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"Picky Details" for the Canon PowerShot SD400 Digital Camera
(Timing, Power, and Storage Info)



When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time or delay before the shutter actually fires. This corresponds to the time required for the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is rarely reported on (and even more rarely reported accurately), and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I routinely measure both shutter delay and shot to shot cycle times for all cameras I test, using a test system I designed and built for the purpose. (Crystal-controlled, with a resolution of 0.001 second.) Here are the numbers I collected for the Canon PowerShot SD400:

Canon PowerShot SD400 Timings
Power On -> First shot
LCD turns on and lens extends forward. Pretty fast.
1.9 - 20
First time is time to retract lens, second time is worst-case buffer-clearing time. Also pretty fast, worst-case clearing time corresponds to emptying over 100 TV-resolution images from the buffer.
Play to Record, first shot
Time until first shot is captured. A bit faster than average.
Record to play
1.8 / 2.9
First time is that required to display a large/fine file immediately after capture, second time is that needed to display a large/fine file that has already been processed and stored on the memory card. About average.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.55 / 0.48
First time is at full wide-angle, second is full telephoto. A good bit faster than average.
Shutter lag, prefocus
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button. Very fast.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution

1.47 / 1.58

First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for "TV" mode (640x480) images. Times are averages. Shoots 9 frames this fast in large/fine mode, then slows to about 3.3 seconds per shot. Maintains this pace indefinitely in TV mode. Buffer clears in 18 seconds for large/fine images, almost immediately at lowest resolution. (Buffer clearing times measured with Lexar 32x SD card, slower cards may take correspondingly longer.) Average speed, better than average buffer capacity.
Cycle Time, Flash exposures (Flash at max. power) ~6 About average, better than average for a subcompact model.
Cycle Time, continuous mode, max/min resolution 0.47 / 0.42
(2.11 / 2.37 fps)
First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for "TV" mode images. Times are averages. Shoots 6 frames this fast in large/fine mode, then slows to about 3.1 seconds per shot. Maintains this pace for over 100 shots in TV mode. Buffer clears in 17 seconds for large/fine images, 16 seconds for lowest resolution.

Better than average shutter response, good cycle time and buffer depth. The Canon PowerShot SD400 is a pretty fast little camera, with good startup and shutdown times, and better than average shutter lag. (It's full-autofocus shutter delay of 0.48-0.55 second is better than most cameras on the market, and its lag time drops to an amazing 0.069 second when you "prefocus" the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the shot itself.) Shot to shot cycle times are average at about 1.5 seconds for large/fine images, but that's quite a bit better than most compact digital cameras manage, and you can shoot up to 9 frames that fast before having to wait for the memory card to catch up. In continuous mode, the SD400 can grab up to 6 full-size frames at 2.11 frames/second, once again a good pace for a compact model. All in all, surprising speed for such a compact camera.



Good battery life for a compact, but still consider purchasing a second battery for extended outings. The Canon PowerShot SD400 uses a custom rechargeable LiIon battery for power. Because it doesn't have a standard external power connector, I wasn't able to conduct my usual power consumption tests on it. Taking the simple expedient of measuring run time on a freshly charged battery in the camera's worst-case power drain mode though (capture mode with the LCD illuminated), it looks like worst-case battery life should be on the order of 108 minutes. This is better than average for a digital camera that's this compact, but you may still want to consider purchasing a second battery right along with the camera, to make sure you don't run short on extended outings.

Canon's own numbers for the SD400 (based on the CIPA standard test procedure) indicate that you should be able to get about 150 shots from a freshly-charged battery with the LCD on, or 400 shots with the monitor off, half of those shots using the flash. Playback time should be about 180 minutes.


Storage Capacity

The Canon PowerShot SD400 stores its photos on SD / MMC memory cards, and a 16 MB card is included with the camera. (I strongly recommend buying at least a 64 MB card, preferably a 128 MB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings.) The chart below shows how many images can be stored on the included 16 MB card at each size/quality setting.

Image Capacity vs
16 MB Memory Card
Fine Normal
2592 x 1944
(Avg size)
2.6 MB
1.5 MB
737 KB
6:1 10:1 21:1
2048 x 1536
(Avg size)
1.7 MB
934 KB
475 KB
6:1 10:1 20:1
1600 x 1200 Images
(Avg size)
1.0 MB
589 KB
311 KB
6:1 10:1 19:1
640 x 480
(Avg size)
278 KB
180 KB
114 KB
3:1 5:1 8:1


Download Speed

The Canon PowerShot SD400 connects to a host computer via a USB interface. Downloading files to my Sony desktop running Windows XP (Pentium IV, 2.4 GHz), I clocked it at 2592 KBytes/second, a very fast pace. (Cameras with slow USB interfaces run as low as 300 KB/s, cameras with fast v1.1 interfaces run as high as 600 KB/s. Cameras with USB v2.0 interfaces run as fast as several megabytes/second.)

SD400 Review
SD400 Test Images
SD400 Specifications
SD400 "Picky Details"
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