Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300 Overview
by Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 10/14/08
The Sony Cyber-shot T-series of digital cameras is all about good looks and ease of use. Typically slim and stylish with minimal external controls, the T-series is sleek and user-friendly, and most importantly, pocketable. The Cyber-shot DSC-T300 continues this trend, updating the previous Sony T300 model with a 10.1-megapixel sensor, updated Face Detection technology, Sony D-Range Optimizer and a new semi-manual focus mode.
Similar in design and overall appearance, the Sony T300 features the same sliding lens cover that moves downward to reveal the 5x optical zoom lens and flash, and the very generous 3.5-inch LCD monitor on the rear panel. In addition to the 5x optical zoom, which is equivalent to a 33-165mm zoom on a 35mm camera, the Sony T300 also offers 2x Precision Digital Zoom and as much as 28x Smart Zoom.
Automatic exposure control, plus a range of preset Scene modes and a handful of creative shooting tools give the Sony T300 enough capabilities without being too complicated. Novices will appreciate the ability to let the camera do all the work, and more experienced users will appreciate the option of adjusting ISO, white balance, etc.
With an MSRP of $400, the Sony T300 offers a lot of resolution and the flexibility of 5x zoom lens, in a very attractive package. Read on for all of the details.
Sony T300 User Report
by Stephanie Boozer
Slim, trim, and easy on the eyes, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300 comes in sleek black, vibrant red, or classic silver. Measuring 3.7 x 2.3 x 0.8 inches (94 x 59 x 21 millimeters), the Sony T300 is well-suited for travel and should fit into most pockets and small purses. With the batteries installed, the Sony T300 weighs a mere 6.07 ounces (172 grams), definitely light enough to stash in a front shirt pocket without feeling weighed down.
Look and feel. There's no question that the Sony Cyber-shot Sony T300 is designed for ease of use and portability. The camera's very good-looking exterior is thin and sleek, with minimal protrusions and very little in the way of external controls. The large 3.5-inch LCD monitor takes up the entire rear panel, which means that its right side is covered with thumbprints when shooting one-handed. You can maneuver your fingers and thumb to hold the Sony T300 without covering the display thanks to the flat, protruding lanyard lashing point. This design makes the camera a little awkward in a one-handed grip, so be careful to use the Sony T300 with both hands.
A thick wrist strap is included with the Sony T300, so you'll have some added security when leaning over a railing or shooting in a crowd. Attached to the strap is a small plastic stylus for the camera's touch screen. Thankfully, Sony designed the touch interface so that the upper right corner is empty, and thus free from any accidental triggering from your thumb.
The LCD image display is bright and clear, and the anti-reflective coating did help reduce the amount of glare outdoors. Framing accuracy was good, with about 103% accuracy at full wide angle and about 99% at full telephoto. The touch screen portion of the Sony T300's LCD monitor was very simple to both navigate and use. A Display option in the lower right corner pulls up a short menu of display modes, with varying levels of image information and an image-only option. From here, you can also activate a histogram and adjust the overall LCD brightness.
Just about any adjustment icon on the display screen accesses a camera function. For example, toward the lower left corner of the Sony T300's screen is the shooting mode icon. With a quick press, you can select Auto, Program, Scene, Easy, or Movie modes. The OK "button" for confirming a selection is always in the upper right corner, and a press returns you to the normal display. The Menu virtual-button in the lower left corner displays the camera's shooting menu, and you scroll through options via the up and down arrows at the top and bottom of the screen. Overall, the Sony T300's touch-screen interface is simple to use and navigate, and I found it more convenient than an array of buttons on the rear panel.
The Sony Cyber-shot T300 offers a 5x optical zoom lens, equivalent to a 33-165mm zoom on a 35mm camera, slightly more zoom than the typical point-and-shoot digital camera. In addition to the 5x optical zoom, the Cyber-shot T300 offers Sony's 2x Precision Digital Zoom, which does a good job of preserving image resolution and detail despite digital enlargement. We always like to remind readers that digital zoom often results in lower resolution and detail, because the camera is simply cropping the center of the frame and enlarging it, but the Sony T300's digital zoom should yield good results if print sizes are kept small, or images are used for online purposes. Sony also included their Smart Zoom technology, which you can enable through a Settings menu. Smart Zoom limits the amount of digital enlargement based on the resolution setting, with the maximum 28x available at the lowest resolution.
The Sony T300 is equipped to handle a wide range shooting conditions and scenarios, featuring a range of useful preset Scene modes, Face Detection technology, Steady Shot mode and powerful tools like ISO, white balance and color mode adjustments. It's a capable camera that delivers good results under a variety of conditions, yet is straightforward to operate and comfortable to carry around anywhere. The adjustable wrist strap secures the Sony T300 when shooting in precarious positions, and a separately available red leather carrying case offers stylish protection.
Interface. From an external view, the Sony T300's interface is extremely minimal. The only true external control elements are the sliding lens cover on the front of the camera and a small series of buttons on the top panel. These consist of the Power, Playback, and Shutter buttons, all of which barely protrude above the surface. Practically hidden in the very far right of the top panel is the ridged Zoom toggle, which straddles the corner, conveniently out of the way of accidental triggering.
The rest of the Sony T300's adjustments are made through touch-screen LCD interface. The default LCD display shows the standard image display with an information overlay, but along the right and left sides of the display are virtual buttons and adjustment icons, all activated with a quick touch. The Menu and Display virtual buttons are in the lower left and right corners, respectively, with a Home virtual button at the top left. (The upper right corner is conveniently blank in the default display, leaving room for a thumb to overlap when shooting.)
In Program AE mode, the left side of the screen accesses resolution, self-timer, and mode settings, while the right side shows flash and macro options. Lining the bottom of the screen are the focus, metering, ISO, and EV-compensation tools. The LCD menu itself is simple to navigate, as up and down arrows appear at the top of the screen for scrolling through the available selections. In any selection menu, an OK or Back virtual button appears in the top right so you can back out of changes or accept them. The Home button in the top left corner takes you to the main camera operation menu, offering choices of Shooting, Playback, Slideshow, Print, Memory Tool, and Settings modes for the main operation of the camera.
Whether you use a finger or the plastic stylus to operate the Sony T300's touch screen, the camera responds quickly. So many devices these days have touch screen components that most savvy users will adapt right away to the Sony T300's interface. It's simple to navigate and logically laid out.
Modes. The Sony T300's record mode options include Auto, Program AE, Scene, Easy, and Movie. Easy mode is a greatly simplified Auto mode, with very limited options. You can set the flash mode, but other options (even display mode and macro mode) are off-limits. The Record menu also goes down to only two options, Resolution and Flash, with limited options under these choices as well. The Auto mode is more like a traditional fully automatic exposure mode, keeping most exposure variables under automatic control. Unlike Easy mode, the Sony T300's user controls are expanded to include the full range of resolution settings, as well as the ability to control EV compensation, focus mode, etc. Program AE mode expands user control even further, adding in the adjustable white balance, metering, ISO, and color options.
The Scene setting accesses the preset modes, which include Twilight Portrait, Twilight, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Underwater (for the underwater housing), Hi-Speed Shutter, High Sensitivity, Smile Shutter, Soft Snap, and Landscape modes. Most of these are self-explanatory, optimizing the camera for specific shooting situations and exposure conditions. Of note is the Sony T300's Smile Shutter mode, which captures images of smiling faces as they happen, without you frantically pressing the shutter button only to get a lot of blurry smiles. Within the Record menu, you can set the camera to automatically record any smiles, or to detect smiles on adult or children's faces. Once you set the parameters, a single press of the Shutter button enables auto capture, and the Sony T300 will automatically capture images as it detects smiles, until you press the Shutter button a second timeso all you have to do is frame faces.
The Cyber-shot T300 provides a nice selection of exposure tools in many of its shooting modes, including the ability to choose ISO (from 80 to 3,200), color mode, white balance, exposure compensation, and enable Steady Shot. As was mentioned earlier, focus and metering options are available at the bottom of the main LCD display. The focus options include the standard multi, center, and spot options, as well as a couple of preset focal distances. What's neat about Spot AF mode, though, is that you can literally touch any point in the image display area to set the spot point.
Also notable is Sony's Face Detection technology, which is available in most of the Cyber-shot T300's shooting modes. Face Detection can detect as many as eight faces in one frame, and you also have the ability to specify child or adult faces. Flash, focus, exposure, and white balance are all calculated to get the best image of the detected faces in the frame. The Sony T300 also offers a D-Range Optimizer tool, which improves tonal handling under harsh lighting, attempting to balance the exposure and preserve detail.
Through its Record menu, the Sony Cyber-shot T300 offers Continuous Shooting and Auto Exposure Bracketing modes, for capturing small series of images. The Sony T300 is also equipped for capturing movies with sound. Available resolutions are 640 x 480 and 320 x 240.
Special Features. The Sony T300's Playback menu offers a handful of editing tools that address a few common shooting mistakes, as well as provide a little creative fun. For example, the Retouch option of the Playback menu offers Trimming, Red Eye Correction, Unsharp Masking, Soft Focus, Partial Color, Fisheye Lens, Cross Filter, Radial Blur, Retro, and Happy Faces options. Short descriptions of each filter appear on-screen as you scroll through the choices. For example, Retro blurs corners for a nostalgic effect and Cross Filter highlights points of light (such as candle flames) with a cross pattern to dramatize lighting. Happy Faces lets you literally turn someone's frown upside down, giving you the power to alter the subject's smile (or lack thereof).
The Sony T300's Playback menu also offers options for saving images as Favorites, a Paint option for drawing and painting over captured images, and a myriad of other image display, resizing, and categorizing tools. The Sony T300 also features a Music Tool, accessed through the Home menu screen, where you can download music for slideshows from your computer.
Storage and battery. The Sony Cyber-shot T300 accepts Memory Stick DUO and PRO DUO memory cards, but does not come with a card. Instead, the camera has about 15MB of internal memory. Of course, we always recommend picking up a large capacity Memory Stick PRO Duo. They should be used for all current Sony cameras. These days, 2GB is a good trade-off between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, 4GB should be a minimum. The Sony T300's internal memory should hold about three full resolution images, while a 2GB card will hold about 496.
For power, the Cyber-shot T300 uses a single, custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and ships with both the battery and charger. You can purchase an AC adaptor as a separate accessory, and we highly recommend picking up a spare battery and keeping it freshly charged and on-hand for extended outings.
Shooting. Overall, shooting with the Sony Cyber-shot T300 was straightforward and uncomplicated. The touch screen was easy to navigate, and responded quickly. The T-series of Sony Cyber-shots was designed for ease of use, and the Sony T300 achieves that goal well. Overall camera timings were about average, though the 2.7-second startup time dragged a little considering that the lens doesn't have to extend forward at all. Shutter lag was good, at 0.37-second at full wide angle, and only a little slower at telephoto (0.48-second). Shot-to-shot cycle times were about average, at 1.83 seconds for a full resolution image. The camera's continuous speed won't be fast enough to capture many frames of high-speed action at 1.62 frames per second, but the Sony T300 does offer a Hi-Speed Scene mode for those situations. (Unfortunately, Sony didn't report performance in their specs for this, and we did not test this mode in the lab.)
Default Exposure, ISO 80
Image quality. The Cyber-shot T300 produced good looking images across a range of subjects and exposure conditions. Overall color is bright and vibrant, though bright reds and blues appear a bit oversaturated (common among consumer digital cameras because many consumers prefer brighter-than-life color in their images).
Good detail in the mosaic pattern,
though with some evidence of
noise suppression at ISO 80.
The Cyber-shot T300 captured good level of fine detail in the mosaic crop above, though some noise suppression blurs detail slightly even at ISO 80. Though details are soft, you can still see the mosaic pattern in the figure's shirt and skin, areas where many cameras lose these fine lines.
The abbreviated ISO series above shows noise performance at the lower, middle and highest sensitivities. The Sony T300 handled image noise well at its lower ISO settings, and performance remains pretty good at ISO 400, though some efforts to suppress noise begin to interfere slightly with definition. As you can see in the crop of ISO 3,200, image noise becomes quite high, and detail is sacrificed both by noise pixels and the camera's efforts to suppress those pixels.
Strong detail to
1,800 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,600 lines vertical
The Sony T300's 10.1-megapixel CCD captured high-resolution images. Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,800 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,600 lines vertically. Extinction didn't really occur, though lines began to merge around 2,000 lines vertically.
Barrel distortion at 33mm is 1.0%
Pincushion at 165mm is 0.6%
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300's performed pretty well overall, with about average levels of blurring in the corners. In terms of distortion, the wide angle setting produced about 1.0% barrel distortion, which is quite high, and noticeable in its wide angle images. At full telephoto, the Sony T300's 0.6% pincushion distortion is also on the high side. Still, overall performance was pretty good.
Appraisal. Thanks to the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300's ease of use, intuitive design, and capable performance, I had a pleasant experience with the camera. The camera handles most normal shooting conditions well, and options like Smile Shutter, Face Detection, and its multiple focus modes help the Sony T300 cope with more difficult situations. Noise pixels and noise suppression did interfere with detail definition at the higher sensitivity settings, but this is a common trade-off for better exposures under dark conditions. With generally good color and exposure, and high resolution, the Cyber-shot DSC-T300 performs well for a point-and-shoot subcompact digital camera.
Sony T300 Basic Features
- 10.1-megapixel CCD (effective) delivers image resolutions as high as 3,648 x 2,736
- 5x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 33-165mm
- As much as 2x Precision Digital zoom
- Additional Smart Zoom as much as 28x at lowest resolution
- Manual spot AF point selection
- 3.5-inch color LCD monitor with touch-screen capability
- Easy, Auto, and Program AE main exposure modes
- Shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to 1 second, depending on mode
- Aperture range from f/3.5- f/10.0, depending on zoom position
- Built-in flash with four modes and intensity adjustment
- Memory Stick DUO / DUO PRO memory slot
- 15MB internal memory
- Power from custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack
- Multi-connector for A/V television connection and USB 2.0 connection
- PictBridge compatible
Sony T300 Special Features
- 11 preset Scene modes
- Movie mode with sound
- Burst and Bracketing shooting modes
- Face Detection technology detects as many as eight child or adult faces in one frame
- Super Steady Shot technology for reducing blur
- Macro and Self-Timer modes
- D-Range Optimizer
- Spot, Center-weighted, and Multi-pattern Metering modes
- Adjustable ISO from 80 to 3,200 equivalents, plus an Auto setting
- Adjustable white balance with nine settings
- Color menu for creative color options
- In-camera editing for red-eye removal, plus a selection of creative filters and paint tools
- Soft carrying case
- Backup rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack for extended outings
- Large capacity Memory Stick PRO Duo. Memory Stick PRO versions can handle high-res movie data and give faster download times. They should be used for all current Sony cameras. These days, 2GB is a good trade-off between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, 4GB should be a minimum
Sony T300 Conclusion
Small, compact and pocketable, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300 is well-designed and easy to use. It captures good pictures under a variety of conditions, and has helpful tools such as Face Detection and D-Range Optimization to help out when things get tough. With a nice selection of preset Scene modes and useful post-capture editing options, the DSC-T300 has a lot to offer. Its touch screen display is handy and a snap to learn, making the overall shooting experience with the DSC-T300 pleasantly simple. It's at the higher end of the range at its MSRP of $400, but does offer 10.1 megapixels of resolution and a 5x zoom lens on top of its other capabilities. The Sony T300 is well worth a look, and quite deserving of a Dave's Pick.