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Contax SL300R T* review: Contax SL300R T*

Performance such as that makes this camera's quirks easier to live with. The SL300R T*'s controls are small and easy to fumble over, and the lens hood makes a perfect finger-grip when you pick up the camera: be prepared to remove a fingerprint once or twice each shooting session. You probably won't miss the absent optical viewfinder except when you're shooting under direct sunlight outdoors or trying to focus manually; the LCD otherwise works well for composing and viewing your pictures. Its backlighting can be switched off to conserve battery power. There's no socket for a tripod or any other brace to steady the camera for longer exposures or to let you use the self-timer to get into the picture.

Aside from those few ergonomic drawbacks, the camera is easy to use. There's no mode dial: you use a pair of left/right keys to switch from Setup to Playback, Shooting, Burst, and Movie modes. Other settings are accessible via the Menu button, which displays a strip of options along the bottom of the LCD, including the self-timer, quality and compression settings, ISO, metering mode, exposure compensation, and white-balance controls.

Most non-burst-performance figures were average in our tests. Time to first shot was 3.5 seconds, and thereafter we were able to snap off a picture every 2.2 seconds, or every 5.6 seconds with the flash activated. Shutter lag was acceptable at 0.7 second under high-contrast lighting, but the non-light-assisted autofocus system took long enough to make up its mind under low-contrast lighting to result in a 1.1-second lag. We got 332 exposures on a single battery charge after a workout that included 50 percent flash exposures and other power-sucking activities, such as zooming and picture review.

The Contax SL300R T*'s image quality was average. Exposures were even, and there was a reasonable amount of detail in both highlights and shadows, but the sharpness you might expect from a 3.2-megapixel camera just wasn't there. Noise was abundant at higher ISO ratings, limiting the usefulness of the ISO 800 setting for sports photography.

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