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Epson has been keeping a low profile in the world of digital cameras but as this market always heats up during the run up to Christmas, it would seem that Epson wants a piece of the action with its recent release of the PhotoPC L-400.
At first glance, I was suitably impressed because I am always a sucker for products constructed from metal rather than plastic. The L-400 is almost entirely encased in an aluminium and steel body making the camera feel solid in the hand as well as cool to the touch.
It also has some weight to it, which always makes a camera handle better. With the batteries installed, it weighs approximately 278g and feels well balanced. There is little in the way of a grip, but the case does curve outward on the right side to help you maintain a firm purchase. There’s also something very familiar about the design. In fact, there are some similarities between it and some of the earlier Ixus’ from Canon, although it’s a bit chunkier.
Inside the box, you get four AA batteries to get you shooting straight away. No rechargeable lithium-ions here, so once you’ve taken about 500 shots, it’ll be time to buy some more or resort to using the supplied mains adapter. The door to the battery compartment is located on the base and it’s one of those sliding flip-up types. Behind this, are not only the battery slots but also the slot for the 16MB SD memory card. Ok, that already raises two issues for me.
First, I’m one of those users who would rather avoid installing the questionable software you often get with such devices and basically pull out the memory card and slip it into my multi-card reader. Of course now I have to open the battery compartment every time I want to do this, which requires a certain level of manual dexterity to prevent the batteries from falling out at the same time.
The second point is one of memory size. 16MB. Isn’t that a bit mean for a four-megapixel camera? Well I think it is, since you can only store eight 2,304 x 1,728 resolution images at the ‘fine’ jpeg compression setting. You can of course store more if you lower the resolution to either 1,600 x 1,200 or 640 x 480 and/or increase the jpeg compression by selecting the ‘normal’ mode, but then you begin to compromise on print size and quality. So, I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be forking out for more memory soon after purchase, especially if you want to take advantage of one of the L-400’s key selling points - the direct printing process.
This allows you to print directly from the L-400 to a compatible Epson printer without going through a computer. Whether or not you will use this is debatable, but it’s clearly an attempt to make things easier and more fun for the family. The camera also comes with a Print Image Framer (P.I.F.) mode, which can literally be used to apply frames (including some Disney themed ones) around your images, either as you take them or afterwards. However, images taken using this must be printed using the direct printing process.