Cameras

Canon PowerShot A2400 IS Review

The A2400 IS is a small, lightweight point-and-shoot ideally suited to travel or general daytime shooting.

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Introduction

The Canon A2400 IS is a compact point-and-shoot model from Canon that houses a 5x optical zoom lens, a 16-megapixel CCD sensor, a 2.7-inch LCD monitor, and an optical image stabilizer. In order to boil this mouth-full of specs down to what really counts, we sent this camera off to the lab.

The A2400 is part of Canon's "A" series, a group of entry-level compact cameras designed for beginners and casual photographers, and that's why we were surprised to find that—in certain light anyways—image quality is one of this camera's main selling points. The A2400 is available in silver, pink, blue, or black beginning in March for $159.99.

Design & Usability

Control freaks need not apply.

As with other A-series cameras, the A2400 IS is all about basic controls and simple design. This camera is not for the enthusiast. If you tire quickly in a tangle of options, if the mere thought of an aperture makes your face hurt, if filters anger you, if you just want to point and shoot, then this device is for you. The control layout is simple. Options are as streamlined as possible. Users will find a dedicated "help" button that cuts straight to an informative menu where key features are explained. Then, there are two menus: the main menu and the function set menu. The former is replete with the more complicated options like autofocus method, red-eye settings, memory card formatting, and the like. The function set menu just pulls up over your image as you're framing, giving you access to shooting mode, exposure compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity, and other shooting settings.

There are no specifically designed ergonomic features.

Physically speaking, the low profile buttons, including the zoom toggle and the video record key, are difficult to press. This problem is compounded by the lack of any audible click to signal activation. These frustrating buttons are such that the intuitive menu system fails to shine as it otherwise could. The camera body itself is very lightweight, but it has no grip to speak of, so a full day of shooting really isn't optimal. Since there are no specifically designed ergonomic features, aside from a dubious lip beside the LCD, this camera is best used for quick, casual snapshots—not all day shooting.

Features

Canon swaps fun for simplicity

Part of designing an effective budget camera involves stripping away unnecessary features. Canon has certainly done that with this handy, bare-boned ultracompact. Its lens is a basic 5x optical zoom, with optical image stabilization and a focal range of 5-25mm (35mm equivalent: 28-140mm). The image sensor is a 16-megapixel CCD with a native ISO range of 100-1600. The rear display is a standard 2.7-inch, 230k-dot resolution LCD that doubles as a viewfinder, and there is also a standard, built-in flash unit.

Scene modes are scarce compared to what Canon normally offers.

This PowerShot keeps things simple in terms of shooting and creative control too. Shooting modes are divided between Auto and...well, everything else. Priority modes are not supported, so the best way to fine-tune exposure is with exposure compensation, which moves in standard +/- intervals. Scene modes are scarce compared to what Canon normally offers, but fun options like poster effect and monochrome are there if you need them. It's no surprise that RAW encoding is not supported, but users may not specify JPEG compression quality either. The absence of even a reduced resolution burst mode is disappointing, and continuous shooting mode is a substitute, but it's a slow-poke. Filters? Color modes? No and no—the baby went out with the bathwater. As for video, it isn't HD, and users should anticipate the mediocre equal of other competitors in this price range.

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Performance

Noise ruins what would otherwise have been a staggering performance.

Much to our surprise, image quality turned out to be one of the key selling points of this camera. Noise reduction is too aggressive, but sharpness is excellent. Color accuracy performance blew us away. This kind of color isn't just outstanding for this price range—this is great color for any price range. Resolution was acceptable too, and the image stabilization feature actually went a long way. We recommend leaving this on at all times in order to capture the sharpest possible images.

Were it not for the lackluster noise performance, the A2400 would've been one of the best deals we've ever seen.

Were it not for the lackluster noise performance, the A2400 would've been one of the best deals we've ever seen. This model clearly isn't reliable in low light. Noise interrupts images even at the lowest ISO setting. By ISO 400, noise starts to look ugly, and at ISO 1600, pictures are unprintable. It's a shame, given the rest of the performance scores. The A2400's limited ISO range is a step in wrong direction, and though it's capable of up to ISO 6400, this requires the Low Light scene mode, which cuts resolution down to 4 megapixels.

Conclusion

The A2400 IS leaves shoppers with numerous trade-offs to weigh.

For a little over a hundred and fifty bucks, you could do a lot worse than the Canon PowerShot A2400 IS. Whether a manufacturer is designing an entry-level point-and-shoot like this one, or a high-end professional grade DSLR, we appreciate attention to the target audience. Design on the A2400 is at least self-aware, and, in this sense, it's a strong addition to the low end.

This little camera's performance is quite excellent in some ways. Color accuracy is particularly impressive, easily beating the results of even some cameras at many times the price point. Resolution, while marred by some pretty obvious light distortion, is above average, and resulted in some very detailed, lifelike sample photos. Sadly though, this model's noise reduction software is highly destructive, obliterating some of the detail enabled by the sharp lens, and this is true even at the minimum ISO. Don't expect to use this camera in low light—period. We were also very annoyed by the poorly designed rear control panel, which was too shallow and difficult to operate, and which more or less ruined the camera's highly intuitive menu system. The lack of a burst mode is also disappointing, and while continuous shooting is available, it's too slow to function as intended.

Poor low light performance makes this camera a bad choice for that night out at the bar, but for other young or beginner customers, the A2400 IS represents a great value for general daytime use. The slim, lightweight design is highly portable and suited to travel. If you don't need an extra long zoom, and if you're willing to withstand annoying controls in exchange for a low price, this camera should be a finalist in your purchase decision.

Science Introduction

Test results had everyone very excited for the A2400 IS... that is, until we arrived at the noise performance results. Noise factors ruined an otherwise unbelievable deal. Color was just outstanding and sharpness looked nice too, but in low light, this camera crumbled.

Color Accuracy and Sharpness

Color accuracy is absolutely outstanding—above average in this price range or any other—and sharpness held up too.

Color accuracy is one of the most impressive features of the A2400. In our test, it recorded an error value of only 2.29, that's way below the 3.00 average. Saturation was also nearly perfect, over by only 3.3%. Most flesh tones except bright yellow were quite accurate, while the worst problem areas were blues and reds, minor as those inaccuracies were.

The A2400 is not sharp throughout the frame, not by a long shot. However, resolution is very strong at the center of the frame, and this brought the score up more than we would've expected. At the closest focal length, we recorded detail levels over 2600 MTF50's, though that figure could drop down below 600 at the maximum zoom. We often see this trend in travel zoom and ultrazoom cameras, since those lenses are really pushed to their limit. In this case, the lens just seems to be on the cheaper side, so it is certainly possible to achieve very sharp images with this affordable camera, but you'll need to zoom all the way out and keep your subjects centered.

Low Light Performance and Noise Reduction

Low light performance is unusually poor and reduction software as a whole is too aggressive.

While we were pleasantly surprised by the A2400's color accuracy and, to a lesser extent, its resolution of detail, noise reduction was a bit of a flop. With a maximum ISO of only 1600, this model clearly isn't intended for much low light use, and its performance confirms this. Noise rates are never less than 1.00%, even at the minimum ISO, and by ISO 400 noise rates already hit an ugly 1.50%. Finally, at 1600 noise peaks at an unprintable 2.15%.

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