Canon shrank the dimensions of the 5.5-ounce PowerShot SD300 down to an ultraslim 3.4-by-2.1-by-0.83-inch package that can slip into any pocket. This Digital Elph is made even more easily pocketable by its reduced number of protrusions, starting with the hand-strap lug, which is now recessed into the body. The camera's exterior is all metal, except for plastic doors covering the battery/SD memory card slots and A/V and USB ports.
While you can operate the PowerShot SD300 with one hand, a two-handed grip makes it easier to work the zoom lever, which is concentric with the top-mounted shutter-release button. A recessed on/off button and a green power LED are the only other adornments on the top surface. The major controls are concentrated on the right side of the back panel, which is dominated by a brightness-adjustable 2-inch LCD viewfinder. A three-way sliding switch lets you select recording, movie mode, or playback, and three other buttons provide access to the three-page menu system (with shooting, setup, and customization options), display options (status info, no info, and monitor off), and print/share features.
As with other point-and-shoot Canons, most shooting settings are taken care of by the four-way cursor pad with embedded OK/Function button. For example, pressing the Up button switches between spot, center-weighted, and evaluative metering; Down selects single-shot mode, burst mode, or the self-timer. The left key cycles through Normal, Landscape, and macro focus modes, while the right button selects a flash mode.
The pad's center button invokes menus for choosing a scene mode; adjusting exposure compensation to plus or minus 2EV in one-third-stop increments; selecting white balance, ISO, resolution, and JPEG compression ratio; and applying a unexceptional number of special effects that include vivid color, low sharpening, sepia, and black-and-white.
The PowerShot SD300's modest feature set includes most of the basics, starting with a 35mm-to-115mm 3X zoom lens (35mm-film-camera equivalent) with a nine-point autofocus system that's accurate down to 1.2 inches in macro mode. Only six scene modes are available, which is a modest selection in the current market. However, they're generally useful and include a Digital Macro option that fills the frame with the center of the image to provide the equivalent of digital zoom in close-up mode. Other scene modes include Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor, and Underwater, which you can use with an optional marine housing. Unfortunately, there's no sports scene mode nor any way to manually control shutter speeds, which seriously limits this camera's excellent 3fps burst mode.
A weakling built-in flash unit, a nonlive histogram that can be viewed only in playback mode, and a jerky zoom lens that was difficult to set precisely are among the PowerShot SD300's other annoyances.