So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Canon EOS 400D
- Sharp pictures, Great noise performance, Dust reduction technology
- Some minor chromatic aberration issues with the default lens
One of the best value for money D-SLRs available on the market, the 400D combines great picture quality with a comfortable build and plenty of features.
Price$ 1,299.00 (AUD)
Canon's EOS 400D Digital SLR is the success to their acclaimed EOS 350D, and as such, it had some big shoes to fill. We were confident it would be up to the task, and thankfully we were not disappointed. This camera is fantastic value for money. It isn't without its issues - most notably the default lens doesn't quite do it justice - but the pictures are razor sharp, noise performance is excellent and it carries a full array of manual controls, making it a perfect option for those looking to take the next step up from their point-and-shoot compact.
Canon's cameras are known for their image quality, and Imatest revealed the 400D quickly picks up where the 350D left off. It achieved a score of 1723 for sharpness, which is about what we were anticipating, and falls in line with results from other new 10.2 megapixel SLRs such as the Sony Alpha A100. The clarity in our shots was absolutely stunning, particularly in outdoors shots where each individual leaf was rendered with detail and precision.
In our chromatic aberration tests, the results were slightly less impressive but still quite good. Using the default 18-55mm lens, Imatest gave the 400D a score of .081%, which isn't particularly high, but is a little larger than we were expecting. This batch of test shots showed visible red and blue haloing around areas of high contrast, which detracted a little from the image quality. When we switched to the 75-300mm lens that comes in the dual lens kit however, this problem all but vanished, and the 400D scored a much more impressive .042%. This indicates that the default lens does not allow the user to take proper advantage of the camera and a second one may be a good investment. Considering the 400D's relatively low cost, factoring in an extra $200 for a second lens still doesn't seem like such a bad deal to us.
Noise performance was virtually flawless, where the camera achieved an Imatest score of .35% at ISO 100. This is an exceptional result indicating superior performance, and our test shots corroborated this, with no visible signs of noise whatsoever. Furthermore, even at higher sensitivities the 400D did extremely well. At its highest setting of ISO 1600 it still only scored 1.04%, which is better than some compacts have done on their lowest sensitivities. At this level, noise was somewhat visible at higher magnifications, but it was fine white luminance noise, instead of the blotchy, colourful chroma noise we often see at high ISO settings, meaning it is quite unobtrusive. This offers greater flexibility to the user when composing shots. We strongly recommend the 400D if you like to shoot at a variety of sensitivities.
The 400D's colour performance was a little disappointing. It got a score of 9.59 in Imatest, which is solid but not outstanding, however the result is better than the score would indicate. The chief problem colour was red, which accounted for most of the inaccuracy. In our outdoor test shots blues and greens were very well represented, with only slightly oversaturation in some shades of yellow. Most users will be more than satisfied with the colour representation of the 400D and its performance in other areas more than makes up for its slight slip here.
The feature set of the camera is fairly similar to the 350D, with a few minor improvements. ISO still extends to 1600 with shutter speeds ranging from bulb mode to 1/4000th of a second. The burst mode is quoted as being about the same as the 350D, running at three frames per second, but our tests indicated it was slightly faster than this, as we managed just over four frames per second. This is a nice improvement, and while it isn't the fastest camera on the market this is more than suitable for an entry level consumer SLR. The image buffer also seems a little larger. Canon quotes it at 27 consecutive shots, but we captured over 30 on our Compact Flash card in some situations, although this changes depending on your target and how easy that picture is to compress. As usual there are white balance presets as well as a manual mode, although there is no custom option like we found on Sony's Alpha A100.
The improvements largely come with the focus system. The 400D has nine focus points, as opposed to the seven offered by its predecessor, and Canon has upgraded the lens motor, allowing for much speedier performance when focusing. This adds to what is already a sensationally speedy package. And the 400D has a tiny .2 second start-up time.
Canon has also joined the growing list of manufacturers who are implementing dust reduction solutions on their SLRs. Not only have they put in place a system that shakes dust free of the low pass filter (a plate resting just above the sensor itself) every time you switch the unit on, but they have also covered it in anti-static coating. Furthermore, the camera's internals are constructed in a way that minimises flaking, one of the key causes of dust on the sensor. The overall result is extremely effective and even after repeatedly changing lenses we experienced no dust issues with any of our shots.
The other big difference between the 400D and its predecessor is the lack of a second LCD display. The 350D had separate screens for the menu and camera settings, but on the 400D, Canon has amalgamated them into a single display. This new screen is bright and clear, with a good viewing angle, and it looks excellent in a wide variety of circumstances. The interface itself is clean and fairly easy to use: most new SLR users should pick things up fairly quickly.
There are other minor cosmetic differences, such as a slightly chunkier grip and a new sensor underneath the viewfinder which begins the autofocus process as you move the camera to your eye, but for the most part those who were comfortable with the 350D will be right at home using this model. It weighs 556g, which is just about perfect for a camera in this category, balancing well in the hands without being too bulky. It connects to your PC via a standard USB connection and has a quoted battery life of approximately 500 shots with the flash off, which is about average for an SLR.
Overall the 400D is a great continuation of Canon's entry level SLR line. Its pictures are wonderful and the minor problems it does exhibit can easily be rectified by purchasing another lens or getting the dual lens kit. As far as value for money goes, this is one of the best options in the digital camera space.
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