Canon Powershot SD1400 review: Canon Powershot SD1400

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The Good Tiny, attractive design; well-priced.

The Bad No marked improvements from previous model.

The Bottom Line The PowerShot SD1400 IS is another stylish ultracompact from Canon with features and performance that are stuck in the past.

7.4 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 7
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 7

The PowerShot SD1400 IS is a bit of a puzzler. It's an attractive, lightweight ultracompact point-and-shoot nearly identical to 2009's SD940 IS, using the same 28mm-equivalent wide-angle lens with a 4x zoom and 2.7-inch LCD. The only major tweak is a resolution bump from 12 megapixels to 14, which contrary to what you may be thinking does not improve photo quality.

There are a couple new creative shooting modes and shutter-release timer options, but otherwise there are no interesting new features or improvements to old ones. Plus, shooting performance is run of the mill, as is battery life.

However, the SD1400 IS is still one of the better ultracompact designs around, and at less than $250 it's appropriately priced for something so small. It's an easy recommendation for those searching for a grab-and-go pocket camera and don't want or need much more than the ability to take a good photo.

Key specs Canon PowerShot SD1400 IS
Price (MSRP) $249.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.6 x 2.2 x 0.7 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 4.7 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 14 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 4x, f2.8-5.9, 28-12mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/H.264 (.MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,320x3,240 pixels/1,280x720 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li-ion rechargeable, 230 shots
Battery charged in camera No; external charger supplied
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC card, MultiMediaCard, MMC Plus, HC MMC Plus
Bundled software ZoomBrowser EX 6.5/PhotoStitch 3.1 (Windows); ImageBrowser 6.5/PhotoStitch 3.2 (Mac)

The design of the SD1400 IS doesn't change much from that of the SD940. It's still very, very small, which remains its greatest attribute. It's small enough that you'll never hesitate to take it with you. However, if you plan to keep it loose in a bag, invest in some manner of protection or risk scratching up its beautiful body and screen. The model is available in silver, orange, black, and pink. The lens barrel color closely matches the body, too, giving it a peculiar uniform look.

Using the camera is remarkably comfortable, even for large hands. All of the controls are flat and flush with the body. It gives the camera a very smooth appearance, but using the four-way directional pad and center Func/Set button can be a little difficult and may lead to frequent mispresses on the center button when trying to adjust the exposure, change focus and flash modes, or pick timer settings from the outer ring. The buttons, shooting-mode switch, and zoom rocker are all minuscule, too, which might be a problem for some; it would be an excellent idea to lay hands on one before you buy it.

Regardless of their shape and size, the controls are easy to master. The menu system can take some getting used to depending on how quickly you can remember to hit the Func/Set button for shooting-mode specific settings and the Menu button for everything else. You also have the option to turn on a help system with hints and tips for choosing the appropriate settings or simply telling you what the shooting mode you're in is going to do. It's not uncommon to find, but Canon does a nice job of it.

For connecting to a computer, monitor, or HDTV there are Mini-USB/AV and Mini-HDMI outputs underneath a small door on back at the top right corner of the body. The battery and memory card compartment is on the bottom under a nonlocking door. The battery does not charge in camera, and the shot life is rated at 230, so you'll probably find yourself opening the compartment quite a bit.

General shooting options Canon PowerShot SD1400 IS
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Custom
Recording modes Auto, Program/Scene, Movie
Focus modes Face AF, Center AF, Macro, Normal, Infinity
Metering modes Evaluative, Center-weighted average, Spot
Color effects Vivid, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Custom
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

Other than Canon's very reliable Smart Auto mode, there's nothing terribly interesting about the SD1400's shooting options. The shooting-mode switch on back of the camera has three options: one for Auto, one for Movie mode (capturing up to 720p HD resolution), and a camera mode (that's what I'm calling it since it's designated by a picture of a camera). The camera mode gives you access to a Program Auto mode as well as all the scene modes including Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor, Low Light, Beach, Underwater, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, Long Shutter, and Stitch Assist for creating panorama shots with the bundled software. Canon added a Smart Shutter option, too, which includes a smile-activated shutter release as well as Wink and Face Detection self-timers. Wink allows you to set off the shutter simply by winking at the camera and the Face Detection option will wait till the camera detects a new face in front of the camera before it fires off a shot. Both work well.

In addition to the company's standard creative shooting options--Color Accent and Color Swap--it's introduced a few new modes for 2010. One is a Miniature Effect, which blurs the top and bottom of the frame and boosts contrast and color saturation to make subjects look like painted miniature models. It works to some degree, but is not as convincing as true tilt-shift photography, which is what the effect is based on. Another mode, Fish-eye Effect, is even less effective because like the Miniature Effect, it's just an approximation done with software of what a fish-eye lens creates. That said, they're included and can be fun to play with if only to add some interest to what would be an otherwise boring shot.

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