The Fujifilm FinePix SL300 is the top model within a trio of new competitively-priced superzooms that were announced at the beginning of the year, the other two models being the SL280 and SL240. The three models are all identical in terms of their core specification, with the only notable difference between them being the maximum reach of their fixed optical zoom: the SL240 gets a 24x zoom, the SL280 a 28x zoom and the SL300, following logically on from the naming convention of the other two, gets a 30x optical zoom.
Fujifilm is widely recognised as having plenty of pedigree when it comes to making superzooms, and we were certainly
impressed with both the HS30 and more premium X-S1 when we reviewed them recently. However, the superzoom market remains fiercely competitive, and to this end the SL300 needs to bring plenty to the table if it hopes to compete with the likes of the all-new 30x Canon SX500 IS (£280), or the older but slightly more powerful 35x Canon SX40 HS (£300).
Well, in terms of optical flexibility at least the SL300’s 30x optical zoom is certainly able to compete, providing the camera with a focal range of between 24-720mm in 35mm terms. Maximum aperture is f/3.1 at 24mm, rising incrementally to f/5.9 at 720mm. Minimum focus distance, meanwhile, ranges from 40cm at 24mm to 2.8m at 720mm, although there’s also a Super Macro setting that lets you get as close as 2cm for close-up shots. Last but not least the camera also benefits from sensor shift image stabilisation technology – something of a must-have feature really, given the camera’s extended telephoto reach.
Internally, the SL300 is built around a 1/2.3in CCD sensor with an effective resolution of 14MP. Sensitivity stretches from a baseline setting of ISO 64 up to ISO 1600 at full resolution, with extended settings of ISO 3200 and 6400 albeit at reduced resolution. The SL300 gets the full range of Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and full Manual (PASM) exposure modes for those photographers who are comfortable using more advanced settings, while an Automatic Scene Recognition mode, a fully Automatic mode and a range of Scene modes provide plenty of options for more point-and-shoot photography. Used in SR Auto mode the camera also detects faces, blinks and smiles to help you get better portraits.
One area where the SL300 does fall down, however, is with its rather limited HD movie capture options. With everything maxed out the SL300 can still only offer a maximum capture quality setting of 720p HD at 30fps. Of course, strictly speaking 720p is still High Definition, but given that it’s not unusual to find most £200 compact camera to offer 1080p Full HD capture, it does feel like a bit of a cost-saving compromise – especially given how Fuji. Should you only want to capture standard definition movies then the SL300’s sole HD capture option is supplemented by 640 x 480 VGA and 320 x 240 QVGA quality options, with all sound captured in mono via a single microphone.
On the back of the camera is a 3in, 460k-dot LCD monitor to help out with framing and playback. Should you prefer to hold the camera to eye level then there’s also an electronic viewfinder although at just 0.2in and with a resolution of 200k-dots it’s a bit small and doesn’t provide a particularly satisfying user experience.
In it’s marketing material Fujifilm claims that the SL300 offers ‘Built-in social networking’, although this is actually slightly misleading. The reason for this is that, unlike Samsung’s Smart Camera range (including the recently reviewed MV900F and WB850F models), and also the Panasonic FX90, Nikon P1 and recently announced Nikon SC800c, the Fuji SL300 doesn’t offer built-in Wi-Fi that enables you to upload images to the web directly from the camera. Instead, the SL300 requires you to connect it to a PC first before you can use the social networking feature to upload your images to the web.