BUILD AND DESIGN
The ultra-compact ELPH 300 HS looks very similar to the previous versions of the camera – very small and sleek with a metallic body. The camera feels solid and sturdy in the hand, despite its small size, 3.63 inches wide, 2.2 inches tall and 0.77 inches thick (92.2mm x 55.9mm x 19.5mm) and light weight, 4.97 oz. (141g) without battery or memory card. The camera has surprisingly large buttons, which will be greatly appreciated by those with large fingers. The camera I reviewed came in an attractive silver color. According to Canon’s website, it is also available in red and black.
The ELPH 300 HS includes a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack (NB-4L), a battery charger, a wrist strap, an audio-visual cable, a USB cable, a CD containing the User Guide and Canon’s ZoomBrowser EX photo organizing software, and a short paper Getting Started guide. At this time, Canon’s website shows a price of $249.99 but discounts should be obtainable once the camera has been out for a while.
Ergonomics and Controls
The ELPH 300 HS has a rectangular shape with subtly rounded corners. The front of the camera is dominated by the slightly off-center telescoping zoom lens. In the upper corner is a thin flash, under which is an auto focus assist lamp that doubles as a self-timer indicator. The location of the flash is a problem, as it can be blocked by the fingers of the left hand used to steady the camera.
The camera’s top plate contains two holes for its stereo microphones, a power button, a shutter button with a zoom ring and a speaker. The buttons and zoom ring worked smoothly and efficiently. One side of the camera is featureless, the other side contains the wrist strap mount and a covered compartment for the USB and HDMI ports. The cover is rubber with a precarious tether that will probably not last long.
At the camera’s rear is a 2.7-inch diameter LCD monitor with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Next to the monitor is a dedicated movie button, which makes starting and stopping movie recording much more convenient than searching for movie mode in the camera’s menu. To the right of the movie button is a switch for choosing between Smart Auto and a camera icon which is essentially Program AE. The switch protrudes from the camera a bit and is a convenient place to put your thumb when holding the camera.
Underneath the movie button and switch is a large circular selector with a function/set button in the center. Pressing the selector at the top controls exposure compensation; the left controls distance settings as long as the camera is not in Smart Auto mode. The right portion of the selector controls flash and the bottom brings up a detailed display on the LCD monitor – these controls work with all modes.
Below the selector dial are buttons for playback and menu. The playback button allows access to stored photos and videos even when the camera is not turned on – a very useful feature that I have never seen before. All of the buttons are very accessible and function well.
The bottom plate has a centrally located metal tripod socket. I’ve noticed that in many new point and shoot cameras the tripod socket is made out of plastic, which is much less durable than metal. I’m glad to see the ELPH 300 HS has not given in to this trend. The combination battery and memory card compartment is offset, and the compartment cover is made of plastic, but is well-constructed.
Menus and Modes
As is the case with all of Canon’s small cameras in recent years, the ELPH 300 HS uses a dual menu system with the main menu activated by pressing the menu button and the shortcut menu called up by pressing the function/set button. The menu options are very limited while in Smart Auto mode, but are much more comprehensive in Program AE mode. The camera has an option to turn on hints and tips, which gives a brief explanation of every menu item and makes it relatively easy to learn the camera’s many functions.
The ELPH 300 HS has three basic shooting modes:
- Smart Auto Mode: The camera selects what it considers to be the most appropriate settings based on the prevailing shooting conditions. This includes selecting one of the camera’s scene modes (such as macro, kids and pets, handheld night, low light, beach, foliage, snow, fireworks and others).
- Program AE Mode: The camera allows access to all menu options, including ISO, white balance and all scene modes, although the camera automatically selects the aperture and shutter speed. There are many additional modes that can be accessed under Program AE. Smart Shutter automatically snaps the shutter as soon as the camera detects a smile, two seconds after it detects a wink and two seconds after it detects a new face (to put the photographer in the picture). In Best Image Selection the camera takes five consecutive shots and selects the best one. Handheld Nightscene allows shooting at night without a tripod by combining several shots which reduce camera shake and noise. Color Accent enables the user to retain a single color and changes the rest of the picture to black and white. My Colors has settings for various color tones including vivid, neutral, sepia, black and white, positive film, lighter skin tone, darker skin tone, vivid blue, vivid red, vivid green and custom color, which allows the user to adjust contrast, sharpness and color saturation.
Black and White
- Movie Mode: The camera captures movies at 1920 x 1080 (full HD) at 24 fps, 1280 x 720 at 30 fps, 640 x 480 at 30 fps and 320 x 240 at 30 fps. Audio is recorded in stereo and optical zoom is available during recording. The camera has a Super Slow Motion mode, which can shoot at 640 x 480 at 120 fps or 320 x 240 at 240 fps. You can shoot a movie with a miniature effect, in which objects look like miniature models and move at high speed. Movie Digest is a feature which automatically records a short video clip (up to approximately four seconds) every time you shoot a still image. The camera then combines an entire day’s worth of clips into a single video.
The ELPH 300 HS has an LCD monitor with a diameter of 2.7-inches in a 4 x 3 aspect ratio. The LCD has approximately 230,000 dots and can be adjusted to one of five different brightness levels. Canon claims LCD coverage of 100%. Like all small cameras these days, the LCD lacks a viewfinder.
Digital Camera Review has recently begun to test for LCD brightness, measuring for contrast ratio and a brightness unit called nits. The best LCD monitors typically have a contrast ratio above 500:1 and a peak brightness of at least 500 nits. The ELPH 300 HS LCD monitor was found to have a contrast ratio of 752:1, and to measure 760 nits for peak brightness and 1.01 for dark, which are very good scores. However, I still found viewing the LCD monitor in bright sunshine to be difficult. Shielding the screen with my hand helped to some degree.