Contax SL300R T*
The Contax logo and the leatherette panels on the SL300R T*'s body and the Carl Zeiss name applied to the lens may attract upscale buyers, but digital-camera aficionados will snap to attention over this 3-megapixel camera's high-speed burst mode. It can capture full-resolution photos at three to four frames per second for as long as the action, your memory card, and your trigger finger hold out. If you want to shoot a few hundred photos in less than 60 seconds with a pocket camera that's thinner than a deck of cards, this one's for you.
This luxury-oriented model is actually a fancy version of the, with the chief difference being the leatherette body and the Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens, which has the same specifications as those listed for the Kyocera version's optics but is apparently improved with a T* coating. Small at 4 by 2.5 by 0.6 inches and 5.5 ounces, this little wonder has a lot more to offer than its blazing burst performance. A limited-range but fast-operating 3X zoom lens, excellent macro capabilities, and 640x480-pixel video capture at either 30fps or 15fps make this a versatile minimachine.
The Contax SL300R T* has a two-section body; the lens/flash module rotates up or down 120 degrees, making it easy to point the lens where you want while previewing your shot on the 1.5-inch LCD. (There is no optical viewfinder.) The lens offers a 38mm-to-115mm zoom (35mm-camera equivalent) that's not quite wide enough for interior photography in cramped quarters or long enough for many sports pictures unless you're right down on the sidelines. The lens does offer a choice of wide-angle or spot autofocus, as well as manual focusing, and you can get as close to your subject as 8 inches in macro mode. The SL300R T*'s Speed Autofocus mode makes focusing faster but freezes the LCD screen during the process. A modest number of scene modes provide programmed settings for sports, portraits, night shots, night portraits, and landscapes.
Most of the time, you'll let the camera choose the exposure, but you can select from multi-area, center-weighted, or spot metering and choose aperture priority--but not shutter priority--if you like. If you want a little more or less exposure, you can make adjustments in 1/2EV increments to plus or minus two stops. ISO can be adjusted up to ISO 800.
The impressive burst-mode performance can be credited to the SL300R T*'s pipelined processor, which uses direct memory access to hustle images onto a high-speed SD memory card at a furious clip. Our tests yielded 434 full-resolution photos in less than 2 minutes.