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Digital Cameras - Canon PowerShot S400 Test Images

 

I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!

 

Outdoor Portrait:

Great job, with high resolution and detail, and accurate color.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the S400 did a nice job.

The shot at right was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment. (Most digicams I test require more exposure adjustment on this shot.) Midtones are bright, though the strongest highlights lose some detail. I chose the Daylight white balance as the most accurate overall, though the Auto setting produced similar results. The Manual setting was close but slightly warm.

Overall color looks really good, with accurate skin tones. The blue flowers in the bouquet are just about perfect. (This is a very difficult blue for many digicams to get right.) The strong red flowers are a little hot and oversaturated in the center, though the S400 does capture a good bit of detail there. Resolution is very high, with a lot of fine detail visible throughout the frame, even in the shadows. Details are also sharp, and image noise in the shadows is low. Overall, a beautiful job!

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV, see files S40OUTDP0.HTM through S40OUTDP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.


Color Saturation Adjustments

The S400 provides a couple of options for color saturation adjustment via its Function menu. These provide a nice range of adjustment for either reducing and boosting the camera's default color saturation.

Color Saturation Series
Normal Color
Neutral Color
Vivid Color



 

Closer Portrait:

Excellent resolution and detail.

Results are similar to the wider shot above, and the S400's 3x zoom lens helps prevent distortion of Marti's features. Detail is excellent, with clear, well-defined details in Marti's face and hair. (This is almost an embarrassing amount of detail, I won't show this to Marti at full size on-screen. ;-) The shot at right was taken at the default exposure setting, which produced a nicely balanced exposure with only the strongest highlights blown out. Shadow detail is again strong, with low noise.

To view the entire exposure series from -0.3 to +1.0 EV, see files S40FACDM1.HTM through S40FACDP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Normal Flash
+0.3 EV
Slow-Sync Flash
+1.0 EV

Good intensity and coverage with the built-in flash, with good color.

The S400's built-in flash did a good job illuminating the subject, producing a bright image with good color with only a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment. (Most cameras I test need more exposure compensation on this shot.) The background incandescent lighting produces in an orange cast on the back wall, also affecting Marti's skin tone somewhat, but overall color is still pretty good. Increasing the exposure compensation to +0.7 EV almost eliminates the orange cast entirely, but detail is lost in Marti's white shirt . I also shot with the S400's Slow-Sync flash mode, getting the best results with a +1.0 EV exposure boost. The orange cast is still present, but the brighter image has more even lighting from the longer exposure.

To view the exposure series in the Normal flash mode from zero to +1.0 EV, see files S40INFP0.HTM through S40INFP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page. To see the exposure series in Slow-Sync flash mode from zero to +1.3 EV, see files S40INFSP0.HTM through S40INFSP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance
Manual White Balance

Great color with the Incandescent white balance, very good with the Manual setting, about average exposure bias.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. The S400 performed well here, with the best color at the Incandescent white balance setting (though just a hint greenish). The Manual option also produced good color, but with a slightly warm, yellow cast. (The Auto setting had a tough time though, producing a strong orange cast.) Marti's skin tone looks good, though slightly pink. The blue flowers also look about right, with only slight purple tints. The shot at right has a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which results in a well-lit image.

 

ISO Series:
Noise is low at the ISO 50 and 100 settings. The level of noise increases at ISO 400, though the noise pattern is fairly tight and therefore less objectionable.

ISO Series
ISO 50
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400



 

House Shot:
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Great resolution and detail, with nearly accurate color.

On this shot, the S400's Auto and Daylight settings produced nearly identical results, with good color. Both images resulted in a slight warm cast, but I chose the Daylight setting for the main image because it had less cast (the Manual white balance was a bit cool and bluish). Resolution is very high, with strong detail in the tree limbs and shrubbery, as well as in the house details. (The S400 is probably stretching the limits of this poster as a test target. Even though the poster was made from a 500MB scan of a 4x5 negative shot with a tack-sharp lens, the S400 is close to extracting all the detail that's to be found here.) Details are reasonably sharp throughout the frame, with slight corner softness in all four corners.



 

Far-Field Test

Excellent resolution and detail, with a good dynamic range.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this. The S400 did an excellent job here, with exceptional detail in the tree limbs over the roof as well as in the fine foliage in front of the house. Leaf and bark patterns are well-defined, as are the details of the house front. The S400's in-camera sharpening does a good job as well, with sharp details throughout the frame. That said, some corner softness is present in all four corners of the image. The camera does pick up some of the detail in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window (a trouble spot for many digicams), but does blow out the strongest highlights. Detail is pretty good in the shadow area above the front door. Overall, the S400's dynamic range is good, albeit slightly limited by its loss of the strongest highlights. Overall color looks good, and exposure is a hint bright. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO and Effects series.

Resolution Series:
The table below holds links to versions of this shot snapped with different combinations of image size and JPEG compression level. Note that all JPEG compression options are available with all file sizes, I just didn't shoot every combination, in the interests of saving time and server space.

Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
"Economy"
JPEG
2,272 x 1,704
S40FAR2272F
S40FAR2272N
S40FAR2272E
1,600 x 1,200
S40FAR1600F
   
1,024 x 768
S40FAR1024F
   
640 x 480
S40FAR0640F
   



ISO Series:
As with the indoor shots, noise increases with increasing ISO. Even at ISO 400 though, the noise pattern is fairly fine-grained and tight, making it less objectionable than that on some competing cameras at the same ISO setting.

ISO Series
ISO 50
ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400

Picture Effects Series:
The S400 offers a range of "creative" options via the Effects option on its Function menu. Low- and high-saturation adjustments provide a nice range of color saturation, while a low sharpening option is good if you want to take control of the image sharpening post-exposure, using a program like Adobe Photoshop (tm). Black/White and Sepia options round out the offerings.

Picture Effects Series
Normal
Neutral Color
Vivid Color
Low Sharpening
Black and White
Sepia

 

 



 

Lens Zoom Range

A typical 3x zoom range.

I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (3x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The S400's lens is equivalent to a 36-108mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a pretty standard wide angle and a moderate telephoto. Following are the results at each zoom setting.

Wide Angle
3x Telephoto
3.6x Digital Telephoto



 

Musicians Poster
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Daylight White Balance

Good overall color, with great resolution.

This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. The S400's Daylight white balance setting did the best job here, with good skin tones and overall color. The Auto setting was just slightly too warm (although better than many cameras on this subject), and the Manual setting produced cool results. The blue background has purplish tints that aren't in the original image, but they aren't too strong. The blue robe is nearly accurate, with only faint purple tints in the shadow areas. Resolution is very high, with great detail in the embroidery of the blue robe. (The original data file for this poster was only 20MB though, so cameras like the S400 are definitely capable of showing more detail than the poster has in it.)



 

Macro Shot
Standard Macro Shot
Macro with Flash

Better than average macro performance with great resolution and color.

The S400 performed well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 2.70 x 2.03 inches (69 x 51 millimeters), which is slightly better than average. Resolution is very high, with strong detail in the coins and brooch. Details are soft in the dollar bill, likely due to the S400's AiAF focusing system, which focused on the closest object to the lens (the brooch). There's more corner softness in this shot, mainly noticeable along the left side of the frame. (This is a very common shortcoming of digicam macro modes, likely due to curvature of field in the cameras' optics.) The S400's flash almost throttles down enough for the macro area, though it overexposes the top and produces a shadow in the bottom portion. (You should be able to get decent flash pictures in macro mode, as long as you're backed off slightly from the very closest focusing distance.)



 

"Davebox" Test Target
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Good exposure and color.

The Auto white balance setting produced the best color here, with the most accurate white value in the mini-resolution target and large, white color block. Daylight white balance produced similar results, though the Manual setting resulted in a greenish cast. Exposure looks about right, and the S400 has no trouble distinguishing the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target. Colors are bright and vibrant in the large color blocks, though the red and blue additive primary color blocks are just slightly oversaturated. The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows strong detail, with low noise, and the last steps of both gray scales are distinguishable. All in all, an excellent performance.



 

Low-Light Tests

Excellent low-light performance: Great color balance, low noise, and a bright AF-assist light for low-light focusing.

It's really "buried" in the user interface, but the S400 has a slow-shutter mode that turns it into a great low-light performer. You have to first enable long-shutter mode in the record-mode setup menu, then go to the first entry on the Function menu (Exposure Compensation) and press the Set button to set the exposure time over a range of 1-15 seconds. Once you find it though, it works great. In my tests, the S400 captured usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle limit of my test at ISO 50, and bright ones at that light level at all higher ISOs. All photos were well-focused, even at the darkest light levels. The only catch is that the camera's exposure metering system isn't available in long-shutter mode, making it something of a manual, hit-or-miss operation finding the right exposure. (The optional histogram display comes in very handy for this.) In normal exposure mode, the camera's maximum one-second exposure time should let you capture good photos in normal city streetlighting (~1 foot-candle) at all ISO settings. In long-shutter mode though, you can easily shoot under much darker conditions. The table below holds thumbnails linked to my low-light test shots. Like all photos on this site, these images are exactly as they came from the camera, with no modifications or "digital darkroom" work applied.

 

  1fc
11lux
1/2fc
5.5lux
1/4fc
2.7lux
1/8fc
1.3lux
1/16fc
0.67lx
ISO
50
Click to see S40LL0503.JPG
3.2 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL0504.JPG
6 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL0505.JPG
13 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL0506.JPG
15 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL0507.JPG
15 secs
F2.8
ISO
100
Click to see S40LL1003.JPG
1.6 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL1004.JPG
3.2 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL1005.JPG
6 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL1006.JPG
13 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL1007.JPG
15 secs
F2.8
ISO
200
Click to see S40LL2003.JPG
1 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL2004.JPG
1.6 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL2005.JPG
3.2 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL2006.JPG
6 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL2007.JPG
13 secs
F2.8
ISO
400
Click to see S40LL4003.JPG
1/8 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL4004.JPG
1 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL4005.JPG
1.6 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL4006.JPG
3.2 secs
F2.8
Click to see S40LL4007.JPG
6 secs
F2.8


 

Flash Range Test

Good flash range, only a little falloff at the 14 foot limit of the test, but a little "cheating" to get there...

In my testing, the S400's flash illuminated the test target all the way out to 14 feet, without any significant decrease in intensity. It turns out though, that the S400 "cheats" a little to get that range: When the flash is active, the camera apparently boosts its ISO setting automatically, the increased light sensitivity helping greatly with the flash range. I don't have any way of telling what the ISO is actually boosted to, since my utilities here that read the EXIF header information can't interpret the S400's ISO information. Judging from the image noise though, I'd say that it's boosting it to somewhere between ISO 200 and 400. It would be nice if this auto-boost could be disabled for those times when low image noise is more important than flash range, but I suspect that most consumers will be happy enough with the results as they are. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see S40FL08.JPG
1/60 secs
F4.9
Click to see S40FL09.JPG
1/60 secs
F4.9
Click to see S40FL10.JPG
1/60 secs
F4.9
Click to see S40FL11.JPG
1/60 secs
F4.9
Click to see S40FL12.JPG
1/60 secs
F4.9
Click to see S40FL13.JPG
1/60 secs
F4.9
Click to see S40FL14.JPG
1/60 secs
F4.9




 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

Very high resolution, 1,100 - 1,200 lines of "strong detail." Average barrel distortion, but almost no pincushion distortion.

The S400 performed very well on the"laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height vertically, and around 700 lines horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,100 lines vertically and 1,200 lines horizontally. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,300 - 1,400 lines. Overall, a very good performance for a compact digicam.

Optical distortion on the S400 is slightly better than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.7 percent barrel distortion. (This is just slightly better than average among cameras I've tested, but I'd still really like to see much less geometric distortion in digicam images than this.) The telephoto end fared much better, as I measured only one pixel of pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is low, showing only very faint coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) The most obvious distortion is some corner softness (caused by coma?) in the corners of the image, particularly in the upper corners. All in all though, the S400's lens does a very nice job.

Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
"Economy"
JPEG
2,272 x 1,704
S40RESWLF
S40RESWLN
S40RESWLE
1,600 x 1,200
S40RESWMF
    
1,024 x 768
S40RESWSF
   
640 x 480
S40RESWTF
   

 

Resolution Test, Telephoto
2,272 x 1,704
(Fine, Tele)
S40RESTLF




 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

Excellent accuracy from the electronic viewfinder.

The S400's optical viewfinder is quite tight at the wide angle end, showing only 79 percent of the final frame. At telephoto, the optical viewfinder shows approximately 84 percent frame accuracy, still on the low side. The LCD monitor is more accurate, actually just a little loose, seeming to show slightly more than what appears in the final frame. My standard measurement lines were just cut off on the top and left sides, but I'd have to consider this to be within the margin of error for this test. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the S400's LCD monitor is really excellent in this regard, although I'd really like to see a more accurate optical VF. Flash distribution is slightly uneven at wide angle, with falloff at the corners and edges of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is more uniform.


Wide Angle, Optical

Telephoto, Optical

Wide Angle, LCD

Telephoto, LCD



S400 Review
S400 Test Images
S400 Specifications
S400 "Picky Details"
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