Canon PowerShot SD1400 IS Overview
by Mike Pasini and Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 06/03/2010
Priced at US$250, the Canon PowerShot SD1400 IS design features a 14.1-megapixel sensor with a 4x optical zoom lens equivalent to a range of 28-112mm on a 35mm camera, a useful wide-angle to a moderate telephoto. Maximum aperture varies from f/2.8 to f/5.9 across the zoom range. Helpfully, Canon has included a true optical image stabilization system in the SD1400 IS, which combats blur from camera shake.
The Canon SD1400 IS lacks any form of optical or electronic viewfinder, with all interaction taking place through its rear-panel LCD display. The PowerShot SD1400's display measures 2.7 inches diagonally, and offers 230,000 dot resolution, which equates to roughly a 320 x 240 pixel array with three dots per color. LCD coverage is said to be approximately 100%. As well as still images at resolutions up to 4,320 x 3,240 pixels, the Canon SD1400 can record high definition 720p (1,280 x 720) or standard definition movie clips at either VGA (640 x 480) or QVGA (320 x 240) resolution, with a rate of 30 frames per second in H.264 MOV format, and including monaural audio.
Exposures are calculated using the Canon SD1400's evaluative metering system, which also offers center-weighted average and spot modes. No manual control over the look of images is provided, with the Canon PowerShot SD1400 instead providing a choice of Auto, Program Auto, and seventeen scene modes. These include Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor, Smart Shutter, Low Light, Color Accent, Color Swap, Fisheye Effect, Miniature Effect, Beach, Underwater, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, Long Shutter, and Stitch Assist. Seven white balance modes are available, including Auto, five presets, and manual. The PowerShot SD1400 IS has a seven-mode flash with a range of one to 13 feet at wide-angle, or 1.6 to 6.6 feet at telephoto.
The Canon PowerShot SD1400IS stores images and movies on Secure Digital, SDHC, or SDXC cards. Connectivity options include mini-HDMI high definition or NTSC / PAL standard-definition composite video and USB 2.0 High Speed data. Power comes courtesy of a proprietary NB-4L lithium-ion rechargeable battery, rated as good for a battery life of 230 shots.
The Canon SD1400IS ships from late February 2010 in the US market.
Canon SD1400 IS User Report
by Mike Pasini
Canon ELPHs are known for their distinctive style. But the Canon SD1400 is the first I recall that won't stand on end. That's because it's nothing but curves.
Nothing but curves and a 14.1-megapixel sensor, 4x optical zoom with optical image stabilization, DIGIC 4 processor and a very smart Smart Auto mode to go along with HD video capture and ISO 1,600.
As far as ELPHs go, the Canon SD1400 is the complete package. You just frame the subject, tweak the composition with a little zooming in or out and press the Shutter button. The Canon SD1400 IS does all the heavy lifting. And you end up with a nice 14-megapixel snapshot.
And Canon has managed to give you all that for around $250. Not a bad deal.
Look and Feel. The Canon SD1400 must be vegan. It's so slim you'll mistake it for your cellphone if you feel around for it in your pocket or purse. Use the wrist strap so you don't get confused.
The smooth front surface of the Canon SD1400 is another reason to use the wrist strap. There's nothing, not even raised type, to grab onto. It has no grip.
Canon sent the black model for review, but it also comes in a silver shell. I liked the look of the black model, but it was difficult to read the icons. You don't spend much time reading icons once you've learned what the buttons do, but the black shell did cause one problem.
I was trying to open the battery compartment door on the bottom of the camera. Oddly enough, I noticed a very large rubber flap. Is the Canon SD1400 so slim, I wondered, that it only uses a gasket for the battery cover? I pulled the cover up and completely off. Without opening the compartment, which merely slides out toward the right to open.
What I'd pulled off is the cover for the AC adapter's dummy battery access (hint: don't pull this all the way off). Getting it back on wasn't easy, so I'll reveal my secret trick. There's a post with what looks like a nail head that must be seated first. It's in the middle of the rubber flap, but all the pushing in the world isn't going to seat it because of its fat head.
The trick is first to take out the battery, then close the plastic door. Then bend the two flaps back so the post is pushed forward from its base. That makes a nice handle as you twist the post into its hole on the compartment cover. When you've twisted the head through, you can align the other parts of the cover and it will be seated again. Better is to not remove the flap at all.
The body of the Canon SD1400 is so slender that the usual Zoom lever was apparently out of the question. Canon resorted to a small switch next to the Shutter button, which works well.
And except for the wrist strap eyelet, there wasn't room on the sides for anything. So Canon put a little door on the top right corner of the back panel to hide the USB and mini HDMI ports.
The tripod socket on the bottom panel is metal. That and the chrome Shutter button are the only shiny bright things on the black model.
Controls. The Canon SD1400 has a tiny Power button midway across the top panel. It's slightly recessed so you can feel for it, but being in the middle helps a lot. I was afraid it would be a nuisance to find and use but it didn't turn out that way. It was functional, if barely so.
The Zoom switch to the right of it has very little travel and protrudes insistently. That's a good thing. Zooming was smooth and fast, not jerky, so I was able to compose my shots without flicking the Canon SD1400's Zoom lever.
The large Shutter button, which activates Record mode when you're in Playback mode, was easy to find, too, even though it doesn't protrude from the top panel. Except for the very slight but unmistakable Zoom control, you'd think you were holding a small bar of hotel soap.
On the back panel, a Mode switch sits to the right of the Canon SD1400's Playback button. That makes a lot of sense. The Mode switch covers the three Recording modes and the Playback button lets you instantly visit your shots (or quickly return to Record mode).
The Playback button also functions as a power button with the advantage of not extending the Canon SD1400's lens. You can just press the Playback button to turn the camera off if you've powered it on that way. Otherwise it just returns you to Record.
The usual ELPH four-way navigator with a Func./Set button in the middle is just below that. The Up arrow also handles EV Compensation in Record mode and Rotation in Playback. The Right arrow toggles through Flash modes. The Down arrow goes through the self-timer modes in Record mode and deletes images in Playback. And the Left button accesses focus modes like Macro, Normal, and Infinity.
I did have a little trouble with the Canon SD1400's navigator. It's a single ring but it's slightly recessed so pressing any of the arrow keys took more effort than it should. I often resorted to using a fingernail to fully depress an arrow key.
Below the navigator are the Display and Menu buttons. The Canon SD1400's Display button cycles through the LCD display options and Menu takes you to the camera's setup options.
The LCD itself is 2.7 inches (rather than 3-inch LCD many compacts now use) with 230K pixels (which counts as high resolution in a compact digicam). It's easily seen at an angle, so you can hold the Canon SD1400 over your head and still have an idea of what the camera is looking at. It does pick up fingerprints on its antiglare surface but they cleaned up pretty quickly. I have to say I really didn't miss a 3-inch LCD.
Lens. The 4x zoom of the Canon SD1400 covers a 35mm equivalent range of 28mm to 112mm, a reasonable wide-angle to a moderate telephoto. But I found myself often shooting in the 4x digital zoom range, even for medium shots where the subject was just across the street.
The Canon SD1400's lens does enjoy Canon's optical image stabilization, so camera shake isn't going to ruin the shot if you have to turn the flash off (in a museum, for example).
Maximum apertures range from f/2.8 at wide-angle to f/5.9 at telephoto. But you have no direct control over either aperture or shutter speed on the Canon SD1400 IS.
Our lab tests show significant blurring in the corners of the frame at wide-angle and the usual barrel distortion (although it wasn't very severe). Telephoto results were much sharper in the corner with very little distortion.
Modes. Canon has simplified Recording modes on this year's ELPHs. The Scene modes and Special Scene modes are much reduced and bundled under the Program setting. That's possible because the green Auto setting has turned into a Smart Auto that impressed me as a bit quicker than the intelligent auto of other compact digicams (including the SD1300 IS). Finally, the Canon SD1400 includes a high definition video mode.
Smart Auto is Canon's implementation of intelligent Auto. But unlike other approaches, Smart Auto doesn't pick a Scene mode. Instead it evaluates the scene, setting the camera to one of 22 different presets, each of which is identified on the LCD with an icon and color scheme of its own.
So, for example, if the camera detects people in the scene, it considers whether the people are backlit in bright sun or backlight with blue skies. If the lighting is dark, it considers whether the camera is attached to a tripod (how it knows this I didn't discover). The people icon, with or without a sun or moon, is displayed in three different colors depending on what conditions the camera discovered.
The same goes for landscapes (which can include a fourth color) and for close subjects.
In Smart Auto mode, the camera makes the exposure decisions (disabling EV Compensation, ISO, White Balance, etc.) but there are still a few you can set. Those include Flash (Auto or Off only), all Self-Timer settings, and Image Size.
Program remains an automatic mode (you can't directly affect the shutter speed or aperture, although you can change the ISO) but gives you control over most exposure decisions. EV Compensation, Focus mode, and full Flash options are all active on the four-way navigator. From the Func./Set button menu, ISO, White Balance, My Colors, Metering, Release Mode, and Image Size are available.
Program mode is also how you access the Canon SD1400's Scene modes. Those include Program, Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor, Smart Shutter (Smile, Wink Self-timer, Face Detection Self-timer), Low Light (3.5-Mp image size), Color Accent, Color Swap, Fisheye Effect, Miniature Effect (reduced depth of field on landscapes), Beach, Underwater, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, Long Shutter, and Stitch Assist.
Canon's Smart Shutter technology lets you automatically capture smiles, or set the self-timer to be triggered after a wink. A face detection self-timer mode detects when you've joined the scene.
Movie mode captures 1,280 x 720 video at 30 frames per second for 10 minutes or 4GB per clip and 640 x 480 at 30 fps or 320 x 240 at 30 fps for up to 60 minutes or 4GB per clip. You can use silent digital zoom and sound is recorded. SD Speed Class 4 or higher memory cards are recommended.
The LCD reports Movie options as 1280 or Standard. But 1280 should not be confused with 1080. The Canon SD1400 IS captures 720p video, which is the smaller of the two HD sizes as measured by image height.
Menu. The Canon SD1400's controls and menu system are comfortable to use once you learn how to play the game (which seems to change a little on each model). After you pick a Record mode, just hit the Function button to see your shooting options. Hit the Menu button for general camera setup options any time.
The Menu on the Canon SD1400 is a little different from previous Canon menus. Canon has traditionally used the left side of the screen for main options and the bottom of the screen for the submenu options, displayed horizontally. But on the Canon SD1400 submenu options are shown on a second vertical menu adjacent to the one on the left side of the LCD. That took a little getting used to, believe it or not.
But it had the advantage of scrolling without interruption. On the SD1300, you have to press the Display button, for example, to see all the Scene mode options. On the Canon SD1400, you just keep scrolling.
Storage & Battery. The Canon SD1400 supports SD cards in the following formats: SD/SDHC/SDXC Memory Card, MultiMediaCard, MMC Plus Card, HC MMC Plus Card. Class 4 cards or higher are recommended for video capture.
A 4GB card will hold 1,058 high-resolution images at the highest quality level (a 3,597K file size). At the highest video settings, a 4GB card can hold 21 minutes, 23 seconds of action.
The Canon SD1400 is powered by a slim lithium-ion rechargeable battery (NB-4L). The battery is rated by Canon using CIPA standards for about 230 shots. A second battery will cost $59.99. An optional $70 AC adapter kit (ACK-DC10), which uses a dummy battery for the power connection, is also available.
Canon also sells a $240 waterproof case (WP-DC37) for the Canon SD1400.
Shooting. The Canon SD1400 is such a sharp looking little gadget that I didn't hesitate to bring it with me wherever I was going. Airports, restaurants, the park, the museum, everywhere.
It was so fast, I out-dueled an iPhone for a snapshot at a restaurant and was able to capture candids around the table before anyone knew what I was doing. That slim black case really does not scream, "Camera!"
Like the SD1300, the Canon SD1400's flash performance was both smart and strong, holding back for near subjects like the light bulb, and filling the garage with light.
And close-up shots were a lot of fun with the Canon SD1400, too. The carpenter's pencil shows the minimum depth of field at ISO 75 but it's still sharp enough to show good detail. The gallery also has a few macro shots of flowers that almost look 3D. And it's no harder than using Auto mode or using Program with the Macro focus mode (on the Left arrow) to get a great close-up.
Again, just a caution that if you're examining the full resolution 14-megapixel images on your monitor, scoot your chair back twice as far as usual for a fair appraisal. Ultimately, the images are a little soft, not quite as sharp as the Canon SD1300's, but that's frequently the tradeoff when they make the camera this small. Check the print quality below to see whether the Canon SD1400 will work well enough for you.
I dabbled in two Scene modes that are not available on the SD1300: Fish-eye and Miniature. The gallery shot of an SD card illustrates Fish-eye, which can be a fun distortion.
Miniature, however, was not as easy to pull off. You need an appropriate subject in an appropriate setting. The effect merely blurs the top and bottom of the frame, as if you were taking a macro shot of a miniature. The technique is often referred to as tilt-and-shift, but nothing like that is going on here. My best sample was of the band shell at Golden Gate Park.
The shots in the park were taken in both Auto and Program modes. I found it necessary to slip into Program to use EV Compensation to save the highlights on many of them.
One example of the problem is the Verdi statue. The first shot is Auto. The second is Program with -1.3 EV. I evaluated the results in Playback mode by looking at the histograms.
The histogram for the Auto shot showed blown highlights (they were even blinking in the preview) but it also showed that none of the image had made it to black or near black. It was as if the whole histogram had been shifted right, lightening the image.
There is a shiny gold object and some dark figures and a dark tree in the image, so it's not as if this were a high key subject. And Auto handles everything from i-Contrast to EV to ISO to aperture and shutter speed. I couldn't interfere.
But I thought the camera could do better so I switched to Program mode and used EV Compensation to get a more evenly distributed histogram with no blown highlights. I took a series of shots with varying degrees of EV Compensation, preferring -1.3 EV. That's quite a bit -- and an enormous deviation from Auto.
There are two shots of the Dore Vase figurines, both taken from the same side of the sculpture at exactly the same time. While the first one blows out the asphalt street, it hangs onto the tone of the figurines well. The second, with the sun masked by the vase, didn't fare as well.
One more. The planter box in the garden was taken in late afternoon. You'll see how blown out the top frame is (and you'll notice some chromatic aberration there too).
So the Canon SD1400 IS, like the SD1300 IS, seems happy to clip the highlights. Watch out for that on outdoor shots, particularly if the sun in not behind you.
I found the 4x digital zoom often necessary because the 4x optical zoom left me a little short of the composition I wanted. But the good news is that the image didn't fall apart with digital zoom. The shot of the grass roof at the Academy of Sciences with its porthole skylights open is sharp enough to show the thin supports that hold the skylights up.
On the video front, you can use digital zoom but not optical zoom (which is presumably too noisy). That means you can, before recording starts, select any optical focal length you like. But when recording starts, you can only zoom in (you can't zoom back any wider than the current optical focal length).
Canon SD1400 IS Lens Quality
Wide: Sharp at center
Wide: Very soft, upper right
Tele: Sharp at center
Tele: Slightly soft, upper left corner
Sharpness: The wide-angle end of the Canon PowerShot SD1400's zoom shows strong blurring in the extreme corners, with the strongest instances in the right corners of the frame. However, blurring of this extent does not extend very far into the main image area. At telephoto, the Canon SD1400 produced relatively sharp corners.
Wide: Average barrel distortion; noticeable
Tele: Very small amount of barrel distortion, minimal
Geometric Distortion: There is an average amount of barrel distortion at wide-angle (0.7%), which is enough to be noticeable. At telephoto, a very small amount of barrel distortion (0.2%) is present, but is of little consequence.
Wide: High, bright
Tele: High, fairly bright
Chromatic Aberration: Chromatic aberration is high at both wide-angle and telephoto lens settings, with bright pixels that are distinct at each end of the zoom range.
Macro with Flash
Macro: The Canon PowerShot SD1400's Macro mode captures sharp details at the center of the frame, though noticeable blurring and chromatic aberration radiate around the corners and edges. Minimum coverage area is 1.48 x 1.11 inches (38 x 28mm). The camera's flash produced a very uneven exposure, mostly due to its location on the camera and the proximity to the subject. Thus, external lighting will be best for the closest macro shots.
Canon SD1400 IS Image Quality
Color: The Canon PowerShot SD1400 pushes bright greens quite a bit, and strong blues and reds are also a little oversaturated. In terms of hue accuracy, cyan is pushed toward blue, and some reds toward orange, as well as bright yellows toward green. Darker skin tones are a little warm and yellow, while lighter skin tones are also on the yellow side. Performance here is a little less than average, but not enough to be considered poor.
ISO: Noise and Detail: The Canon PowerShot SD1400 IS' efforts to control image noise are evident as early as ISO 80, though most fine details are still visible. In fact, fine detail remains fair to about ISO 200, but beyond that, definition suffers greatly. See Printed results below for more on how this looks on paper.
Tele: Also bright
Auto WB: Very close
Incandescent WB: Too pink
Manual WB: Very good
Incandescent: The PowerShot SD1400 IS' Manual white balance option performed best here, though the Auto setting wasn't too far off the mark either. Incandescent mode produced very pink results.
Printed: ISO 80 and 100 printed results are not as good as we expected, given the better performance of the 12-megapixel SD1300, whose prints looked quite good at 16x20, whereas the 14-megapixel shots at ISO 80 from the SD1400 look better at 13x19, and only achieve parity with the SD1300's images when printed at 11x14. That's surprising.
ISO 200 shots still look good at 11x14, though with some blurring and oversaturation in dark reds.
ISO 400 images are usable at 8x10, but again soft in red areas, as well as yellow areas.
ISO 800 files are soft but usable at 5x7.
ISO 1,600 shots are better at 4x6, but red areas are by now completely blurry.
Clearly Canon pushed it with the 14-megapixel sensor in the SD1400. Thanks mostly to noise suppression, it offers less resolution even at the lowest ISO than the noticeably cheaper Canon SD1300.
Canon SD1400 IS Performance
Shutter lag: Full autofocus shutter lag is good, at 0.57 second at wide-angle and 0.60 second at full telephoto. Prefocus shutter lag is 0.081 second, slower than average, but still fairly quick.
Cycle time: Cycle time is on the slow side, capturing a frame every 2.58 seconds in single-shot mode. Canon rates the SD1400's full resolution burst speed at 0.7 frames-per-second.
Flash Recycle: The Canon PowerShot SD1400's flash recycles in a slow 7 seconds after a full-power discharge.
In the Box
The retail package includes:
- Canon PowerShot SD1400 IS Digital ELPH body
- NB-4L Lithium-ion Battery Pack
- CB-2LV Battery Charger
- WS-DC7 Wrist strap
- IFC-400PCU USB cable
- AVC-DC400 AV cable
- Digital Camera Solution CD-ROM
Canon SD1400 IS Conclusion
The Canon SD1400 is one of the most attractive ELPHs Canon has designed. The slim design with rounded corners is also pretty smart; and what's also smart is the enhanced Smart Auto mode that can set the camera 22 different ways so you don't have to fiddle.
If you want to fiddle, Program mode gives you access to everything but the aperture and shutter speed. And, of course, you can always fiddle with the 4x optical zoom with 4x digital zoom and optical image stabilization.
For about $50 more than the SD1300 IS, the Canon SD1400 gives you a bit smarter Smart Auto (22 v. 18 settings), two additional Scene modes (Fish-Eye and Miniature) and 720p HD video recording.
Unfortunately, you actually get lower image quality with the Canon SD1400 than you do from the SD1300 thanks to the excessive noise found on the SD1400's 14-megapixel sensor. If you plan to make large prints, or to crop from your prints, you'll have to give up the special features and slick body of the Canon SD1400 in favor of the sharper SD1300. I also wish the optical zoom range was longer, that sunlight exposures did not clip the highlights, and that video could zoom out from the starting scene, not just in.
The Canon SD1400 IS packs a lot of photo smarts into an attractive package, but you make a sacrifice in image quality that prevents us from giving the camera a Dave's Pick. It's not bad if you never plan to enlarge your images more than 11x14 inches, but we'd lean you toward the cheaper SD1300 for its better image quality.