Canon PowerShot S400 (Digital IXUS 400) Review
Top of camera controls
Top of camera controls are limited to the power button, shutter release and zoom lever. The power button requires a 0.8 second hold before it will power off, this guards against accidental power ups, power off is instant. The size differential between the power button and shutter release means that there shouldn't be too many accidental power-off's.
Zoom controller (shooting mode)
Zooms towards full telephoto (108 mm), if you pass the 108 mm mark the camera will begin to digitally zoom (indicated by a blue text display). There is a menu option to disable digital zoom.
Zoom controller (play mode)
view (wide button)
Toggles between display of a single full screen image, 3 x 3 thumbnails on the LCD screen or 3 x 3 thumbnails which can be browsed a page at a time. Push again to enter a 9 image page by page 'jump mode'.
Press to magnify the image, hold to magnify up to 10x. Use the 4-way direction controller to scroll around the image. Magnifying is very fast, if you hold the zoom controller in the tele position you can be at 10x zoom in around one second.
Rear of camera controls
As noted earlier in this review the rear of the S400 is fairly similar to the S230, the main differences are the shooting mode dial at the top left and the re-labelling of the FUNC button. I personally found the mode dial a little awkward to use, it has to be stiff to avoid accidental movement but its small size means that it can at first seem very unfriendly.
Shooting mode dial
|Auto record mode
This is really the "point and shoot" mode, while you still have the option to choose resolution, JPEG quality and flash mode you can only select between self-timer and single shot drive modes, macro or normal focus mode, you can't change white balance (which is set at Auto) or set an exposure compensation.
|Manual record mode
Manual record mode operates virtually identically to auto record mode except that you now have control over settings such as white balance, exposure compensation, spot metering, AF points, picture effects etc.
Designed to make shooting of panorama / stitch shots easier. You have a choice of two different stitch modes: left-right or right-left. The display changes to show previously shot frames in the sequence to help alignment of each frame. Exposure and White Balance are locked to the first frame.
Camera mode switch
Immediately switches to shooting mode, lens extends (if it is not already) zoom resets to the last used position and camera prepares to shoot (depending on exposure mode - below).
Center weighted average
|AE-Lock / FE-Lock
With the shutter release half-pressed press this button to lock Exposure; AEL (if flash is enabled this will lock flash exposure; FEL). AE/FE lock is active until you press this button again (even for multiple shots).
Normal focus range
Macro focus range
Landscape (Infinity focus)
With the shutter release half-pressed press this button to lock Auto Focus, AFL is displayed on the monitor. AF lock is active until you press this button again (even for multiple shots).
Fill-in Flash (forced on)
Inhibit Flash (forced off)
|SET||No Action (Used to confirm menu settings)|
Enter / Leave Record Menu
|DISP||LCD monitor / preview
Simple mode (just AF points)
Detailed mode (AF points, all camera settings)
LCD monitor off
The FUNC button displays an overlaid menu which provides access to several photographic settings. In Auto exposure mode you can only modify the Image Size / Quality, the remaining settings are available in Manual mode. Settings appear in a column down the left side of the display, use the arrow keys to move up and down each option and the roll the command dial or press left / right arrow keys to change. The icons used below to represent each setting are the default for that setting and that the icon will change once a setting change is made.
Based on the DiGiC platform and inheriting the level of manual control first seen on the S330 the S400 provides a good range of options for the photographer. A surprise to some will be the availability of AE-lock, FE-lock and AF-lock.
Control functions in play mode
Setting / Menu confirm
Enter / Leave the Play Menu
Toggles between three LCD display modes: Image only display, Image and brief frame information, Image and detailed exposure information.
Erases the image, requires confirmation: Erase / Cancel.
The S400's orientation sensor indicates the current orientation of the camera with a small icon in the top right of the LCD display (), the arrow above the camera always pointing the upward direction. The camera recognizes left down portrait (counter clockwise), normal landscape (0°) and right down portrait (clockwise). The sensor changes orientation anywhere past the 45° point in either direction.
This orientation is then stored in the header of the image file (EXIF if JPEG), the camera will display images in the correct orientation during playback and in the supplied Canon software. Some third party applications are now starting to recognize the EXIF orientation tag, notably ACDSee 5.0 which has an 'Auto' option in its lossless rotation dialog, simply select all JPEG images in a folder, choose 'Auto' rotate and the software will losslessly rotate those images which need rotation.
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