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Design and Handling

It's refreshing to encounter a 5x zoom camera that has no aspirations to looking like a DSLR. Instead the T300 is one of a handful of 'card' cameras that make perfect sense sitting in a pocket or handbag, but make you look a bit funny when held aloft to compose a shot. In fact, "Are you sure that's a camera?" was one of the comments that it prompted and, in fairness, it doesn't look like, and can't readily be held like, a traditional camera. It feels remarkably solid and well built considering its size though. That huge touch screen will leave you as adept at polishing as at taking photographs, however.

Handling

The T300 is a distinctly compact camera that doesn't easily conform to any recognized camera-grasping protocols. The large screen, always ready in interpret a stray finger as an important instruction, encourages a peculiar two-handed grip. This isn't exactly the most stable position but, so long as you remember not to let your finger creep in front of the lens, it's quite workable.

Key body elements

There are only really four buttons on the entire T300 body. These two are power and playback (though the power button is slightly redundant because the lens cover slider also turns the camera on and off). Then, on the right-hand corner of the camera is the shutter release and a sprung tab for zooming in and out. And that's your lot.

Controls & Menus

With the exception of the buttons seen above, all other controls on the T300 are onscreen, 'buttons.' On the whole this works fairly well but, perhaps to prevent accidental presses, a great many options require a confirmation press. This tends to mean that everything that could be done with a single button press now requires two (though, to be fair, some manufacturers love adding confirmation steps with physical buttons, too).

If having to reiterate what you've just requested of the camera annoys you, then it's important to remember to turn off the camera's 'Function Guide.' The idea is that it offers helpful details about what each function you've selected. Unfortunately the insight it offers rarely amounts to more than: "Adjust main settings. [OK]," when you've just pressed an area of the screen clearly marked "Main Settings." It could have been useful but delivers so little additional information as to just end up being an annoying distraction.

The T300's screen takes a 16:9 aspect ratio. The camera can take images in this shape but, because the sensor is a 4:3 ratio, the results are a 7MP stripe from the middle of the sensor. There are three levels of information that can be displayed in record mode: none, basic, full. Live histogram and gridlines are options that apply to all three. Recording in 4:3 aspect ratio blacks out the edges of the screen to aid composition.
Changing the camera's settings is as straight forward as pressing the correct part of the screen. Everything needs to be confirmed, either by re-pressing the ISO button or 'OK' in this instance. The camera's modes are arranged up the left-hand side of the screen and are operated in the same way.
The menu button gives access to 9 options, which control just about all the other shooting parameters, from white balance to smile sensitivity The 'Home' button takes you to what would probably be called a settings menu on other cameras. Some aspects of this can also be reached from shooting settings on the standard menu.
The 'Toolbox' icon on the right of the 'Home' screen brings you to a six page settings menu, two pages of which are also accessible through the 'menu' button. This is where you turn off the 'function guide.' Probably the cleverest use of the touch screen is the Automatic face detection mode in which the focusing point can be defined by pressing at the relevant point on the screen, over-riding face detection.

Playback mode is something of a missed opportunity because the lovely, 3.5" widescreen LCD isn't really used to its full potential. When taking a 4:3 aspect-ratio image (using the camera at full resolution, for instance), the camera puts two black bars down either side of the screen. However, when you zoom in, they stay there - so the camera doesn't use all of its screen when reviewing the detail on its highest-res images. Baffling. The situation is made even worse if the images are shot in a portrait orientation where the images take up the middle 42% of the screen. (And it would be even worse if you have friends with such long faces that you tried taking 16:9 portraits)

The standard playback mode, (for a 4:3 image) with essentially the same options as in record mode. The 'button' at the top right turns the menus off. The menu button brings up a 5 page, icon-driven menu. Here you have the choice to do everything from rotating or deleting your image to applying post-shot effect.
And the range of post-shot effects is extensive, if somewhat bizarre. You can add a fish-eye-style or "blur and dim the periphery for a nostalgic effect." Each effect has a series of options that can be previewed before saving the image. Whether the results are hilarious or painfully gimmicky depends on your perspective but it's well implemented.
When the camera takes an image, it records whether is found faces (and what sort), in the scene. Images can then be filtered for playback or slideshow mode. It doesn't always get it right, though. According to the camera this scene has a face in it somewhere. The Sony can see it, Can you?
Playback mode can show individual images, scrolled through by pressing on the left or right of the screen, or in a grid view of 12 or 20 images. Viewing 20 images on a 3.5" LCD isn't necessarily the easiest way to choose the right image. My fingers were too clumsy to consistently select the desired image.
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