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The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300 has a virtually flat front side. Modeled almost exactly like its T200 sibling, the camera features a sliding lens door that powers the camera on and off when activated. On the door is the "Sony" logo that is embossed and textured for extra left hand grip support. The "Cyber-shot" logo on the right bar does not have as much grip. The door uncovers the 5x lens, flush to the left side of the camera. At the center is the capsule-shaped flash, next to an assist lamp and three microphone holes. The text underneath the flash is a minor change from the T200. The T300 text now borders the flash: 5x Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 3.5-4.4/5.8-29.0.

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Back

Most the entire backside of the Cyber-shot T300 is monopolized by the generously-sized 3.5-inch LCD. The monitor sits on a plateau that frames the screen and adds a little, and we do mean little, support for handling. The frame includes the Super SteadyShot DSC-T300 model information. Also visible from the back is the rectangular strap eyelet that also adds finger support.

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Right Side

Because the camera is so thin, the sides of the camera carry minimal functions. The right side includes the eyelet for the wrist strap and three tiny ports for speakers.

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Left Side

The left side has no functional tools. Users can see the edge of the sliding lens cover and two screws that keep the plates of the camera together.

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Top

The top of the camera carries the only four real buttons (in addition to the touch screen control panel). Next to the 10.1 megapixels text is the capsule-shaped power and play button. To the right is the rounded shutter release that doesn’t have a lot of room for depression. At the very edge of the corner is the nearly-neglected zoom toggle. Users have to shift the toggle up or down for wide and telephoto shooting.

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Bottom

The T300’s bottom carries vital functions including the dual battery/memory card compartment and Sony’s proprietary port, which lacks a cover. The tripod socket sits a bit off-center. To the right is the camera model’s serial information.

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Viewfinder

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300 has no optical viewfinder, which compact cameras and SLRs often possess. This is strictly an LCD-centered camera for point-and-shooters.

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LCD

The LCD is one of the key selling points for the Sony T300. The monitor measures a generous 3.5 inches and has a screen resolution of 230,000 pixels. We loved the large size on first sight, but the industry-standard 230,000 pixels may not be quite enough for a screen this size. Pictures on the prototype’s display seem a little pixilated, which may have been due to either poor monitor resolution or image quality. The screen is part of Sony’s higher-end monitors, the Clear Photo LCD Plus screen with wide 16:9 viewing.

As the headliner for the Sony T-series, the Cyber-shot T300 uses LCD-sensitive technology much like the iPhone. The touch screen is extremely responsive and not too sensitive, which is sometimes a problem with touch screen devices. The internal digital buttons, however, are somewhat crowded and make the touch screen harder to use. The monitor also tends to pick up fingerprints, as the prototype model was man-handled by PMA attendees. In general, we're very impressed with the touch screen, although the monitor coating and internal navigation system could use some work. Of course, this model was a prototype, so Sony may do some tweaking on this before the camera is released in March.

The screen displays lots of information with the corner controls for home, menu, and display. In Normal Display layout, EXIF shooting information lines the borders of the LCD. The top shows battery indicator, stabilization, and face detection mode. The left includes shooting ratio, drive, and record settings, and the right has flash and focus functions. Users can adjust brightness in only two steps, Normal or Bright.

Flash

The Sony T300 has a tiny center flash that uses the assist lamp to fire a pre-flash before the actual flash. The flash is effective from 3.9 inches to 11.5 feet (0.1 to 3.5 meters) when zoomed out or 2.6 to 8.9 feet (0.8 to 2.7 meters) when zoomed in. Users can control with Slow Syncro, Flash Off, Red-Eye Reduction, or Auto to let the camera decide. In cases of blown-out faces often associated with flashes at close range, users can tone down the flash one step.

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Zoom Lens

The Sony T300 is fitted with a 5x Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar optical zoom lens with an equivalent zoom range of 33-165mm in traditional 35mm film terms. That zoom range will allow for telephoto shooting and some wide shooting, more so than the standard 3x or 4x optical zooms on competing cameras of this size. The 5x zoom is appropriate for the near-$400 price point. Controlling zoom is problematic because of the tiny corner toggle that is ascribed to it. The zoom toggle is poorly located and terribly sized. Users will most likely leave the focal length as is just to avoid dealing with the button. The zoom lens also includes Sony’s Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization system to reduce blur, which is expected at this price point.

The lens itself is pushed to the edge of the camera. This ill-conceived location often leads to lots of pictures of fingers. The shooter oftentimes blocks the lens with the left hand since there is little room. The lens is protected by a sliding door cover.

Model Design / Appearance

As part of the T-series, Sony is specifically targeting the T300 to techno-socialites. The Sony Cyber-shot is cyber-cool. With its sleek, eye-catching thin body, the camera acts as a fashion accessory. Consumers will be proud to wear the T300 on their wrists. To co-ordinate with an outfit, the camera is offered in red, silver, and black.

Size / Portability

The pocket-sized camera is one of the tinier cameras we’ve seen. The Sony T300 measures 3.7 x 2.33 x 0.84 inches (94 x 59.3 x 21.4mm) and weighs 5.2 ounces (149 grams) without battery or memory card. It certainly is made for portability to easily fit into a pocket or attach to a wrist for nights out.

Handling Ability

The Sony T300 suffers from the curse of thin beauties – no girth to hold onto. It’s a double-edged sword. To keep the body small and sleek, Sony skimped on hand grips or rubber material for handling. The lens is poorly located. There is little room for right or left hand support, although the Sony logo and large strap eyelet provide minimal hand support. We are going to have to dock the Sony T300 points for its limited handling that would make shooting for extended periods of time difficult.

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Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size

The Sony T300 has an overall minimalist design that transfers over to its button design. The LCD acts as the main control, with digital touch screen buttons that replace traditional buttons. The camera only has four real buttons, located on the top of the camera: power, display, shutter release, and zoom toggle. We almost missed the zoom toggle when reviewing this camera. The zoom toggle is pushed off to the corner edge of the camera. Its small size and poor placement hinder zooming capabilities. We're very impressed by the touch screen controls, but disappointed with the zoom control.

Menu

Sony menu systems tend to deviate from that of other manufacturers. Instead of using a linear column-based system, the Cyber-shot T300 uses icon prompts and a vertical filmstrip-like interface set against a black background and live preview. The menus include white or orange text. Users can change the display setup to include all the controls or simplify it to only the key tools.

The menu system and touch screen LCD go hand-in-hand. While the monitor is very responsive, the menu system tends to be crowded because there are so many functions. There is a home key, menu key, and the initial main menu page, set up like a computer screen. When users select one function, the menu pulls up a bar of submenus. When selected, the function highlights in orange.

The menus, with large font and icons, are easy on the eyes, but navigation is problematic. Instead of live preview for color effects, for example, the camera displays prompts asking if you really want to change the color: Apply color effect? OK, Back. The "OK" prompts are an unnecessary step. The menu system is an adjustment, especially if you are used to other brands of cameras. It will take an hour or two to find all the functions, but users can reduce the menu to a simple setup.

**Ease of Use

**The Cyber-shot T300 is a strange mix of really easy and really difficult. Like working at PMA itself, we know what should be done but getting there is sometimes a task. The T300 has a strong touch screen LCD and compelling design for easy portability. The physical buttons and crowded menu, however, could use some work. We hope the next generation of T-cameras will remedy these key components to make a truly successful camera.

Auto Mode

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300 employs an Easy Shooting mode, a simplified setting that tailors the interface for beginners. The Easy Shooting mode uses larger font, simplified vocabulary, and reduced options, a function borrowed from Sony’s Handycam camcorders. The mode cuts out controls and boils them down to Image Size (Large, Small) and Flash (Auto, Off). Users can still view battery indicator, remaining shots, self-timer, and shooting mode.

Movie Mode

The Sony T300 records in MPEG-1 video in the following resolution and speeds: 640 x 480 in Fine and VX Fine at 30 frames per second (fps), 640 x 480 in Standard and VX Standard at 16.6 fps, and 320 x 240 at 30 fps and 8.3 fps. Users can use the optical zoom while recording video, which is nice since sometimes point-and-shoots forgo zoom during video shooting.

**Drive / Burst Mode

**The Sony T300 has a Burst mode for consecutive shooting. Unfortunately, the camera didn’t come with specifics about how fast the burst rate was at the time of publication. Read the full review in the coming months for full specs. Users access the Burst mode through Scene Selection, followed by hitting High Speed Shutter mode. Flash can be turned on or off, but it is recommended to keep the flash off since it slows down the drive. The self-timer operates on a 2- or 10-second delay.

Playback Mode

The Cyber-shot T300 is part of Sony’s strategy to revamp its cameras. It’s not just about taking pictures; it’s about managing them once you have them. Consumers are packing more pictures on the multi-GB memory cards, according to Sony’s press materials. To streamline the post-capture process, Sony updated its playback features with new editing tools and an upgraded management system.

Sony beefed up the slide show feature with added music options. In addition to slide show view, users can jump through images in a thumbnail index and navigate using side arrow directionals. The LCD displays resolution, file number, and date and time.

The Sony T300 also debuts a new Unsharp Mask tool, an in-camera retouching function. On the prototype, we didn’t notice a significant difference between the original picture and the edited version with the Unsharp tool, but then again, that was through initial testing on the LCD; we'll reserve any conclusions on that until we get the final version in for review.

One particular feature that caught our attention is Happy Faces, a built-in post-capture editing tool that well, makes unhappy people happy. Change your driver’s license picture into a smiling portrait? No problem. We did initial testing on a prototype model, so the feature may be tweaked in the coming months. The Happy Faces tool converts the original non-smile into a smile. There are five steps of smile-ness, 1 being the least altered and 5 being the most. The editing tool seems to stretch the subject’s mouth into unnatural proportions when set to step 5, making our lovely staff writer look like the Joker. But at minor steps of 1 or 2, the smiles look close to real.  

The Happy Faces tool doesn’t work on the reverse, to make a smiley person not smiley. We checked. If teeth show, the camera has trouble recognizing the image. If the person smirks, the camera sometimes works to go in both extremes of unhappy to happy. The tool won’t work if the background is crowded. We had to move our subject to a plain curtain background for the tool to properly adjust smiles. But again, we'll reserve judgment on that until we get the final version in for review; Sony may yet tweak the feature.

This camera is feature-rich with editing tools, almost too many. New users will be overwhelmed with the number of options, but advanced point-and-shooters will appreciate the added tools. Yes, the Happy Faces tool and other included functions are a little gimmicky, but it will surely make users laugh, pass around the camera, and share pictures. And after all, isn’t that what photography is about?

**Custom Image Presets

**The Sony T300 includes multiple Scene modes for automatic shooting. Each scene mode sets the camera to certain auto aperture and shutter speeds, optimized for varied conditions: Auto, High Sensitivity, Smile Shutter, Soft Snap, Landscape, Twilight Portrait, Twilight, Beach, Snow, Fireworks, Underwater, Smile Shutter, and High Speed Shutter.

The camera also has an auto of auto Scene modes - Intelligent Scene Recognition (iSCN). In this mode, the camera supposedly detects six shooting conditions - Portrait, Portrait and Backlight, Backlight, Twilight Portrait, Handheld Twilight, and Twilight using tripod – and takes one picture with the standard automatic settings,  then takes a second picture with the automatically selected scene mode. The mode is always turned on when in Auto mode. We couldn’t thoroughly test iSCN at the trade show, but tune in later for more details when DigitalCameraInfo.com releases the full review in the coming months.

**Manual Control Options

**The Sony Cyber-shot T300 is certainly an automatic camera for users who simply want to point and shoot. For more advanced users, there are a few controls, such as Semi-Manual focus, with the ability to control a bit more. There are virtually no true manual functions.

Focus

Auto Focus

The big thing with Sony’s T300 is its touted autofocus system with improved face detection. On our limited testing at the PMA show, we were very impressed with the updated system. Face detection is often limited when the subject turns his or her head or goes into a poorly-lit scene even in second or third-generation systems. The upgraded Sony face detection, however, was very responsive. The T300 recognizes faces even if the subject turns or bows his or her head, and yes, it operates when people wear glasses. Sony uses its own proprietary technology that detects up to a reported eight faces in a given scene to adjust for focus, white balance and exposure with flash options.

The new features include the Child Priority and Adult Priority modes that supposedly discern between kids and grown-ups. For example, if you are at a birthday party and want the focus to be on the birthday boy, instead of the kid’s mom, you change the Face Detection setting from the four choices: Off, Auto, Child Priority, and Adult Priority, that are available in all PASM modes. The face detection modes should highlight faces with orange boxes for primary faces and white boxes for secondary faces. We weren't able to do any in-depth testing of this on the prototype model, but the Child setting picked up adult faces as child faces.

The T300 also includes an updated Smile Shutter that can detect more smiles, instead of just one. It also has improved dynamic range. The autofocus system is based on 9-point AF sensors. Settings can be changed via the touch screen or through the internal menu system, with Auto, Macro, and Close Focus options.

*Manual Focus

*The Sony T300 has no true manual focus sometimes associated with point-and-shoots at this price range. Instead, Sony has a mode called "Semi-Manual" focus, which should be more appropriately named semi-automatic. It approximates the distance between the camera and the subject for situations where the photographer wants to shoot the background instead of foreground. The example Sony uses is shooting through a fence to focus on a baseball player. In those cases, users can select an approximate distance of where the subject is. U.S. users, beware, the distances in the pre-production model are in the metric terms: 0.5, 1, 3, and 7 meters.

Exposure

The T300 uses an automatic Program AE mode. Exposure can be changed through an EV scale in 1/3 steps up to a full 2 stops.

Metering

The Sony Cyber-shot camera includes all three light metering systems - multi-pattern for overall metering, center-weighted for subjects in the middle of the frame, and spot metering.

**White Balance

**The Sony T300 includes the following white balance settings: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent 1 (White), Fluorescent 2 (Natural White), Fluorescent 3 (Day White), Incandescent, and Flash. The camera also includes four underwater white balance settings - Underwater Auto, Underwater 1, Underwater 2, and Underwater Flash – to be used with an optional waterproof case. The camera has no custom white balance.

ISO

In addition to Auto ISO, sensitivity ranges from bright situations to darker, indoor settings with settings available at ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600. For even darker situations, the camera is capable of a High Sensitivity mode at ISO 3200. Like other high sensitivity modes on other point-and-shoots, that high sensitivity cuts down on image resolution and may introduce grain into the picture (Sony didn't supply the details of the resolution drop). We can properly test the high ISO setting and noise results when we get our hands on the camera for a full review.

Shutter Speed

Shutter speed can not be controlled manually. The camera selects the speed depending on the Scene mode. In Auto shooting, the camera shoots from 1/4 to 1/1000 of a second, or 1 to 1/1000 of a second in Program Auto.

Aperture

Like shutter speed, the T300 does not permit manual changing of aperture. The camera automatically decides f-stop based on shooting mode. Maximum aperture reaches f/3.5 wide or f/4.4 telephoto in Auto and Program Auto modes.

Picture Quality / Size Options

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300 is equipped with a 10.1 effective megapixel Super HAD CCD sensor. The camera captures JPEG stills in the following resolutions:  

Not all point-and-shoots include wide 16:9 shooting, so it’s nice that the Sony T300 possesses that panoramic feature. There is a range of resolutions so users can print their images or post them to the Web.

Picture Effects Mode

The Sony T300 includes a number of Color modes that can be applied to images after capture in both still and more impressively, in Movie mode. Users can change a color video to black-and-white if desired. The color choices include: Simple, Basic, Active, Nostalgic, Stylish, Face 1 Basic, Face 2 Nostalgic, and Face 3 Stylish. One of the strong suits with the T300 is the plethora of options for post-capture. (Refer to the Playback section.)

Connectivity

Software

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300 includes the Picture Motion Browser CD-ROM, an all-purpose editing and photo manager.

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Jacks, Ports, Plugs

The camera comes with a convenient all-in-one cord, just one, which we love. The sole cable has three plugs for USB, AV, and DC connection that connects to the bottom of the camera.

Direct Print Options

The T300 supports PictBridge-enabled printers, which makes up the majority of new printers these days. Users can directly print from the camera without the use of a computer. Users can print singles or multiple pictures with date information and time stamp. To help sort through volumes of images, users can also tag the pictures as favorites for reference later.

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Battery

The camera includes a NP-BD1 lithium-ion battery. It’s a flat, thin battery that users sometimes slide in backwards if not paying attention. The battery is inserted wrong side up, with the Sony logo facing down. Users should make note of this.

Memory

The Cyber-shot T300 comes with 15 MB of internal memory. That’s not much considering the Sony T2 outshines it with a whopping 4 GB of storage. The T300 accepts MS Duo and MS PRO Duo memory cards.

Other Features

D-range Optimizer – The DRO is a shooting mode that applies some post processing tools to improve dynamic range. That recovers highlights and shadows associated with backlit situations.

HD output – Users can view their pictures in high definition by connecting the camera to an HDTV. The catch is that users will need to buy an optional accessory, either a $40 cable or $80 cradle. That’s like buying a computer and realizing you need to pay 40 bucks more for the plug. It’s still not as bad as other manufacturers that sell their HD-enabled docks for $100, but we would like to see the HD cable thrown into the boxed kit with the camera.

Image Management – Sony talked about the improved image management system on the T300. Since memory cards are increasingly extending storage capacity to multiple gigabytes, the image management system is supposed to streamline that process with a PC-oriented interface that allows users to sort by face, smile, or favorites. Unfortunately, the prototype model did not have that feature. We look forward to testing it when the full version is released.

Value

At the same original retail price as the T200, the Cyber-shot DSC T300 retails for $399. That’s not inexpensive for a digital camera, since budget point-and-shooters retail for as low as $150 new. But gadget lovers will shell out the big bucks for its thin body, touch screen abilities, HD output, face detection system that actually works, and built-in editing tools. It certainly is one of more feature-rich point-and-shoots we’ve seen, but it comes at a price.

Who’s this Camera For?

Point and Shooters – The T300 is geared toward advanced point-and-shooters who are likely upgrading from an existing digital camera. New beginners can use the camera too, but might be overwhelmed by the number of menu items.

Budget Consumers – Not so much. At nearly $400, the camera is on the higher scale of point-and-shoot cameras.

Gadget Freaks – The camera is absolutely geared for techno socialites - think the same demographic as iPhone users.

Manual Control Freaks – The Cyber-shot T300 doesn’t have enough manual control that this segment craves.

Pros / Serious Amateurs – Professionals tend to go for SLRs with PASM modes. The T300 may be considered by a serious shooter as a backup fun camera or gift, but there is no way it's going to replace an SLR.

Comparisons

As the successor to the T200, the Cyber-shot T300 adds higher resolution, improved face detection (Child and Adult Priority, Smile Shutter, Face Search), and upgraded post-capture tools (Slide Show, Unsharp Mask).

Conclusion

As the replacement to the T200, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300 brings with it improvements on existing technologies. This evolutionary camera follows the T200 and the T100, which won the DigitalCameraInfo.com 2007 Select Award for Best Ultra-Thin Camera. The 10.1-megapixel camera has some impressive features that will win over advanced point-and-shooters who are upgrading from an existing, lackluster camera they already own. The camera carries over from its predecessors a 5x optical zoom lens with image stabilization and touch screen LCD. The camera improves autofocus, including face detection and post-capture editing. The camera looks beyond just the shooting process; the T300 makes advancements in what you do after you take the pictures with editing and sharing. Some of the tools like Happy Faces and Smile Shutter are gimmicky, but it will win over those who are willing to pay the near-$400 price.

Meet the tester

Karen M. Cheung

Karen M. Cheung

Editor

Karen M. Cheung is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

See all of Karen M. Cheung's reviews

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