The Imaging Resource
Kyocera Finecam SL300R Digital Camera
|High, 3.17-megapixel CCD|
|4x6, 5x7, 8x10 inches|
Suggested Retail Price
(At time of introduction)
The Kyocera Finecam SL300R is yet another subcompact addition to the company's digital camera line, sporting a 3.17-megapixel CCD and unique swivel design that enables a super slim body style at less than one inch in thickness. Thin and sleek, the SL300R is pocket friendly yet still manages a 3x optical zoom lens and partial manual exposure control. Sound interesting? Read on for more details.
Trim and compact, Kyocera's new Finecam SL300R digital camera features a swivel design and a camera body less than an inch thick. Its thin dimensions don't compromise its basic capabilities however, as the SL300R offers a 3.17-megapixel CCD image sensor and true, 3x optical zoom. There's also a handful of manual exposure controls, extending the camera's exposure flexibility as well. With its compact design, the SL300R is pocket-friendly and ready to go just about anywhere. Its thin body is also quite inconspicuous when the camera is powered off, but the swivel body design may draw a little attention when shooting. The 3x zoom lens is contained entirely inside the camera body and doesn't have to extend on startup, so the SL300R is fairly quick on the draw. With an attractive, all-silver body and very low profile controls, the SL300R will get you noticed among the chic elite. Though exposure control is mainly automatic, the camera does offer a limited number of manual settings for you to play around with. The 3.17-megapixel CCD delivers high resolution images, which can be printed as large as 5x7 inches with good detail, and even to 8x10 inches with good results. (Three lower resolution settings create images better suited for on-screen viewing, and email distribution to family and friends.)
Equipped with a 5.8-17.4mm lens, equivalent to a 38-115mm lens on a 35mm camera, the SL300R features true, 3x optical zoom. The zoom mechanism remains within the camera body, meaning that the lens is flush with the body panel at all times. A plastic cover protects the actual lens surface, eliminating the need for a lens cap, but doesn't prevent you from smudging the lens with your fingers (which I did quite a bit by accident). However, the camera comes with a small pad which can be attached to the wrist strap, for wiping away any accidental smudges. Maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/4.7, depending on the zoom setting, and remains under automatic control most of the time. Through the Manual exposure menu, you can manually set the aperture to f/2.8 or f/7.5, but nowhere in between. Focus ranges from 2.0 feet (0.6 meters) to infinity in normal AF mode, while a Macro scene mode lets you focus on objects as close as 7.9 inches (20 centimeters, still not very close). A manual focus mode option is available as well, though the SL300R's distance readout on the LCD monitor makes it a little tough to accurately gauge focus. The image in the LCD monitor doesn't enlarge, so it's tough to know whether or not you have a tight lock on focus. Additionally, only a few distance numbers appear on the focusing scale, making it difficult to judge actual distances in between markers unless you can remember the exact distances for each marker as described in the user manual. Single and Continuous AF modes are both available through the Setup menu, as well as an option to bias the camera towards speed (freezing the image on the LCD while focus is found) or framing (meaning the camera focuses more slowly, but the LCD continues to show a live preview during focusing to allow you to frame your image). You can also set the focus area to Wide or Spot. In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the SL300R also features as much as a 2x digital zoom. Remember though, that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality in direct proportion to the magnification achieved because it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image, so shouldn't be relied on for sharp details or high image quality. For composing shots, the SL300R features a 1.5-inch TFT, color LCD monitor which can operate either with or without backlighting (saving power in bright conditions where the backlight isn't visible anyway). The LCD monitor's information display includes basic camera information, such as the shooting mode and image quality setting, as well as the current image capacity of the memory card. A set of focus/exposure brackets is in the center of the display, for lining up shots.
The SL300R offers automatic exposure control, as well as a handful of manual adjustments to achieve more creative effects. Through the LCD menu, the Manual menu option pulls up a sub-menu of exposure options. An AE Mode setting lets you choose between Program and two aperture settings, and a Long Exposure mode offers two-, four-, and eight-second exposure times. However, in all other cases, shutter speed and aperture remain under automatic control. The SL300R's full shutter speed range extends from 1/2,000 to eight seconds, though the two-second and longer times are only available in Long Exposure mode. The SL300R employs a Multi-Area Evaluation metering system by default, which divides the image area into sections to determine the best overall exposure. Through the camera's menu, Spot and Center-Weighted options are also available. You can adjust the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments, also through the LCD menu. ISO sensitivity options include 100, 200, 400, and 800 equivalent settings to increase low-light shooting performance, with an Auto adjustment as well. White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Cloudy, Fluorescent, and Preset (manual setting). There's also a Color mode for capturing images in black-and-white or sepia tones, and Chroma and Sharpness adjustments. The camera's built-in flash operates in either Auto, Red-Eye Reduction Auto, Fill-In, Flash-Off, or Night Backdrop (slow-sync setting) modes. The Flash button cycles through each mode, and an icon appears on the LCD display indicating the selection.
A Scene button on the camera's rear panel lets you select between seven preset "scenes," which adjust the camera for special shooting situations. Available modes are Standard, Sports Action, Portrait, Night View, Night Portrait, Macro, and Landscape. The SL300R also features a Movie mode, which records at 160 x 120, 320 x 240, or 640 x 480 pixel resolutions. The actual amount of recording time will depend on the available memory card space, and you can choose between 15 or 30 frames per second. The SL300R's Movie mode also provides an option for recording movies without sound, in which case the optical zoom can also be used (movies with sound are limited to digital zoom only). A Continuous Shooting mode captures a rapid series of images, as quickly as 3.5 frames per second. (3.75 frames/second, for up to four large/fine images in sequence, in my own tests.) Actual frame rates and the number of images will vary with the resolution setting, and the amount of available memory card space. For self-portraits or timed shots, the SL300R's Self-Timer counts down from either two or 10 seconds after the Shutter button is fully pressed before the shutter fires.
The SL300R stores images on SD-type memory cards, and comes with a 16MB card. I highly recommend picking up a larger memory card, given the SL300R's 2,048 x 1,536-pixel maximum resolution setting, at least 32 MB, preferably a 64MB. The camera uses a single lithium-ion battery pack, which comes with the camera. An AC adaptor is also included with the camera, and recharges the battery in-camera. Due in part to the camera's small size and the resulting small size of the battery, battery life is very short. -- Definitely plan on purchasing a second battery along with the camera if you intend anything more than very brief shooting excursions with it. The SL300R will automatically shut itself down after a small period of inactivity, a feature which can be turned off through the Set-up menu. The included USB cable allows quick downloading of captured images to a computer, and USB drivers and Adobe Photoshop Album software come on an accompanying CD (compatible with Windows and Macintosh operating systems). The SL300R is DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatible, with a handful of print settings available in Playback mode.
- 3.17-megapixel CCD delivering image resolutions as high as 2,048 x 1,536 pixels.
- 3x, 5.8-17.4mm lens, equivalent to a 38-115mm lens on a 35mm camera.
- Maximum aperture of f/2.8 at full wide-angle and f/4.7 at full telephoto.
- Intelligent Video AF focusing system, with Single and Continuous modes.
- Up to 2x digital enlargement.
- Color, TFT 1.5-inch LCD monitor.
- Program AE, Aperture Priority, and Long Exposure modes.
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to eight seconds.
- Built-in flash with six operating modes.
- Adjustable White Balance with six settings, including a custom setting.
- Multi-Segment, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering modes.
- Sensitivity equivalents of 100, 200, 400, and 800 ISO, plus an Auto setting.
- Files saved in the JPEG format.
- SD memory card storage.
- Power from one lithium-ion battery pack, or included AC adapter.
- Movie with sound recording mode and adjustable frame rate.
- Continuous Shooting mode.
- Adjustable Color mode, with black-and-white and sepia settings.
- Two- and 10-second Self-Timer.
- Manual focus option.
- Wide and Spot AF area options.
- Scene mode with seven preset "scenes."
- Chroma and Sharpness adjustments.
- DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
- USB cable for connection to a computer.
- Software CD with Adobe Photoshop Album.
Operating mainly under automatic exposure control, the Finecam SL300R is an option for novice consumers who want to let the camera do all the work (though a handful of manual exposure options are available for added flexibility). The camera's ultra thin dimensions suit pockets and fashionable sensibilities alike, with sleek lines and unobtrusive controls to maintain a low profile. The 3.17-megapixel CCD captures high-resolution images, meaning you can print your snapshots as large as 8x10 inches with pretty good quality. As with the rest of Kyocera's Finecam line, the SL300R's user interface is fairly uncomplicated, and won't require much downtime to learn. The camera's small size and somewhat power-hungry electronics mean that it has very short battery life, only about 47 minutes with the LCD backlight turned on in record mode. Image quality is only average, with very high contrast and mediocre white balance. Overall, this is a camera for users more concerned about style than photography. It'll turn in a workmanlike performance on unchallenging subjects, but there are better options on the market for the money.
Thin, compact, and eye-catching with its swivel design, the Finecam SL300R's body is almost free of protrusions and is very light weight. Measuring 3.9 x 2.5 x 0.6 inches (100 x 63 x 15 millimeters), the SL300R slides right into shirt and coat pockets, and in tiny purses as well. Its no surprise that the SL300R is also quite light weight, at 5.0 ounces (143 grams) with the battery and memory card. The shape and size of the SL300R are more reminiscent of an old-fashioned cigarette case than a digicam, and the camera's all-silver, all-metal body lends it an element of style and sophistication. The camera practically divides in half, as the lens side swivels around about 270 degrees to face a range of possible shooting angles. The 3x lens remains flush with the camera front, perfect for pockets. The camera's wrist strap is great when holding the camera in-hand, but a small camera bag and cleaning pad also come with the camera to protect its attractive silver finish and clean the glass lens cover when traveling.
The SL300R's front panel is smooth and sleek (with the lens portion aimed upward), and features only a tiny microphone just to the right of the Kyocera logo. There is no handgrip to speak of, although in general usage with the camera's body panels swivelled 90 degrees from each other, it provides a very good double-handed grip. I'd still keep the wrist strap securely in place when shooting, however.
The right side of the SL300R (as viewed from the rear) holds the wrist strap eyelet, as well as the connector compartment. A flexible, rubbery flap protects the connector compartment, and reveals the USB and DC In jacks when opened.
The opposite side of the camera is smooth and featureless.
The Shutter and Power buttons share the right portion of the SL300R's top panel. On the left side, which swivels forward and backward, are the lens, flash, self-timer LED, and flash sensor. The position of the lens is one of my biggest gripes with the SL300R's design: I just could not train myself to not grab the camera the "thin" way when I was picking it up, and so always ended up planting a big, greasy fingerprint smack on the plastic lens shield almost every time I grabbed it. A cute/attractive design to be sure, but I found it very annoying in practice.
The SL300R's few remaining controls are on the back panel, along with the 1.5-inch LCD monitor. Clustered on the right side are the Display, Scene, and Zoom buttons, as well as two arrow keys that cycle through camera modes, located below an illuminated LED display that shows the camera's current operating mode. A Four-Way Arrow pad with central Enter button is in the lower right corner, with the Menu button and speaker just above it.
Finally, the SL300R has a fairly flat bottom panel, with only the battery and memory card compartment. A sliding, hinged plastic door protects the compartment, and the two slots line up side-by-side in the interior. Note that there is no tripod mount, meaning that you'll have to hand-hold the camera for night exposures, or brace it against a convenient surface. The fact that the camera body can be folded completely flat does make it easy to hold the camera stable, so long as there's something suitable to brace it against, though...
The SL300R operates under automatic exposure control most of the time, but an on-screen LCD menu system offers a handful of exposure options, including a few aperture and shutter speed settings. External controls include flash mode, Scene mode, zoom, and the main camera mode, but the remaining camera settings rely on the LCD menu system. The LCD menu system itself is fairly simple to navigate however, as a set of menu options appear along the bottom edge of the display, and the arrow keys navigate the choices. (You have to press the OK button to actually change and cycle through settings.) Aside from the Setup menu, the only two-page menu is under the Manual settings option, but it's fairly straightforward as well. With the instruction manual in-hand, I'd estimate that half- to three-quarters of an hour would leave most users fairly comfortable with the camera.Record Mode Display: In Record mode, the SL300R's LCD monitor reports limited camera information, such as the file size and quality settings, and any exposure settings such as flash mode, aperture selection, etc. A set of focus brackets in the center of the display indicates the focus area. Pressing the Display button cancels the information display except for the focus brackets, flash mode, and battery information. On the second and third press, the display cycles through the same two options, but with the LCD backlight turned off to save power, a handy feature, given that the display is visible in bright light, including direct sunlight.
Playback Mode Display: In Playback mode, the LCD monitor shows simply the image and battery level. Pressing the up arrow of the Four-Way Rocker button pulls up an information screen, that reports the file and folder name of the image, as well as limited exposure information. A 6-image thumbnail display is available via an option on the playback menu, and pressing the telephoto side of the zoom control zooms into the picture as much as 8x. Pressing the Display button turns the LCD backlight either on or off, depending on its current state.
Shutter Button: Located on the top panel, this silver button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.
Power Button: Directly adjacent to the Shutter button on the left side, this button powers the camera on.
Display Button: Located at the top of the camera's rear panel, this button controls the LCD image and information display, in all modes except Set Up. It also controls the LCD backlight in all modes.
Scene Button: To the right of the Display button, this button brings up a menu that lets you select from the following seven scene modes:
- Standard: This is the normal recording mode for still images.
- Sports Action: This mode is best for capturing moving subjects, and uses a fast shutter speed combined with continuous autofocus to freeze the action.
- Portrait: This mode uses a large aperture setting so that a sharply-focused subject is captured in front of a slightly blurred background, combined with an appropriate white balance setting and an ISO sensitivity of 100 to give good skin tones in portraits.
- Night View: In this mode, the camera employs a slower shutter speed by fixing the aperture to the maximum to capture more ambient light in darker exposures. Flash is also disabled, and focus is locked at infinity. (A tripod is recommended.)
- Night Portrait: Like Night View mode, this mode uses a slower shutter speed. However, the camera also fires the flash, so that the foreground is well-exposed, but the ambient light surrounding the subject also enhances the shot.
- Macro: This mode adjusts the focus for capturing subjects as close as 7.9 inches (20 centimeters).
- Landscape: This mode disabled the flash, fixes focus at infinity and uses a smaller lens aperture to capture more detail in expanses of scenery.
Mode Buttons: Directly below the Display and Scene buttons, these arrow buttons control the camera's main operating mode. Pressing the left and right arrows here scrolls through the options presented on the horizontal menu above it. The currently selected option is indicated by an LED lit beneath it. The following options are available:
- Setup: Displays the camera's Setup menu on the LCD, which adjusts basic camera settings.
- Playback: Lets the user review captured images and movies on the SD card.
- Still Image Record: Sets up the camera to record still images, with a handful of exposure options available.
- Continuous Shooting: Captures a continuous series of images for as long as the Shutter button is held down. Frame rates and the total number of images will vary with the resolution setting and available memory card space.
- Movie Record: Records moving images with or without sound, with some exposure options available.
Zoom Rocker Button: This rocker button is in the top right corner of the back panel, and controls the optical and digital zoom while the camera is in Record mode. (Optical zoom is disabled when recording sound in Movie mode, with only digital zoom available.)
In Playback mode, this button controls the digital enlargement of captured images.
Four-Way Arrow Pad: Located beneath the speaker and Menu button on the camera's rear panel, this four-way rocker button features an arrow pointing in each direction, and the center of the button acts as the "OK" for confirming selections. In all mode menus, the arrow keys navigate through menu selections.
In Record mode, when manual focus is enabled, the right and left arrows control the focus setting. The up arrow controls the flash mode, cycling through Auto, Red-Eye Reduction Auto, Fill-in, Forced Off, Night Backdrop, and Red-Eye Reduction Forced settings.
In Playback mode, the left and right arrows scroll through captured images on the card. When an image has been digitally enlarged, the arrow keys move around within the enlarged view. The up arrow displays and dismisses an information screen about the currently-displayed image.
Camera Modes and Menus
Record Mode: Designated on the Mode button display by a small camera symbol, this mode sets up the camera for capturing still images.
Continuous Shooting Mode: Indicated by a multiple frame icon, this mode captures a rapid series of images as fast as 3.5 frames per second, while the Shutter button is held down. Frame rates and the number of images will vary with image size / quality and available memory.
Movie Mode: This mode records moving images with or without sound, at either 15 or 30 frames per second.
Record Menu: Pressing the Menu button pulls up the following settings menu, with varying options in Movie and Continuous Shooting modes:
- Self-Timer: Offers two- and 10-second self-timer modes, or returns to the normal capture mode.
- Pixels: Sets resolution to 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; or 640 x 480 pixels. Movie resolutions are 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 pixels.
- Quality: Adjusts the image quality to Fine or Normal compression settings.
- Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases exposure from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments.
- White Balance: Offers Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Cloudy, Fluorescent, and Preset (manual) white balance settings.
- Frame Rate: (Movie Mode only.) Sets the frame rate to 15
or 30 frames per second.
Details: Displays the following sub-menu:
- Sound: (Movie Mode only.) Turns sound recording on or off.
- Color Mode: Records images in Color, Black-and-White, or Sepia tones.
- Chroma: Adjusts chroma to Standard or "+" and "-" settings.
- Sharpness: Controls the amount of in-camera sharpening. Options are Standard, or a range from -1 to +3 settings in arbitrary units.
- WB Preset: Adjusts the manual white balance setting, based on a white card held in front of the camera.
- AE Mode: Sets the exposure control to Program, and offers f/2.8 or f/7.5 aperture settings.
- Focusing: Offers Manual, Wide AF, and Spot AF modes.
- Long Exposure: Offers two-, four-, and eight-second shutter times, or deactivates the mode.
- Sensitivity: Sets the camera's ISO sensitivity to Auto, or to 100, 200, 400, or 800 ISO equivalents.
- Metering: Controls the camera's exposure metering mode. Options are Evaluation, Spot, and Center-Weighted.
- Digital Zoom: Activates or deactivates the 2x digital zoom.
Playback Mode: This mode lets you review captured images on the memory card, as well as erase them, write-protect them, or set them up for printing on a DPOF device. Menu options in this mode include:
- Multi: Displays the six-image index display of all images on the SD memory card. Also switches back to Single display mode.
- Sound Recording: Records a short sound clip to accompany a captured image (maximum of 30 seconds).
- Protect: Write-protects the currently-displayed image, preventing it from being erased or manipulated (except via card formatting). This option can also remove protection.
- Erase: Deletes the current image from the memory card.
- Erase All: Erases all images from the memory card, except for write-protected images.
- Resize: Displays the Resize menu, with options of Execute Resizing, View Resized Image , Resize All Images, Erase All Resized Image, and Return. Execute Resizing lets you specify the cropped area and then save a new copy at the smaller resolution. The playback option confirms the resize, with an option to delete the file. Resize All Images will allow you to save copies of every image on the SD card to one of two sizes, without cropping first. Erase All Resized Image will delete all resized images from the SD card.
- Rotate: Rotates the displayed image in 90-degree increments counter-clockwise or clockwise.
- Auto Play: Enables an automatic slide show playback of all images on the memory card. You can adjust the interval and starting frame, whether to include movies, and whether to enable effects including fade, overlap, shutter and wipe.
- Print: Displays the DPOF settings options, which let you set the number of prints to be made, designate an index print, or reset all print settings.
Setup Mode: This mode automatically displays the following camera settings:
- AF Mode: Sets the AF mode to Single or Continuous.
- AF Method: Designates whether the AF system puts priority on Speed or Frames. (The Frames option lets you check focus in the LCD monitor before snapping the image, while the Speed option disables the LCD during focusing to improve focusing speed.)
- Bright Control: Adjusts the overall brightness of the LCD display. Options are Standard, or +/- 2 in arbitrary units.
- Backlight: Selects whether the LCD backlight is enabled (Bright), or disabled to conserve battery power when ambient light is sufficient to view the LCD regardless (Low Power ).
- Date: Sets the camera's internal calendar and clock, as well as the display format.
- Insert Date: Lets you insert a date overlay over captured images.
- Format: Formats the SD memory card, erasing all files, even write-protected ones.
- Power Save: Turns off the Power Save function, or sets the time period to one, three, or six minutes.
- Mode Lock: Activates the Mode Lock function, which saves the current exposure settings whenever the camera is powered off, so that they are instantly recalled when the camera is switched back on.
- Beep: Turns the camera's beep sounds off, or adjusts the volume to +1, +2, or +3.
- Shutter Volume: Controls the camera's shutter noise, turning it off or adjusting it from +1 to +3 in volume.
- Color Select: Designates the display color of selected menu items. Choices are Purple, Red, Yellow, or Blue.
- Start Screen: Sets the startup screen to a Kyocera logo image, an image from the SD card, or turns the startup-screen feature off.
- Record Review: Activates a post-capture review screen for two or four seconds, or disables image review.
- Language: Sets the camera's menu language to Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish, or Chinese.
- File Number: Resets the file numbering for new SD cards.
- Mode Reset: Returns all camera settings to their defaults.
In the Box
The SL300R arrives with the following items:
- Hand strap.
- Camera case.
- Lens cleaning pad.
- Lithium-ion battery pack.
- AC adapter.
- USB cable.
- 16MB SD memory card.
- Software CD.
- Instruction manual, Quick Start Guide, and registration kit.
- Large capacity SD memory card.
- Secondary battery pack.
Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...
See camera specifications here.
Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.
See the full set of my sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of my test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.
In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Finecam SL300R's "pictures" page.
As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how SL300R's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Finecam SL300R with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!
- Color: Pretty good basic color, but a weak white balance system. Throughout my testing or the SL300R, I generally found slight color casts with each white balance setting. In most cases, they were noticeable but within acceptable limits, but the camera had a fair bit of trouble with the household incandescent lighting of my "Indoor Portrait" shot. Apart from the color casts, hue accuracy was generally pretty good though, and saturation was about right overall, though reds were typically a little too saturated, as were some blues. The large color blocks of the Davebox looked pretty good, and the camera did well with the tough blue of the Musicians poster. Skin tones were typically a bit pale and yellow, and the blue flowers of the bouquet were dark and purplish. Overall, I'd give the SL300R a "B" for color rendition...
- Exposure: Generally good exposure accuracy, but very high contrast. The SL300R's exposure system was generally more accurate than most digicams, in that it seemed to require less exposure compensation than most on difficult subjects. That said though, its images were more contrasty than average, producing very stark-looking images under the deliberately harsh lighting of my Outdoor Portrait test. I appreciated the more-accurate exposure, but really disliked the extreme contrast.
- Resolution/Sharpness: Good resolution for a 3MP model, 1,000+ lines of "strong detail." The SL300R performed about average on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to a bit over 1,000 lines, although you could perhaps argue for as high as 1,100 lines in the horizontal direction. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,350 lines.
- Closeups: A very large macro area, though detail is good. Flash throttles down pretty well, though with some falloff. Macro shooting clearly isn't the SL300R's strong suit, as it captured a rather large minimum area, measuring 7.07 x 5.31 inches (180 x 135 millimeters). Resolution is high, with good detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. Color is pretty good, though slightly reddish in the gray background, and exposure looks good as well. The SL300R's flash throttled down pretty well for the macro area, though with some significant falloff at the corners and edges of the frame.
- Night Shots: Decent low-light performance, but autofocus system has trouble in the dim lighting and noise is high at the higher ISOs, but good color and exposure overall. Ultimately, only just usable under average city street-lighting at night. The SL300R produced bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at the 400 and 800 ISO settings. You could arguably use the images shot at this light level with the 100 and 200 ISO settings, but the overall exposure was slightly dim. With both ISOs, better images were captured at the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level. Color was pretty good overall, though the dimmer shots had a reddish cast. Noise was moderately high at the ISO 200 setting, and climbed to a very high level at ISO 400 and 800. However, at ISO 100, noise was fairly low. The camera's autofocus system had some trouble in the low lighting though, resulting in soft focus at light levels lower than one foot-candle (11 lux).
- Viewfinder Accuracy: A pretty accurate LCD monitor, but just a little tight. The SL300R offers a 1.5-inch LCD monitor for framing images, which proved to be a little tight. The LCD monitor showed about 95 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 94 percent at telephoto. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the SL300R's LCD monitor has a little room for improvement here, but didn't do too badly overall.
- Optical Distortion: High barrel distortion at wide angle, and a small amount at telephoto. VERY low chromatic aberration though. Optical distortion on the SL300R was higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.9 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I measured 0.2 percent barrel distortion there, although cameras that I test with 3x zoom lenses generally show little or no distortion at the telephoto ends of their zoom ranges. Chromatic aberration was quite amazingly low though, showing only about two or three pixels of very faint coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)
- Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Fairly slow operation all around. Like many subcompact digicams, the SL300R is no speed demon, but it's slower than most, in most parameters. Shutter lag is a leisurely 1.16 to 1.47 seconds in its "Frames" mode, and even with the AF system set to "Speed," the lag time only improves to 1.06-1.16 seconds. The shot to shot cycle time runs 4.91 seconds in single-shot mode for large/fine images, also rather slow by current standards. One bright note though: Continuous-mode cycle time is very fast, at 0.27 seconds (3.75 frames/second) for up to four large/fine images.
- Battery Life: VERY short battery life. With a worst-case run time of only 47 minutes in capture mode with the LCD enabled, the SL300R is at the extreme short end of the battery-life spectrum among digicams I've tested. Definitely plan on buying a second battery along with the camera!
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I confess that it's hard for me to fairly evaluate a camera like the SL300R,
with a proper view toward its intended audience. In the form-vs-function argument,
I tend to come down pretty squarely on the side of function: If a gadget does
what it should, I don't care too much what it looks like, but if it doesn't
do what I want, it doesn't matter a bit how cool it looks. There are plenty
of folks who hold the other view though, and for them, the SL300R could be a
fine camera. Its images are a bit on the contrasty side, but its color and resolution
are both good, and for the casual snapshooter, the short battery life may not
be that big an issue. If you're looking for a cool-looking camera, and don't
need long battery life to support extended picture-taking excursions, the SL300R
could be just what you're looking for. Not my cup of tea, but it could well
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