Top critical review
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Lots of features, decent price point, a little large and flimsy feeling
on August 21, 2012
First impression - this camera seems light and flimsy. It's entirely made of plastic (except the lens), and I'm sure a drop from a few feet would wreck it. But that's true of most cameras in this price range. It also seems too large when compared to other point and shoots. But after looking at the features, it becomes obvious why it's so large - there's a pop-up flash and a hot-shoe for an external flash. The lens is also quite a bit larger than your run of the mill point and shoot - both in volume of glass and length.
The 3" screen is large - the same size as many DSLR's. You can switch between the screen and viewfinder by pressing a button. The viewfinder uses less power, and honestly, has a cheesy look. The screen is much clearer and easier to use. The viewfinder is nice in bright light.
The lens can be zoomed from two places - a control on the left side of the lens, and the control the shutter release sits in. That's handy. My main complaint with the zoom is using it with video - the zoom is not smooth, and stutters. It also stops at around 3x - not the full 30x. Why?
Speaking of video, it's decent quality and saves in AVI format.
Other features include an advanced panoramic mode - shoot one image, and move left to right - when a visual guide lines up (X over X) the next photo automatically shoots. Nice. But the saved image is no larger than a single image! It can stitch three full size images - the result should be at least 2x the normal image size. But the pano quality is much better than most other pocket camera panoramic modes - although it is limited to horizontal panoramics.
When zooming into the image 100%, the pixels are decently clean. Not DSLR quality, but above average. I have nice Panasonic, Canon and Nikon pocket cameras - the pixel quality on the Fuji are superior.
The combination of the super-zoom, wide angle and macro is also a big plus.
The SL300 also has full auto mode, plus several more advanced modes (Aperture priority, automatic program, shutter priority, custom, smile detect) and full manual. The full manual is limited though - only two F stops - these vary on conditions. The maximum exposure length is 8 seconds - rare in a camera of this price range.
Focusing is in a word, hinky. Zoomed in, 25x-30x, it takes forever and often fails. Even with high-contrast subjects. The anti-vibration is not as good as some other cameras. I see more blur than I like at full zoom when hand-held. Placing the camera against a solid surface fixed this.
There are also "dummy proof" measures - you are warned when there's no memory card or the lens cap in on.
The camera does use a custom battery, but it includes an external charger - that's a great feature. The cable that us used for USB and component/RCA audio and video is a proprietary mish-mash. A small connector at one end plugs into the camera. The other end has a standard USB connector, plus two RCA fittings. Strange.
If you're looking for a beginner camera with some advanced features, I'd recommend this camera. For example, you want to experiment with panoramas, long exposures and lighting. If all you want is a point and shoot, you can find cheaper - and much smaller cameras. But for quality glass, lens zoom, this can't be beat in this price range.
So I give it three stars. Some great points (lens, zoom, image quality, hot-shoe, pop-up flash, high speed and burst modes) and some misses (focus issues, all plastic body, long processing time between images.) Would I recommend it? Yes, to someone looking for a camera to learn on, and develop their skills. For someone looking for a simple point and shoot? No.