From the front there is very little (apart from the logo and black shutter release button) to easily distinguish the EOS 400D from the 350D. Size wise the two cameras are virtually identical, it's clear that Canon decided a complete redesign was not required. That said the 400D appears not to share any structural / body cover components wit the EOS 350D, the changes however subtle are there (see the flip / flop comparison below). The most significant changes have occurred at the rear of the camera with the removal of the secondary status LCD, this function now carried out by the larger 2.5" LCD monitor. Button layout is approximately the same although the placement and type of button is now more consistent than it was on the 350D.
Just like the EOS 350D the 400D is made from three main materials; a stainless steel chassis (blue in this diagram), the mirror box which is made of high-strength 'engineering plastic' (red in the diagram) and the body made of a special lightweight 'engineering plastic' which also provides some electromagnetic shielding. The joints are tight and the camera doesn't creak or rattle, it feels well put together and surprisingly solid considering it's "affordable" price tag. The only obvious difference on the exterior is a smoother finish to the plastic on the black model. (Diagram provided by Canon, our coloring).
In your hand / grip
Canon state that the hand grip on the EOS 400D has been improved, but according to their white paper this is only one millimeter, and frankly that's not enough to make any difference. For me the grip felt cramped and a little uncomfortable, certainly not as good as those on the Nikon D80 or DSLR-A100 (people with small hands may however find the EOS 400D better). One improvement is the addition of a soft rubber thumb grip on the rear of the camera.
Below you can see an animated comparison of the grip sizes of the Canon EOS 400D, Nikon D80 and Sony DSLR-A100. The darker gray area represents the bottom of the camera (and the approximate profile of the grip up to its lip, the lighter gray area the rest of the camera body, front 'lip' and rear grip. As you can see from our measurements the grips on the Nikon D80 and Sony DSLR-A100 are about 10 mm deeper and around 6-7 mm thicker, doesn't sound like much but it does make a difference.
Side by side
Below you can see the current line-up of sub-$1000 ten megapixel digital SLRs (Nikon D80, Canon EOS 400D / Digital Rebel XTi, Sony Alpha DSLR-A100). Obviously the EOS 400D is the smallest of the three, but this mostly due to its narrower hand grip and shorter distance between the grip edge and lens mount. Very slightly heavier than the EOS 350D the EOS 400D is still one of the lightest digital SLR's on the market.
(W x H x D)
(inc. battery & card)
|Olympus E-500||130 x 95 x 66 mm (5.1 x 3.7 x 2.6 in)||479 g (1.1 lb)|
|Canon EOS 350D||127 x 94 x 64 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in)||540 g (1.2 lb)|
|Canon EOS 400D||127 x 94 x 65 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.5 in)||556 g (1.2 lb)|
|Sony DSLR-A100||133 x 95 x 71 mm (5.2 x 3.7 x 2.8 in)||638 g (1.4 lb)|
|Pentax K100D||129 x 93 x 70 mm (5.0 x 3.7 x 2.8 in)||660 g (1.5 lb)|
|Nikon D80||132 x 103 x 77 mm (5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)||668 g (1.5 lb)|
|Nikon D70 / D70s||140 x 111 x 78 mm (5.5 x 4.4 x 3.1 in)||679 g (1.5 lb)|
|Canon EOS 30D||144 x 106 x 74 mm (5.6 x 4.2 x 2.9 in)||785 g (1.7 lb)|
Design changes compared to the EOS 350D
Place your mouse cursor over either image below to compare the design of the EOS 400D to the EOS 350D. The design changes are subtle however noticeable in a A / B comparison like this.