Top positive review
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Packed with features, powerful and appealing for casual users
on May 23, 2013
The Sony DSC-WX300/B 18 MP Digital Camera with 20x Optical Image Stabilized Zoom and 3-Inch LCD is a strong entry from Sony against other cameras in this market segment and price point. It meets and beats several features of competitors, but also fails to be quite as much as it seems to be at first glance. Nevertheless, anyone considering what to take along for photo making on holiday should seriously consider the Sony DSC-WX300.
First let me say that I am a long time fan of Sony digital cameras, and that I have owned many different CyberShot models in the past, and that I am an avid user of the Sony NEX cameras. Superficially, the Sony DSC-WX300 looks like a tiny NEX model. The controls are laid out using very much the same wheel and button system on the back to access the menus, and the styling is very similar. The all metal body conveys a feeling of quality and looks great.
Aside from the controls and family resemblance, they Sony DSC-WX300 is at heart a CyberShot, the Sony line aimed squarely at point and shooters, not at serious amateurs (whatever that is; a good photographer who is not paid any money for his pictures, instead of a mediocre photographer who is?). It is packed with features appealing to sophisticated but casual users. But it is a JPEG image only camera. It does not output RAW image files. It also lacks multi exposure bracketing. Although it would be easy to assume that the Sony DSC-WX300 is a possible competitor to the Canon PowerShot S110 or the Panasonic LUMIX LX-7, the Canon and LUMIX cameras are both more "serious" point and shoot, "pocketable" cameras, with RAW output and more comprehensive PSAM modes.
All that said, the Sony DSC-WX300 has some very interesting features that make it a serious camera for holiday, snapshot and webcentric photo making. The main selling point for the Sony DSC-WX300 are its very small size, it really is "pocketable", combined with its rather amazing 20X optical zoom range, a mind boggling 40X zoom range using optical + digital. The image quality from the lens appears to be quite good. But in the end the image quality is both driven by and limited by the size and sophistication of the tiny thumbnail sized sensor and the electronics. This is the Achilles heel of all digital cameras, and very much the weak point of all pocket cameras. At the end of the day, especially with micro sized sensors used in pocket cameras, no matter how sophisticated, as ISO speed increases there's just no way to not have image quality start to suffer as heavy noise corrections start to be applied to the image by the camera.
Sure enough the Sony DSC-WX300 produces rather amazingly good looking shots up to about ISO 800. But, as with all pocket cameras, the image starts to soften after that. As is the case with almost all digital cameras these days, it's hard to tell just what part the quality of the lens, the limitations of tiny sensors and the alchemy of digital lens and image correction in the camera play in making the final result.
The Sony DSC-WX300 features excellent movie capture specs. But, as with most still cameras that also double as video cameras, the length of any one recording is limited not by storage but by the ambient temperature and other factors that impact how quickly the sensor will heat up while recording continuously. If it gets too hot it will shut down. The Sony DSC-WX300 is rated for video recording up to twenty-nine minutes. I made a ten minute test video without any problems. But, on a hot day, or if your hands have warmed the body already, or the camera starts out hot for any reason then the maximum recording time may be reduced quite a bit. It's not a movie/video camera, it's a still camera that you can capture video clips with. Still, in such a tiny size, the quality and video feature are pretty amazing.
The menus are traditional Sony CyberShot: concise easy to navigate, and without too many options. The Wi-Fi connection worked well for transferring files to and from both a smartphone and a PC, although it requires installing the Sony PlayMemories app. Of course all the devices have to be networked together, a task that's easy if you have little to no router or device security but which becomes an escalating pain as your standards for device security and interoperability increase. Still, it works.
Battery life appeared to be as advertised: rather good. You plug the charger directly into the camera rather than removing the battery and charging it alone. As seems to be the norm for these kinds of cameras, there are a zillion "scene" modes. Why it's assumed by camera makers that someone will have the presence of mind to parse, understand and select the correct scene mode but is assumed to not be organized enough to use PSAM modes is a mystery. The only thing lacking is a "two people being hit on head by coconut while standing in front of blast furnace mode" or maybe a "Batman in white cape snow boarding" mode. But, if you have time to investigate all the modes, and the memory to remember which one does which, it's an asset.
The camera has three different auto modes, but no easy direct PSAM control. About the 18MP sensor: mega-pixels alone are not a good guide to picture quality. An image from a 10MP APS-C sensor with a mediocre lens can easily look better than a picture from an 18MP micro sized sensor with an excellent lens. And let's not forget that with digital images that a large part of what you see in the image has passed through numerous digital processing and correction stages in the camera. The skill of the programmers and the processing power of the camera play an important role.
All that said, the Sony DSC-WX300 delivers some serious value, with a few compromises, and has a number of outstanding and well implemented features. It will easily beat the image quality from even the best smartphone cameras, it is almost as pocketable as a smartphone, it will produce full HD 1080P movie clips, it will network with social media picture sharing via Wi-Fi to your smartphone or tablet, and it has an extraordinary optical zoom range that should cover just about any picture situation.
If you don't need features like RAW file output, exposure bracketing and PSAM type controls that are offered by cameras like the Canon PowerShot S110 and Panasonic LUMIX LX-7, and are after a super portable high quality point and shoot for holiday and family snapshots, then the Sony DSC-WX300 is a serious contender and well worth buying. RECOMMENDED.