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Design

Canon has chosen to go with a much cleaner look with the S400, and in my opinion it works very well. The case is much lighter (silver) than the S230 or S330, the brushed lens surround is replaced with a chromed version and the hand strap eyelet has become a design feature. At the back of the camera the layout is virtually identical to the S230 and S330, the major difference being the addition of the shooting mode dial (auto / manual / stitch assist / movie) and the change from the exposure compensation / white balance / photo effect button of the S230 to a 'FUNC' button which displays the on-screen function menu (similar to the PowerShot G3). The S400 is an attractive camera with clean lines, it's cool to the touch and feels very solid. My only gripe with the design is that the rubber cover over the A/V out and USB ports spoil the otherwise clean, smooth lines of the camera.

Side by side

As you can see from the shot below the S400 is identical in size to the S230, the amazing thing is that Canon has packed a three times optical zoom lens (and four megapixel sensor) into the S400, where as the S230 has to manage with a two times optical zoom lens (and three megapixels). The difference in color is also much more noticeable in the shot below.

In your hand

At the rear of the camera is a large clear portion of body, this means that when gripping the camera your thumb rests naturally into this location. It means that your hold on the camera is surprisingly good, even without any front grip, too many other ultra-compact digital cameras overload the rear with controls and leave you with little space to actually hold.


LCD Monitor

The S400 has a bright and sharp 1.5" 118,000 pixel LCD monitor. It has an excellent anti-reflective coating which means that no matter what the lighting conditions you should still be able to clearly see what's on the screen. There are fifteen levels of brightness adjustment. The LCD monitor provides 100% frame view in both shooting and playback modes. Kudos.


Viewfinder

The S400 has a typical 'optical tunnel' viewfinder, which may be perfectly adequate for occasional snapshots at reasonable subject distances but is no substitute for the 'what you see is what you get' LCD monitor. In addition the S400 viewfinder has no dioptre adjustment and no parallax correction lines. The viewfinder provides approximately 83% frame coverage.

The two lights beside the viewfinder indicate the following:

Green Steady Ready to shoot
Green Flashing CF card activity / Computer connected
Orange Steady Ready to shoot (with flash)
Orange Flashing Ready to shoot but shot may suffer from blur (slow shutter)
Yellow Steady Macro focus / Infinity focus
Yellow Flashing Can not focus lock, focus difficulty


Battery Compartment

The S400 is powered by Canon's NB-1LH 3.7V 840 mAh (up from the 680 mAh NB-1L last year) Lithium-Ion battery pack (2.5 Wh). The battery compartment is found in the base of the camera, just slide the plastic door to the left and open. The battery itself is held in place by a spring loaded (brown) clip. If you look carefully the image on the left you'll notice a round rubber grommet in the battery compartment door, this can be opened to allow the camera to be used with the optional AC adapter kit.

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