when using flash. The camera is quite compact, and fairly easily fits into pockets. The menus are fairly easy to pick up and use, and the modes are easy to access, the menus / func modes are a bit slow however, and it may take a while to get used to the seperate func / menu buttons. The continuous shooting mode isn't especially fast.
Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are easy to use, in a good position and there seem to be just the right amount of buttons, not too many and not too few, although the Func/Menu buttons could be a bit confusing. The buttons feel good, my only complaint here is that they may seem a bit small for some people. They are also labelled well. The 4-option dial on the back is a big improvement over the Canon A300/A310, which simply had a play button to switch between play and photo mode.
The buttons on the back of the camera quickly give you access to: Macro / Infinite Focus, Flash, Self timer / Continuous, Play/Photo/Scene/Video, Wide/Telephoto zoom, SET in the middle of the 4-way controller, Display. On the top is the On/Off button and the shutter button.
Battery usage: Canon say that you should be able to get 100 photos on average from alkaline AA batteries - 300 on average when using rechargable Ni-Mh batteries. As with all digital cameras high power rechargable batteries such as 2000+ mAh Ni-MH are highly recommended.
LCD display in photo mode: The screen is very clear, and updates quite smoothly - the colours appear accurate. The screen shows how many remaining photos you can take with the available memory, it also shows the battery level, current mode, plus other things, although unfortunately the camera does not show aperture / shutter speed and there is no live histogram.
Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is very quick. The zoom can be used up to 10x. The playback zoom is very quick. You can also view the picture's histogram.
Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Full size (and medium size) versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the gallery!
Inside: The camera has quite a powerful flash, and copes surprisingly well with group photos, especially considering the size of the flash. Red eye was noticable on most photos of people - Good accurate, realistic colours and details, really pleasing skin colours. The images are slightly soft - and could do with a sharpen.
Noise: Noise generally is 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.
The camera has 5 modes for ISO: Auto, 50, 100, 200 or 400. To choose the ISO setting, you simply go into the FUNC menu.
Noise levels at ISO50 and 100 are low - which means you get very smooth images. ISO200 still displays fairly acceptable noise levels. It is probably best avoiding ISO400 where possible, due to the noise looking quite horrible when viewed at 100%.
Again very good colour, they are accurate colours with low noise, I didn't notice jpeg artifacts in the images. Images are a tiny bit soft, and could do with a sharpen. The Unisys building photo was taken at the same time / day as the Unisys building photo in the Pentax Optio 33LF gallery.
Zoom: This camera has a 2.2x Optical zoom and a built in 3.2x 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 simply to show what these features do.
The digital zoom shows you on screen how much magnification you are using. It is quite quick. When using the optical zoom, it's quite quiet, and fairly quick, it has about 4 steps between wide and telephoto. The amount of optical zoom is displayed on screen numerically, when you get to 2.2x optical zoom.
Other Image Quality issues: Chromatic Aberrations / Purple Fringing doesn't appear to be a problem on this camera.
Macro: When this camera is in macro mode, the lens is at full wide angle, and you can zoom in - you can also use the digital zoom - The camera can focus down to 5cm in macro mode, in wide-angle, and then you can zoom in closer so long as you move the camera away from the subject.
The macro mode is very good. You can use the flash in macro mode - the camera does a very good job of toning down the flash - most recent cameras tested managed to blow out all highlight detail taking a similar photo of flat eric. Colour and detail is very good (apart from white balance issues due to lighting in the macro watch photo), however they could do with sharpening in a photo editing package.
Movie: 640 x 480 - 10fps 320x240 - 15fps with sound - you can not use the digital zoom whilst recording a video, but you can zoom in using the optical / digital zoom before you start recording. The movie is recorded as an .AVI file. Length is limited to 30 seconds for VGA movies, and 3 minutes for 320 x 240 videos.
The quality of the movie(s) is good - 640 x 480 is good but unfortunately the movies are limited to 30 seconds and only 10fps.
Summary: The Canon
Powershot A400 is one of the cheaper 3 megapixel digital cameras with
optical zoom, and one of the cheapest Canon digital cameras currently
available. It has a clear 1.5" colour screen, and records videos with
sound. The camera is quite compact and easy to use, more compact than
the A300/A310 it replaces. Image quality is very good, with good detail,
good colour, and low noise, although with some image softness. The movie
mode is fairly average, recording 640 x 480, 10fps movies with sound -
unfortunately these are limited to 30 seconds. The camera is very easy
to use, and has some nice features such as scene modes, automatic photo
rotation, and panorama mode. For around £109
(US) from Amazon this camera offers excellent value for money. Overall,
for someone looking for an easy to use, compact and stylish camera I would
recommend this camera.
What I like:
What I don't like:
Remember to have a look at the full size (and medium size) versions of these photos in the gallery!