Movie mode

It would be a brave manufacturer these days that produced even a budget model without a basic movie mode, and movie capability is becoming an ever more important part of the buying decision with this type of camera. As is now the norm on cameras of this type the SD400 offers a maximum movie size of 640x480 pixels - enough to fill most television screens at 30 frames per second. It also offers options to shoot at smaller sizes and lower frame rates. There's a 'high frame rate' option that shoots 320x240-pixel movies at 60fps.

Overall quality is good, with movies very smooth and showing little (if any) compression artifacts, and the only real problem being the exposure system sometimes failing to keep up with rapid changes in scene brightness. The AVI files are large - at the best quality setting (640x480 / 30fps) you're burning just under 2MB every second, so if you intend to shoot a lot of movies you're going to need to invest in some big, fast SD cards.

You cannot use the optical zoom during filming, but you can enable and use the 3x digital zoom, which is better than nothing.

On-screen information when recording movies is fairly basic - elapsed time and low battery warning. You can zoom digitally during movie shooting, but you cannot control exposure level.
The FUNC menu gives you options for white balance, movie size (640x480 or 320x240 pixels), frame rate (15 or 30 frames per second) and image effects (vivid, neutral, low sharpening, sepia and black and white).
There are four movie 'modes' - Standard, Fast Frame Rate (60 frames per second at 320x240 pixels), Compact (160x120 pixels at 15 fps - ideal for emailing) and 'My Colors', which offers the same color settings and effects as you get when shooting stills.
Pressing the menu button in movie recording allows you to change self-timer, AF-assist beam and digital zoom settings.
In playback mode a thumbnail of the first frame of the movie appears when scrolling through saved images. Press the FUNC/SET to play movies. Interestingly you can view a histogram for the movie by pressing the DISP. button.
When viewing movies a set of controls appears along the bottom of the frame allowing you to play, jump to either end, pause (and move one frame at a time) and edit.
The edit functions are simple, but do at least allow you to free up a little more card space by trimming from the start or end of clips.

Sample movies

640x480 pixels @ 30fps
4.0 seconds
File size: 8.4MB

Shot at wide angle (35mm equiv.)

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)

640x480 pixels @ 30fps
4.0 seconds
File size: 8.7MB

Shot at tele (105mm equiv.)

Click on the thumbnail to view the movie (caution: large file!)