Review: Sony MVC-CD300 CD Mavica
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Tuesday, June 12, 2001
Saturday, February 16, 2002
when I reviewed Sony's first CD Mavica, the CD1000, I complained
that it introduced the one thing I considered forbidden in digital
photography: consumables. The CD1000 used write-once 3" CD-R
discs, which you'd have to keep buying as you filled each 156MB
the engineers at Sony created a new CD Mavica -- the MVC-CD300
-- which not only reads the original CD-R discs, but new 3"
CD-RW discs as well. Now, you can keep the CD's for archival purposes,
or erase them and start over, just like other digital cameras can.
big difference between the CD300 ($999) (and it's 2.1 Megapixel
sibling, the CD200,
$799) and the CD1000
(also $999) is the lens: here it's 3X, as opposed to 10X. The CD300
is essentially a DSC-S75 with the CD-RW mechanism, a larger LCD,
and no optical viewfinder.
on to find out if the CD300 is as good as that S75...
in the Box?
Sony MVC-CD300 has an excellent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.3 Mpixel Sony MVC-CD300 camera
3" CD-RW disc
3" CD-R disc
CD adapter (for CD-ROM drives that don't support it)
adapter / battery charger
featuring MGI PhotoSuite and drivers
really has the bundle thing down. You get two discs in the box,
one CD-R, another CD-RW, which can store over 300MB of data! Now
if we could get the other manufacturers to start throwing 256MB
cards in the box, then I'll be happy!
your CD-ROM drive can't hold those 3" CDs, Sony includes a
ring adapter which will help.
CD300 with back door open showing CD-RW disc and battery
price of the blank CD media makes the CD Mavica the value leader
when it comes to price per megabyte. A blank CD-R disc can be had
for under $5, and 5 packs cost about $20. You'll pay more for the
privilege of CD-RW discs: about $10 for one disc, and $30 for a
3 pack. (Your mileage may vary on this pricing.)
new CD-RW discs work a bit differently than the CD-R discs. On both
types, you must initialize the discs before you can first use them,
and finalize them before your PC will read them. Both processes
require you to put the camera down on a flat surface, and avoid
vibration. On the CD-RW discs, you can unfinalize discs, which recovers
the 13MB of space that finalization adds. Of course, if you want
to put the disc back in the computer, you'll have to put that 13MB
note about Mac compatibility: you cannot use the USB connection
between the CD300 and the Mac. Although the Mac sees the camera,
the CD will not mount. This is apparently a Mac issue with CD-R/RW
compatibility rather than a Sony issue. The only way to get photos
onto your Mac is to finalize the disc and put it in your CD-ROM
drive. Sony does include Adaptec's UDF File Format extension to
read those finalized discs.
NP-FM50 InfoLITHIUM battery (seen on Sony camcorders as well) will
last between 75-120 minutes, depending on LCD usage (not that you
have much of a choice). It takes 150 minutes to fully charge. One
nice thing about the InfoLITHIUM batteries is that they tell you
roughly how much time is remaining before the battery dies.
includes an AC adapter which doubles as a battery charger -- you
just plug it into the camera body for both functions.
also include a lens cap and strap, always appreciated.
DSAC-MVC clip-on viewfinder
has quite a few accessories available for the CD200/300, including
filters/lenses, carrying cases, remote control tripods, and my personal
favorite - the clip on "optical" viewfinder. The DSAC-MVC
(about $80) clips onto that huge LCD and voila -- you have an electronic
viewfinder complete with diopter correction.
can't say I'm a big fan of Sony's manuals for VCRs, stereos, or
digital camcorders -- they're confusing.
CD300 is a large, somewhat bulky camera that won't be going into
a pocket anytime soon. It's not nearly as big as the CD1000 of course,
since it doesn't have the huge lens. The body is almost exclusively
plastic -- I suppose metal would've made it even heavier.
dimensions of the CD300 are 3.75 x 5.75 x 3.63 inches, and it weighs
650 g fully loaded. The CD200 is a bit smaller and lighter. Since
the CD300 is so large, it's easy to hold. For the same reason, it's
a two-handed camera. Let's take a tour of the CD300 now, shall we?
the front of the camera, with the flash popped up. The F2.0 "Carl
Zeiss" lens should look familiar -- it's on many Sony cameras,
and apparently on some other cameras as well. It has a focal range
of 7-21mm, which is equivalent to 34-102mm.
above-right of the lens is an AF illuminator, for focusing in low
flash pops out of the top of the camera when needed, and has a working
range of 0.3 m - 3.0 m.
back of the camera is where most of the action is on the CD300.
2.5" LCD is huge compared to most digicams, and it's bright
and fluid. Just above the LCD is a "photocell" window
which makes the LCD brighter outside (by letting in sunlight). You
can even turn off the LCD backlight (using the button below the
LCD) and let the sun do all the work. The problem with this is that
you don't get to see any info on the LCD besides the image.
the LCD are buttons for:
those buttons is a light showing flash status, which doubles as
a battery charge indicator when the AC adapter is plugged in.
the right of the LCD you'll find the zoom controls, four-way switch,
Menu button, and the DC-in port (for the AC adapter).
four-way switch is not only used for menu navigation -- it also
has several other functions, including:
review (shows last photo taken)
the far right (next to the ring for the strap) you can see a dial/button,
which is used for changing settings in manual mode. I really like
the layout of the controls on the camera -- all the common functions
are easy to get to.
the top of the camera, you'll find the mode wheel, shutter release
button, microphone, and a shoe for an external flash.
flash shoe is "cold" and uses a proprietary flash sync
port that you'll see on the side of the camera in a second. You
can use Sony's HVL-F1000 flash ($120) for sure -- I'm not sure if
any others are compatible.
mode wheel (which has the power switch below it) has a very "notchy"
feeling (that's a good thing) and has the following options:
further explanation on these:
Mode: Choose between Twilight, Portrait, and Landscape. The camera
picks the best settings for these situations. I don't like how
you have go to to the Setup Mode to change this though.
Priority: You pick the aperture, the camera picks the appropriate
shutter speed. The choices range from F2 - F8 and will vary a
bit depending on the focal range used.
Priority: exactly the opposite, you choose the shutter speed and
the camera picks the correct aperture. You can choose from a number
of speeds ranging from 8 sec - 1/1000 sec.
Manual: You choose both the shutter speed and aperture. The values
available are the same as above.
moving onto one side of the CD300. You can see the eject lever for
the CD-R mechanism, as well as the accessory (for external flash),
USB, and A/V ports. The A/V and USB ports are kept under a sturdy
the other side of the camera, there's nothing to see.
the bottom of the camera. There's a metal tripod mount, as well
as the battery compartment.
the Sony MVC-CD300
CD300 starts up with much fanfare, and takes about 4 seconds to
"boot up" before you can start taking pictures. The LCD
is on by default, as you might expect on a camera without an optical
viewfinder. Auto-focus speeds are a bit sluggish, taking about a
second to lock focus. There's very little delay when you press the
shutter release down fully before the photo is recorded. Shot-to-shot
speed varies -- it's about 2 seconds if you haven't yet taken a
picture, but once it's writing photos to the disc, it can be longer.
Writing a TIFF file to the CD will lock up the CD300 for a whopping
used to using the LCD, it's all you've got. Here's all the info
shown on it during recording.
are many resolution and quality choices available on the CD300,
as the chart below explains:
photos on CD
are a few other options for sizes, as you'll see below in our menu
CD300's menu system is pretty simple, since most functions are accessible
via buttons rather than buried in the menu somewhere. Let's take
a look at the various menu items and what they do:
Balance (One-push, Auto, Indoor, Outdoor)
(Auto, 100, 200, 400)
Size (2048 x 1536, 2048 (3:2), 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x
Quality (Fine, Standard)
Mode (TIFF, Text, Voice, E-Mail, Bracketing, Burst3, Normal) --
more on this below
Level (High, Normal, Low)
Effects (Solarize, Black & White Sepia, Negative Art, Off)
- you can see a few of these in the gallery
(-2 to +2)
"one-push" white balance mode is indeed a manual WB mode.
Shoot a piece of white paper or whatever you want to be white, and
you'll be able to get accurate color in almost any lighting.
more details on those Rec Mode choices:
uncompressed large image
records a GIF in black & white
Records an audio file along with a still image
Records a 320 x 240 image in addition to the recorded image
Records three images continuously with exposure compensation values
shifted (at interval selected in setup menu).
Records three images continuously at 0.6 sec interval
Setup Mode, there are a number of other options available. Here
are the interesting ones:
Tool (Finalize, Format, Initialize, Unfinalize)
Scene Mode Selection (twilight, landscape, portrait)
Image (MPEG Movie, ClipMotion) - explained later
Step (0.3, 0.7, 1.0EV increments)
numbering (series, reset)
Connect (PTP, Normal) - PTP is some new format that I don't think
is supported by any OS.
onto a few photo tests!
MVC-CD300 performed admirably in our macro test, especially with
the One Push manual white balance. It had some trouble with my crazy
lighting in Auto and Indoor modes, but this one came out fine. You
can shoot as close as 4 cm (1.625") at full wide-angle in macro
nightshot test turned out very well. There's no "artificial
stars" in the sky, the colors of the building's lights are
correct, and it's nice and sharp. Well done! (For those of you playing
along at home: the SF skyline isn't nearly as lit up as it once
way, due to the power crisis. Take a look at the Transamerica Pyramid
towards the right... it didn't use to be so dark.)
was very pleased with the photo quality of the CD300 -- it was excellent.
Don't take my word for it - check out the CD300
photo gallery and judge for yourself.
movie modes is one of the best out there: the video and audio quality
is very good (especially in HQ mode) and it records sound too. The
only downside is that you cannot use the zoom (optical or digital)
are three size choices available in movie mode:
a sample movie:
to play movie (2.6MB, 7 secs, MPEG format)
is also a feature called ClipMotion which will take 10 images and
put them into an animated GIF for you. You can do some stop motion
animation with this I guess.
CD300's playback mode goes beyond the basic features found on most
cameras. Those include slideshows, DPOF print marking, protection,
thumbnail mode, and "zoom & scroll".
advanced features include:
change an image's size
- when zoomed into an image, you can crop the image down to the
selected area. You choose the resolution of the new image (the
old one is kept). The only thing to remember here is that if you
take a small area of an image and then blow it up, you'll lose
list is a bit smaller than on Sony's Memory Stick cameras -- there's
no copy or divide (movie) functionality.
CD300 moves between images a bit slowly (due to disc access) in
playback mode, and it shows a low res version before a high res
one replaces it. It takes about 2 seconds to show an image in low
res mode, and another 2 before it's in high res mode.
can get more information about photos by zooming out twice. You'll
get a scrollable list of information that you can see above.
would've liked a delete button on the camera body, rather than having
to invoke the menu every time I want to remove a photo.
of deleting-- one big difference between CD-R and CD-RW discs (as
you might expect) is the ability to truly delete photos. On the
CD-R disc, you can "delete" them, but you don't get the
space back. On the CD-RW, the opposite is true.
Does it Compare?
will say up front that I've never been sold on floppy or CD-based
storage for digital cameras. While the CD format is a vast improvement
over the floppy format, I still prefer flash memory for it's much
greater read/write speeds. Again, this is my preference, and many
people disagree with me (just look at the sales numbers for the
that out of the way, I'd say the the Sony MVC-CD300 is an excellent
choice for those who want the convenience of the CD format. The
pictures were great, it's got every feature under the sun, an attractive
bundle, and the best value storage format out there. And the addition
of CD-RW support eliminates the issue of consumables that I brought
up in the CD1000 review. It gets two thumbs up from this reviewer!
format very inexpensive per megabyte
manual controls and a host of other nice features
to turn off LCD backlight to save power
lots of optional accessories
I didn't care for:
zoom in movie mode
Mac compatibility issues (that are apparently Apple's fault)
is the only manufacturer of CD-based digital cameras, so also check
out the MVC-CD200
Do note that the CD1000 does not support CD-RW discs. There are
a host of other 3.3 Megapixel cameras that you can find in our Reviews
& Info database.
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the CD300 and its competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion? How about a third?
sure to read Steve's
Digicams review of the CD300. If that's not enough, Imaging
Resource has one too! Both of these reviews were of pre-production
cameras. Our CD300 test unit was a shipping model.
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.