Thursday, June 20, 2013

Canon PowerShot Digital Elph SD1400 IS 14-Megapixel Compact Digital Camera with HDMI

Canon has been producing digital cameras for a long time and has gotten to a point where only minimal changes are needed to refresh their models for a new model year. It is a good thing, since you are getting a proven product, refined even further, with more features and for less money. Such as the case with the Canon SD1400 IS. Not only can you count on your Canon camera to produce good pictures, but also that in less than a year a new model that replaces the one you have will appear on the market. The Canon PowerShot SD1400IS replaces the predecessor, Canon SD1200 IS, which in turn replaced Canon SD1100 IS.

What Is Canon PowerShot SD1400 IS? 

The Canon PowerShot SD1400 IS Digital ELPH is a 14.1-Megapixel super-compact stylish digital camera with 4x optical zoom (28-112 mm equivalent), optical image stabilization, large 2.7-inch LCD screen and face detection. 

The camera is powered by a compact rechargeable NB-4L battery (good for about 230 shots) and stores pictures and videos on SD (Secure Digital), SDHC, SDXC, MultiMedia, MMC Plus or HC MMC Plus memory cards. The SD1400 IS features fast USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connection to PC and Mac computers.

Just as the previous Canon SD cameras, this model looks stylish and high-tech. The camera also has a movie mode of up to 30 fps at VGA resolution (640x480) with mono sound. It now has an HDMI out for viewing photos/videos on digital TVs.

Major Differences with SD1200 IS

The SD1400 has higher resolution and more zooming power (4x vs. 3x) and better wide angle (now at 28mm) as well as longer telephoto. The screen is slightly larger, but there is no optical viewfinder. There is now an HDMI out.

Getting Started 

Just as the other cameras of the SD line, the camera has a durable look and feel. The SD1400 features a retractable lens that extends and has a lens cover that opens when the camera is powered on. When the camera is powered off, the lens retracts and the lens cover closes. 

The on/off button is on the top deck, which also has a zoom rocker of an unusual design and a large shutter release button. The bottom of the camera has a threaded tripod mount and a battery and SD card compartment lid. 

The rear panel has a large 2.7-inch LCD screen, control buttons and menu controls with a FUNC./SET button in the middle of it. There is also a sliding switch between auto mode, movie and still picture taking modes. Unlike the pre-SD1200 models, the view mode is selected using a separate button, which is (at least in my opinion) a very welcome change. In cameras that rely on a mechanical switch between all modes (including review), you have to switch very frequently, which is time consuming. The dedicated button of this SD1400 makes it much faster and more convenient and can save battery power in some situations.

The upper-right corner of the back panel has a small cover, underneath which you can find a USB jack/mini HDMI jack. The camera uses a compact proprietary Li-Ion battery that looks like a cell phone battery. For the purpose of this test, I used my Kingston Elite Pro SD memory card and fully charged the supplied battery.


If you have ever used a Canon camera, this one will be easy to use as well. If you didn't, it will still be easy to use, especially in its auto mode. It is difficult to go wrong with Canon cameras when it comes to pretty much any aspect of functionality and the ease of use is one of them. Just as its predecessors and its siblings in the model lineup, this model is very easy to use. 

The menus and icons are slightly more descriptive than that of the older-generation Digital Elphs like SD400 due to more available space on the screen (2.7-inch vs. 2-inch). And there are words under some icons to make it even easier to know what they mean. The camera uses the latest version of Digic processor by Canon (Digic 4) that provides responsive operation and low power consumption.

I have not read the manual but was able to use the camera and all its features instantly. This camera can be used by any member of the family and by photographers of all levels of expertise from novices to advanced ones (albeit it will not give you any control over the shutter speed or aperture, aside from exposure compensation).

The camera is very fast and responsive. The large and bright LCD screen shows pictograms of selected modes (e.g. Macro, Flash mode, etc.) large and legible on the screen (sometimes with subtitles) and then they move to the side of the screen. A very cool and useful feature, especially for people with impaired vision or when operating in difficult conditions, e.g. sunlight 

The mode switch on the back panel has a dedicated position of Auto. Not surprisingly, the camera comes pre-set to Auto mode, in which you have no need or way to adjust settings. You do not have to do anything other than point and shoot - the camera takes care of the rest. The camera uses intelligent autofocus, integrated with face detection. Once you press the shutter release button halfway to make camera focus, the camera shows you (on the LCD screen) where it focused. Then you take the picture by pressing the shutter release button all the way. In dim conditions, the camera uses its focus-assist light, which is effective in focusing at short distances. 

Both Macro and Infinity modes are available at a push of a button. Also, the ISO settings can be set to Auto or Auto Hi Sensitivity in Auto mode. In some modes, you can select a fixed ISO as well (e.g. ISO 100). The exposure compensation is accessible by one button push.

In addition to fast (one button access) exposure compensation, the camera gives you instant access to the flash mode selection (flash off, red-eye reduction, night portrait, auto flash), macro or infinity mode as well as timer mode at a push of a button. 

One persistent complaint I have centers on the menu control buttons or, in particular, on the disc that holds them. Unlike some previous models, but just as the SD1000 and SD1100 before it, the SD1400 has a disc that is too flat and too leveled with the back surface of the camera making it less easy to use - it is difficult to distinguish where the edge of the button is by touch. But that makes it less easy to push anything by mistake.

More on Features and Controls 

The camera features selectable Evaluative, Center-Weighted and Spot metering modes. The camera has a built-in flash that is quite powerful or its size and has a red-eye reduction function. It features a shutter speed range of 15-1/1,500 sec and selectable ISO of 80-1,600 as well as ISO Auto and High ISO Auto. 

The SD1400 IS also has a Macro mode where it can focus very close. The available movie mode records movies with mono sound (the camera has a microphone and a speaker) at up to 640x480 up to 30 fps, providing fluid playback. 

The camera has the widest aperture of f/2.8 at wide angle, f/5.9 at telephoto. There is no direct control over aperture or shutter speed. It seems that the aperture is a two-step type with no fine control over aperture. The camera doesn't let you control the aperture or the shutter speed directly, but even if you select Infinity mode (the icon looks like mountains) or try shooting in different lighting conditions, you will soon discover that your resultant photos have only one of two aperture values at any given focal length.

You can use the exposure compensation and it comes in handy in the morning or sunset hours as the camera overexposes the picture trying to preserve the shadow detail. In general, overexposure is more frequent than the opposite extreme.

There are a bunch of scene modes as well, which help the camera tweak the focusing and exposure settings according to the type of scene. The face detection works well and helps camera focus on subjects' faces automatically. Plus the auto exposure and auto white balance work with the face detection to ensure proper face tone and exposure. And blink detection ensures that subjects' eyes aren't closed when the picture is taken.

Build Quality and Ergonomics 

The camera has a solid feel and good build quality, although it looks and feels somewhat cheap comparing to some earlier (and more expensive) SD-line cameras. The major controls are within easy reach and the tactile response is good. The camera a bit too small but for its size, but it is convenient to hold and its compact size lets you put it in a jacket pocket or a purse easily. In fact, it is so small, you can almost put it in a shirt pocket. Almost.

Tripod Mount 

The camera has a threaded tripod mount. It is useful if you want to take macro pictures or pictures with long exposures (e.g. nighttime). The camera has a timer (2-second or 10-second), which you should use to avoid blurry images when the camera is on the tripod. Mini-tripods work well for this purpose without the bulk of full-size tripods.


The zooming is now done with a new zoom rocker that tilts left or right. It certainly takes longer to get used to it comparing to the previous models'. I am not a big fan of this new arrangement.


This model uses the latest version of Canon DiG!C processor (Digic 4). It is the same processor used in some larger Canon digital SLR cameras and it gives this Digital Elph excellent speed. The camera takes less than a second to power itself on in review mode and only about a second or two to power on and extend its lens in shooting mode. 

Although zooming is reasonably fast, I wish it were more responsive. You can fully zoom in or out in about 2-3 seconds. I find the 4x optical zoom the camera has sufficient for most situations, and the newly-available wide angle is useful for indoor pictures or for pictures taken in narrow streets when traveling. 

The camera can capture images at about two per second in burst mode (I used Kingston Elite Pro SD memory card in my testing). In single-frame mode, the camera could snap pictures as fast as I could push the shutter release button. The focusing takes less than a second, even in dim lighting, at wide angle. But at telephoto the focusing can take a little more than a second. And in dim light at telephoto, the camera may fail to focus at all. The shutter lag, when pre-focused, is virtually nonexistent. 


The SD1400 IS has a 2.7-inch non-articulated (fixed) LCD screen. The LCD is large, bright, gains-up in the dark (increases brightness) and is fluid. The resolution of the LCD screen is excellent. And the icons/menus are large, colorful and legible. The LCD coverage is about 100% - you can see exactly what will be recorded, no more, no less.

IS: Image Stabilization 

The IS in the model name stands for image stabilization. It allows you take photos at 1-2 stops slower shutter speed handheld with no blur. This feature is especially useful for smaller cameras at telephoto or/and in low light. In other words, you will be able to take sharper photos in low light or when zoomed in. It worked well and resulted in sharper handheld photos.

Computer Connectivity 

The camera uses USB 2.0 Hi-Speed connection to transfer pictures to a computer. You can also remove the SD memory card and use a memory card reader (if you have one), or use the camera with the USB cable supplied. I did the former since it is more convenient. 


This model has a built-in flash is quite bright for its size. It has a red-eye reduction mode and is sufficient at up to 10-12 feet away. It has a recycle time of about 8-10 seconds. The flash has a red-eye reduction mode and the camera itself features face detection and playback-mode red-eye removal. It works pretty well. 

White Balance 

The camera's automatic white balance is usually quite accurate with the exception of the incandescent lighting, where you are better off either selecting Incandescent white balance setting or using the available manual white balance. The WB of faces was very good.


You let camera focuses using its auto-focusing system augmented with face detection technology. The camera will show you green rectangles over the areas where it focused so that you can confirm the focus areas. There is no manual focusing provision. 

There are also two special focusing modes, accessible at a push of a button: Macro mode and Infinity. Left menu control button lets you access those. 

Movie Mode 

I tried the 640x480 movie mode at 30 fps. The video was fluid and sharp. Although not a replacement for a camcorder, it was certainly usable. And the HDMI out makes viewing on TVs easier than having to deal with A/V cables.

Based on my experience with previous SD-series models, I expect good reliability from this model, provided it is not abused. The assembly quality seems very good.

Battery Life 

I have not fully tested the battery consumption, but after fully charging it, I took more than 130 pictures and the low battery warning has not appeared yet. Canon claims you can take about 230 photos on one battery charge with the LCD, which is adequate. 

Image Quality Settings 

The camera lets you select between several compression levels and resolutions. You can detect occasional JPEG artifacts in the mode of highest compression and some fine detail may be lost (only visible when printing enlargements or viewing at 100% on the computer monitor). But the two lower-compression modes (Fine and Superfine) are rather good and for printing 6x4 or posting online, even the most compressed setting is fine.

Image Quality 

I usually take photos that contain all primary colors at different focal lengths, apertures and compression ratios. Some photos are taken outdoors, some indoors with and without flash. 

Oftentimes, I take a bunch of photos while standing at my window. Those photos features all colors: blue sky, green foliage, red curbs, yellow fire hydrants and cars of different colors. 

Taking photos at different focal lengths and apertures reveals the camera's optical quality: corner sharpness, chromatic aberrations as well as overall sharpness. 

Taking photos at different ISO settings shows how well a given camera can keep noise levels low in dim light. I mostly evaluate the image quality using my computer monitor, but I also print some photos at different sizes using either my printer or online services like Shutterfly, Snapfish and Costco online photo center. 

The SD1400 IS produces good photos, which are well-exposed, mostly sharp, contrasty and richly-colored. The photos have pleasing "Canon" color with slight oversaturation and nice blue skies - the kind of color consumers like. 

Just as the case with previous SD models, the corners of the frame are not as sharp as the center at some focal lengths, notably at full wide angle. This will be mostly unnoticeable in printed pictures since corners normally don't make it to the print due to the aspect ratio difference and other factors. Aside from slightly blurry corners, the photos came out sharp with very pleasing colors.

The image noise is virtually absent at ISO 80 and 100 in shadows, appears (slightly) at the ISO 200, gets more pronounced at ISO 400 and gets worse at ISO 800. The ISO 1,600 pictures are even noisier, to a point where I would not consider using the ISO 1600 and above at all. It is usable at 6x4, but if you look closer you will see that it is somewhat soft and a bit noisy. 

If you are printing 6x4 or 5x7 pictures, the noise should not be visible up to ISO 800. At ISO 80-100, you can print your photos at up to 13x19 inches with good detail and ISO 200-400 should be good up to 10x8. 

Overall, for its size and price, the camera produces pictures that are among the best in class.

On the other hand, if you compare it to an excellent larger camera like Olympus XZ-2, the XZ-2 produces noticeably better pictures, especially if you enlarge them. Same applies to Canon Powershot SX30 IS.

Pros: Image quality, easy to use, well built, price, wide angle, HDMI, image stabilization, fast operation.
Cons: No manual aperture or shutter speed control, blurry corners at wide angle.

Bottom Line 

I like the Canon PowerShot SD1400IS and recommend it if you need a compact, stylish and capable camera. The 14-Megapixel resolution, good optics, image stabilization, features and 2.7-inch LCD screen make it a pleasure to use. And for its size, it produces some of the best-in-class photos.

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