In continuous-drive mode, the F300 shoots at a lackluster 1.1 frames per second for six shots; then a 7- to 8-second buffer stall sets in. There is, however, an interesting and impressive ultrafast mode that takes 1 second to snap 11 photos at 1,280x960 resolution.
The lens zooms a bit slowly, but it's quiet, and you can control it with precision. The 1.5-inch LCD is fairly sharp and shows 100 percent of the actual image area. Reasonably easy to view in abundant outdoor light, the display also does a better job than many competing screens in very dim conditions, boosting the gain to provide a noisy but bright and useful preview. The optical viewfinder is small but acceptably bright, sharp, and undistorted. It shows 81 percent of the scene, which is pretty typical.
You can power the F300 with either one CRV3 lithium cell or two nickel-metal-hydride rechargeable AAs. Using 1,850mAh rechargeables, we obtained only 294 shots, 23 percent of them with the flash. The low-battery warning appeared after the 84th photo, and death occurred at number 294. These stats fall far short of the acceptable minimum for this class of camera. Using CRV3s doubles the life span, but considering their high monetary and environmental cost, that approach isn't such a great deal, either.
Images looked good, with a few exceptions. Our test shots displayed reasonable sharpness and detail, and the camera properly handled most flash and ambient-light exposures.
Under daylight, the F300 tended to oversaturate colors.
Colors ranged from acceptably neutral (when we manually adjusted the white balance indoors) to yellow-biased and oversaturated (when we used the automatic white balance in daylight). The very high default contrast gave some pictures a little extra punch but made others look harsh. In fairness, you can turn down contrast and saturation a bit.
Though we took this shot at the camera's lowest ISO setting, 64, you can still spot noise in the grapes.
At ISO 64, our photos were fairly clean, but at ISO 100, they showed higher noise levels than you'd get from the best competing cameras. By the time we reached ISO 400, the noise was extreme. Many diagonal lines had stair-step patterns, and we saw moderate purple fringing, but other artifacts were scarce enough. Almost no pincushion distortion occurred at the zoom's telephoto end, but wide-angle shots had mild barrel distortion.
Under indoor lighting, the F300's automatic white balance yields acceptable if somewhat pink colors.