Following up on its current top T-series camera, the Cyber-shot DSC-T200, Sony has announced the Cyber-shot DSC-T300. Resolution has been pushed up to 10.1-megapixels, but the other main specs have remained the same. The T300 sports a 5X optical, 33-165mm f/3.5-4.4 zoom lens, 3.5-inch touchscreen LCD, and has optical image stabilization and a top sensitivity of ISO 3,200.
New to this camera, and some of Sony's other new compacts, are a handful of features aimed at dealing with common, though tricky, shooting situations. Cutest among these is an update to the Smile Shutter feature introduced in the T200. While that version would snap a picture when the camera's face detection system saw a smile, this new version is able to look for multiple smiles. It also works hand in hand with a refinement of the face detection system, which can distinguish between the faces of adults and children. As such, you can set the camera to shoot a picture only when a child smiles, which can be especially helpful, since they are often the ones most difficult to get to smile in photos. In playback mode, you can also have the camera separate out images with children in them, based on the same face detection system, or sort by date or smiles. Sony has also updated its slide show with more interesting transitions, including one that zooms in on faces in the photos before moving on to the next image.
Trickling down from Sony's SLRs is the D-Range Optimizer Advanced mode. In this mode, the camera attempts to preserve details in highlights and shadows by exposing accordingly and then processing the image in the camera to brighten areas that it thinks you'd want brighter while leaving alone areas that it thinks should be dark. For example, if you shoot a portrait of someone with the sun behind him, puffy clouds overhead, and a black car next to him, the camera should expose so that the detail of the puffy clouds isn't lost, but then processes the image so that the person in the portrait isn't shrouded in shadow, but the car remains the black color it should be. It'll be fun to see if this feature works as promised once we get a review sample.
Taking a cue from Sony's camcorders, the T300 includes an Easy shooting mode. This feels a bit like overkill, since all of Sony's compact cameras, including this one, include Auto shooting modes, which are quite simple already. Intelligent Scene Recognition, which looks at the scene framed in the LCD and decides which preset scene mode would be most appropriate for the subject being shot, seems a bit more useful. If you've ever been annoyed by your point-and-shoot focusing on something in the foreground or background instead of your subject, then you might like the Semi-Manual focus feature. It lets you choose from a few distances, so that you can tell the camera what approximate distance your subject is from you. Then, the camera limits its focusing range to something close to that range. This can be useful when shooting through a fence or other similar screen, such as cages in a zoo.
Like its predecessor, the T300 can output an HD signal to a TV, though you'll have to purchase a special cable or dock if you want to do that. Sony expects the Cyber-shot DSC-T300 to be available in March for about $400.