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Sony's MVC-CD300 is one of Sony's few digital cameras that allow you to directly write your photos to a small 8cm CD as you take them.
Because it has a CD writer built into it, the camera feelsbigger and heavier than most of the 3 megapixel competition, dwarfing the CD behind it in the picture to the right. This is not a cheap camera and will probably only appeal most to those looking for CD storage. Some of it's main features are shown below:
- 1/1.8 3.3 Mega Super HAD CCD
- Carl Zeiss 'Vario Sonnar' 3 x Zoom lens
- 14-bit DXP A/D Conversion
- ACC terminal/accessory
- AF Illuminator
- Large 143x92x94mm body
- Weighs 650g with battery inserted
- Typical price of 899
What you get in the box:
- Sony MVC-CD300
- AC Power adaptor
- Rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery
- A/V Connecting cable
- Shoulder strap
- 8cm CD-R
- 8cm CD-RW
- USB Cable
- Driver CD-ROM
Sony must have had a hard time finding a way to integrate a CD writer into a digital camera whilst maintaining that traditional camera feel. Yet they have done this quite well, true the camera feels quite heavy and chunky, but most people will find this acceptable. You are likely to want to carry it in a rucksack or camera bag, not around your neck.
The camera is finished in subtle shades of blue and silver, and looks like it means business with such a large LCD screen and chunky appearance. This is backed up by the solid feel and weight of the camera, with even the CD drive door seeming strongly built. Several lights show status of the camera's power, flash, charge, and disc access. With the user interface being plainly laid out this is obviously a straightforward camera to use.
The zoom control is a bit different to the standard rocker-switch zooms as it's separated into two buttons, but these worked well enough. Generally the camera is comfortable to use, with a well designed interface you can change settings quickly and without fuss.
The menu system doesn't provide as much configuration, or the number of options some other cameras do. It takes longer to change some settings, likeshot modethan on many other cameras, and people who want to change settings a lot may become frustrated by having to navigate through the menu each time. One good feature is the jog-dial, which allows you to quickly change focus, exposure levels, aperture and shutter speed values.
Shown below are the main menus available in the setup mode of the camera, and also an example of the menu when in the standard record mode.
|Finalise CD(approx. 1min36sec), Format CD(approx. 5min45sec), Initialise CD, Unfinalise CD (approx. 1min25sec)|
|Scene selection (Twilight, Landscape, Portrait), Moving image (MPEG Movie, Clip Motion), Date/Time, Digital Zoom, Bracket Step, Red Eye Reduction, AF Illuminator|
|File number, Conversion lens, Language, Clock set|
|LCD Brightness, LCD Backlight, Beep, Video out, USB Connect|
|White balance (One push set, Auto, Indoor, Outdoor), ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400), Image Size (2048x1536, 2048 3:2, 1600x1200, 1280x960, 640x480), P.Quality (Fine, Standard), Rec Mode (Normal, Burst 3, Exp Bracketing, E-Mail, Voice, Text, TIFF, Flash level (Low, Normal, High), Picture effect (Off, Neg. Art, Sepia, B&W, Solarize), Sharpness (-2,-1,0,+1,+2)|
Using the mode dial you can change between eight different modes.
These modes are:
Record - For taking pictures without automatic control of aperture and shutter speed values.
S - allows you to set the shutter speed manually, aperture values are automatically set.
A - allows you to set the aperture manually, shutter speeds are automatically set.
M - allows you to set both shutter speed and aperture values manually.
SCN - to record in the scene mode set, either twilight, landscape or portrait.
Setup - displays setup menus.
Movie - records moving images, or clip motion images.
Playback - allows editing and play back of images stored on the CD.
All modes are straightforward to use, though we found SCN mode a little irritating. To change between the three scenes available you have to switch the mode dial to setup. Then youchange tothe desired scene and have to turn the mode dial back to the SCN setting.This is time consuming, and the changing could have been set through the jog dial so that it would only take a second.
You can only use 8cm CD-Rs and CD-RWs in the camera. Write once CD-Rs cost around a pound each and re-writable CD-RWs around 10 each. Each disc stores 156 Mb which is around 100 photographs at the camera's highest quality setting. We used a CD-RW in our test and unless you want to archive all your images this is the most cost-efficient method.
The CD drive writes at 4x and reads at 8x. When using burst mode, or auto-bracketing three images are written to the CD and you have to wait around 27 seconds before you can take another shot. In normal use you only need wait a couple of seconds before taking the next shot.
The continuos autofocus system is backed up by an AF illuminator similar to the one described in our Sony DSC-P5 review. We found the autofocus to be quite reliable, though not very quick for a camera costing this much and it can sometimes be fooled as mentioned later in the test. Focusing performance was around a second slower than the 3 megapixel Nikon 995 in some cases.LCD screen
There is no viewfinder on the camera, instead you are limited to the large 2.5 inch TFT screen. Many people find this odd, and it has put them off Sony cameras in the past that have had the same system.
A big disadvantage of this system is not being able to save battery life by turning the LCD off, because if you do you can't frame your shot. Secondly, in very bright light the LCD will become harder to view, and this is where traditional viewfinders become essential.Although the screen is large, it does not appear as sharply detailed as some of the smaller screens Sony produces. Also it is particularly susceptible to fingerprints, lacking a plastic coating that makes it easy to wipe dust and grease off.
The tripod mount is sensibly located under the most heavy part of the camera, almost central to the lens, meaning the camera sits well on most tripods. Standard connections for USB, power in and video out are provided.
There is also an accessory jack, which can be used to connect an external flash. An example of a flash unit Sony produce that can be used is the hvl-f1000, shown to the right. This will allow you to use flash bounce and extend your flash range from the CD300's 3 meters to 10. At around 140 this quite basic flash unit is disappointingly expensive. Still extra flash functionality is always auseful option to have.
Sitting inside the handgrip is the CD300's large but light Lithium-Ion battery. This has to be charged inside the camera, which means if you are charging a spare you can't go and use the camera.
Quality of all the covers and holders was up to Sony's usual high quality standards and for the 900 you're spending you're unlikely to be disappointed with the build quality.
Spare batteries are characteristically expensive for Sony accessories, at 55 each. Luckily battery life is good, especially considering the camera is using a power draining CD writer for storage. Charging time is around 2 hours 30 minutes for a full charge, and this will give you just over an hours use in most circumstances. As with most digital cameras we'd recommend you buying a spare battery if you intend using the camera a lot.
On the CD-ROM provided in the box are the camera's drivers and MGI Photosuite and Videowave.
The MGI Videowave software is interesting, providing quite advanced video editing functionality. With the large storage capacity of the CD media it is possible to store a lot of video, and this program is a good inclusion to help you edit and present it.
Photosuite on the other hand offers broader appeal. When it opens up a wizard-type interface is shown, providing the following options:
The image editing functions it provides are quite basic and lack the sophistication of products like Jasc Paintshop Pro or Adobe Photoshop Elements.Image quality
|Carl Zeiss lenses are well known and greatly boost the Sony digital camera range's status. Soitcame aslittle surprise we were pleased with the quality of photographs produced by the CD300. Colours were particularly good, and showed no signs of the dullness. We did find some blue fringing on a few photos, but it wasn't as bad as on some other cameras. The lens showed itself to be capable of sharp and detailed images.|
|Sony's metering systems don't appear to be the greatest around, but we generally got good results. All the stones making up the wall are well defined, with the subtle variations in shade being transferred well.|
The 3x zoom lens didn't let me get as close to the ducks as I wanted too, but there is still a good level of detail in the picture. The camera did a good job of focusing in this case, but on other occasions it got a little confused, and there were a couple of out of focus pictures.
Once you know the limitations of the camera though they are easy to work around. The biggest problem is that it's sometimes hard to check the focus accurately on the LCD, so you may have to switch to playback mode and zoom in to check it's been achieved.
|Blue fringing rears its ugly head in this shot, visible in the red highlighted area. This is an all too common flaw with digital cameras, and is not always easy to edit out. Luckily only a few of your shots are likely to suffer from it, and it's one of those things that you may well not even notice unless you look for it.|
|This is quite a good camera for macro shots, allowing you to get as close as 3cm to your subject. Because the lens is quite sharp you can capture a good amount of detail and together with the good colour reproduction produce some striking macro photographs.|
The camera itself is priced high for today's market of 3 megapixel because it has a CD writer stuffed inside it. However the cheap storage media and good image quality helps to ease that cost.
The CD300 will appeal most to people looking for an easy to use camera with a safe, cheap storage format for all their photographs. When using CD-Rs you can build up a cheap, large catalogue of easily labeled CDs. You can also forget worries about your images being deleted as is the case when you store them on your hard drive. So if these factors sound good to you to you this is a great camera to buy.
If you have any questions please feel free to post them in the digital camera section of our forums.