Kyocera Finecam SL300R Review

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Steve's Conclusion

Evaluating the Kyocera Finecam SL300R is like judging a figure skating competition; both technical merit and style must be equally considered. The unique design, light weight, and small size of the all metal body allow it to be worn as a wardrobe accessory, turning heads as well as photographing them. This stylish body houses a very functional 3.2-megapixel imager and a swiveling 3X zoom Kyocera lens. The SL300R provides several modes of operation including Standard, Scene, and Aperture Priority. There are 6 Scene modes available, covering most shooting conditions this camera will be used in. The point-n-shoot automation of Standard Mode can be altered using the camera's menu system, allowing you to set White Balance, metering mode, focusing mode, exposure compensation, ISO, sharpness and color saturation. Therefore, the SL300R is suitable for the beginner through intermediate photographer.

Because it has no optical viewfinder, Kyocera used an exceptional color LCD as the viewfinder for the SL300R; it's among the best that we have used in the bright Florida sun. In addition to a brightness control, the 1.5-inch LCD incorporates "Day Fine" technology which uses available sunlight to intensify the viewfinder's display, allowing images to be previewed and reviewed outdoors without consuming battery power for an LCD back light. The viewfinder is also used to navigate the logically-organized menu system and change camera settings.

The SL300R's shooting performance is exceptional by consumer digicam standards. From power-on till the first image was captured measured under 3 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, was 2/10 second when pre-focused, and 1 second including autofocus time; the LCD viewfinder contributed about 1/10 second to the shutter lag results. Shot-to-shot delay averaged about 2 seconds, while continuous shooting mode captured 4 frames per second with the number of shots limited only by the remaining free space on the cameras SD memory card. This remarkable performance is enabled by "Rapid Tuning Technology", claimed by Kyocera to be the world's fastest continuous capture mode. These timings were obtained using a Lexar 256 MB SD memory card, with the camera set for an image size of 2048x1536 at Fine quality with flash off, and include viewfinder delay, photographer response time, and image capture - they are numbers you can reproduce in the real world. Importantly, its LCD viewfinder remained usable during continuous shooting, allowing you to follow the action while capturing images. Using the Kyocera SL300R, you'll rarely miss spontaneous photo ops, and its performance will help you capture action sequences.

I was pleased with the SL300R's outdoor results. The zoom range of 38-115mm in 35mm-equivalence provides plenty of flexibility for shot composition, and produces sharp images throughout its range. Colors were nicely balanced and richly saturated. I did notice a typical amount of chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in high-contrast area in the telephoto range of the zoom lens.

Indoors, your shooting will be limited to small rooms and portraits of small groups because of the moderately-wide 38mm focal length of the lens, and the limited range of the tiny flash. Although the SL300R has a self-timer, you'll have difficulty including yourself in group portraits because it has no tripod mount. The SL300R has a macro mode, but the optical zoom is fixed at wide-angle in this mode, limiting your ability to compose macro shots. Although it has no focus-assist lamp, the SL300R's autofocus system works well in marginal lighting conditions with the zoom lens at wide-angle; autofocus is less effective indoors with the lens in the telephoto range. The SL300R offers a manual focusing mode that's useful when autofocus can't be achieved, allowing you to choose from focus distances of 2, 3, 10, and 16 feet, or infinity.

The SL300R's movie mode is better than most of its competitors, offering 640x480 AVI movies at 30 frames per second, with options for 320x240 and 160x120 and a frame rate of 15 fps to conserve memory. Movie clips are limited in size only by the amount of available memory on the camera's SD card. The optical zoom lens can be used to compose before shooting the movie, but the zoom can not be changed during recording. All movie modes include sound.

The SL300R's swiveling lens body design is not unique, but it does offer certain advantages. First, it folds flat, allowing it to easily fit into a pocket or purse. Secondly, the swiveling lens body provides flexibility in shot composition, allowing overhead and waist-level shooting; it even allows you to take a self-portrait while previewing the image on the LCD viewfinder. Although the camera's small size has a limited area for its various buttons and switches, they are organized and spaced well, allowing even those with large hands to use it without much difficulty. The only physical issue I had with the camera was the absence of a lens cover; I frequently found my own fingerprint on the lens as I prepared to shoot, so make sure to carry a lens cleaning cloth.

The SL300R is powered by a proprietary Lithium Ion battery pack. I was able to capture about 120 images before the low battery warning, a reasonable number considering the battery's small size. As always, I recommend that you keep a fully-charged spare on hand to avoid the disappointment of a dead battery; the battery is charged in-camera, so you'll need to manage the spare carefully.

Combining a small size, durable and stylish body, 3x zoom lens and 3-megapixel imager, the Kyocera SL300R makes an attractive package. With good image quality, excellent shooting performance, and versatile shooting modes, many families will find it a perfect answer to their digicam needs. At an MSRP of under $400, the Kyocera is priced a bit above its competitors, but its unique size, style and performance may justify that difference to many prospective buyers.

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