Canon Powershot SD300 Review
The next generation of ultra-compact Digital Elph from Canon, the 4-megapixel SD300
incorporates many of the features found on previous cameras, but adds some new
creative scene modes, a larger and more resolute color LCD and increased
shooting performance. This durable point-n-shoot can be used by any member of
the family with its automatic Program AE mode or one of the six creative scene
modes. For those who like more control it also features a Manual mode,
however it does not allow for choosing the aperture or shutter speed values.
As with past models, we were pleased with the ergonomics of the SD300. Despite its small size, it has a comfortable, secure feel in your hands and one-handed shooting is a breeze. Its controls are well placed and functional, and the menu system is logically organized. Like all Canons, we love its Function menu. This allows you to quickly change the record mode from Auto, Manual, Digital Macro, Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids&Pets, Indoor, and Underwater (when used with the optional underwater housing.) When using Manual mode, you can change the settings for ISO, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, etc. We also found the large 2.0-inch LCD quite usable outdoors thanks to its non-reflective coating. Although, when shooting in low-ambient lighting it does not "gain up".
Shooting performance was very robust. Power up to first image captured measured approx. 1.5 seconds. The all-important shutter lag averaged 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 3/10 of a second including autofocus time. When shooting in single exposure mode, the shot-to-shot time measured about 1.4 seconds without the flash and 2 - 3 seconds with the flash. Using its continuous exposure mode, I was able to capture 26 frames in only 10.3 seconds, surpassing Canon's claim of 2.4 fps. Our test were done using a Sandisk Ultra II 512MB SD card, Manual mode, Large/SuperFine quality, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The overall image quality of the SD300 is very good. Outdoors it captures consistently well exposed images with properly saturated colors. We noticed very little noise in high/low contrast areas, however there was an average amount of chromatic aberration (purple fringing) around extreme highlights. The Photo Effects (Vivid color, Neutral, Sepia, B&W) give you the ability to massage the look of your images in-camera. If you like shooting night pictures then you'll appreciate the "slow shutter" option that gives you access to 1 to 15 second shutter speeds. To insure the best possible image, Noise Reduction can be enabled and applied when the shutter speed is 1.3 seconds or slower. In addition to the automatic white balance setting there are presets for daylight, cloudy, incandescent, fluorescent, fluorescent H (daylight temperature) and a custom setting for use with a white or grey card. Being a super-compact camera the SD300 has a small flash with somewhat limited coverage. Shooting indoor at full wide angle it's good to about 11.5 feet but in telephoto that drops off sharply to only 6.6 feet. Our indoor portraits showed true skin tones and were properly exposed. Its 3x zoom lens produces sharp results throughout its range, with moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle, but almost no visible pin cushioning at full telephoto.
Like many of the cameras we have seen this year, the SD300 offers a VGA (640x480) size movie mode. You can choose either 15 or 30 fps. We were very pleased with its movie recording abilities, our sample clips look awesome with very little compression noise. We do however recommend you use a large SD card when using this high-quality movie mode as it consumes about 2MB per second.
Power is supplied by a 3.7V 760mAH NB-4L rechargeable lithium battery that's good for approx. 140 shots (LCD on), 400 shots (LCD off), and 180 minutes of continuous playback. The problem with a proprietary battery is that you can't use an "off-the-shelf" battery when it dies on you out in the field. Therefore, we recommend buying a second battery and keeping it charged and ready. Canon supplies an AC charger for the battery that takes about 90 minutes to charge a fully depleted pack. The charger is very compact and portable, it plugs directly into an AC outlet and has fold-away prongs.
Bottom line - with a street price of around $399, the SD300 offers good value. Its Large SuperFine images have plenty of resolution to create photo-quality 8x10-inch or larger prints. We feel it will make a good choice for those who want an ultra compact and durable camera that can be easily carried in any size pants pocket or purse. It's stylish and incredibly durable so even your kids can use it, just be forewarned that you might not get it back. If you don't need 4-megapixels of resolution, check out the nearly identical Powershot SD200 with 3-megapixel resolution and a lower price.
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