Canon – EOS 400D review

superb 'pro-sumer' digital SLR camera
Photo of Canon – EOS 400D
£719.99 (with 18-55mm lens kit)

An evolution of Canon’s 300D and 350D digital SLRs, the EOS 400D is a digital SLR camera aimed at what you might call ‘pro-sumers’. Professionals might occasionally be found with these and your average photography enthusiast might aspire to own one.

Two generations on from Canon’s initial breakthrough into the world of consumer digital SLR cameras, the EOS 400D is outwardly what you might expect: bigger, better, faster.

With no fewer than 10.1 megapixels at its disposal (that equates to an image size of 3,888 x 2,592 pixels), the amount of detail is staggering. Files are nearly 30MB when uncompressed, which is easily sufficient for A4 or even A3 sized photographic prints. This resolution is up from 8.0 megapixels in the older 350D.

The only other change in the CCD sensor itself is that it now sports automatic self-cleaning. This is useful in a digital SLR, where lenses can be removed and expose the sensor to dust and other unwelcome matter, where they have a far greater effect than any dirt on the lens. This self-cleaning function is unobtrusive, fast and quiet, and it’s impossible to know that it’s even happening except for a status message on the LCD.

The LCD has been upgraded to a 2.5-inch screen and is a definite improvement in almost all respects on the 350D’s 1.8-inch unit. The older model’s monochrome LCD has been integrated into the main LCD here, which we think is much easier to read, and the new screen packs in almost twice as many pixels, so is much better for reviewing images after shooting.

Just above the screen at the rear are two sensors. One turns off the LCD as you put your eye to the viewfinder to cut out unwanted light, and the other is a rear-facing infra-red sensor, which is a welcome addition. The older 350D model only had a front-facing sensor, which has not been lost on the 400D. No infra-red remote comes with the camera, but they’re not too much money and, combined with a tripod, make for much improved stability for shots with longer exposures.

The model we reviewed came with an 18-55mm lens, which is good for general purpose shots, lightweight, and easy to use, as well as adding very little to the price compared to the ‘body only’ option.

This isn’t a lens with a very wide range, but it’s OK for many shots, partly due to the 1.6x ‘cropping factor’ of the camera, which makes it behave more like an 80mm lens. This cropping factor is a consequence of the CCD sensor being smaller than a 35mm film frame, so the effective focal length of lenses is increased. And with 10 megapixels to play with, you can often afford to crop images to achieve the same effect as zooming in.

We also tested the camera with a 10-20mm wide-angle lens and an 18-200mm lens, just to give us some comparison to the basic lens provided (of course, one of the best things about SLR cameras is that the lenses can be changed). The supplied lens gave a good balance to the camera and wasn’t in itself noisy, although the camera shutter could have been a little quieter. Any EF or EF/S lens will fit the camera, enabling the use of Sigma or other brand lenses.

The rate at which pictures can be taken is three frames per second, which hasn’t changed from the 350D, although this rate is of course dependent on shutter speed and whether the flash is employed. The number of images that can be taken and buffered before they need to be written to the Compact Flash storage, though, has increased by nearly 100 percent to 27 images. This means that it’s easier to capture a moment if the subject is moving around.

The build quality of the EOS 400D feels substantial, and no part feels flimsy despite the case being made of plastic. The ergonomics are good and slightly improved over the EOS 350D, although those with bigger hands or those preferring a weightier feel might like to get a battery grip, which can make the camera easier to hold as well as increasing battery life.

Company: Canon

Contact: 01737 220000


Verdict
With the EOS 400D, Canon has made many improvements over the excellent and ever-popular EOS 350D, and we predict that the new model will be equally successful. An excellent product and a great route into the world of digital SLR cameras. It's also likely to give potential customers of Canon's professional product range pause for thought.