Sony bumps up its point-and-shoot cameras to a new height of resolution with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300, the company's first 13.6-megapixel snapshot camera. This follow-up to last year's 12-megapixel Cyber-shot DSC-W200 bears some of the most impressive features found in Sony's W-series of compact cameras, along with one of the line's heftiest price tags yet.
The W300 includes an impressive set of features under its shiny, titanium-coated casing. Its 35 to 105mm-equivalent f/2.8-5.8 lens seems fairly standard, but its 2.7-inch LCD screen and optical viewfinder give it surprising flexibility compared with most snapshot cameras. Like other Cyber-shot W-series cameras, the W300 includes a face detection system that Sony claims can distinguish between adult and children's faces and--using the Smile Shutter mode--automatically take pictures when subjects smile. It also lets users share their photos with an on-board slide show with customizable MP3 soundtracks, includes in-camera photo search, and can output to HDTVs.
Besides the high resolution, the W300 packs one distinguishing feature that sets it apart. Unlike virtually every other point-and-shoot camera on the market, the W300 includes an adjustable noise reduction setting. Users will be able to choose whether the camera will use "low," "standard," or "high" noise reduction, determining how much it processes each shot to reduce noise. This feature is particularly useful with the W300's 13.6 megapixel, 1/1.7-inch sensor; noise tends to increase significantly when more and more pixels are crammed onto smaller and smaller sensors. If you have a lot of noise in a picture, like when you're shooting at high sensitivity levels, you might want a more zealous noise reduction process. On the other hand, if you're shooting at a low ISO setting, you might want to scale back the noise reduction so it doesn't hurt fine details. This new setting is a welcome addition to snapshot cameras, which generally restrict you to the camera's noise reduction whims.
The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W300 ships in May, with a suggested retail price of $350.