Sony MVCCD400 CD Mavica 4MP Digital Camera w/3x Optical Zoom

Sony MVCCD400 CD Mavica 4MP Digital Camera w/3x Optical Zoom SONY Mavica MVCCD500

May 2003 - September 2009

4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD! - Click here for details!

4X4 ICON 2000 - 2008 The DVD!

One piece of gear that I always bring with me is a camera.  For quite some time I have always brought one 35mm or another, and also my JVC video camera.  I like good cameras and so it's always a balance between risk of camera damage and good pictures.  So far I have been lucky - no cameras have been injured in the making of the trip reports!  No matter what the type, I recommend bringing a camera with you on the trail, even if it is a throw-away model.

I have been involved in photography since I was a kid.  I started with clones of Kodak Instamatics.  My Dad has an Argus C-3 that always fascinated me. 

Argus C-3

He made super pictures with it and I knew that one day I would get myself a 35mm.  The time came when I had a reason:  I got myself assigned as the yearbook photographer for my high school class.  My friend in the class ahead of me had an Asahi Pentax Spotmatic that his brother bought for him while overseas.

Honeywell Pentax ES IIAsahi Pentax Black Spotmatic

He brainwashed me into thinking it was the only 35mm camera worth owning.  Short of hardcore scientific work, or heavy-duty expedition shooting, it remains a standard by which others are compared.  Until recently, I have concentrated my entire 35mm system around the Spotmatic family of cameras.  I have never been disappointed with the results they produce and the Super-Multi-Coated Takumar lenses made by Asahi Optical Company in Japan are outstanding.  I use other cameras with larger film sizes, but for my trips with the Jeep, the small cameras remain the tool of choice.

Be that as it may, most of my trip reports were fairly major productions.  I would have to supply myself with film prior to the trip.  Then I would be loading the camera in the woods, usually once or twice, depending on the day.  Then when we returned from the trip, I would bring the film to be processed.  When it came back, I would then have to scan all the images, three at a time, crop, adjust and save them to disk.  Then do the web page stuff.  It could take two days worth of work just to get the photos done.  Meanwhile I saw people whipping out their digital cameras and posting their pictures a few minutes after they got home.  In many cases, the image quality produced by the cameras was inferior, but just the ability to get the pictures up was  very attractive to me.

I started using our JVC video camera to shoot limited digital images. 

It has the ability to shoot and store up to 20 - 320 x 240 digital images.  In some cases, these images were sufficient to document out trips.  But like other low-end digital cameras, the picture quality was not up to my standards.  I used it, but I wanted something better.

Eventually, I realized that my other photographic work was being slowed by using film, with the same process and scan delay, not to mention the associated work to get digital images ready for use on the computer.  I had to get a higher quality digital solution that would solve this problem.

My friend Hugh showed up one day with a nice little SONY that stores the images on a CD.  Another time, Hector came with his camera, the same as Hugh's.  I checked the features and the image quality and decided that it would work for what I was doing.  At the time I was lusting after the Pentax ist-D digital SLR, that will work with my Pentax lenses, but I shall have to wait for the budget to accommodate it.  (I didn't realize it until I looked closer, that although my lenses would work with an adapter, they would no longer have the same effective focal lengths.  In the end that's what ended my interest in Pentax digital cameras.  I decided to move to Canon...)

Pentax ist-D Digital SLR - Click to Read a Review

In the meantime, the SONY worked just fine!

The difference in production time is staggering.  No sooner than I have a free moment after our trip, I pop the CD in my computer and save the images to my hard drive.  That's it.  I am done with what used to take two days of errands and a night of scanning!  This is great.  The camera has some limitations - it requires batteries, is fairly delicate, and has a lens that is limited in it's ability to provide wide angle and telephoto features.  But overall, it works well for a high-end snap shooter.  And it makes tolerable movies with sound!

Paul and Tom and the camera - click to enlarge

Now, I can shoot to my heart's content.  I bring one or two blank CD's (counting the CD in the camera, that gives me room for about 2700 pictures sized 1600 x 1200.  Each CD costs about 50 cents.  I carry an extra battery.  On long trips, I bring the charger and the power inverter.  I try to keep the camera clean and dry and so far have not dropped it.  Hugh says dropping it will cause problems with reading CD's from the camera on the computer.  I'll take his word for it!

Features and Specifications

The unique feature of Sony's CD400 Mavica is a built-in mini-CD recorder, a clever solution that simultaneously provides affordable portable memory and long-term archival storage. The camera also features a 4-megapixel sensor, a 3x optical zoom Carl Zeiss lens, a jumbo 2.5-inch display, and long-life rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

Optics and Resolution
The CD400's 4-megapixel sensor captures a tremendous amount of detail, allowing sharp 11-by-14-inch prints with pixels to spare. If you're currently using a high-quality 35mm point-and-shoot, expect to see as much detail in your digital pictures as you currently see in your film photos.

A 3x Carl Zeiss optical zoom lens (34-102mm equivalent) helps you to capture exactly the picture you want, and an additional 2x digital zoom (6x total) further magnifies your image. Remember, however, that digital zoom tends to reduce the sharpness and detail of your image, so it's best used sparingly. In low-light situations (a particular weakness for many digital cameras), a focus-assist lamp sends out a small patterned beam to help the camera accurately determine distance.

To save space, there's no traditional optical viewfinder to look through. Instead, to compose your images or review shots you've already taken, the CD400 uses a 2.5-inch color display. The advantage to using the LCD to frame your shots is that the screen lets you see exactly the picture you'll capture. The disadvantage is that you can't turn off the screen and just use the optical viewfinder to extend battery life. Fortunately, the included rechargeable battery holds a relatively good charge.

More Features
The engineers at Sony have gone out of their way to make it as easy as possible to share your images online. For example, the e-mail mode stores a lower-resolution version of your picture on the disc in a separate folder from the full-size version. This compact file lacks the detail of the original, but has a small file size, making it ideal for e-mail attachments. In addition, a video e-mail mode captures highly compressed, less-detailed movie clips that are also small enough to easily e-mail. With the time, expertise, and the right software, owners of any digital camera can create these more compact files on their home computers, but Sony saves you this trouble.

More advanced photographers will appreciate manual focus, a 14-bit A/D processor that captures more gradations in color than most digital cameras, and an uncompressed TIFF mode for recording the highest-quality photos.

The CD400 uses Sony's excellent InfoLithium battery system, which not only holds a respectable charge, but also displays on screen how many minutes of power remain. Both the battery and the charger are included. Because the battery is unique to specific Sony models and can be nearly impossible to find when on the road, we strongly recommend getting a spare if you're planning to take the camera on extended outings.

Movie Mode
In movie mode, the camera captures video clips with sound at resolutions up to 320 x 240 pixels. Unlike most digital cameras, the length of each video is limited only by the amount of memory left on the CD. The limited resolution of these clips guarantees that this feature won't replace your camcorder, but it's perfect for when you just want to capture a quick movie and e-mail it to a friend or relative.

Storage and Transfer
With a traditional digital camera, images are stored on memory cards, then transferred to your computer via a cable or card reader, and ultimately archived by recording on a CD-R or other high-capacity medium. Sony's CD Mavicas simplify this process by recording images directly to CD, using a 3-inch miniature CD recorder integrated into the back of the camera (hence the camera's rounded shape). These discs are substantially smaller than traditional 5-inch CDs, and only hold about one-fourth as much information (156 MB instead of 650 MB), but this is still enough space to store over 60 photos at the camera's highest-quality compressed mode. Note:  It is possible and even recommended to use the higher-capacity 256 MB Pocket CD-R's that are widely available!  Singly, each disc costs a couple of dollars. To transfer pictures to your computer, simply remove the disc from the camera and insert it into your computer's CD-ROM drive. Unlike images recorded on memory cards, pictures taken on a CD-R are permanently burned into the disc, instantly providing a digital "negative" for archiving your photos.

If you prefer to transfer your images in the traditional way, just use an erasable/re-recordable CD-RW disc and connect the camera to your computer with the included USB cable. After transferring the images, you can erase the CD-RW disc to ready it for another batch of photos.

At 5.5 by 3.75 by 4 inches, and 23 ounces, you won't slip this one into your shirt pocket, but it's still one of the smallest disc-based cameras available. The CD400 fits nicely into most SLR camera carrying cases.

Contents and Recommended Accessories
The package includes the CD400 camera, NP-FM50 battery, AC-L10 cable for in-camera charging, six 3-inch CD-R discs, one 3-inch re-recordable CD-RW, shoulder strap, AV cable, USB cable, and software on CD.

Everything you need to get started is included in the box, but we recommend these accessories to make the most of your camera: a carrying case, additional 3-inch CD-R or CD-RW discs, and a second battery (especially if you're taking the camera on extended trips). Compatible accessories for this camera are listed near the top of this page. --Shane Burnett


  • Integrated CD recorder provides inexpensive storage and image archiving
  • Big 2.5-inch screen makes it easy to preview and review photos
  • E-mail modes make it easy to share your photos electronically



Product Specifications
  • Maximum image resolution: 2272 x 1704
  • Image resolution options: High: 2272 x 1704
  • Image resolution options: Medium: 1600 x 1200
  • Image resolution options: Low: 640 x 480
  • Maximum CCD resolution: 4.1 megapixels
  • CCD size: 0.555
  • Optical viewfinder: No
  • LCD screen size: 2.5 inches
  • Aperture: F/2.0 (wide)/2.5 (tele) - 8.0
  • Optical zoom: 3x
  • Digital zoom: 2x
  • Lens construction: Glass, Carl Zeiss lens
  • Compatible memory types: 3-inch CD-R and CD-RW
  • Onboard memory: None
  • Max. photos at highest quality: 9
  • Max. photos at lowest quality: 1288
  • Image type(s): JPEG
  • Uncompressed mode: TIFF
  • ISO film-speed equivalency: Auto, 100, 200, 400
  • Macro focus range: 1.6 - 20.4 inches
  • Shutter speed range: 8 seconds to 1/1000 seconds
  • Autofocus system: TTL, contrast detection
  • Manual focus: 0.1 meters to infinity in 13 steps
  • Focus range: 20.4 inches to infinity
  • Shutter priority mode: Yes
  • Aperture priority mode: Yes
  • Main exposure mode: Yes
  • Spot metering mode: Yes
  • Manual exposure mode: Yes
  • Programmed exposure modes: Yes
  • Manual white balance mode: Yes
  • Built-in flash: Yes
  • Red-eye reduction: Yes
  • Fill-flash (forced flash): Yes
  • Flash-off mode: Yes
  • Night portrait (flash synch) mode: Yes
  • Hot shoe for external flash: Yes
  • Black and white: Yes
  • Solarized: Yes
  • Movie mode: Yes
  • Max. movie length: --
  • Audio recording: Yes
  • Burst mode or continuous shooting: Yes
  • Frames/sec in burst mode: 2 frames per second
  • Self timer: Yes, 10 second delay
  • Remote included: No
  • Special effects: Sepia, negative art, solarize, and black and white
  • Splashproof: No
  • Other special features: Magnesium alloy front, and high-impact plastic back
  • Compatible systems: PC, Mac
  • Mac system requirements: OS 10.0/10.1
  • PC system requirements: Windows 98, 98SE, Me, 2000 Pro, XP Home/Pro
  • Software included: Pixela ImageMixer for Sony v1.0
  • USB output: Yes
  • Video output: Yes
  • Battery requirements: Infolithium rechargeable battery
  • Body type: Point-and-shoot
  • Included in box: Infolithium rechargeable battery (NP-FM50), AC Adaptor/in-camera charger (AC-L10), A/V and USB cables, lens cap w/strap, shoulder strap, CD-ROM with Pixela ImageMixer for Sony v1.0, USB driver, 1 GB of CD media (6 CD-R and 1 CD-RW)
  • Width: 5.4 inches
  • Height: 3.7 inches
  • Depth: 4 inches
  • Weight: 22.6 ounces (1.4 pounds)
  • Warranty, labor: 90 days
  • Warranty, parts: One year


Pictures on this site were made with the following cameras:
Camera Make/Model
October 2009 - Present -
Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Canon EOS 5d Mark II with Battery Grip BG-E6

November 2008 - September 2009  -
SONY Mavica MVCCD500

May 2003 - November 2008 -
SONY Mavica MVCCD400

March 2001 - May 2003 - 
JVC JVC GR AXM 700 with digital still feature
Asahi Pentax Spotmatic
Asahi Pentax Spotmatic (Black)
Asahi Pentax Spotmatic II
Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic II
Asahi Pentax Spotmatic F
Spotmatic F and Super-Multi-Coated Takumar 50mm f/1.4
Asahi Pentax ESII
Pentax ES II






Some up-to-date choices:


Recommended Starter Items for Canon PowerShot




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