Friday, April 11, 2014

Canon PowerShot A1400

As if I had not enough cameras by now, a friend and colleague of mine brought to my attention that having a camera that accepts penlite batteries is a good thing to have, e.g. when on a journey.
And yes, that was my creed for a long time. This is why I actually decided to go for a Minolta DiMAGE F200, which I still have. Actually, whilst writing this, I just pulled the camera out of the bag and decided to feature this legacy digital point and shoot in a post of its own, stay tuned, the posts will have a lot in common.

Back to the Canon PowerShot A1400. A camera, running on AA batteries, shooting in RAW... a vacationers digital dream!
The A1400 a dream?! It's the lowest in the rank, buttom of the line and cheapest in price, just pretending to be usable. Some features clearly target late adopters or beginners, such as the optical view-finder (actually more a peephole, honestly) and the ?-button (HEEEEELP! I need somebody's HELP! So pleeeeaaase help meeeeee! - as I said, late adopters!).

Well yeah, on first sight, the A1400 does not really attractive to the untrained tech eye of a photo enthusiast. But, you're fooled!
CHDK will get you!

Yep, that's right, there is an alpha version of CHDK available for this very camera, the camera that runs on AA-cells! How cool is that?!
Not only does the camera record RAW in DNG format, it also is script-able, e.g. for HDR, time-lapse, etc... As long as you, or someone else for that matters, can program it, the camera can do it.

So, could I resist spending such a huge amount of dough to get me one of those? No, of course not! Do I regret buying the A1400? No, not at all (Non, Je ne regrette rien)!

Right, now that we established that the A1400 indeed shows signs of usability, lets have a look at the feature I disrespectfully disliked earlier in this text.

The Viewfinder
Yes, optically, the viewfinder is rubbish! It really is. The eye relieve is so short, you actually have to stick your cornea against the exit pupil, in order to see something.
However, the optical viewfinder allows you to switch the display off, saving precious power. Focus condition is indicated by a green LED next to the optical view finder. That's really good!
The viewfinder employs zoom optics, giving a rough indication of the framing, that good too!
The framing may be pretty off, however, at least you can see, under bright light conditions, w/o any power consumed, what you are aiming at. Big PLUS!
Yep, the optical viewfinder, however rubbish it is, is great!

The ?-Button
Well, this is the first ever camera I owned having a button with a question-mark on it! At the end, this is not too bad at all! The developers of CHDK obviously had similar feelings about the "?" and added an option to activate CHDK by means of pressing it.
Do I like this button now? Yes, you bet, I do!

Overall Feel
There is another Canon P&S in my bag, able to run CHDK, the IXUS-140. The IXUS is a slick device that easily slides into anyone's pockets... a carry about for everyday use. However, when taking the IXUS out of the pocket to actually take a photo, it feels rather fiddly due to the slick design (which made it so pocket-able) and the tiny control.
In contrast thereto, the PowerShot A1400 provides tougher haptics, due to a rougher surface finish. That's a good thing! It almost feels like the camera want to stick to you hand, rather than sliding out of it. Also, the A1400 provides a DSLR-like grip, to wrap your right hand around... 2 AA batteries live in there, the very batteries the camera was bought for in the first place.
All in all, the A1400's handling is very good.

Into Your Face!
And that is a totally different story now!
Humans have either right or left eye dominance. This is something very personal, like right and left handedness.
Contrary to handedness, the eye dominance can the tweaked with much more easily. Originally I have right eye dominance. However, in my past as an astronomer, yep, that's what I studied at Heidelberg, I trained myself to the using either eye for looking into an optical instrument.
And here is why I mention this anyway. The PowerShot A1400 is so small, with the shutter button on the right hand side, that you can only hold the view-finder up to your right eye. Using the left eye is close to impossible, very challenging at least.
Although, nowadays, I prefer to look though a (dSLR-) viewfinder with my left eye, the camera will be used right-eyed by me.

Do I like this camera? Yes, I do, and I like it a lot!
Finally, a cheap point and shoot, which can be use in a braced position, holding the thing against your face. This not only creates this connection between you and the camera, it also greatly reduces shake!
The following shot was taken hand-held at a roundabout, there is actually a cyclist ghosting through the shot in the foreground.
The image confuses me a lot actually. The light show some star-pattern, which would indicate an aperture beyond f/11. At the same tome there is some lens ghosting going on and some odd (non-Bokeh!) blur. It seems the lens is doing something really odd.
The point was, this shot is taken in the braced position and there is very little shake, although the shutter was open long enough to record a ghostly cyclist in the lower right of the photo.

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