Sony's 2008 lineup has just been boosted yet again with the introduction of their latest flagship T-series compact camera, the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T300. Sporting a sleek silver chassis and updated optics, we wasted no time taking it for a spin, and discovering the good, the bad and the pretty of the T300.
Starting with the superficial, the T300 retains the endearing features of its predecessor, the T200, proving itself to be a stylish entry above most of its competition such as Panasonic's Lumix range and Casio's Exilim lineup. Retaining a sliding lens cover, the T300 is currently one of the slimmest compact digital cameras in its class, measuring in at 21.4mm thin. The same can't be said for its weight though, as it packs a significant amount of mass at 149g excluding battery. This is actually a good thing, as the T300 feels solid in the hands. Sadly, the T300 shares the same design flaws that the T200 had, namely a body too thin for a comfortable grip. This is made worse with a large 3.5-inch LCD panel that covers the entire back, as we found it hard to keep our thumbs off the screen while taking shots, making the accidental activation of menus a common occurrence.
Looking further than aesthetics, we were a little disappointed with the T300's imaging capabilities. While boasting a 10.1-megapixel sensor, up from 8-megapixels on the T200, our test shots returned lackluster imaging quality where photos were too soft - a step down from the T200, despite the megapixel bump. This was not the fault of shaky hands or image stabilization though, as photos were not blurry. They were soft, as in the lack of focus.
We also noticed a surprisingly high level of noise when snapping in Auto mode, so we switched it to Program Auto and retested manually from ISO 80 to ISO 3200. Noise levels were dramatically reduced, but the underlying fact here is that for a 10.1-megapixel digital camera, the amount of noise was too much for our comfort. Selecting other shooting modes on the camera yielded similar results in regards to noise level, though lighting conditions do contribute to the end result. We had no such issues with outdoor daytime shots, whereas indoor shots left much to be desired.
Performance aside, the T300's menu navigation and touch screen responsiveness were pleasingly good, though you'll be stumped by the excessive need to press 'OK' to every little option. Not only that, the OK button is located differently in different menus. Being digitally driven, you'll find the need to access the menu quite a bit, and with a large LCD comes the stigma of a shorter battery lifespan. The T300 lasted us under six hours with moderate photo shooting and LCD interaction.
The T300 has a sleekness factor going for it, but sadly, we feel shortchanged by its inability to produce clean and crisp images like the DSC-W120 we reviewed last month. Even so, for those who are considering Sony's flagship compact digicam, be ready to fork out S$649 for the Cyber-shot DSC-T300.