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A more compact Mavica
By trimming the zoom from 10X to 3X and employing a more compact, curvaceous design, Sony has made the 1.5-pound CD300 far less hefty than its predecessor, the CD1000. Still, the CD300 isn't exactly svelte. But with its fast f-2.0 Zeiss lens fully extended, the CD300 measures a manageable 4.5 inches deep.
A bright 2.5-inch, rear-mounted LCD functions as both a viewfinder and an easy-to-use menu display. Although there's no optical viewfinder, Sony makes an optional eyepiece attachment that snaps over the LCD, easing image composition by simulating a conventional camera's optical viewfinder.
You can perform many operations, such as adjusting the aperture, shutter speed, or focal distance, with the jog dial on the rear of the camera. Though it's a good concept, we think a slightly larger dial would be easier to operate. On the other hand, we like the quick-review button that lets you see the last picture you shot without switching the camera into playback mode.
Many features, mixed performance
The CD300 offers auto, aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual modes, as well as MPEG and clip-motion video capture. A built-in mike lets you capture sound, and a speaker allows in-the-field playback. We appreciated the ability to adjust the increments for exposure compensation in 0.3-, 0.7-, or 1.0-EV steps. The manual focus mode also proved useful, although it operates in 15 steps instead of continuously.
Sony has done an impressive job of minimizing the time it takes to write images to the CD media--in most cases. You can capture JPEGs at the highest-quality setting with a respectable shot-to-shot time of about 3 seconds, and if you use the Burst mode, you can shoot three of those high-quality images in fewer than 2 seconds. But you'll have to wait about 20 seconds after that for the shots to record. If you need uncompressed images, the CD300 takes the snap right out of snapshot, pausing a full minute to write just one 9MB TIFF file to CD. And the camera does have a small but noticeable shutter lag of about a second.
However, if you're willing to tolerate these performance drawbacks, the CD300 will repay you with vivid, sharp, well-exposed images. The camera has a good dynamic range, capturing shadow and highlight details competently within a shot. Its auto white-balance setting yields the most realistic color outdoors, whereas the one-touch setting seems to work best under mixed lighting conditions. Our test photos showed little optical distortion and adequately low levels of image noise.
Sony bundles Adaptec DirectCD with the camera, so users with CD-R/RW drives can easily transfer images. As an alternative, you can upload images to a PC (but not a Mac) via a USB connection. The CD300 also supports Epson's Print Image Matching technology.