The Sony Cyber-shot WX300 is an eminently pocketable digital camera that still has enough room in its svelte form to pack in a large 20x optical zoom lens and Wi-Fi. We give it the once over in the Sony WX300 full review
Sony Cyber-shot WX300 Review – Features
It’s all very well being small but that can cause handling issues – which we’ll discuss later – but what of the camera’s key features of note that sit alongside that remarkable Sony G series zoom lens?
Kicking off, the Sony WX300 includes built-in Wi-Fi and Sony’s 18.2-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor that combines some of the company’s latest sensor trickery for low image noise high quality images and the ability to shoot Full HD movies.
The Sony WX300’s 20x optical zoom lens gives a 35mm equivalent zoom ratio of 25-500mm’s but can be extended even further out to 40x with Sony’s Clear Image Zoom technology – basically a clever digital zoom. Thankfully there is Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation built in to reduce hand shake and another neat feature is the 10fps frame rate that can really motor through your camera’s SD, SDHC, SDXC external storage.
One of the Sony WX300’s features that is pretty much a ubiquitous feature of many similar digital compacts today, is the Intelligent Auto mode. In essence, “iAuto” is able to recognise the scene you’re about to shoot and adjusts the camera settings accordingly without you doing a thing. And nine times out of ten it works really well, it is just that the system is a little slow when choosing the “correct” mode; it defaults to basic point and shoot mode if it cannot decide what to do.
The Sony Cyber-shot WX300 backs up its iAuto mode with a “Superior Auto” mode, which does a similar job to iAuto but is able to recognise if the subject is moving and can then set the AF system to track it to keep it sharp. However, why Superior Auto is not built into the iAuto system I don’t know.
Other modes include another common bit of technical trickery in the shape of iSweep Panorama where, as the name suggests, you “sweep” the camera around to grab a long thin panoramic of a scene. There’s a set of neat artistic effects, which can be applied to both images and videos. If shooting portraits, then the Sony WX300 can be set to automatically remove problem skin such as spots or blemishes.
The Cyber-shot WX300’s videos are recorded at Full 1080p HD (at 50i) and the camera’s Optical SteadyShot can be used alongside the video in its Active Mode which works really well at helping ensure smooth and steady video clips and is, frankly, a vital bit of kit at longer camera’s longer focal lengths.
Sony Cyber-shot WX300 review – Design
The Sony WX300 is a nicely shaped if blocky-looking compact. Its metal body is small enough to slip into most pockets – or a handbag – and the camera is not heavy either even with the neat 20x optical zoom lens. An aid to holding the camera comes in the form of a vertical groove on the front on the camera, but it’s really just a fig leaf hiding the camera’s handling blushes because, given the camera’s size and the lens focal lengths available to it, keeping the camera steady at 20x zoom is very hard indeed even with the image stabilisation. Throw in the 40x digital zoom and things become harder still to keep steady.
And it’s not that the Sony WX300’s image stabilisation doesn’t work, it’s just that the platform for a long lens such as this is so small that even a tiny movement of a hand can translate into a massive image wobble at the longer zoom ratios.
The top plate houses the Sony WX300’s key controls, shutter button, it’s surrounding lens zoom, a recessed on/off button and stereo microphones. While small, the buttons are easy to press. It’s worth noting that the shutter release is overly sensitive though, so you can accidentally take a snap when you wanted to simply focus, say.
The Sony WX300’s LCD is a nice 460K-dot 3-inch screen that’s easy to use in most lighting conditions but bright direct light causes issues so the lack of an optical (or electronic) viewfinder is an issue if stood in bright sunshine on holiday say. Then assessing focus, metering and composition is a real issue.
Alongside the screen we find the playback, movie record, menu and delete buttons, and a rotating settings adjustment wheel doubles up as four-way jog control for fast access to flash, continuous shooting and the photo creativity modes. Here you can adjust brightness, vividness, mono shooting, artistic effects (such as toy camera or mini modes) on the fly, but only from within the camera’s iAuto modes.
Sony Cyber-shot WX300 review – Performance
To use the Wi-Fi functionality on the Sony WX300 you need to install a free PlayMemories app; pairing the devices and using the app is easy and when connected you can transfer images and videos and even use the PlayMemories app to capture images and videos too, the app allowing you to control the zoom and set a self-timer.
There are a few foibles to get the WX300’s Wi-Fi connected – I had to repeatedly enter an IP address to get onto my local network; the auto IP address capture system just did not work for me, so that was frustrating. But once up and running it quickly allows you to transfer your images and videos to a smart phone or tablet and allows your mobile device to act as a remote control.
In terms of power, the camera’s NP-BX1 rechargeable battery pack is rated at 500 shots, which looks very impressive (according to CIPA test results) but a lot of use of the Wi-Fi and flash and the screen and this will reduced the number of shots you can take.
The Sony WX300’s much vaunted 10fps continuous shooting mode – all at full resolution – works well enough but we couldn’t quite achieve that 10fps speed, getting to about 8fps as a maximum with a Sandisk Extreme III SDHC card. The camera’s Panorama mode does well at stitching the series of shots it creates for the panorama without ghosting but the detail is only really suitable for such image use on the web; forget larger prints since the reduced vertical resolution makes them very difficult to produce at a reasonable size and if you do, the sharpness is just not very good.
The Sony WX300’s picture effects help you create pictures that are either more interesting, fun or just plain mad, but personal favourites are the Toy Camera and the Mini (miniature effect) modes, however, pumping up the colour and brightness in the Photo Creativity tools (via the four-way jog control on the camera’s back) can add punch and pizzazz to images that would otherwise look drab without resorting to other filter effects. Overall though, the filters and Photo Creativity settings certainly aid creativity and fun.
Shooting video clips for this test at the Full HD 50i setting it’s noticeable that the quality is very good indeed, although you can hear the lens zoom motors whiting slightly if you zoom while filming and the wind cut noise reduction processing (it’s in menus) is vital for shooting in anything other than a light breeze.
Sony Cyber-shot WX300 review – Image Quality
The Sony WX300 produces great, crisp images that combine excellent colour that are nicely exposed. Portraits (without any of those funky features mentioned earlier switched on) produce nice skin tones but using flash, red-eye rears its head.
The 20x zoom lens is reasonably crisp, but lacks vital bite at the longer focal lengths while purple fringing and chromatic aberration appear within higher contrasting parts of an image. The lens’s minimum focusing distance is a modest 5cm, but still allows for some decent macro shots.
The WX300’s image noise performance is quite good at lower ISO’s, as you’d expect for such a camera as this. Noise is very low at ISO 80, 100, 200 and 400 but get to ISO 800 and detail starts to suffer, images become soft and at ISO 1600 both these issues get worse.
Noise jumps again at ISO 3200 with the two highest ISO settings of 6400 and 12800 the image quality is very poor indeed so steer clear of these unless you have no choice. The camera’s white balance system does well, the auto white balance handling mixed light and daylight well while the incandescent preset does particularly well.
Sony Cyber-shot WX300 review – Verdict
The Sony Cyber-shot WX300 is available for around £280; similarly svelte, long zoom cameras include the Canon Powershot SX260HS which is priced around £180, Sony’s own less expensive HX20V (Around £210) and Nikon’s Coolpix S9500 at around £260. Fuji’s FinePix F900 costs much more at around £305 while the Panasonic Lumix TZ40 is even pricier at around £380 and like this Sony; many cameras come equipped with Wi-Fi today if this is the feature, which you need.
Over all then, Sony’s Cyber-shot WX300 is an extremely small compact, almost too small in fact, particularly in terms of the handling using the longer zoom ratios on offer because, while it’s nice having such a long zoom in such a small body, the handling compromises that ensue (terrible camera shake problems) need to be born in mind. Having Wi-Fi makes it easy to share your images with smart phones and tablets.
Image quality is not as good as it could be, particularly at higher sensitivities and bearing in mind the purple fringing and chromatic aberration that are the other two key issues. However images have good colour, exposure control is excellent and the camera’s many fun features and modes make it sure to be an attractive option for those wanting a long zoom but very pocketable snapper, which offers the sharing characteristics encompassed here by the Sony WX300’s WiFi features.
Sample Image Gallery
These are just a small selection of our Sony Cyber-shot WX300 review images. For a full range, visit the Sony WX300 review sample image gallery.