Having become one of the most trusted brands in the realms of traditional film photography, Canon made a near seamless transition in to the digital photography market with several popular models catering to a whole swathe of users and user ability, though the model I’m reviewing here is shamelessly aimed at the cost conscious user.
With a price tag that just makes it into triple figures, my expectations for this 3.2 megapixel camera were low to say the least. Initial impressions however, were quite pleasing. Alongside the camera itself, the box contains a wrist strap, a fold-out quick-start poster, a pamphlet giving details about Canon’s Image Gateway online digital photo album service, a “system map” pamphlet which breaks down the accessory and connectivity options, a “Direct Print” users guide for use with compatible printers and a thorough yet easy-to-follow manual.
Software comes supplied on three CDs. The CD labelled “Digital Camera Solution Disk v19.0” features ZoomBrowser EX 4.6, PhotoRecord 2.1, PhotoStitch 3.1, TWAIN/WIA Drivers 6.4 and 6.2 and Apple’s QuickTime for video playback.
There is also a CD titled “Digital Camera Software Starter Guide Disk v19” which is essentially a guide to installing and using the supplied software. And finally there’s the Camera Suite 1.3 CD which comes with ArcSoft’s PhotoImpression 5 and VideoImpression 2 software. The software bundle alone probably justifies a large chunk of the purchase price!
Moving on to the camera itself, once more the favourable initial impression belies the low asking price. At just 107 x 53.4 x 36.8mm (W x H x D) the A400 is extremely pocket-able, but the slab-like design means it’s not the most ergonomic or comfortable camera to hold. Furthermore and despite a primarily plastic construction, the A400 feels surprisingly solid, an illusion reinforced by the use of brushed aluminium for the front fascia, which incidentally also comes in green, blue and orange.
On the bottom of the camera you’ll find a plastic tripod socket. This isn’t positioned on the lens axis and limits the creation of panoramic shots made by stitching together multiple photos taken with the camera on a tripod. However there’s a very clever mode on the camera that Canon call “Stitch Assist” which basically lets you do the same thing while hand-holding by showing either the left or right portion of the last image captured and allowing you to align a live image of the next shot.
The left side of the camera (viewed from the rear) sports nothing other than the Canon logo, while the right side is taken up with the battery/memory compartment cover. In addition to room for the two AA batteries, there’s an SD memory card slot and a small flap behind which resides the tiny CR1220 memory backup battery. The use of AA batteries is welcomed from a point of view of availability, but I’d strongly recommend you invest in a couple of rechargeable NiMH batteries and a charger. Canon claims about 100 photos from regular alkaline batteries when using the LCD screen and 50% flash, which seemed about right, although a set of NiMH batteries should give you around 300 shots under the same conditions.
While you’re picking up those batteries you might also want to get a larger memory card. Canon supplies a 16MB card which, while good for around 126 images at 640 x 480 and maximum compression/lowest quality, will only bank you eight images at 2048 x 1536 maximum quality. The table below gives a breakdown of what can be expected.