Canon PowerShot A400

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Canon PowerShot A400

The PowerShot A400 has all the quality expected from a Canon, with a price to make you smile. A choice of four fun colors and technology to produce gr...

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82% positive

11 reviews from the community

Review of "Canon PowerShot A400"

published 17/10/2011 | davidbuttery
Member since : 23/01/2001
Reviews : 447
Members who trust : 123
About me :
(3rd Jun '15) - Having another go at this. Will be fairly relaxed; don't expect me to review something every day. But I'll be around and about!
Satisfactory
Pro Canon quality lens, well built, decent range of features
Cons Very limiting zoom, sluggish performance, poor movie mode
very helpful
Picture Quality
Range & Quality of Features
Ease of Use
Durability
Reliability

"Power drained"

Introduction

Sometimes it seems as though I'm fated to end up with a complete collection of Canon's long-running PowerShot A4xx series. They're popular beasts, and quite cheap second-hand, so they tend to appear both in job lots and in the occasional part-exchange deal. Curiously enough I hadn't owned the A400, the camera that started it all, until relatively recently. This is a 3.2-megapixel compact digital camera from 2004, so by digicam standards it's getting on a bit. On the other hand, Canons tend to last, so I was hopeful that the A400 would still be worth a try.

Looks and handling

Canon's website insists that this model was available in four metallic colours: silver, blue, orange and green. However, I've hardly ever seen any but the silver models, and that (unsurprisingly) is the colour I've ended up with. Some people find silver cameras a little cold and boring, but I'm not personally fussed about that. Nor do I mind too much about the looks, which is just as well since this camera began several years of boxy, chunky A4xx digicams to which the adjective "brick-like" could be quite reasonably applied!

Although this isn't a fully metal-bodied camera in the way that the more expensive Ixus models are, build quality is more than adequate. It doesn't creak too much when you try to flex it, and the front panel is metal – brushed aluminium to be precise – which gives it quite a classy look. (It does pick up hairline scratches annoyingly easily, however.) Despite the bar-of-soap shape, the A400 is a fairly light camera, and you can comfortably hold it in one hand while shooting, though the rather weird small, bulbous grip on the right-hand side (as you hold the camera) may not be to everybody's taste.

As was startlingly often the case even later than this camera's 2004 vintage, the button layout is a bit of an ergonomic car crash. Controls are scattered hither and thither across the back plate, and it's all too easy to press Menu when you mean Disp until you get used to it. Unlike in later A4xx models, the A400 has a relatively conventional separate zoom control, a small rocker switch at the top right. It's acceptably designed, if nothing to make you exclaim in wonder, and though the zoom motor itself is a bit reluctant to get going on occasion, once it's up and running it moves fairly smoothly, if not terribly silently.

Optics and screen

The A400 offers a rather unimpressive optical zoom: it's slow at f/3.8, and has a magnification of just 2.2x, with an equivalent range of 45 to 100 mm. Yes, that's 45, not 35, making this one of the worst cameras around for wide-angle architecture or landscape shots. It also suffers at the telephoto end thanks to that small zoom; the impression is that Canon was aiming the camera at people wanting to take snapshots of their friends and family. For this sort of work the range is usually fine, and as you would expect from Canon the optics themselves are of good quality. Most of the lens is inside the case, so the barrel doesn't protrude very much even when zooming.

The LCD screen is a mere 1.5 inches across, titchy by today's standards and not enormous even by those of 2004. It's also a little laggy, though it does have a fairly good resolution (115,000 pixels) and so once you have a subject still in the frame things look pretty clear. I've always found Canon's menus and icons to be among the more readable on a small screen, and despite a little bit of a learning curve until you work out where everything is, I still feel that the placement and orientation of such things is superior to those on many contemporary cameras: some Olympuses in particular drive me up the wall with their poor menu design! There's a basic optical viewfinder too.

Features and settings

Although this camera does not offer full manual controls, it does offer a cut-down "manual" mode in which you can select a reasonable number of settings. Crucially, ISO control is available, from 50 to 400, and exposure compensation lets you adjust for very bright or dark surroundings. White balance is catered for too, and I was pleased to find that even this basic model has the "custom" white balance setting I've found so useful over the years: this allows you to point the camera at a piece of white (or neutral grey) card and set that as a base, so as to give better results in awkward lighting conditions. It's not foolproof, but it's often useful.

For those more interested in consistently nice-looking snapshots than in messing around with menus, the auto mode is fairly reliable in choosing the correct options. There are eight scene modes, covering the usual settings – Foliage, Snow, Portrait and so on – and an autofocus assist lamp making sharp pictures in dim lighting more easily obtained. That said, the autofocus mechanism itself does seem to be very slow in low light, hunting around in a way I wouldn't expect from a Canon. This doesn't always happen, but when it does it can be extremely annoying.

The A400's movie mode is not very thrilling. Yes, you can record in VGA (640 x 480) resolution, but as you can only do so at a near-useless 10 fps you may well not want to. Even at 320 x 240 the frame rate only increases to 15 fps, and in fact this is as smooth as it gets. The camera's other features don't stand out in any way, but they're those you would expect to find: a self-timer, a reasonable 1.3 fps burst mode (though you'll need a fast SD card to make this useful) and a menu option for "low sharpening", which gives a soft-focus look to your pictures.

Performance

This is not an area where the A400 shines, and I really could not recommend this camera to anyone who gets frustrated with anything less than super-snappy responses. At the heart of the camera is Canon's first-generation DIGIC chip, and unfortunately its age does show. It takes about five seconds to power on and take a photo, which doesn't sound much but is quite enough for you to miss that unexpected shot, and about three seconds even between shots. With the flash on, it's even worse: A-series cameras are notorious for their slow flash recycle, and the A400 lives down to that reputation, taking not far short of ten seconds to recharge.

Consumables

There are no dragons lurking here to trap the unwary purchaser, as the A400 is resolutely standard in this respect: it takes two AA batteries and one SD (but not SDHC) memory card of up to 2 GB in size. The usual combined card/battery compartment is on the right-hand edge of the camera, rather than underneath as on many models, and this does at least make the batteries slightly less likely to fall out when you're changing a card! Changing consumables is just a tiny bit fiddly owing to the compactness of the unit, but as long as your fingers aren't very large you should be okay.

I wasn't terribly impressed with battery life, although when using a camera of this age you can never be quite sure what state its circuits are in. Canon claimed that you could get 100 shots out of a pair of alkalines with 50% flash use, but frankly I think that might be a little bit optimistic. I don't use flash very much, and even so 120 or so is about the limit. With a pair of high-capacity NiMH rechargeables, though, battery life is utterly transformed, and 250-300 shots are more than possible between changes. You can save your batteries further by transferring photos with a card reader rather than a USB lead.

Photo quality

I have high expectations of just about any Canon in this most important of aspects, and thankfully the A400 turned in a respectable performance. Although pictures came out slightly on the soft side, as seems to be the case with the vast majority of Canon compacts, there was a good deal of detail there (for a camera of this resolution) and a little sharpening on the computer resulted in really quite attractive photos. Colour reproduction is mostly pretty decent, and it has the usual Canon punch, though just occasionally – for example in pictures taken in wooded areas – there can be a slight brownish colour cast.

Image noise is controlled pretty well at low ISOs, but much less so at the top of the scale. Frankly, you really don't want to use ISO 400 unless you have absolutely no choice, and probably not even then. Macro shots seem to come out consistently well, even at the limits of the 5 cm minimum focus distance. A few reviews have noted this digicam to have some trouble with the tungsten white balance setting, but actually this wasn't something I thought particularly acute. Of course, with tungsten lighting itself now on the way out, this may become less and less of a problem anyway!

Problems?

For me, the most significant drawback of the A400 is its unimpressive optical zoom: 2.2x really is limiting, even if all you've known before are standard 3x models, and that 45 mm wide-angle can be extraordinarily annoying in confined spaces. You can also really notice the slow performance, especially in low light or any sort of pressure situation.

Buying and verdict

This is among the cheapest optical-zoom Canons you can buy: with a modicum of patience a tatty but working camera with no leads or accessories can be had for a mere tenner, and £15 sometimes stretches to a boxed example. On the face of it that's very tempting – but when there are substantially better models just a little way up the price range (eg the A430), it's hard to give an unequivocal recommendation to the A400. It's not by any means a dreadful camera, but it is at the very bottom of the A4xx range, and in several ways you do notice that. Two and a half stars, rounded down with some regret to two.

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Comments on this review

  • Nar2 published 18/10/2011
    Most thorough!
  • rojm published 18/10/2011
    excellent review
  • greenierexyboy published 18/10/2011
    I wouldn't be that fussed by the zoom but the 45mm lens would drive me right up the wall.
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Product Information : Canon PowerShot A400

Manufacturer's product description

The PowerShot A400 has all the quality expected from a Canon, with a price to make you smile. A choice of four fun colors and technology to produce great results make this camera a joy to use. 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. A Canon high-performance lens ensures outstanding image quality from one corner of the picture to the other. Its 2.2x optical zoom is great for closing in on the action, while the macro close-up function lets you focus on objects as little as 5cm away. A 9-point AiAF auto-focus system keeps subjects in focus - even when they are not centered in the frame. A special scene mode gives access to 8 clever presets for excellent results in tricky conditions: Portrait, Night Scene, Foliage, Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Underwater, and Indoor. Special effects include Sepia, Black & White and Vivid Color. The PowerShot A400 takes up to 3-minute movie clips, (up to 30 seconds at VGA quality) complete with sound recording, fun playback and in-camera editing on the 1.5" LCD screen. You can even connect your camera to the TV to share the best moments with family and friends. Get beautiful prints instantly without a PC, with any Canon Direct Print or PictBridge compatible printer. Simply connect your camera to the printer, hit the Print/Share button and you'll have a photo in your hands within seconds. The button also simplifies uploading to any Windows PC. When connected to a Canon Compact Photo Printer, the PowerShot A400 allows you to create handy ID photo prints.

Product Details

Product Description: Canon PowerShot A400 - digital camera, Canon PowerShot A400 - digital camera - with SELPHY CP400, Canon PowerShot A400 - digital camera - with Canon CP-400

Product Type: Digital camera - compact

Memory Card Slot: SD card

Sensor Resolution: 3.2 Megapixel

Lens System: 2.2 x zoom lens - 5.9 - 13.2 mm - f/3.8

Focus Adjustment: Automatic

Min Focus Distance: 47 cm

Digital Zoom: 3.2 x

Camera Flash: Built-in flash

Viewfinder: Optical - real-image zoom

Display: LCD display - 1.5"

Supported Battery: 2 x AA alkaline battery ( included )

AV Interfaces: Composite video

Colour: Spring green, Silver, Sunset gold, Sky blue, Lime green

Dimensions (WxDxH): 10.7 cm x 3.7 cm x 5.4 cm

Weight: 0.2 kg

Bundled with: Canon SELPHY CP400 Compact Photo Printer, Canon CP-400 Compact Photo Printer

General

MPN: 9688A007AA, 9686A009, 9686A007, 9689A007AA, 9689A007, 9686A003, 9686A008, 9687A008, 9689A008, 9688A008, 9687A009, 9686A033AA, 9689A001, 9687A001, 9686A001, 9686A034, 9688A009

Product Type: Digital camera - compact

Enclosure Colour: Spring green, Silver, Sunset gold, Sky blue, Lime green

Sensor Resolution: 3.2 Megapixel

Optical Sensor Type: CCD

Total Pixels: 3,300,000 pixels

Effective Sensor Resolution: 3,200,000 pixels

Optical Sensor Size: 1/3.2"

Optical Zoom: 2.2 x

Digital Zoom: 3.2 x

Auto Focus: TTL contrast detection

Auto Focus Points (Zones) Qty: 9

Digital Video Format: AVI

Image Recording Format: JPEG

AV Interfaces: Composite video

Bundled with: Canon SELPHY CP400 Compact Photo Printer, Canon CP-400 Compact Photo Printer

Exposure & White Balance

Light Sensitivity: ISO 100, ISO 400, ISO 200, ISO 50

Exposure Metering: Evaluative, centre-weighted, spot

Exposure Modes: Programme, automatic, manual

Shooting Programs: Portrait mode, stitch assist, beach/snow, fireworks, night scene, Underwater, indoor, foliage

Special Effects: Black & White, Sepia, Neutral, Low Sharpening, Vivid

White Balance: Custom, automatic, presets

White Balance Presets: Fluorescent, cloudy, tungsten light, daylight, fluorescent light (daylight)

Max Shutter Speed: 1/1500 sec

Min Shutter Speed: 1 sec

Exposure Compensation: ±2 EV range, in 1/3 EV steps

Lens System

Type: 2.2 x zoom lens - 5.9 - 13.2 mm - f/3.8

Focal Length Equivalent to 35mm Camera: 45 - 100mm

Focus Adjustment: Automatic

Min Focus Distance: 47 cm

Macro Focus Range: 5-47cm

Zoom Adjustment: Motorised drive

Lens Construction: 7 groups / 9 elements

Camera Flash

Camera Flash: Built-in flash

Flash Modes: Fill-in mode, auto mode, flash OFF mode, red-eye reduction

Features: AF illuminator

Effective Flash Range: 0.3 m - 2 m

Additional Features

Continuous Shooting Speed: 1.3 frames per second

Self Timer Delay: 10 sec, 2sec

Additional Features: Audio recording, direct print, built-in speaker, auto power save, digital noise reduction, date/time stamp, DPOF support, display brightness control, digital image rotation, camera orientation detection, PictBridge support, AE lock, AF lock

Viewfinder

Viewfinder Type: Optical - real-image zoom

Display

Type: 1.5" LCD display

Resolution: 115,000 pixels

Display Features: Built-in

Connections

Connector Type: 1 x USB ¦ 1 x composite video/audio output

Memory Card Slot: SD card

Software

Software: Drivers & Utilities, Canon PhotoStitch, Canon ZoomBrowser EX, ArcSoft PhotoImpression, ArcSoft VideoImpression, Canon ImageBrowser, Canon PhotoRecord

System Requirements for PC Connection

Operating System Support: MS Windows XP, MS Windows 2000, MS Windows ME, MS Windows 98, MS Windows 98 SE, Apple Mac OS X, Apple Mac OS 9.0 - 9.2

Peripheral Devices: USB port, SVGA monitor, CD-ROM Drive

System Requirements Details: MacOS 9.0 - 9.2 - PowerPC - 64 MB - 120 MB ¦ MacOS X - PowerPC - 128 MB - 120 MB ¦ Windows 98/98SE/2000/ME - 150 MHz - 64 MB - 200 MB ¦ Windows XP - 300 MHz - 128 MB - 200 MB

Miscellaneous

Included Accessories: USB cable, wrist strap, audio / video cable

Battery

Battery Type: AA

Details: 2 x AA alkaline battery ( included )

Memory / Storage

Memory Card Slot: SD card

Supported Memory Cards: SD Memory Card

Included Memory Card: 16 MB SD

Image Storage: Super-fine JPEG 2048 x 1536 : 8 - with 16MB card ¦ Fine JPEG 2048 x 1536 : 15 - with 16MB card ¦ Normal JPEG 2048 x 1536 : 30 - with 16MB card ¦ Super-fine JPEG 1600 x 1200 : 13 - with 16MB card ¦ Fine JPEG 1600 x 1200 : 24 - with 16MB card ¦ Normal JPEG 1600 x 1200 : 46 - with 16MB card ¦ Super-fine JPEG 1024 x 768 : 23 - with 16MB card ¦ Fine JPEG 1024 x 768 : 41 - with 16MB card ¦ Normal JPEG 1024 x 768 : 73 - with 16MB card ¦ Super-fine JPEG 640 x 480 : 51 - with 16MB card ¦ Fine JPEG 640 x 480 : 80 - with 16MB card ¦ Normal JPEG 640 x 480 : 126 - with 16MB card

Video Capture: AVI - 640 x 480 - 10 fps - 30 sec - max clip duration ¦ AVI - 320 x 240 - 15 fps - 180sec - max clip duration ¦ AVI - 160 x 120 - 15 fps - 180sec - max clip duration ¦ AVI - 640 x 480 - 10 fps - 20sec - with 16MB card ¦ AVI - 320 x 240 - 15 fps - 40 sec - with 16MB card ¦ AVI - 160 x 120 - 15 fps - 98 sec - with 16MB card

Dimensions & Weight

Width: 10.7 cm

Depth: 3.7 cm

Height: 5.4 cm

Weight: 0.2 kg

Environmental Parameters

Min Operating Temperature: 0 °C

Max Operating Temperature: 40 °C

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