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Canon PowerShot S400 Review

Canon launched the PowerShot S400 (AKA Digital IXUS 400), an ultra-compact four-megapixel camera with three times optical zoom, just a few days before the Photo Marketing Association 2003.

A four-megapixel sensor and a three-times optical zoom lens are packed into a device that is the same size as the PowerShot S230, making the PowerShot S400 the newest addition to Canon’s ultra-compact PowerShot series (three megapixels, two times zoom, announced in September 2002).

Last updated on January 28, 2023 8:11 pm

Unlike previous ultra-compact Powershot models, this camera does away with the stainless steel shell that gets filthy easily, in favor of an entirely new ‘Cerabrite’ material that is a blend of metal and ceramic. It retains its coolness to the touch, does not exhibit fingerprints, and is not readily scratched or dented.

More: Best Canon Point and Shoot Camera | Best Point and Shoot Camera | Best Point and Shoot Camera for Travel | Best Point and Shoot Camera under 300

Essential Attributes

  • 4.0-megapixel CCD.
  • Optical viewfinder that displays the real image.
  • a color TFT LCD monitor with a 1.5-inch display.
  • Glass, 3x, 7.4-22.2mm lens, equal to a 36-108mm lens on a 35mm camera.
  • Maximum 3.6x digital zoom.
  • Automatic control of the exposure, with a Long Shutter option available for shooting at greater shutter speeds.
  • speeds ranging from 1/2000 to 15 seconds for the shutter.
  • The maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/4.9, depending on the location of the lens zoom.
  • Integrated flash with a total of five different modes.
  • Memory card storage of the CompactFlash Type I kind, with a 32 MB card provided.
  • Power is provided either by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (the charger is included) or by an AC adapter, which may be purchased separately.
  • ArcSoft Camera Suite 1.2, software for Canon digital cameras, and USB drivers are all included, and they are compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems.

Special Features

  • A movie mode that includes sound.
  • Two modes of continuous shooting are available: standard and high speed.
  • Panorama mode with stitching assistance.
  • Focusing modes include infinity and macro.
  • Settings for “My Camera” that may be customized.
  • Self-Timer options of two or ten seconds for delaying the release of the shutter.
  • There is a choice to record captions using Sound Memo.
  • There are three types of exposure metering: spot, center-weighted, and evaluative.
  • Adjustment of the white balance (color), with seven different settings and a Custom option available.
  • Menu under “Photo Effect” for making color adjustments.
  • Adjustable ISO setting.
  • compatible with the DPOF format (Digital Print Order Format).
  • A USB cable that may be used to connect to a computer (driver software included).
  • A video and audio cable that may be connected to a television set.

Design

The PowerShot S400 is, in all other respects, very identical to its predecessors, the PowerShot S300 and S330, and it keeps the compact proportions that have helped make the ELPH line so successful. The small size makes it ideal for discretely stowing away in a pocket or pocketbook, where it may be carried without endangering the sensitive camera systems.

A retractable lens is a clever feature that leaves the front of the case entirely flat when the camera is turned off, highlighting the pocket-friendly form of the camera. Additionally, an automated lens cover ensures that you do not need to worry about dirty the lens or losing the lens cap.

The S400 variant, which has dimensions of 3.4 by 2.2 by 1.1 inches (87 by 57 by 28 millimeters), is actually a tad more compact than the S330 version. Including the battery and memory card, the camera just tips the scales at 7.96 ounces (or 226 grams).

The front of the S400 has a distinctive ELPH design, with the viewfinder and flash located directly above the lens, which is somewhat off-center and slightly toward the right. Next to the optical viewfinder is a light emitter that serves various purposes. These include helping with focusing, reducing the appearance of red eyes, and providing a countdown for the self-timer.

When the camera is switched off, the telescopic lens swiftly goes into position within the camera, but when the camera is powered on, the lens completely retracts within the camera so that it has a flat profile. The only thing that serves as a finger grip is a little ridge that extends from the eyelet of the wrist strap, however, the wrist strap that comes with it should assist offer a more secure sensation overall.

On the top of the camera is where you’ll find the Shutter button, the Zoom lever, and the Power button. All three of them protrude somewhat from the surface. There is also a speaker for playback and a microscopic microphone for capturing sound to go along with the movies.

The connector for the wrist strap can be found on the right side of the camera (when viewed from the back), and the CompactFlash slot can be found on the same side. The slot is protected by a plastic lid that locks into place. The true location of the card slot’s release lever is on the rear panel of the camera itself.

The plugs for the USB and A/V outputs, which are shielded by a rubber cover, are located on the side of the camera that faces away from the viewfinder.

On the back panel of the camera are located all of the remaining controls, as well as both the optical and LCD viewfinders. When shooting with one hand, a modest thumb grip is provided by a little ridge that runs along the right side of the camera, and the finger grip on the front of the camera is strengthened (for small to medium hands, those with larger hands may have a little difficulty negotiating the controls, which are a little close together).

The buttons for the LCD monitor’s Set, Menu, Display, and Function menus are arranged along the bottom edge of the screen, and just to the right of these buttons is a pad with four directional arrows. The door to the CompactFlash slot may be opened using the sliding switch on the right side, and the Mode switch allows access to the Record and Playback modes.

The dial for the Exposure Mode may be found just above the LCD panel. The camera’s status is displayed by two LED lamps located next to the viewfinder. These lamps light up to show when the focus has been adjusted or when the flash has been completely charged.

The battery compartment and the metal tripod mount are both housed in the S400’s lovely, flat bottom panel, which is another one of the S400’s distinguishing characteristics. Because the weight of the camera, which is placed off-center on the tripod head, might cause the mount threads to become too stressed, I like it when the tripod mount is not positioned so far off to the side of the camera.

It’s possible that this won’t be an issue given how compact the S400 is and how well the tripod socket is designed (kudos for that!). However, because the tripod socket is located so near to the edge of the camera, it is possible that the camera will not sit level on the heads of certain of the tripods.

(Once again, this is a rather unimportant issue given that you can typically just tilt the tripod in order to position the camera in any way that you see fit.) A little rubber flap is located in the middle of the entrance to the battery compartment, and the cover for the battery compartment locks by sliding open and then outwards.

This flap covers a hole in the battery compartment lid that was supplied so that access could be granted to the connection jack found in the “dummy battery” coupler that is utilized in the AC adapter kit. (The AC adapter method for the Canon PowerShot S400 digital camera, like that of many other Canon digital cameras, utilizes a fake battery that fits into the battery compartment and offers a connector for the cable of the AC power converter.)

Image Quality

I would recommend that you allow your own eyes to be the judge of how well the camera worked, as is the case with all of the product testing that is done by Imaging Resource. Examine the photographs on the pictures page to get an idea of how the images produced by the S400 compare to those produced by other cameras that you might be thinking about purchasing.

Color The S400 provided outstanding color throughout my tests, with accurate results under a broad variety of lighting settings. This was one of the S400’s strongest selling points for me. The color saturation was generally approximately where it should have been, and the hue was almost never off (even with the difficult blue flowers in the outdoor and indoor portraits).

In most cases, the additive primaries that contributed the most strength, such as red and blue, were somewhat oversaturated, but the effect was not significant at all. In most cases, the skin tones were realistic as well, but with a tint of pink, that was added in comparison to the subject’s true hue.

White balance was very good under virtually all light sources, including the very challenging household incandescent lighting of my “indoor portrait” test. However, in order to produce good results with this light source, either the Incandescent or Manual white balance settings needed to be utilized.

I found that the Auto and Daylight settings had a propensity to run somewhat warmer, whilst the Manual setting had a tendency to be a touch chilly and greenish. However, the impacts were very subtle, and the color was very outstanding overall.

Exposure: The metering mechanism of the S400 produced accurate readings regardless of the lighting conditions I was shooting in. It underexposed the extremely high-key outdoor portrait image, as is customary, but just a small amount of positive exposure compensation was needed to restore the exposure such that it looked great.

Additionally, the interior portrait image was considerably underexposed while using or not using the flash, and it required a little bit more exposure correction in the positive direction in order to reach an adequate exposure. (However, the amount of positive compensation that was necessary for this was comparable to that required by other consumer digicams that I tested.)

During my “Davebox” test, the S400 had no issue identifying the delicate pastel tones that were present on the Q60 target, and it maintained a high level of resolution even in the darkest areas of the image. Overall, an amazing job.

Resolution and Sharpness: The S400 did quite well on the resolution test chart that was completed in the “laboratory.” At resolutions as low as 800 lines per image height vertically and around 700 lines horizontally, it began displaying artifacts in the test patterns.

I counted at least 1,100 lines of “strong detail” in the vertical direction, and 1,200 lines in the horizontal direction. The “extinction” of the target patterns did not take place until around 1,300 to 1,400 lines had been drawn. Overall, a pretty impressive performance for such a small and portable digital camera.

Close-ups: The S400 did admirably in the macro category, recording a minimum area of just 2.70 x 2.03 inches (69 × 51 millimeters), which is somewhat better than usual for a camera of its class. The resolution was really excellent, and there was a great deal of detail in the coins and the brooch.

It is possible that the S400’s AiAF focusing technology, which focused on the item that was physical nearest to the lens, is to blame for the lack of detail in the dollar bill (the brooch). There was a greater softness in the corners of this photo; nevertheless, this is a very frequent fault of the macro settings of consumer digicams, and the S400 does not warrant any specific condemnation in this area because of this.

Even though it overexposed the top of the frame and generated a shadow in the bottom half, the flash of the S400 came close to being able to be throttled down sufficiently for the macro-region. (If you back off slightly from the absolute closest focusing distance, you should be able to capture acceptable flash images while using the macro setting on your camera.)

Night Shots: It is extremely “hidden” in the user interface, but the S400 features a slow-shutter option that turns it into a brilliant low-light performer. This mode is used for taking pictures at night. You will first need to go into the record-mode configuration menu and enable the long-shutter mode. After that, navigate to the first entry on the Function menu (Exposure Compensation) and hit the Set button to adjust the exposure duration to a value between 1 and 15 seconds.

However, the long-exposure mode will function well once you have located it. Even at ISO 50, the S400 was able to take photos that were acceptable down to the limit of my test, which was 1/16 foot-candle, and it was able to shoot images that were brilliant at that light level at all higher ISOs. Even at the lowest possible light levels, every photograph was sharp and in focus.

The sole drawback is that the camera’s exposure metering system is inaccessible when the shutter speed is set to a lengthy value. As a result, determining the correct exposure is a rather laborious and chance-based endeavor while using this mode. (The histogram display, which is optional, comes in quite helpful for analyzing this data.)

The camera’s regular exposure mode has a maximum exposure length of one second, which should enable you to take acceptable shots under average city street lighting (less than one foot-candle) regardless of the ISO setting you to use. However, if you switch to a setting with a longer shutter speed, you will be able to effortlessly photograph in considerably darker environments.

Accuracy of the Viewfinder The optical viewfinder of the S400 was accurate to just 79 percent of the final frame when used at the wide-angle end of the zoom range. This makes the viewfinder somewhat constricted. Still on the low side was the optical viewfinder’s reported frame accuracy of roughly 84 percent when using the telephoto setting.

The LCD monitor is more accurate, however, it is actually only a little bit off, giving the impression that it is displaying a little bit more than what is shown in the final frame. Even though the top and left sides of my standard measurement lines were just chopped off, I have no choice but to consider this to be within the acceptable range of error for this particular test.

In light of the fact that I want LCD displays to have an accuracy that is as near to one hundred percent as is humanly feasible, the LCD monitor that comes with the S400 is wonderful in this regard; nevertheless, I would really like to see an optical VF that is more accurate.

Optical Distortion: When looking at the wide-angle end of the lens, I found that the S400 had an optical distortion that was slightly better than typical. I measured roughly 0.7 percent of barrel distortion. (This is just slightly better than the average across the cameras I’ve tested, but I’d still really prefer to see far less geometric distortion in the photographs captured by my digital camera than this.)

My measurements showed that the telephoto end had just one pixel of pincushion distortion, which is a significant improvement over the wide-angle end. The degree of chromatic aberration was rather low, as evidenced by the presence of only very weak coloring on each side of the target lines. (You may see evidence of this distortion on the resolution target in the form of a very faint tinge of color around the items located on the periphery of the field of vision.)

The most noticeable effect of the distortion was a certain degree of corner softness (maybe produced by coma?) in the image’s four corners, most noticeably in the four top corners. In general, the lens on the S400 performed a pretty good job, which is especially impressive given that the camera itself is a subcompact model.

Life of the Battery

The PowerShot S400 gets its power from a single Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery. Because of the nonstandard “dummy battery” power adapter connection, I was unable to test its power usage as I normally do. I regret this.

I timed how long the camera would run from a freshly charged battery in its worst-case power consumption mode (capture mode with the LCD turned on), and I found that it turned in a slightly shorter than average (for a compact digicam) run time of approximately 60 minutes. I found this to be the case after I timed how long the camera would run in its worst-case power consumption mode.

When going on extended trips, it is usually a good idea to bring along completely charged spare batteries, thus it is highly recommended that you get a second battery in addition to the S400.

Canon PowerShot S400 Specifications

Body Material“Celebrate” (metal / ceramic mix)
CCD pixels4.1 megapixels
JCIA effective pixels4.0 million
CCD size1/1.8″ (7.2 x 5.3 mm – more info)
CCD Colour Filter ArrayG – R – G – B
Image sizes• 2272 x 1704
• 1600 x 1200
• 1024 x 768
• 640 x 480
Movie clips• 320 x 240, 15 fps, up to 3 mins
• 160 x 120, 15 fps, up to 3 mins
Image ratio w:h4:3
File formats• Still: JPEG EXIF 2.2
• Movie: AVI (Motion JPEG + Wave audio)
JPEG quality levels• Super-Fine
• Fine
• Normal
Sensitivity Equiv.• Auto
• ISO 50
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
Zoom wide (W)36 mm
Zoom tele (T)108 mm (3x)
Zoom steps7 steps (including full wide and full telephoto)
Lens ThreadNone
Lens Max ApertureF2.8 – F4.9
Digital zoomUp to 3.6x
Focus modes• 9-point AiAF
• 1-point AF
AF Illumination lampYes (can be disabled)
Manual FocusNo
Focus range• Normal: 46 cm – Infinity (1.5 ft – Infinity)
• Macro (Wide): 5 – 46 cm (2.0 – 18.1 in)
• Macro (Tele): 30 – 46 cm (11.8 – 18.1 in)
Shooting modes• Auto
• Manual
• Stitch Assist
• Movie (with sound)
AF LockYes (shutter release half-press + focus button)
Metering• Evaluative
• Center-weighted average
• Spot
Min shutter• Auto: 1/8 sec
• Manual: 1 sec
• Manual ‘long shutter’: 15 sec
Max shutter1/2000 sec
Noise reductionYes, automatic below 1.3 sec
Aperture PriorityNo
Shutter PriorityNo
Exposure company.-2 EV to +2 EV in 1/3 EV steps
AE LockYes (shutter release half-press + meter button)
White Balance• Auto
• Daylight
• Cloudy
• Tungsten
• Fluorescent
• Fluorescent H
• Custom
Photo Effects• Vivid
• Neutral
• Low Sharpening
• Sepia
• Black & White
Drive modes• Single
• Continuous High: 2.5 fps, up to 5 frames
• Continuous Normal: 1.5 fps, up to 8 frames
FlashYes, internal
Flash range (Auto ISO)• Wide: 0.30 – 3.5 m (1.0 – 11.5 ft)
• Tele: 0.30 – 2.0 m (1.0 – 6.6 ft)
Flash modes• Auto Flash
• Anti-Redeye
• Fill-in Flash (forced on)
• Inhibit Flash (forced off)
• Slow-sync Flash
Flash compensation+/- 2.0 EV in 0.3 EV steps
External flashNo
Tripod mountYes, metal
Self-timerYes, 2 or 10 sec
Remote controlNo
Time-lapse recordingNo
Video outYes, selectable NTSC / PAL
Storage media• Compact Flash Type I
• FAT 12/16 and FAT 32 support
Storage included32 MB CF card supplied
ViewfinderOptical, no dioptre adjustment
LCD• 1.5″ TFT LCD
• 118,000 pixels
Print compliance• DPOF
• Canon Direct Printing – Card Photo Printers, Bubble Jet Printers with direct print function
Other features• My Camera
• Orientation sensor
• iSAPS technology
• Movie editing
• Sound memo (up to 60 secs)
• Magnify Zoom (2 – 10x)
• Histogram display
• Slide show
• DPOF / Transfer Order
Connectivity• USB 1.1 (inc PTP)
• A/V out
BatteryLithium-Ion NB-1LH rechargeable battery supplied
Battery chargerYes, supplied
Weight (inc. battery)222 g (7.8 oz)
Dimensions87 x 57 x 28 mm (3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1 in)

Conclusion

I’ve been pleased from the beginning by the quality, adaptability, and image quality of Canon’s Digital ELPH series, and the 4.0-megapixel S400 stays true to the history of excellence set by its predecessors.

The camera’s breadth of functions gives it an advantage over many other point-and-shoot style digital cameras on the market, notably certain other subcompact versions, in addition to the camera’s diminutive size, which makes it an ideal travel companion.

The camera’s shooting versatility is increased quite a bit thanks to the option to alter the ISO and the white balance, in addition to having access to longer shutter times. Although the actual exposure management is still automated.

Great image quality and excellent color reproduction are produced by the four-megapixel CCD, and the lens on the S400 is superior to those found on many other subcompact cameras. The S400 is the fourth generation of Canon’s ELPH digital camera line, and it lives up to Canon’s reputation for producing high-quality digital cameras that are extremely portable.

My description from earlier in the discussion probably does the greatest job of summing it up: A high-quality digital camera that excels in “all around” performance while being housed in an extremely portable housing. Strongly suggested as an option.

Canon PowerShot S400 Price

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Built-in lens
  • Orientation sensor
  • 15 seconds per minimum exposure time
  • The fastest possible shutter speed is 1/2000 of a second.
Need Improvements
  • No GPS support
  • The camera does not have the capability to record videos.
  • Cannot be operated by a remote device.
  • The camera is susceptible to adverse weather conditions.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Design
Features
Performance
Image Quality

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Canon launched the PowerShot S400 (AKA Digital IXUS 400), an ultra-compact four-megapixel camera with three times optical zoom, just a few days before the Photo Marketing Association 2003. A four-megapixel sensor and a three-times optical zoom lens are packed into a device that is...Canon PowerShot S400 Review