Canon PowerShot A3400 IS: Just Misses Out

 

 

Canon PowerShot A3400 IS

Canon PowerShot A3400 IS

Canon’s tagline to promote the PowerShot A3400 IS reads, “It’s more fun when it’s easy!” Raj Lalwani sees if the fun translates to a worthy buy, as well.

Despite the fact that I own a mirrorless camera and a high-end DSLR, my parents enjoy using a point-and-shoot camera at any family outing. Even for a serious amateur, the freedom offered by a tiny, pocketable camera can be quite liberating.

Features
When I unboxed this 16MP camera, my initial reactions were a little mixed. I was pleased to see the fact that the 5x zoom lens starts at a very useful 28mm. Not just that, the camera is optically stabilised, which is something that one does not always see at this budget price point. However, the lens is not exactly fast as the maximum aperture available at the telephoto end is as slow as f/6.9!

In practical use, this necessitated the use of a higher ISO to avoid blurry shots. In several shooting situations where I might have used another compact camera at ISO 400, I ended up using ISO 800.

Shooting with the camera is quite a smooth process, with one button that allows you to access several modes. The complete Auto and Program modes are supplemented by several fun Scene modes. The good thing about these Scene Modes is that Canon offers the same amount of customisability as it does with more expensive compact cameras.

For instance, the Toy Camera mode has three different Lomo-like looks—one being a normal, vignetted photograph, another being a cold, blue-toned setting and a third being a warm, greenish look. Live View Control is a very smartly designed mode that allows the user to fine tune the exact look of an image, even if he does not understand technical concepts like White Balance, saturation, exposure and so on.

I missed the Nostalgia Scene mode that is present in the Canon S-series of cameras and the B&W images that it can create… the Monochrome mode of the A3400 is just not good enough. Also, in 2012 when almost every brand has an in-camera panorama shooting mode, Canon still lags behind.

The quality of the 720p video is quite good while shooting in bright light, but one cannot use optical zoom while recording footage. This is something that a lot of new budget compact cameras are able to do, so I did feel a little shortchanged. The camera uses a Li-ion battery and the battery life was quite impressive, for a small compact camera like this.

Handling
Yes, it is small, but this PowerShot is certainly not as small as some of Sony and Samsung’s sleek offerings. This, I think, is a good thing. The camera feels quite sturdy and once you get used to the placement of buttons, the whole shooting process becomes quite intuitive.

While the menu is very well designed in a typical Canon style, there is a slight lag whenever you change a mode or setting. The touchscreen functionality is a good addition, but does not reach up to cell phone standards yet. The camera also has physical buttons, so it does a good job of attracting different kinds of users.

Performance
Up to ISO 400, the quality of the A3400 IS images impresses. This has a lot to do with the impressive optics, which deliver extremely sharp and detailed images at the lowest ISOs. I will not want to use a setting higher than ISO 800 though. Even at ISO 800, the details get quite smudgy, but the quality is good enough for making small prints—which is well suited to the target audience of the camera.

The images produced are quite punchy, and the colours, pleasing. The amount of latent detail that is present in the shadows is excellent, but the metering has a tendency to blow out the highlights.

Conclusion
If I was asked to use this camera, I would actually be quite pleased. It is not perfect by any means, but it has some fun modes and the quality is quite good. But I will hesitate to spend Rs. 9995 on the A3400 IS, mainly because the camera has some stiff competition in its home camp itself.

The PowerShot A2400 IS is almost identical—it just does not have a touchscreen, and is Rs. 2000 cheaper. Alternatively, you may want to spend a little more and buy the A4000 IS, which has a faster lens and 8x zoom. The A3400 IS, fun little camera that it is, is currently in no man’s land.

The sharpness and tonality of the images is very good. -0.3EV usually gives best results. Exposure: 1/640sec at f/4 (ISO 200). Photograph/Raj Lalwani

The sharpness and tonality of the images is very good. -0.3EV usually gives best results. Exposure: 1/640sec at f/4 (ISO 200). Photograph/Raj Lalwani

Final Ratings
Features
Image stabilisation, no panorama mode, useful Scene modes
24/30

Performance
Sharp, metering tends to overexpose, excessive noise reduction at high ISOs
27/35

Build Quality
Sturdy considering its price
12/15

Ergonomics
Menu has a lag, touch AF works well
12/15

Warranty & Support
Widest service network in the country
4/5

OVERALL: 79%

Value For Money: 2.5/5

Who should buy it? Those who want a good budget camera, but are insistent on having touchscreen functionality.

Why? While the A3400 IS produces good results, the A2400 IS is nearly identical, minus the touchscreen. Alternatively, we would recommend spending a little more to get a far better camera like the A4000 IS.

Tags: Camera review, canon compact camera, canon powershot a3400 is, Raj Lalwani, september 2012