Canon's replacement for the SX170 ditches the superzoom compact styling and goes for an out and out DSLR look.

Canon feels that the superzoom bridge camera is a really interesting area of the market at the moment, and that customers are looking for those really high zooms.

It's certainly true that the bridge camera area seems to bucking the general downward trend of the compact camera market at the moment, probably because of the flexibility the zooms offer compared to a smartphone.

Canon SX400 IS

While the SX170 was a flatter, compact style camera, it also only offered an 18x optical zoom, compared to the now 30x optical zoom offered by the SX400IS.

Like several other Canon compacts, iSX400 IS is also equipped with ZoomPlus technology, boosting that up to 60x. With its 24mm wide angle zoom, the optical reach goes up to 720mm, or 1440mm if you include the digital zoom. ZoomPlus works by rebuilding the pixel count to offer the same resolution as images taken using the optical zoom.

This camera is aimed at the beginner audience, and as such it doesn't have manual control, or the ability to shoot in raw format. It also doesn't have a couple of the more advanced features that you might find in other Canon compacts, such as Hybrid Auto or Creative Shot. There is Program Mode, however, which gives you the ability to change certain parameters such as white balance and sensitivity.

Canon SX400 IS

Like the Canon SX520HS announced at the same time as SX400, the camera has a Digic 4+ processor. This, according to Canon, is 60% quicker when shooting at high ISOs, and 30% quicker at focusing and processing than the standard Digic 4 processor.

Video recording is available, but it's only 720p, rather than full HD.

Build Quality and Handling

Although the SX400 IS has DSLR like styling, it's small size makes it very apparent that it definitely isn't one.

Nevertheless, it has a reasonably sized grip that gives you good purchase, and makes it feel comfortable in the hand when shooting one handed.

On top of the camera, around the shutter release, is a zoom switch for extending and retracting the focal length. It's quite a fluid motion, which is particularly important when working with a large zoom. There's a short pause before the zoom strays into ZoomPlus, good if you want to stick within the optical zoom.

Meanwhile, on the back of the camera there are only a few buttons, which, if you've used a Canon compact before should make you feel at home. There's a standard four way navigational pad, on which each directional key has a set function. Up accesses exposure compensation, down self-timer mode, left focusing mode and right flash mode.

Canon SX400 IS

Other than that, there's not a huge amount of buttons. A quick menu can be accessed by pressing the button in the centre of the navigation pad. This will give you access to settings such as sensitivity and white balance, if you're shooting in Program mode, or settings such as image size if you're using full auto.

Performance

Judging a camera's performance at this stage in the release cycle is difficult, but we generally have high hopes for Canon compacts.

Previously, Canon's SX1XX range was very popular, offering a versatile zoom range in an uncomplicated body. I see no reason why its successor shouldn't offer image quality that is better.

That said, it's also worth bearing in mind that by changing the shape of the camera, Canon effectively changes the audience. Traditional bridge camera buyers may be a little more stringent than the superzoom compact market, so it'll be interesting to see how the camera compares with the likes of others on offer from Panasonic, Sony and the like.

Verdict

Canon seems to have produced another product which is likely to be well liked by those that are in the market for a large zoom, bridge camera style compact camera.

I would like to see Canon experimenting a little more in this area of the market, as this feels like another camera which plays it a little safe. There's no touchscreen, Wi-Fi, or even full HD video recording. On the plus side, this helps to keep the price of the camera reasonably low.

Look out for a full review of the Canon SX400 IS soon.