of the most popular lines of digital cameras out there are Canon's
Digital ELPH models. The latest one, Canon's first 4 Megapixel
model, is the PowerShot
S400 Digital ELPH ($499 street price).
S400 has a elegantly designed metal body, super fast processing
speeds, and quite a few manual features as well. It uses the
new DIGIC processor that first appeared in the PowerShot G3 (you
can read more about it here).
small 4/5 Megapixel camera arena continues to grow in 2003. How
does the S400 hold up against the competition? Find out now!
S400 is known as the Digital Ixus 400 in some countries.
Since the cameras are so similar, some text from the S230
review will be reused here.
in the Box?
PowerShot S400 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
4.0 (effective) Mpixel Canon PowerShot S400 camera
rechargeable Li-ion battery
featuring Canon Digital Camera Solutions and ArcSoft Camera Suite
page camera manual + add'l software manual (both printed)
includes a 32MB CompactFlash card with the S400, which should
enough to get you started. But you'll probably want to buy a larger
card soon after you get the camera, since 4 Megapixel images
take up a lot of space. The S400 supports all Type I
CompactFlash cards, which means you can get a pretty large card
S400 uses the same battery as the other Digital ELPHs,
the NB-1LH. This lithium-ion battery has 3.1 Watt/hours of power.
Canon estimates that you'll be able to take about 315 shots
50% LCD usage, or spend 140 minutes in playback mode (both numbers
are an improvement over the S230). That's not too bad
for a little camera. Long time readers of this
that I'm not a big fan of proprietary batteries, but it's unavoidable
with these ultra-small cameras.
Battery charger + battery
thing I love about these little Digital ELPHs is the battery
charger. It plugs right into the wall, with no cables to worry
takes 130 minutes to fully charge the battery.
S400 has a built-in lens cover, so there is no lens cap to worry
are some interesting accessories available for the camera. One
the coolest is the WP-DC800 waterproof case ($240), which lets
you take the S400 up to 100 feet underwater. A regular camera
case is also available for a lot less ($14). Three power-related
accessories include an AC adapter ($70), car power
and extra batteries ($58).
S400 can also print directly to many of Canon's printers, including
CP-10 and CP-100 photo printers reviewed on this site. Some of
their newer BubbleJet printers are also compatible.
includes their excellent Digital Camera Solutions software,
as ArcSoft's (very capable) Camera Suite, with the S400. The main
programs in the DCS software package are ImageBrowser/ZoomBrowser
PhotoStitch (a great panorama creation product), and RemoteCapture
(which lets your Mac or PC control the camera over the USB connection).
Canon's software continues to be head and shoulders over the competition.
Best of all (for us Mac users, at least), all the software is
OS X native.
camera manuals have always been better than average, and that is
the case with the S400's as well.
S400's appearance has been updated since the S230/S330. In my
opinion, it's one of the best cameras I've ever seen. The body
is metal, with a light silver color on the front, and a darker
silver on the back. The S400 is well built thanks to its all-metal
body. Canon has tried to reduce the likelihood of scratches on
the S400 by applying a "Cerabrite" finish to the body. I don't think
that this finish is on the back of the camera though, as my S400
got scratched easily there. (Paragraph updated 3/14/03)
S400 is very easy to use with one hand or two, and it fits
pockets with ease. Here's a comparison of the size/weight of the
S400 versus the other recent Digital ELPH models, as well as
the PowerShot S45:
||4.4 x 2.3 x 1.7
x 2.2 x 1.1
|PowerShot S330 (discontinued)
||3.7 x 2.5 x 1.2
x 2.2 x 1.1
you can see, Canon managed to shrink the 3X zoom Digital ELPH
down to the same size as their 2X model. Also note the difference
in size between the S400 and S45 (both are 4 Megapixel).
that out of the way, let's begin our tour of the S400 now!
S400 has an amazingly compact 3X optical zoom lens. The lens has
a maximum aperture of F2.8 - F4.8, and a focal range of 7.4 -
22.2 mm. That's equivalent to 36 - 108 mm. As with most ultra-compact
cameras, there is no support for add-on lenses on the S400.
the top-right of the photo you'll find
the built-in flash. The working range of the flash is 0.46 -
3.5 m at wide-angle, and 0.46 - 2.0 m at telephoto. No external
flash options are available.
item to the left of the flash is an autofocus-assist lamp. This
bright light is used to light up a subject, to assist the camera's
AF system in focusing when lighting is dim. I wish all cameras had
how I said that these metal cameras scratch easily? My S400 is
living proof, having survived a run in with another metal camera
in my camera bag. Anyhow...
S400 has a bright and sharp 1.5" LCD display. The LCD is
high resolution, so everything is easy to see. Images move smoothly
on the LCD as you point the camera around in different
directions. The LCD's brightness is adjustable via the setup menu.
above the LCD is a large (for a tiny camera) optical viewfinder.
It does lack diopter correction, so if your vision isn't perfect,
you won't be able to see clearly.
the left of that is the mode wheel (such as it is), which moves
the camera between auto record, manual record, stitch assist,
and movie modes. The only difference between auto and manual
record modes are what mention options are available. Stitch assist
helps you compose panoramic shots, by overlapping sequential
photos. Hard to explain in words, so try it yourself to see what
I mean. I'll have more movie mode later in this review.
are four buttons below the LCD, including one which does a whole
lot of things. From left to right:
- the "ok" button for the menus plus changes between
auto, manual, and Stitch Assist modes.
- turns LCD on and off, plus info shown on it
- an overlay style menu with the following options
compensation (+2EV to -2EV in 1/3EV increments)
balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, fluorescent
(Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
effect (Off, vivid, neutral, low sharpening, sepia, black
- see chart later in review
photo - in playback mode or right after a shot is taken
S400 has a few manual controls, as you can see. This includes
manual white balance, and a photo effect feature which lets you
change the color between regular, vivid, and neutral (see below).
The photo effects can be used in any camera mode, including movie mode.
the right of those buttons is the four-way switch, which is used
for menu navigation and more. That includes:
- Metering (Evaluative, center-weighted, spot) + AE/FE lock
- Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash off, slow-synchro)
- Drive (Continuous shooting, self-timer) - two continuous
shooting to choose from. More later.
- Focus (Macro, infinity)
switch at the far right opens the CompactFlash slot door (you
can see where it got scratched). Just above
that is another switch, which moves between playback and
on the top of the camera, you'll find the speaker, microphone,
power button, shutter release button, and zoom controller.
zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in
a little under two seconds. There seems to be a very slight lag
before the lens starts moving.
thing to watch out for when you're recording movies is the microphone.
It's really easy to accidentally cover it up with your fingers.
this side of the camera, you'll find the I/O ports for USB and
A/V output under a rubber cover.
on the other side, behind a plastic door, is the CompactFlash
slot. This is a Type I slot, so no Microdrives! I do worry that
the plastic door could break off if forced.
can also see the 32MB CF card that is included with the camera.
here's the bottom of the S400. Here is where you'll find the tripod
mount and battery compartment (the included battery is shown
metal tripod mount is off at the corner of the body, not inline
with the lens or center of the camera.
the Canon PowerShot S400
PowerShot S400 starts up very quickly -- it takes just 2.5 seconds
to extend the lens and prepare for shooting. Press the shutter
button halfway, and the camera locks focus in a little under one
second. If the AF assist lamp is used, it may take a little longer.
lag times are low and not noticeable until you start approaching
slower shutter speeds, at which point you probably shouldn't
be hand-holding the camera anyway.
speed is excellent as well: just two seconds pass before you
can take another shot. If you have the review feature turned on,
half-pressing the shutter release will ready the camera for another
here's a look at the image size and quality choices available
on the S400:
shots on 32MB card
2272 x 1704
1600 x 1200
1024 x 768
640 x 480
no TIFF or RAW mode available on the S400. The camera names
files as IMG_yyyy.JPG, where y = 0001 - 9900. The camera maintains
numbering even if you erase/replace the card.
S400 has the same, easy to use menu as other Canon cameras.
Items in bold are only available in manual mode.
Here's a look:
(on/off) - turns multi-point autofocus on and off
shooting (Standard, high speed) - more below
(2, 10 sec)
zoom (on/off) - using the 3.6X digital zoom will degrade image
(Off, 2-10 sec) - for showing image on LCD after it is taken
shutter (on/off) - see below
S400 uses Canon's 9-point AiAF autofocus system. The camera
picks one of nine areas of the frame to focus on (you can't pick
where, like on some cameras). If you want to use the center of
the frame to focus on, you can do that too by turning AiAF off.
are two continuous shooting speeds available on the S400: standard
and high speed. Standard mode will take shots (until the
memory buffer is full) at a rate of 1.5 frames/sec, and will show
you the photos on the LCD as you take them. High speed mode won't
show you the photos as they're taken, but you'll get a faster burst
rate of 2.5 frames/sec.
long shutter feature lets you use long exposure times, a must
for low-light shooting. Just don't forget your tripod. The shutter
speed range is 1 - 15 sec, with many points in between. After
using the PowerShot A70, I was a little disappointed that the
S400 didn't have full control over shutter speed and aperture
is also a setup menu on the S400, and here are the interesting
- LCD brightness (-7 to +7, increments of 1)
power down (on/off)
volumes (for shutter, playback, startup, operation, self-timer)
number reset (on/off)
rotate (on/off) - rotate images taken in portrait mode correctly
(English, Deutsch, Français, Nederlands, Dansk, Suomi,
Italiano, Norsk, Svenska, Español, Chinese, Japanese)
system (NTSC, PAL)
you so desire, you can customize the startup screen, beeps, and
phony shutter sounds that your camera makes -- providing your
own sounds and pictures if you want. You can also shut all of
enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
S400 turned in a fine performance on the macro test. Colors
look great, and the image is sharp. No complaints from me! The
focal range in macro mode is 5 - 46 cm at wide-angle, and 30
- 46 cm at telephoto.
some folks want to know the image area in macro mode, here are
those numbers: 58 x 43 mm at wide-angle, and 107 x 80 mm at telephoto.
S400 also did a nice job with the night shot from Twin Peaks.
The long shutter
speed mode allows you to pull off shots like this, but don't
forget to use a tripod. At shutter speeds slower than 1.3 sec,
the camera will use its noise reduction system. That's probably
why there is so little noise in this 3.2 sec exposure. There
is also no purple fringing to be found.
was so surprised with the results of the redeye test that I went
back an hour later and repeated the test. And I got the same
result -- no major redeye. I was shocked that it wasn't horrible,
as is usually the case with these micro cameras. I use the self-timer
for this shots, and the bright orange lamp that flashes as the
timer counts down may constrict the pupils a bit... but hey I'm
not complaining. Note that enlarged this crop a bit so you can
see the detail.
new distortion test illustrates
the barrel distortion typically at wide-angle. This test also
shows a little bit of vignetting (darkened corners), but it's
not a major problem, seeing how I never noticed it in my sample
PowerShot S400's photo quality is very good -- I think most people
will be pleased. Colors and exposure were generally fine, and
images were sharp -- perhaps a little more so than on the similar
S45. You can make out individual blades of grass (and fur too)
in the shot below -- something some other cameras kind of "mush
saw a little bit of purple fringing, but nothing that I'd consider
I always say, don't just take my word for it, have a look at
the photo gallery and decide for
yourself about the S400's photo quality!
S400 has a nice movie mode, though it's not as nice as the one
on the PowerShot A70.
can record up to 3 minutes of video at 320 x 240 or 160 x 120.
That's right, no 640 x 480 mode on the S400. Sound is recorded
along with the video.
zoom lens cannot be used during filming, which is the case with
nearly all cameras that record movies with sound.
are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.
a sample movie for you:
to play movie (2.6MB, AVI format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
S400 has the same, excellent playback mode of other Canon cameras.
The thing that sticks out the most about the playback mode is
speed: everything is very responsive, thanks in large part to the
S400 has all the basic playback features that you'd expect. That
includes slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail
mode, and zoom and scroll.
zoom and scroll feature (my term) lets you blow up the picture
to 10X, and then scroll around in the zoomed-in area. It's very
can attach a sound clip to a photo using the Sound Memo feature.
The clips, which are saved in WAV format, can be up to 60 seconds
can be trimmed in playback mode as well. You can cut parts off
of the beginning or the end of your movie.
nice feature is the ability to rotate photos. You can also mark
photos for transfer to your e-mail program, assuming that you use
S400 provides a lot of info about your photos, including a histogram.
It moves through images fairly quickly as well -- just over one
second elapses between photos. If the camera has to rotate the
image (if auto rotate is turned on), it may take slightly longer.
Does it Compare?
S400 is a worthy upgrade to Canon's Digital ELPH line, offering
4 Megapixel resolution, great photo quality, robust performance,
and quite a few manual controls. THe body design is excellent
-- one of the nicest-looking cameras I've seen. The movie mode
is good (3 minute limits), but not as good as the PowerShot A70.
The playback mode is top-notch as well. One thing I wish the
S400 had more of was either scene modes or more shutter speed
control. After seeing how Canon put full shutter speed and aperture
controls, I was hoping that the S400 would have that too. No
such luck. At the very least, an "action" mode would
be nice for those who are taking pictures of sporting events
or their kids. But I guess you can't have everything. All in
all, the S400 is a great camera and it gets a strong recommendation
for the question that many people have been asking: should I
get the PowerShot S45 or the S400? Both sell for $499.
S400 is what some call a "boutique" camera -- lots of style,
at the expense of
S45 (read our
review) performs just as well and offers full
manual controls, but (as noted earlier)
it's bigger and heavier. So if you're someone who wants a small
and light point-and-shoot camera, check out the S400. If you're
more demanding and want to get your hands a little dirty,
the S45 may be a better choice. But
you really can't go wrong with either camera.
good photo quality
beautiful metal body
an AF illuminator lamp
for underwater case
performance in redeye test
good playback mode
I didn't care for:
it had more manual controls
nice, movie mode not as nice as other Canon models
placed microphone (watch your fingers)
plastic door over CF slot
other small 4 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon
PowerShot S45, Casio
FinePix F410 (I suppose), Kodak
EasyShare LS443, Konica
DiMAGE F100, Olympus
Optio 430RS, and the Sony
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out
the PowerShot S400 and it's competitors before you buy!
how the photo quality stacks up in our
a review of the S400 at Steve's
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests
for personal camera recommendations.