Canon was falling a bit behind with its PowerShot Elph series of ultracompact cameras. Not in photo quality, but with features, shooting performance, and overall value. For 2011, though, Canon snapped back thanks to the addition of backside-illuminated CMOS sensors in all of the new Elph models. It even changed the naming system, dropping SD and IS from the products and adding HS. They all take SD cards and have image stabilization so those were no longer necessary, and they now feature Canon's HS System that combines the aforementioned sensor with the Digic 4 image processor to product better low-light photos and faster shooting performance.
The PowerShot Elph 300 HS is the smallest in the current lineup, and overall it's just a really fun pocket camera. Partly because it is so small, but it's also easy to use and works well. It may not have as many features or be as fast as some competing models, but it has plenty to offer and should be fast enough for most users. And if you just want very good photos straight from the camera without leaving Auto, this is probably the ultracompact you want.
|Key specs||Canon PowerShot Elph 300 HS|
|Dimensions (WHD)||3.6 x 2.2 x 0.8 inches|
|Weight (with battery and media)||5 ounces|
|Megapixels, image sensor size, type||12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch backside-illuminated CMOS|
|LCD size, resolution/viewfinder||2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None|
|Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length)||5x, f2.7-5.9, 24-120mm (35mm equivalent)|
|File format (still/video)||JPEG/H.264 (.MOV)|
|Highest resolution size (still/video)||4,000x3,000 pixels/ 1,920x1,080 at 24fps|
|Image stabilization type||Optical and digital|
|Battery type, CIPA rated life||Li ion rechargeable, 220 shots|
|Battery charged in camera||No; wall charger supplied|
|Storage media||SD/SDHC/SDXC cards, Eye-Fi SD/SDHC cards|
|Bundled software||ZoomBrowser EX 6.7/PhotoStitch 3.1 (Windows); ImageBrowser 6.7/PhotoStitch 3.2 (Mac); Map Utility 1.0 (Windows/Mac)|
The Elph 300 HS produces generally excellent snapshots. Photos do get softer and noisier above ISO 200--typical for point-and-shoots--but ISO 400 and 800 are still very usable. The noise and noise reduction are well balanced so you still get good color and detail at these higher sensitivities. Colors desaturate some at ISO 1,600 and 3,200, subjects look very soft, and detail is greatly diminished. While you might not want to view them at larger sizes or heavily crop them, the high-ISO results should be satisfactory for Web or prints at small sizes.
Compared with a camera with a similar sensor and lens, the Sony Cyber-shot WX9, the Elph 300 HS may have a slight edge. Both drop off in quality at ISO 400. The Sony's noise is slightly better, but its reduction smears details; the Canon is noisier, but it retains more detail. Sony has multishot modes for improving low-light photos and dynamic range, which can get you better results than the Canon, but the 300 HS has better color performance: bright, vivid, and accurate. It really comes down to your needs and expectations and, frankly, how many gee-whiz features you want for your money.
Video quality is on par with a very good HD pocket video camera: good enough for Web use and nondiscriminating TV viewing. The full HD video records at 24fps, and though panning the camera will create judder and there is visible trailing on moving subjects, the video is definitely watchable. Those things are typical of the video from most compact cameras, too. The zoom lens does work while recording; it moves very slowly, though, likely to prevent the movement from being picked up by the stereo mics on top.
|General shooting options||Canon PowerShot Elph 300 HS|
|ISO sensitivity (full resolution)||Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600, 3,200|
|White balance||Auto, Day Light, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Fluorescent H, Underwater, Custom|
|Recording modes||Auto, Program, Portrait, Kids & Pets, Smart Shutter, High-speed Burst, Best Image Selection, Handheld Night Scene, Low Light, Fish-eye Effect, Miniature Effect, Toy Camera Effect, Monochrome, Super Vivid, Poster Effect, Color Accent, Color Swap, Beach, Underwater, Foliage, Snow, Fireworks, Long Shutter, Stitch Assist, Movie Digest, Movie (Standard, Super Slow Motion, Miniature Effect)|
|Focus modes||Face Detection AF, Center AF, Tracking AF|
|Macro||1.2 inches to 1.6 feet (Wide)|
|Metering modes||Multi, Center-weighted average, Spot|
|Color effects||Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black & White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green, Vivid Red, Custom Color (sharpness, contrast, saturation, red, green, blue, skin tone)|
|Burst mode shot limit (full resolution)||Unlimited continuous|
If you're looking for an ultracompact to leave in auto, the 300 HS is probably perfect for you. The shooting-mode switch on back of the camera has two options: one for Auto and a camera mode (that's what I'm calling it since it's designated by a picture of a camera). The camera mode gives you access to a Program Auto mode as well as all the scene modes, creative effects modes, and slow-motion video recording. (Check out the slideshow earlier in this review to see examples of the creative effects.) However, they're laid out in one long list, so if you're the type to change modes frequently, this can be a pain. Canon's Smart Shutter option is there, too, which includes a smile-activated shutter release as well as Wink and Face Detection self-timers. Wink allows you to set off the shutter simply by winking at the camera, and the Face Detection option will wait till the camera detects a new face in front of the camera before it fires off a shot. Both work well.