The Canon PowerShot A1400 ($109.99 direct) isn’t the type of camera that a lot of folks are going to get too excited about. It’s a budget shooter that’s light on fancy features like Wi-Fi and GPS, and it doesn’t pack a super-fast lens or a big image sensor. What the 16-megapixel camera does do is capture sharp images, and more importantly it’s easy enough that anyone can use it. There’s an optical viewfinder, a rare find in all but high-end digital cameras, and because it uses AA batteries you can easily find power even if you’re in a remote area. It’s not perfect; the HD video is a bit disappointing and photos are rather noisy, even at lower ISO settings, but at $110, it’s tough to complain. Still, the A1400 is impressive enough to earn our Editors’ Choice award for budget cameras, a title last bestowed to the now-discontinued Panasonic Lumix DMC-S3.
Design and Features
The A1400 is a bit bulkier than some other compacts—but not by much. It measures 2.4 by 3.7 by 1.2 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.1 ounces. The Samsung DV150F is slimmer at 2.2 by 3.7 by 0.8 inches; the PowerShot’s extra depth is due to its AA power source. The 5x zoom lens covers a 28-140mm f/2.8-6.9 (35mm equivalent) zoom range. The f/2.8 aperture on the wide end captures a decent amount of light, but the aperture diminishes quickly as you zoom—limiting its usefulness when zoomed all the way in to brighter light. This is compounded by the lack of optical image stabilization—a feature found in more expensive cameras that compensates for movement when shooting without a tripod.
The optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens, but it should be viewed as an approximation of what the camera will capture. The lens captures a bit more than what the viewfinder shows, so expect to crop images a little to match what you are seeing. You should also avoid using the optical finder for close-up macro shots—you’ll see an area that is to the top and right of the actual image frame through the viewfinder due to the optical property of parallax. The rear LCD is 2.7 inches in size, smaller than the 3-inch display found on the Olympus VR-340. Its resolution is 230k dots, which isn’t as clear as the 460k and 920k-dot displays found on more expensive cameras. It’s pretty bright at its default setting, and the brightness can be increased in the menu. On extremely bright days, when even the best LCDs are hard to see, the optical viewfinder is there to make it feasible for you to capture photos.
By default the camera is set to Auto mode, which takes care of most settings, so you can choose between no flash and automatic flash in this mode, but nothing else. Turning Auto mode off lets you control the camera via Program mode, or to select from numerous preset Scene modes. There’s no Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority, or Manual modes—these usually appeal to more advanced photographers.
If you don’t know a lot about photographic terms, or find that your pictures aren’t coming out how’d you like them, hit the Help button. You can’t miss it—the button is just a big question mark. It brings up an online guide that explains the various functions of the camera and also provides tips for shooting better photos.
If you’re a little more advanced, Program mode does give you a modicum of control. When in this mode you can adjust the Metering pattern, ISO, White Balance, Exposure Compensation, Focus Range, and Drive Mode. These are all accessed via an overlay software menu that is launched via the Function button. Other control buttons allow you to control the flash, start video recording, toggle what is displayed on the rear LCD, and engage Canon’s Eco mode—a new function that promises improved power management to prolong battery life.
The A1400 uses AA batteries—this can be a pro or con depending on your point of view. If you’re an occasional shooter you won’t mind spending money on the occasional set of new alkaline cells, or if you use the camera more regularly you can opt to invest in rechargeable batteries. One thing’s for sure, you’ll be able to find AAs for sale almost anywhere—so you won’t be stopped from taking photos if you forgot to charge a battery or if you are miles away from a power outlet. (Just make sure to carry a few extra sets with you!)
Performance and Conclusions
The A1400 isn’t a speedy camera, but its performance isn’t out of line compared with others in its price range. It starts and shoots in 2.1 seconds, records a very reasonable 0.2-second shutter lag, and rattles off a photo every 1.4 seconds in continuous drive mode. Canon’s similar PowerShot A2600 is a bit quicker to start and shoot at 1.7 seconds, records a 0.3-second shutter lag, and also captures a photo every 1.4 seconds.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of images captured by the A1400. It exceeds the 1,800 lines per picture height that we require of a sharp image, scoring 2,060 lines on the test. It’s an impressive result, besting the 1,755 lines per picture height managed by the Samsung DV150F.
Imatest also checks photos for noise, which can add unwanted graininess to photos and reduce detail. Like most budget cameras, the A1400 uses a CCD image sensor; as a rule of thumb, CCD sensors do not do as well at higher ISO settings as more expensive CMOS sensors. If you’re looking for a compact camera that does well in low light, a CMOS model like our Editors’ Choice superzoom Sony Cyber-shot HX30V is a better choice—but it costs about four times as much as the A1400.
Not surprisingly, the camera is only able to keep noise below 1.5 percent through its lowest sensitivity setting, ISO 100; pushing to ISO 200 results in 1.6 percent noise. Photos at ISO 400 hit 1.9 percent, but still retain a good amount of detail. Image quality starts to break down at ISO 800, so you’ll want to avoid pushing the ISO setting that high—use the flash instead. The Olympus VR-340, a budget camera with a long zoom lens and a CCD sensor, keeps noise below 1.5 percent through ISO 800, but detail is poor enough at that setting that we recommended keeping it at ISO 400 or below when we reviewed it last year.
Video is recorded in 720p25 quality in QuickTime format. Cameras with CCD sensors are generally incapable of recording 1080p footage, so there’s no surprise that it’s not an option. The footage looks a little bit grainy, and the camera only has access to a digital zoom when it’s recording. Standard SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards are supported.
The Canon PowerShot A1400 isn’t the most full-featured camera that we’ve tested. The budget-priced compact can hold its own against competitors in good light; just don’t expect to take photos in dim situations without the aid of the flash. It’s small enough to slide into a shirt pocket, has a fairly good optical viewfinder, and a shutter lag that is short enough so that you won’t miss a shot. The Help mode is a great feature for occasional snapshooters, and at just over $100 it’s an easy purchase to make. If you’re a serious photographer, or simply have more money to spend, consider a higher-end camera with a longer zoom like the Sony HX30V, but if you’re in the market for an inexpensive, entry-level shooter, the A1400 is an excellent choice. Based on its price, image quality in good light, and optical viewfinder, it earns our Editors’ Choice award for budget cameras.
|Dimensions||2.4 x 3.7 x 1.2 inches|
|Interface Ports||mini USB|
|Battery Type Supported||AA|
|Recycle time||1.4 seconds|
|LCD size||2.7 inches|
|Media Format||Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|Optical Zoom||5 x|
|Boot time||1.4 seconds|
|35-mm Equivalent (Wide)||28 mm|
|Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated)||0 feet|
|Lines Per Picture Height||2060|
|LCD Aspect Ratio||4|
|35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto)||140 mm|
|Shutter Lag||0.2 seconds|
|Sensor Size||6.2 x 4.6 (1/2.3") mm|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc