Sony DSC-W300 Review
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Generally good color and hue accuracy, though strong reds and blues are oversaturated a fair amount.
Saturation. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300 produced generally good saturation, though strong reds and blues were definitely oversaturated. (In some images, the bright reds practically jump off of the screen.) Yellows, greens, and purples were just about exact though. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.
Skin tones. The DSC-W300's skin tones were a little on the pink side, with slightly added warmth as well. However, most consumers should find the W300's performance here pleasing. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.
Hue. In terms of hue accuracy, the Cyber-shot DSC-W300 showed a
few small color shifts relative to the correct mathematical translation
of colors in its subjects. Most notably, cyan was pushed strongly toward
blue, presumably for better skies, and orange shifted toward yellow. Still,
overall hue accuracy was about average. Hue is "what color"
the color is.
| See full set of test images
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Most accurate color with the Manual white balance, though a hint cool. More than average positive exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance
|Incandescent White Balance
|Manual White Balance
Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was quite warm in both Auto and Incandescent white balance modes, though the Manual mode produced more accurate results. Color looks pretty good with the Manual white balance, if a hint cool overall, though the slightly cool cast is preferable to the very strong warm casts in Auto and Incandescent white balance modes. The Cyber-shot DSC-W300 required a +0.7 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, which is actually a little higher than average for this shot. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Good overall exposure and color, though strongly-saturated reds.
|Manual White Balance,
|Auto White Balance,
Under the harsh lighting of the outdoor conditions above, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300 handled exposure pretty well. Contrast is a little high, but given the bright circumstances, not too bad. Shadow detail is quite good, with only moderate interference from noise and noise suppression. In the portrait above, midtones look pretty good on the face, with a lot of fine detail. Color is vibrant and bright, and you could argue that reds are a little too bright, though overall color is still quite pleasing.
Very high resolution, 1,800 ~ 2,000 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to
2,000 lines horizontal
|Strong detail to
1,800 lines vertical
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 2,000 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,800 lines vertically. You could argue for 2,000 lines vertically, but the delineation isn't as clear in this direction. Extinction didn't occur. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.
Sharpness & Detail
Sharp images overall, though with some edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Shadow detail is good, with only moderate noise suppression blurring fine detail.
|Definition of high-contrast
elements is good, though edge
enhancement plays a small role here.
|Subtle detail: Hair
Moderate noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of hair here.
Sharpness. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300 captures sharp images with good definition in areas of fine detail. High-contrast subjects such as the crop above left do show edge enhancement artifacts, though the effect isn't very strong. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.
Detail. The crop above right shows moderate noise suppression, with strand detail in the darker areas of hair merging together, with some chroma noise in the mix. That said, the DSC-W300 does pick up a lot of strand detail in the moderate shadows. Impressive results, especially for a pocket point-and-shoot. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.
ISO & Noise Performance
Low noise at the normal sensitivity settings, with only moderately high noise at ISO 400, though some blurring from noise suppression efforts. Stronger noise and noise suppression at the higher settings, with losses in detail and color balance.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200|
|ISO 400||ISO 800||
High Noise Reduction
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300 produced low to moderate noise all the way to ISO 200. At ISO 400, noise is higher and the camera's efforts at noise suppression blur fine details. At ISOs 800 and up, noise becomes stronger and more dominating, altering color balance and blurring fine detail. The DSC-W300 has an adjustable noise reduction setting. The last crops above are only part of a series of High and Low settings, and show really minimal impact on the noise at ISO 3,200. The Low setting does attempt to preserve detail, but the pixels of noise also interfere with definition. At the other extreme, higher noise suppression results in a very blurry image. (See full set of test images with explanations for the full series of noise reduction settings.)
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
Very high resolution with strong detail, even in the shadows, but slightly high contrast. Very good low-light capabilities, captures bright images in near darkness.
|Default Exposure||+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV|
Sunlight. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300 produced slightly high contrast under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, though both shadow and highlight detail remain strong. Noise suppression attempts do hurt detail slightly in the shadows, but results are still good. The default exposure actually looks pretty good, though midtones are a hint dark; but even a small +0.3 EV exposure adjustment makes the highlights on the shirt too bright. The DSC-W300 does have an adjustable contrast setting, which had a small effect on the overall exposure. Regardless, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; and it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)
Low light. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300 handled low lighting quite well, capturing bright images at the darkest light level at the lowest sensitivity setting (ISO 80). Color balance looks good with the Auto white balance. Image noise becomes higher at the higher sensitivity settings, and the camera's efforts at noise suppression aren't too pronounced, but results are still good considering how dark the subject is. The camera's AF system was able to focus unassisted down to just below the 1/8 foot-candle light level, and to total darkness with the AF assist enabled.
How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.
NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.
Coverage and Range
A modest flash at close range, with slightly uneven coverage and limited range. Exposure compensation had little effect on the normal flash mode, though better results in Slow-Sync mode.
|35mm equivalent||105mm equivalent|
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV|
Coverage and Exposure. Flash coverage was uneven at full wide angle, and still a bit uneven (and quite dim) at full telephoto. In the Indoor test, the Cyber-shot DSC-W300's flash underexposed our subject quite a bit at its default setting, though boosting the exposure compensation had only a small effect on the exposure. The image is brighter at +0.3 EV than the default exposure, but increasing the exposure compensation did not brighten the image past +0.3 EV setting. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced much brighter and more even results, though with a stronger pinkish-orange cast from the room lighting. The best results here were at +0.7 EV.
ISO 100 Range. At wide angle and ISO 100, flash shots were brightest at 6 feet and decreased in intensity with each foot of distance. At full telephoto and ISO 100, shots were already dim at 6 feet, and decreased in brightness from there.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 800
Auto ISO 640
Manufacturer Specified Flash Test. In the shots above, the Cyber-shot DSC-W300 performs almost as Sony says it will, though it boosts the ISO to get these results. At wide angle, the camera boosted ISO to 800 and at telephoto, to 640; way too much in our opinion. Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We've now also begun shooting two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims.
Good print quality, good color, sharp 13x19-inch prints. ISO 400 images are soft but usable at 11x14, ISO 800 shots are still good at 8x10.
The Sony W300 had enough resolution to make good looking 13x19-inch prints. 16x20-inch prints were reasonable, but chroma noise shows up in some places. ISO 400 shots are better than expected at 11x14, with good color and detail. ISO 800 shots are soft at 11x14, but pretty good at 8x10, surprisingly. ISO 1,600 shots aren't bad at 8x10 either, unless you look closely. They're quite a bit better at 5x7. ISO 3,200 shots are a little rough at 5x7, but quite decent at 4x6, though with soft detail in low-contrast areas. Overall it's a better performance than most 12-megapixel digital cameras. Sony has used the higher resolution to good advantage to allow larger print sizes. Though we recommend sticking to ISO 800 and below for enlargements, ISO 1,600 is quite usable for snapshots.
Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon Pro9000 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon PIXMA Pro9000 review for details on that model.)
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300 Photo Gallery.
Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
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. We 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 lot 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 digital camera 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...
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300 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!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.