DPInterface Sony Cyber-shot T300 Review
Brad Soo - September 9th, 2008

The Sony Cyber-shot T300 is part of Sony's thin camera range. The 10 megapixel T300 has some features not commonly found on your typical slim camera; among them are a 5X zoom lens and huge 3.5 inch touchscreen LCD. The Cyber-shot T300's higher end sibling, the recently launched T500 features a HD movie mode and includes a camera dock. But now that the price of the T300 has decreased because of that, does that make it a sweet deal of a camera? Find out now.

Size and Weight

(163.6) 86.8 x 54.8 x 22.0 mm (125 g) - Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS Digital ELPH
(160.4) 86.0 x 54.0 x 20.4 mm (130 g) - Canon PowerShot SD770 IS Digital ELPH
(160.4) 89.7 x 51.7 x 19.0 mm (100 g) – Casio Exilim Z85
(174.1) 96.7 x 57.3 x 20.1 mm (126 g) – Casio Exilim Z150
(167.7) 92.0 x 55.7 x 20.0 mm (150 g) - Fujifilm FinePix Z200fd
(172.2) 93.7 x 57.8 x 20.7 mm (126 g) - Kodak EasyShare M1033
(179.5) 97.5 x 60.0 x 22.0 mm (145 g) – Nikon Coolpix S60
(161.0) 89.0 x 55.5 x 16.5 mm (108 g) - Olympus Stylus 1040
(174.3) 93.0 x 62.0 x 19.3 mm (152 g) - Olympus Stylus 1050SW
(170.8) 94.9 x 53.4 x 22.5 mm (119 g) - Panasonic Lumix FS5
(168.6) 94.7 x 51.9 x 22.0 mm (125 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX37
(180.4) 99.0 x 56.0 x 25.4 mm (145 g) – Pentax Optio W60
(165.8) 93.6 x 57.2 x 15.0 mm (126 g) - Sony Cyber-shot T77
(174.7) 94.0 x 59.3 x 21.4 mm (151 g) - Sony Cyber-shot T300

The Sony Cyber-shot T300's size is about average in the group of cameras above. Then again, you won't find an LCD as large or a touchscreen on any of those cameras.

Box packaging

The Cyber-shot T300 comes with an average bundle:

  • NP-BD1 rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Stylus
  • Wrist strap
  • Multi-connector cable for USB + A/V Out
  • Camera software CD
  • User's manual

There's no memory card to be found with the Sony Cyber-shot T300. Instead, it comes with a measly 15 MB of internal memory which stores just two 10 megapixel photos. The T300 uses Memory Stick Duo cards and you should get at least a 2 GB PRO Duo card with the camera. The camera needs PRO Duo cards to make full use of the movie mode (But who still uses standard MS Duo cards anyway?) but you don't need a super high speed card for the camera since its performance doesn't improve that greatly with one.

Because it has a touchscreen, the Sony Cyber-shot T300 comes with a stylus which attaches to the camera's wrist strap. You have the option to use the stylus, which is specifically useful for the 'Paint' feature in playback, or choose to use just your fingers to operate the camera instead.

Like other compact cameras in this class, the Cyber-shot T300 uses a lithium-ion battery. The battery is rechargeable and the camera's box includes a charger. The T300 is rated to approximately 260 shots according to the CIPA Standard and that's above average (more so when you consider the huge size):

240 shots - Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS Digital ELPH
300 shots - Canon PowerShot SD770 IS Digital ELPH
240 shots – Casio Exilim Z85
280 shots – Casio Exilim Z150
170 shots - Fujifilm FinePix Z200fd
275 shots - Kodak EasyShare M1033
140 shots – Nikon Coolpix S60
180 shots – Olympus Stylus 1040
200 shots – Olympus Stylus 1050SW
300 shots - Panasonic Lumix FS5
310 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX37
205 shots – Pentax Optio W60
220 shots - Sony Cyber-shot T77
260 shots – Sony Cyber-shot T300
All the battery life numbers above are rated according to CIPA Standard.

Extras

A lot of accessories are available for the T300, they include various camera cases, AC adapter, a docking station, an add-on lens, GPS kit and underwater case.

 

Camera Tour

The Cyber-shot T300 bears some very close resemblance to previous cameras in this line, especially its direct predecessor, the T200. It has everything that makes it a "Sony T-series" camera and you won't miss them: from the big sliding cover, to the internal lens and slim design. The T300 has a brushed metal surface design on the front and a huge LCD on the back, and it's very well built. The Cyber-shot T300 comes in three colors: your very electronics-typical silver and black, as well as red that you see over here:

The front features a sliding cover which is used to turn the camera on and off. Slide that cover down and you'll also reveal the 5X Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar optical zoom lens, flash unit, AF-assist lamp and a single microphone for sound. The 5X optical zoom lens is equivalent to 33-165 mm with a decent aperture range of f3.5 – 4.4. The lens doesn't extend out of the camera and also has optical image stabilization which helps counter blurring caused by camera shake at low shutter speeds.

The Cyber-shot T300 has a flash which has a range of approximately 10 cm to 3.5 m at wide-angle and 80 cm to 2.8 m at telephoto. Finally we have the AF-assist lamp which helps the camera to focus in low-light and doubles as a visual self-timer indicator as well.

On the back of the Sony Cyber-shot T300, you'll find just one thing: the huge widescreen 3.5 inch LCD... and it's touch sensitive too. There's not a single button to be found here – all the T300's settings are controlled directly via that huge touchscreen. By the way, the screen has approximately 230,000 pixels (the same resolution on found 2.5 inch LCDs, so things aren't as sharp) and it works well in bright light. It increases in brightness automatically in low-light as well, but the brightness gain isn't that significant. The only other thing you'll see other than the LCD is the big wrist strap loop on the right (you can probably attach a fairly thick neckstrap here as well).

You'll probably HAVE to use both hands to operate the T300 since its controls span across most of the touchscreen... and that zoom controller is pesky too. The trouble is, there's not much space around the screen to place your thumbs (especially the right thumb) when you hold the camera. That, and the fact that the camera is entirely touchscreen operated, means that the LCD will be picking up fingerprints in no time!

We have quite a few things on the top of the Cyber-shot T300. The two buttons placed side-by-side are the power button (the one with LED indicator) and playback button. So that gives you three ways to switch the T300 on: the sliding cover on the front, the direct power button here and the dedicated playback button. This means you can enter playback directly without having to slide down the front cover first.

You can see the shutter button as well, and the zoom controller on the very right. Yes, that tiny knob that's sticking out on the right is the Cyber-shot T300's zoom controller. Not only does its small size make it hard to operate, but also its location on the far end of the camera (see why I said you'll need both hands to use the camera?).

 

Alright, here's the right side of the T300 where you'll get a better view of that zoom controller. There's also the camera's speaker over here. Turn to the other side and you can observe the Sony T300's internal lens and side view of the sliding cover.

The Cyber-shot T300 has a metal tripod mount at the bottom along with a connector port (where you'll connect the T300 to USB 2.0 High-speed and A/V Out) and battery/memory card compartment. Needless to say, you won't be able to open the compartment door when the camera is on a tripod or connected to your computer/TV.

Taking pictures (Shooting mode)

The Sony Cyber-shot T300 has a complete display of all shooting information on its screen, including a battery indicator, exposure information (shutter speed and aperture), grid lines and a live histogram which you can turn on and off. There's so much real estate on the T300's widescreen so shooting details are shown around the live preview and doesn't clutter the area where you're composing a shot.

For picture taking, you can select from a range of image resolutions: 10 megapixels, 5 megapixels, 3 megapixels and VGA with two compression options (Fine and Standard. There's a 3:2 option and 16:9 widescreen mode that shoots at 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080).

The Sony Cyber-shot T300 features a Smart Zoom features. Smart Zoom allows you to have increased zoom at lower image resolutions without degrading image quality: essentially cropping. For example, you can extend the maximum zoom of the camera up to 28X when you lower image size to VGA resolution.

The Cyber-shot T300 features a variety of scene modes: Twilight, twilight portrait, soft snap, landscape, beach, snow, fireworks, high speed shutter, high sensitivity and underwater. High sensitivity mode automatically increases ISO as the camera thinks is needed (and in some cases, it may be too high) so it's best to adjust ISO manually. There's an 8 cm macro mode which isn't all that close for really tiny subjects.

Face Detection is another one of those "must have" features on compact cameras nowadays. The T300 has one of the more elaborate Face Detection systems you'll find on compact cameras. Not only does it detect faces, you can choose between adult and child priority too.

The Smile Shutter feature on the Cyber-shot T300 takes advantage of the Face Detection. Just select the Smile Shutter mode and hit the shutter button – the camera will automatically take a picture when a smile is detected. You can also choose the tolerance degree of the system: slight, moderate or prominent smiles.

The Sony Cyber-shot T300's intelligent scene recognition doesn't exactly select a mode for you, unlike other cameras. Instead, you can continue to take pictures as usual, but each time the camera will fire off an additional shot where it decides on its own settings.

Other aspects of the T300 you can alter are:

  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, flash, incandescent and three fluoroscent modes)
  • Metering method (Multi, center weighted, spot, flexispot)
  • Dynamic range optimization (Off, low, high)
  • Preset focus
  • Flash setting (Auto, on, slow sync, off, with red eye reduction)
  • Autofocus (Single, monitor)
  • ISO (80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)

The flexispot AF mode lets you select the autofocus area directly on the touchscreen – just 'touch' the area you wanna focus on. Dynamic range optimization helps to keep the color range of high exposure areas of photos (ie the sky in a landscape photo) from becoming completely white.

Video Recording

The Sony Cyber-shot T300 has very common 30 FPS VGA (640 X 480) movie mode with sound. There is also a VGA setting at 17 FPS available as well as a QVGA mode at 30 FPS. No matter how big or fast your memory card is, the camera limits recording to ten minutes per clip. So that means you can have several 10 minute clips in a 2 GB memory card, but not a single long one – what a bummer.

Since the T300's lens is really silent (not to mention slow-moving), you can use optical zoom while recording a movie clip. Brightness is automatically adjusted as well. Video and audio quality were good for a compact camera.

The Cyber-shot T500 I mentioned at the introduction of this review has a better movie mode which records at 1280 X 720 with stereo sound, but the 10 minute per clip limit still remains.

Performance

The Sony Cyber-shot T300 has a start up time of about 1.5 seconds, which is fairly decent. Autofocus speed is quick too, clocking times of 1/10 to 1/3 second to focus. Low-light focusing can take a little longer, up to 1.1 seconds, but at least it works with the assistance of the AF-assist light.

Shot-to-shot speed - 1 shot every 1.5 seconds, quite snappy
Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery - 5 seconds on average

Shutter lag is not noticeable. In terms of zoom speed, the lens goes very silently from wide-angle to telephoto in about three seconds. The Sony Cyber-shot T300 has an uninteresting continuous shooting mode - it takes 8 shots at 1.5 FPS before slowing down (though you can still take more shots).

The T300 shuts down almost immediately after you close the sliding cover. On whole, the Cyber-shot T300 is a decent performer, doing most things fairly quickly. It does have a fairly small buffer though - seen based on its continuous shooting performance.

Image Quality

So moving on to image quality tests with the Cyber-shot T300:


ISO 80 (f3.5, 1/4 sec)


ISO 200 (f3.5, 1/8 sec)


ISO 400 (f3.5, 1/15 sec)


ISO 800 (f3.5, 1/30 sec)


ISO 1600 (f3.5, 1/60 sec)


ISO 3200 (f3.5, 1/125 sec)

Image quality from ISO 80 to ISO 200 generally look acceptable. As noise comes in at higher ISOs, the camera's built-in noise reduction starts to blur a little detail at ISO 400, but it's still usable at least.

There's even more noise (and noise reduction) at ISO 800 as details get smeared away and color saturation gets reduced as well. Only use ISO 800 if you really, absolutely have to. Going up further to ISO 1600 and the T300 is pushing its limit. There's already simple too much detail loss over here to get usable photos at this setting. And needless to say, ISO 3200 only gets worse and is as noisy as ever.

There is noticeable, mild barrel distortion, vignetting and corner softness with the T300. On the other hand, chromatic aberration (color fringing) levels were the opposite - very low and barely noticeable. Redeye is an issue but thankfully it can be removed via the built-in redeye fix tool in playback.

The Sony Cyber-shot T300 outputs pretty good image quality and is capable of producing good quality photos at ISO 400 and below. Although there are other visible issues such as edge softness and vignetting, I'm not surprised, considering the larger-than-average lens of this camera.

Photo gallery

View all the full-resolution shots in the Sony Cyber-shot T300 photo gallery!

 

Playback

 

The Sony Cyber-shot T300 has some fancy playback functions as well. In addition to playing back movies and stills, the T300 also has a calendar view for photos and a nice slideshow feature; complete with background music and transition effects. The things you can do include: Image protect, print marking, trim, rotate, red-eye reduction, apply photo effects and the paint function which allows you to draw on your photos via the touchscreen (the stylus is recommended here). Another thing you can do with the touchscreen: just double tap wherever you want to zoom in and the camera magnifies the portion of the photo.

Conclusion

Overall, the Sony Cyber-shot T300 has some pretty attractive features for the crowd: a 5X optical zoom lens, equipped with image stabilization, a very big touchscreen display (which you won't find on any other camera at the moment) and considering the size of that LCD, above average battery life. The T300's highlight features such as Face Detection with an automatic smile-snapping function and fun playback modes make going about to point-and-snap photos more enjoyable.

While the Cyber-shot T300 is a good performer in terms of speed and image quality, there are some issues between those lines; which include some redeye and vignetting as well as the lack of a more capable burst more. I do have some issues with the camera's ergonomics and usability - sure the touchscreen interface is fancy, but the menus system is confusing and it simple takes too many 'touches' to navigate and change settings. The huge touchscreen also left no place for holding the camera on the back - this, plus the entirely touch operated interface, means some big time fingerprint issues on the LCD.

If you're an impatient person who likes messing around with settings, then the interface of the camera will get on your nerves in no time. For other casual snappers, the Sony Cyber-shot T300 may be worth your time to check out if you're looking for good picture quality without tweaking camera functions around, as well as the ability to record some decent, brief video clips with a nice-looking camera.

What's hot:

  • Bigger-than-average 5X stabilized zoom lens
  • Above average battery life (especially for a screen this big)
  • Very big touchscreen LCD that's usable outdoors
  • Functional and settable Face Detection and Smile Shutter modes
  • Above average performance (except burst mode)
  • Many playback mode functions with fun editing features
  • Good image quality below ISO 400

What's not:

  • No manual controls
  • Fingerprints on touchscreen are unavoidable
  • Tiny zoom controller and no place for fingers on the back
  • Touchscreen interface is not too responsive and requires too many presses to navigate; can't change settings quickly
  • 10 minute per clip limitation in movie mode
  • Slow and limited burst mode
  • Redeye, edge softness and lots of detail loss at higher ISO

Recommended Accessories:

  • 2 GB Memory Stick PRO Duo card

Content ©2005 - 2008 Digital Photography Interface. All rights reserved.
All trademarks and images are property of their respective owners.
No part of this website may be copied, posted or used anywhere
without the written permission of the website owner.

.