Compared to the 350D, the Canon EOS 400D is 1mm deeper and 26 grams heavier. All in all, the camera thus remains a very compact and light-weight digital SLR. The camera's chassis is made of stainless steel, whilst the remaining parts of the housing consist of durable plastic. The mirror housing is made of a type of plastic that is considerably less likely to attract dust. Although it is fair to say quite a bit of plastic has been used, the Canon 400D does not at all feel like a cheap product. We know it is said often, but there really is a difference between plastic and plastic, which is without question a deciding factor when it comes to quality. In my opinion, the Canon 400D feels like a strong and solid camera. Perhaps not as sturdy as a professional EOS 1D Mark II N, yet perfectly up to par for a DSLR camera in this class. A new design and an improved, slightly deeper handgrip result in the fact that the camera is easier and more comfortable to hold, even though 1mm may seem rather trivial at first.
Canon EOS 400D bayonet - EF & EF-S lenses
When looking at the Canon EOS 400D from the front side, you can barely tell it apart from its predecessor. The differences only become noticeable when putting the cameras side to side. The metal bayonet fits both EF and EF-S lenses, which means you are presented with an exceptionally wide choice of lenses. A white dot signals how to position the EF-S lens, whilst the red dot is reserved for the EF lenses. The handgrip holds the receiver for the optional remote control. The auto focus assistance illuminator and indicator for the self-timer are positioned between the handgrip and the bayonet. Right of the bayonet mount, we find the button to flip up the flash, the lens unlock button, and the depth of field control button.
Canon EOS 400D SLR - E-TTL II flash system
When looking at the Canon 400D digital SLR camera from above, we see the flash shoe for external flashes located in the centre. Over the past years, Canon have built quite an extensive assortment of flashes indeed. The EOS 400D supports the E-TTL II system. Right in front of the flash shoe, we find the internal flash. It flips up quite high indeed, so that the lens will not be in the way when using the wide-angle. Unfortunately, the highlighting proves far from perfect; the corners show a considerable loss of light when working in the maximum wide-angle mode. Right of the prism housing, we find the command dial for the exposure programmes. The fully automatic green mode is located in the centre. Below it, we find the pre-programmed basic modes, whilst the other side holds the advanced programmes such as P, S, A and M. Canon refer to this as the creative zone. The command dial is surrounded by the main switch that allows you to activate or deactivate the Canon 400D. On the handgrip, we find the mode dial, and of course the shutter release button, which is easily found by the appropriate finger.
Canon EOS 400D digital reflex - LCD monitor
The large LCD monitor is a dominant feature on the camera's back side. Not only is the 2.5-inch monitor generous in size, it also offers a large viewing angle; in fact, 160 degrees both horizontally and vertically. The transparent screen and improved LEDs ensure the brightness has been increased by another 40% compared to the LCD displays of the EOS 30D, 5D and 1D Mark II N. The second, small status LCD has disappeared; the photographic information is now shown on the large LCD. Right above the LCD, we find an eye sensor. The display is deactivated the moment the camera is positioned in front of the eye. We have seen similar systems with Konica Minolta in the analogue and digital assortment. It goes without saying that the sensor reacts to anything that is positioned in front of it.
This also means, however, that the same thing will occur if you carry the camera around your shoulder; the LCD will switch both on and off. The ocular is positioned at the far top. Contrary to the Nikon D80, which we consider the camera's biggest rival, the Canon EOS 400D offers a small viewfinder view. We must say Canon too really ought to invest a little more effort in this area. However, the viewfinder does display information, in fact, even more than the EOS 350D. The viewfinder features a dioptre-setting, and the rubber can be removed.
Canon EOS 400D D-SLR camera - Buttons
On the left side, we find a row of buttons. As is common with Canon, the blue buttons concern the playback of the image, whilst the white represent the recording. The top button enables you to use the PictBridge; JPEG photos can be printed directly from the camera. Below it, we see the buttons for the various screen renditions and the menu. In addition to this, we find the button to quickly browse through the photos, as well as the image playback button and the indispensable recycle bin. On the other side of the LCD monitor, we find a vertical row, which contains the button for the exposure compensation or the setting of the aperture, the button to set the recording speed, and a small lamp that indicates any reading or writing action on the memory card. The most important photographic functions can be set through buttons that are positioned in a circle. These allow you to quickly adjust the sensitivity, the focus, the white balance and the light metering system. They also serve to navigate through the photo or the menu. The button in the centre enables you to confirm the function adjustments, as well as alter the Picture Styles. This function can be changed to, for instance, the quality. At the far top right, we see the familiar exposure and focus lock, as well as the button to select the focus points.
Canon 400D DSLR - Connections & Memory compartment
The left side of the Canon EOS 400D holds the connections for the A/V Out, the remote control and the USB 2.0 Hi-Speed, all of which are neatly hidden from sight behind a piece of rubber. The opposite side of the camera shows the door for the CompactFlash memory card. Contrary to the Nikon D80 and the Pentax K100D, for instance, the Canon 400D employs the larger cards. This will prove handy for the CompactFlash users that want to make the change to a 400D. On the other hand, the prices of memory cards have become increasingly attractive, which means there shouldn't be a reason to hesitate in any case. A metal tripod mount is located on the bottom side of the camera. Here we also find the lid behind which Canon's renowned Lithium Ion battery is placed. As we have come to expect of a Canon camera, it is neatly finished. Everything closes securely, and the buttons feature pleasant pressure points.