You needn't look far for a keenly priced compact these days, but few offer as many features as the Fujifilm FinePix T400 for so little cash.
The T400 leaves plenty of change from £100, yet the long zoom and high resolution would look far from mean on something that cost twice as much. But is it the bargain it first seems and does photo quality stack up?
Lens and zoom
Fujifilm calls it a long-zoom compact, and on that front it certainly scores a hit. It's a very slim camera, with the bare minimum of physical controls, yet it still manages to pack a 10x zoom equivalent to 28-280mm on a 35mm camera. There's a 7.2x digital zoom on top of this if you want to get even closer.
The widest aperture setting is f/3.4 when zoomed out and f/5.6 at full telephoto. Each of these is pretty much par for the course in a consumer compact. Sadly though, you can't select the aperture yourself, as manual controls are few and far between, so the T400 decides the appropriate settings.
Minimum focusing distance in regular use is 45cm at wide angle and 2m at maximum zoom, but switching to macro mode gets you much closer -- to 3cm at wide angle and 90cm at full telephoto. This results in a shallow depth of field and your subject being cleanly picked out from its surroundings.
In bright light it consistently found focus in less than a second when recomposing at the same zoom level. However, in darker surroundings, such as when using ambient light indoors, it was sometimes unable to fix its focus at all after a significant shift in the lens position.
The T400 has a 16-megapixel sensor, delivering images up to 4,608x3,440 pixels. There are two quality settings and three image size options, with 4:3, 3:2 and 16:9 aspect ratios at the largest and a choice of 4:3 or 16:9 at medium and low resolutions.
Throughout these tests, I set the T400 to shoot the largest possible files at the finest quality setting.
Sensitivity runs through a healthy range from ISO 100 to ISO 3,200, but once you step beyond ISO 1,600, it trims the resolution to a maximum of 2,304x1,728 pixels, which is a little under 4 megapixels. Compensation offers tweaks of +/-2.0EV in 0.3-stop increments.
Even in the forest where I performed many of my tests, it didn't ever stray above ISO 250, thus keeping sensor noise to a minimum. When I forced it to shoot at higher sensitivities by restricting the level of light back at the studio, however, it turned in a less impressive result, with high levels of grain in frames shot at ISO 800.
In auto mode, the longest shutter speed is just a quarter of a second. In all other modes, it's 8 seconds, which when used with a tripod should be sufficient to capture streaking headlights in a night-time shot. Regardless of mode, the shortest possible exposure is a respectable 1/2,000 second. Meanwhile, all composition is done on the 3-inch rear LCD.
The T400 is very strong on colour reproduction. I conducted some of my tests in woodland at a time when the trees were starting to turn for autumn and exhibiting a very wide gamut in each tone. It did an excellent job of reproducing those colours, with clear differentiation between similar tones, accurately capturing the trees' appearance.
Focus was good across the central part of the frame, although there was slight fall-off evident towards the corners and edges, where the lens had to work hardest to keep everything sharp. That's because it's bending incoming light to the most extreme degree in the corners, whereas it's passing right through the lens in a straight line at the centre.
Scene detection sometimes got a little confused too. The shot of the garden doorway below, for example, caused the T400 to switch to its portrait settings, and once the image had been shot it warned me that it had detected a blink.