Although this camera is aimed at beginners and lacks almost all manual controls found on more sophisticated models, it does offer a little creative control. For those beginners with a long-range goal of pursuing photography, Live mode is where your artistic eye gets to play, rather than relying simply on scene modes.
Similar to how Program mode allows you manually select some settings, Live mode allows you to tweak the color temperature, color saturation, and brightness of the image (shown above). By pressing the downward position (display) on the four-way control in Live mode, you are given the above menu to adjust to your taste. Almost all other settings are automatic.
Oddly, the focus range setting can be changed in Live mode, which has one of three settings: macro, normal (default), or infinity. It's an odd setting - in normal mode the camera automatically chooses macro for nearby subjects and adjusts to focus on far-away subjects (infinity). Navigating the menu to change this setting seems more trouble than simply learning that you can set your auto focus by placing the AF box on your subject, locking focus, then reframing the shot while keeping the shutter button pressed halfway.
In Program mode you can adjust the ISO setting from 100 up to 1600, to help you get a shot in low-light conditions without using the flash.
However, indoor shots I took at just ISO 640 definitely suffered from a lot of digital noise. You can plainly see this on the Samples page test shots of the M&M man - even at a very modest ISO settings, a lot of digital noise appears in the images. These test shots, because they are taken with the camera mounted on a tripod, should not have any anti-shake processing artifacts. But the noise can't even be blamed on high ISO alone. The daytime test shots of the movie theater also show significant noise when viewed at 100 percent. My daytime indoor shots taken at ISO 200 suffered from significant digital noise that was visible when viewing the entire image onscreen. At 100%, the noise was very obtrusive.
Unlike many other cameras, ISO does not have a position on the four-way control. You must select it from the menu launched by the function/set button at the center of the four-way control.
Like the ISO setting, white balance is not given a position on the four-way control. You have to press the function/set button at the center of the four-way control to launch the settings menu, then navigate to it (provided you are in Program mode).
White balance menu:
- Fluorescent H (for daylight fluorescent lighting)
When you press the center button of the four-way control in shooting mode (functions/settings) a column of icons glides in from the left side of the screen. A second column to its right displays the options.
Shown above is the shooting mode selection Digital IS, your first choice after the previously mentioned Program and Live modes. Digital IS claims to reduce camera blur by shooting in continuous mode, then combining the images to create a composite image that's sharper than if you had simply shot one frame. Whether this works as promised was hard to determine. When I took two shots indoors to compare, one taken in Program mode was shot at ISO 500 while in Digital IS mode the camera selected ISO 1600. Fine detail did look a little sharper at full magnification on the LCD, but considering the large amount of digital noise obscuring the details anyway, I can't call it a big improvement.
The camera manual does not refer to scene modes. Rather it refers to shooting modes, probably because this camera combines in one menu what some other cameras split into scene modes and effects. There are 16 selections in this menu.
Shooting modes menu:
- Live View Control
- Digital IS (composite image to reduce blur)
- Face self-timer
- Low light
- Fisheye effect
- Miniature effect
- Toy camera effect
- Super vivid
- Poster effect
- Long shutter
The Face Self-Timer mode worked as advertised in my testing, using facial recognition to begin a countdown to shutter trip. This is most helpful when you want to setup the camera on a tripod or other stable surface, then join your friends for a group photo without having to race against the clock of a set 2-second or 10-second timer, for example.
The Eco feature occupies a prominent position on the four-way control, at 9 o'clock. This makes it easy to stretch your battery life by minimizing the LCD screen's use. In Eco mode, the screen goes dark after two seconds of inactivity in shooting mode. How many more photos this will get you with a pair of AA batteries was not specified at press time. But, in our informal testing, it looked as if the extra mileage could deliver impressive battery life. Using a mix of standard mode and Eco mode, and a mix of flash and no-flash shots, I captured more than 400 photos with the included AA alkaline batteries.
The A1400 offers a fair assortment of customizable settings for a bargain camera, including continuous auto focus, intelligent contrast correction, and auto focus point zoom.
- AF Frame: Face AiAF, Normal, Center
- Digital zoom: On, Off
- AF-Point Zoom: On, Off
- Servo AF: On, Off
- Continuous AF: On, Off
- Lamp Setting: On, Off
- Red-Eye Correction: On, Off
- i-Contrast: Auto, Off
- Review image after shooting:
- Display time: Off, quick, 2 sec., 4 sec., 8 sec., hold
- Display info: Off, Detailed
- Blink detection: On, Off
- Grid lines: On, Off
- Date stamp: Off, date, date and time
The setup menu is where you make more routine settings changes such as to volume, LCD brightness, file numbering scheme, and date and time.
The camera records video at either 1280 x 720 at 25 fps (high definition) or 640 x 480 at 30 fps (standard definition). Video quality is not tops, as you can see in the movie sample on the Samples Page. In particular, though you can zoom during video recording, the camera uses only digital zoom, not optical zoom, which results in progressively lower video quality the more you zoom in.