A go-everywhere digital camera with excellent video
Written: Jan 20, 2012 (Updated Jan 22, 2012)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:excellent video, good still pictures, solid metal body, reasonable price
Cons:no shutter or aperture in manual mode, flash awkward location easily blocked by finger
The Bottom Line:
If you look for a camera offering decent still pictures and videos this is the one. If you want to adjust shutter speed/aperture in manual mode, nix this camera
I’ve been dreaming about a camera that would be able to capture still pictures and videos, both with decent quality. The camera must also be a point-n-shoot one that I can put into my pocket to carry anywhere. The Canon Elph 300 HS is the exact answer after a rather quick search. Here’s my report:
The body is very compact, slim and most of all it is all metal, not cheap plastic. Its thickness is smaller than most of the cameras of its class, making the camera easy to slip into a pocket. Its tripod socket is made of metal, not plastic like all other cameras that I know. The camera feels solid and sturdy in my hand. The surface of the body is not smooth like an ordinary cameras but rather slightly rough like sandpaper thanks to a matt textured coating. This really helps to have a firm grip on a rather small camera.
Lens: very good
The lens has focal length of 24-120mm (35mm film equivalent). Other cameras in this class have 28mm, so the Elph 300’s 24mm offers better wide-angle which is very convenient for tight indoor shooting situations(for example, family group shooting in a party). The optical zoom of 5X is also better than the average 3X that most competitors have. Zoom is smooth and does not cause excessive noise. In general the lenses yield sharp an undistorted pictures, except at max wide angle (which is normal for all cameras). Purple fringing on high contrast pictures happens but not as much as I anticipated.
LCD screen: good
Elph 300 has a 2.7 LCD screen and has no optical view. Nowadays 3-inch LCD screen size is standard on most cameras, so Elph 300’s screen is rather subpar here. However, this doesn’t bother me a bit since the difference is not much. Besides, bigger screen consumes more battery, something you don’t want on a small camera. The LCD screen resolution is 230,000 pixel. Some reviews complain about this low resolution but I think this is adequate. Too much resolution give the user the impression that the picture is good but in reality it’s not(for example the resolution of my Canon G11 is 460,000, which always gives me the false impression that the picture is better than it really is). The LCD screen has 5 brightness levels and the highest one offers very good contrast. The LCD covers 100% of the view, which is excellent
Elph 300 has rechargeable battery, which is understandable given the size of the camera. The battery is NB-4L with capacity of 760mAh, which I think is just average. I would prefer a 1400mAh although an extra one would not cost much(about $5 for a generic one and $15 for a genuine one, on eBay).
Video is where Elph 300 shines. Besides full movie mode(640x480 at 30 fps) and HD (720p at 30 fps), this tiny camera can also capture HD 1080p at 24 fps. Moreover, it offers 640x480 at 120 fps to provide slow-mo effect at playback. But the feature I like the most is that it can zoom while recording(none of the 3 cameras my family members are using, Canon G11, Kodak zi6, Panasonic Lumix Dmc-tz20, can perform zooming while in video mode).
The video quality is excellent: the image is sharp, stable (thanks to the image stabilization feature the zooming is smooth and does not cause too much intrusive noise. The sound is surprisingly good, my narrative voice is picked up clearly.
This camera also has Movie Digest feature which automatically records a 4-second video clip every time a still picture is taken. All videos taken on the same day will be combined into a single video clip.
Note that there is some limitation on recording time and size. The max file size for one continuous recording take is 4G, recording automatically stops when the file size reaches 4G. Similarly, the recording also stops when the recording time reaches 10 minutes in HD 1080p mode or 1 hour in standard mode(640x480)
Still picture: good to very good
The quality of the pictures in broad sunlight is not as good as high-end compact cameras such as Canon G11, but surprisingly not far behind. In general the color is vivid, contrast is good and sharpness is excellent. I don’t see much purple fringing in high contrast pictures as I often do with point-n-shoot cameras.
In lowlight the difference is more pronounced but the pictures in low light are still better than most point-n-shoot cameras I’ve seen. Pictures taken at not too dark situations still exhibit relatively realistic colors with not too much noise. Pictures taken with flash still suffer from overexposure, a common problem with Canon sub-compact cameras, but I found the overexposure here is much less.
To handle high contrasting image the camera has a mode called i Contrast mode that evens out areas of high contrast.
Shooting Performance: average
As far as focusing in general the ELPH 300 HS exhibits consistency even in low light, with the help of AF assist lamp. Starting time is excellent. The camera start almost immediately after the power button is pressed. Shuttle lag is not a problem. Waiting time from one shot to the next is average, about less than 3 seconds. Waiting time when shooting with a flash is, naturally, a bit longer but still within acceptable limit. There is a mode called Best Image Selection which I found interesting. In this mode the camera takes five consecutive shots, chooses the best one and saves it to the card for you. However, in this mode the picture size is limited to 3M.
In general navigation is easy and intuitive, I don’t think you even need the manual for basic shootings. There are only a few buttons and a four-way dial and all are clearly defined. One very good thing is that there is a button dedicated to video recording, which makes life easier if you need to alternate between still picture and video captures (in all the cameras I use if I want to record video while in still picture mode, I have to either turn the dial or access the menu to specify the video mode, then press a button to record. Here I just press the video button and record right away, sparing the hassle of going back and forth between 2 modes).
Also there is a button dedicated to picture/video playback. When you play back your recordings you don’t have to turn on the camera power, just press this button. This is good since the action of turning on power wears out the lens motor (every time the power is turned on the lens protrudes).
The camera shooting options are limited to 2 modes: automatic(Smart Auto ) and the manual(Program AE). Unfortunately the manual mode is not totally manual: it does not allow you to select shutter speed or aperture. Although I don’t care about manual mode and I don’t think it’s a big deal since this is a point-n-shoot camera, I believe this drives away some potential buyers, who buy a point-n-shoot camera but also need manual shutter speed and aperture for occasional uses. Canon needs to address this issue..
A complaint about picture deletion: to delete a picture I have to go through the menu, select the Erase option, then select the picture to be deleted etc... a whole bunch of steps instead of just pressing a button(with trash can label on it) like most other cameras.
The flash is located at the top left of the camera, right on the edge, which will be easily inadvertently covered by the left hand when the user want to hold the camera with 2 hands for steady shots. Max flash range is about less than 10 feet.
In manual mode, in addition to the auto mode, the usual force-off and force-on modes, there is another mode called slow sync that I find useful. It is used to brighten the background in low light situations by applying a slow shutter speed.
A big complaint here: in Auto mode there is force-off flash but no force-on flash. Very often in broad sunlight I still want to force the flash on because the object is in front of a light source. With other cameras force-on flash is available in Auto mode, with Elph 300 I have to switch to manual mode to force the flash on, a big chore.
For someone like myself who looks for a compromise between still pictures and videos the Elph 300 HS is the right answer. It’s easy to use, small to carry anywhere, it yields excellent videos and good still pictures… and last but not least, its price is very reasonable.
However, those who like the option to choose shutter speed or aperture in manual mode should nix this camera
Read all 11 Reviews
Write a Review