Review: Sony DSC-W300

 
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Published: September 16, 2008 11:00 PM
By Renaud Labracherie / Nilofar Hadjanadjiboudine
Following the pleasant surprise that was the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-W130, it's now time for the DSC-W300 to step up to the plate.  This new model promises even better photos, boasting a sensor loaded with 13.6 Megapixels, a dynamic depth-of-field control and Clear RAW noise management technology … but does it do the job?

Handling

The DSC-W300 is wrapped in a scratch-resistant titanium case, which is the only thing that marks it out from its predecessors, whose sober design and solid frame it inherits.  

The whole thing is a little heavy for a compact, but reassuringly so - this is definitely not a flimsy camera.

On the back, a 2.7 inch LCD screen packs in 230 000 pixels, but if that's not good enough for looking at your photos, there's  a Full HD output for viewing them elsewhere.

One thing that could be improved is the layout of the various controls with the buttons themselves very hard to reach unless you have tiny fingers.  The interface they control is confusing too, and it takes a few days of using the camera to get used to the logic of having some functions controlled by the Home screen and others on the Menu …
Reactivity is not the DSC-W300's strong point.  Switching it on takes almost 2 seconds, and saving an image to the memory card takes this long too.  

Its scores for burst mode are impressive, with the camera reaching up to 5 fps, but this is only at 3 Megapixels.  Bursts that make use of the camera's full 13 Megapixels are only 1.9 fps, which is not actually too bad for such a high resolution.

In good light, the AutoFocus works quickly (0.75 seconds), but is a lot slower in darker conditions.

Image Quality

Packing 13.6 million pixels onto a sensor was always going to result in excellent quality photos.  To make things better, Sony have worked at making the photos even sharper.

Comparing this W300 to the earlier W130, it's clear that the new camera is much better at handling colors, which are now much more accurate.  The whit balancing gives neutral colors without any particular shade dominating, but the result is a little cold.

The Carl Zeiss lens, which only features a 3x zoom, still doesn't offer a wide-angle feature, which is a shame, and if the centre of each image is nice and sharp, the edges are often a little less clear.  

In general, distortion is well handled, although we still spotted a few instances of chromatic aberration and rather noticeable purple fringing in areas with particularly high contrast.

The real strength of this camera, though, is its ability to manage noise, even on very high speed exposures.  Images are impeccably sharp all the way up to 400 ISO and only show a very slight blurriness at higher speeds.  

Despite the increasingly visible graininess, all of the details remain visible.

This graininess shows up when you look at the image on screen, but was very hard to spot when made prints on A4 which offered stunning quality that stood up well to a comparison with the Fujifilm F100fd, our reference in this field up to now.  

The macro mode is acceptable with focusing at 5 cm, but elsewhere, the competition manage to get this down to 1 cm.  

Pairing the ClearRAW noise reduction system with optic stabilization gives good results, even when the camera is held in the hand.

As for video, the results are nothing special given the inability to zoom, but 30 fps is still perfectly acceptable. 

Nevertheless, we remain disappointed to see that it was impossible to shoot video in Full HD. 

Despite the inclusion of an HD output, the sticker on the camera that proudly declares 'Full HD 1920 x 1080 pixels' only applies to still photos … which is about the least you'd expect with over 13 Megapixels …
4/5 Sony DSC-W300 DigitalVersus 2008-09-17 00:00:00

Pros

  • Good electronic noise handling
  • Good color handling
  • AutoFocus performs well in good light
  • Dynamic Range Optimizer mode
  • Manual mode

Cons

  • A little slow to start up
  • No wide angle, only 3x optical zoom
  • Video not in HD
  • AutoFocus very slow in low light
  • HD video cable not supplied

Conclusion

Sony is definitely doing well here. The Cyber-Shot W300 is an attractive product, with a good resolution, excellent electronic noise handling and plenty of other technical innovations. It's only lacking a wide angle zoom lens, and its AutoFocus could be a little faster in lower light. Fixing these two quibbles and adding HD video would make this the perfect digital compact.

OUR SCORE 4/5
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