In actual operation the SP-350 is good, but not really outstanding. The AF system is a little bit on the slow side compared to some other high-end models, although thanks to an AF illuminator it will focus in low light at a range of a few meters. Shooting speed is limited both in standard and continuous shooting mode, mainly due to the slow write time of the image files, which can be as large as 4.5MB. It takes about four seconds for a file to be written to the xD-Picture memory card, limiting the shooting speed to about a frame every two seconds, with a long pause after four frames as the memory buffer is cleared. To be honest I would have expected better performance from a camera like this.
The LCD monitor is large, bright and has a nice quick refresh rate, although at 115K pixels it is not of the highest resolution. Display options offer a choice of a plain view, a shooting data overlay, rule-of-thirds composition lines or a live exposure histogram. It’s just as well that the monitor is good, because the optical viewfinder is horrible. It is small, dim, awkwardly positioned for spectacle wearers, and only shows around 60 per cent of the frame. It is also placed in such a way that, when holding the camera in a normal grip, the knuckle of your middle finger obscures most of the view.
One feature that sets the SP-350 apart from most other compacts is its hot-shoe for attaching an external flashgun. This strikes me as something of an affectation, since if you were to actually attach any flashgun of significant power to such a small camera it makes it so unwieldy as to be almost unusable. I suspect that the hot shoe was added simply to make the camera look more professional. Similarly it has lugs for a neck strap rather than the wrist strap more commonly used with cameras of this size. Just because you hang it around your neck, it doesn’t mean it’s as good as an SLR. If you were to take away the hot shoe and strap lugs and colour the camera silver instead of black, it would really be just another compact, albeit one with a good specification.