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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX300 review:

20x zoom, Wi-Fi, and a lot of fun

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design and features
Prior to the WX300, the longest lens in the Cyber-shot W-series ultracompacts was the 10x 25-250mm on the WX150. To double the zoom range, Sony had to increase the body size of that model. It's only slightly larger, but enough so that Sony could put a shooting-mode dial on top and put more space between the buttons and control pad on back.

However, it still lacks much of a grip, which makes shooting one-handed a little tricky. Although, really, despite some excellent optical image stabilization, you'll want to steady the camera with two hands when using the zoom lens.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Again, the body is slightly thicker than the WX150's, which at least gives you more to grab onto there, and makes it more comfortable to use. The LCD is the same 3-inch display from that model; it's good, but like most camera screens it can be difficult to see in full sun.

Key specs Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX300
Price (MSRP) $299.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.9x2.3x1.1 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 5.9 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 20 megapixels (18 megapixels effective), 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 460K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 20x, f3.5-6.5, 25-500mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/AVCHD (.MTS); MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 (.MP4)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,896x3,672 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 60fps (interlaced; 24Mbps)
Image stabilization type Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li-ion rechargeable, 500 shots
Battery charged in camera Yes; via USB to AC adapter or computer
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC; Memory Stick Pro Duo

The camera's battery and memory card slot are under a locking sliding door on the bottom. The standard tripod mount is right next to the door's hinge (as is its Micro-HDMI port), so you'll more than likely need to remove any tripod or quick-mount plate to get to the battery and memory card. On the upside, since the camera is charged via its Micro-USB port and you can do transfers by USB or Wi-Fi, you can avoid opening it for the most part.

Battery life is excellent, too. If you've ever spent the day shooting a lot of photos and videos with your smartphone, you know it can quickly drain the battery. The WX300 is good for up to 500 shots, which is remarkable for such a small camera. Keep in mind, though, that using the zoom lens a lot, cranking up the screen brightness, using the built-in Wi-Fi, or recording movies will shorten it.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As for the Wi-Fi, it works well, too, and it's pretty uncomplicated to set up. The Wi-Fi can be used to send photos to an iOS or Android device or back up your shots on a computer. You can also use an iOS or Android device as a wireless remote control, though there is considerable lag.

Sony's PlayMemories Home software, used for sending to a computer, is Windows-only, but you can use the camera's Wi-Fi to connect directly to a Mac instead of over a network. (This, by the way, will also enable you to convert AVCHD video files to MP4 format on the fly.) If you're not comfortable with poking around with basic wireless settings on your computer or smartphone, you'll probably want to enlist the help of a techie friend to walk you through it.

General shooting options Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX300
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, White Fluorescent Lighting, Natural White Fluorescent, Day White Fluorescent, Incandescent, Flash, Manual
Recording modes Intelligent Auto, Superior Auto, Program, Scene, iSweep Panorama, Background Defocus, 3D Shooting, Movie
Focus modes Multi AF, Center AF, Spot AF, Face Detection (Adult, Child)
Macro 1.9 inches (Wide); 6.6 feet (Tele)
Metering modes Multi, Center, Spot
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) 10 shots

Like all of Sony's higher-end Exmor R-based Cyber-shot cameras, the WX300 has a lot of shooting options that take advantage of the fast sensor and Bionz image processors. For those who like to leave it in auto, there are three options: Easy, Intelligent Auto, and Superior Auto. Easy mode takes away all options except for image size (large or small) and enlarges onscreen text. Intelligent Auto picks from 10 scene types and turns on face detection, dynamic range optimization, and image stabilization.

Superior Auto takes Intelligent Auto and adds three multishot modes: Handheld Twilight, Anti Motion Blur, and Backlight Correction HDR. (These multishot modes are also selectable as distinct modes in Scene options, along with 11 others like Soft Skin, Gourmet, and Pet.) These multishot modes work by rapidly capturing several images and layering them to remove problems like noise and blur from hand shake. However, your subject has to be absolutely still for them to work properly.

In Intelligent Auto and Superior Auto, Sony gives you some extra control over Brightness, Color, and Vividness. Sarah Tew/CNET

There is a Program mode if you want more control over your results, but you won't find any semimanual or manual shooting modes; the WX300 is really made for automatic snapshots. Sony does give you a lot of extra auto shooting options, though, including nine picture effects such as a miniature/tilt-shift, HDR, and high-contrast black-and-white, and 3D stills and easy pan-and-shoot panoramas.

It's hard out there for a point-and-shoot. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX300 stands out by combining a 20x zoom lens, wireless features, excellent battery life, and Sony's large stable of auto shooting options. And like all good ultracompacts, it's small and light enough that you won't hesitate to take it with you when you know you're going to want something more than your smartphone can provide.

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