I bought a 400D about three weeks ago and I must say that I love it. Let me tell you what I like about it and then you can make up your mind.
My intention was to buy a 5D, but when this camera was announced with the SELF CLEANING SENSOR thing, I thought that maybe I should wait for the new generation 5D that will also have sensor cleaning. From my experience with the 5D and from reading on this forum, the 5D is very prone to dust problems. So I am waiting for the new 5D or whatever they come out with in the mean time. It is Photo-Kina week so lets see…
However having said that, I needed a new camera, I had been shooting with a well used 10D, it has shot close to 100,000 frames and had the shutter replaced once and is about to need to have it done again (Error 99), it is making that funny noise that says ‘I am tired, retire me’…
So the 400D at the very low price it is was the natural choice. Once I get the new 5D?? The 400D will become my backup.
So, now that that is out of the way, let me tell you how it feels to use this camera. It is light, very light always welcome to me and one of the things I love about it. I just shot a five day conference, 12 hour days and I must say the reduction in weight is welcome. I must add, you need to get the optional battery grip to turn it into a real camera, without it is is just too small…
The controls on the back are wonderful and changing between ISO, WB, Meter Mode and Shutter Mode is a breeze and very intuitive, much better than the controls on the 10D, 20D or 5D, it is just very good quick way to change function, and the large display screen is great. I found myself easily switching ISO and WB without even having to look at the screen, very intuitive, I hope they move to this style of mode selection with the next generation cameras. I must say I do miss the dial wheel on the back, I only shoot in full manual and finding and using the Av button to set the aperture is not the easiest.(Does anyone know if it is possible to change the settings so that the aperture is controlled by the shutter wheel next to the shutter, basically switch the functions???)
What else do I like; the display that shows RGB histograms, instead of just the levels, this is great as you can easily judge if you are over exposing skin tones etc… A very useful addition. Also the LCD screen is very good to preview your images, you can zoom right in to see details and check you focus. Ah yes, how could I forget. The focusing.
This 400D focuses and locks on to a focus in a breeze. The 9 point AF works a treat. I love the 10D focus, think the 20D is terrible, the 5D is pretty good, but this 400D takes the cake. Last year I got rid of a 20D as did several of my colleges as the focus mechanism just does not do a good job, especially in low light. Well I am happy to report that the 400D has no such issues. Of the 5000 frames I shot last week at this conference, I would say 99% are focused properly even in low light.
Getting to low light, as with any new camera release it is as yet unsupported for Adobe Camera RAW plug in for CS2… This is a real pain as I had to shoot RAW-L for the whole time I was shooting this job as the stock opportunities are great and I have to have my files in RAW, but I also had to give the client a CD everyday with the shots from that day so… I have 6 flash cards totaling 10GB, I was having to unload them all everyday… I filled the drive on my laptop and had to burn DVs and dump the RAW files so I could unload more. In the end I shot over 30GB of images… (yes I am having fun with the edit)… My point was. I have yet to really see what the level of low light noise is with this camera. I was shooting mostly at 400ISO and with the in camera jpg compression, there is a level of noise that is slightly noticeable, especially on images that are underexposed. Once I have Camera Raw I will be able to comment further, but for now I would say noise is similar to that of the 10D, which is not really that bad.
Last thing. Shooting speed, one of my major complaints with the 10D was the speed that it wrote images to the Flash card, shoot 10 frames and wait a minute for it to write. The 400D is about 100x faster than the 10D. There was only one occasion where I had to wait for it to clear the buffer and I was pretty well shooting continuous. Then I had to wait maybe 10seconds for it to clear and give me another frame, then when I gave it a chance to breath say 30 seconds the buffer was clear. It is not as fast as a 5D by any means, but it is fast enough.
Well, maybe I should right a book, but suffice to say, if you are looking for a great second body, or even a light weight travel body the 400D is a great option and at US$7?? You just can’t beat the price… I am very happy with mine.
Oh, one last thing. It had dust on the sensor when I took it out of the box and shot the first few frames with it. I cleaned it the same way I clean my other cameras (Pec Pads and Eclipse) and it seems to be fine now. I will update you all on this once I shoot some studio stuff with it…
Update 5 days later after having a look at the shots with Adobe LightRomm Beta, I can see that the low light noise level on this camera is as significant as on the 10D, 20D… At 400 is slightly underexposed conditions there was a significant amount of noise. LightRoom is able to take care of most of it and then launches the images straight into CS2. LightRoom is like Camera Raw, comdined with a very Aperture like interface. First impressions of this very impressive software.