Review: Kyocera Finecam SL300R
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: March 23, 2004
March 25, 2004
looking at the Kyocera
Finecam SL300R ($399), it may look like just stylish metal
camera with a swiveling lens. But the "RTUNE" image
processor inside the camera is what makes it really stand out
from the crowd. With the right memory card, the SL300R can shoot
at 3.5 frames/second until the memory card is full. If that sounds
impressive, that's because it is.
nice and all, but how do the photos look? Is the camera easy-to-use?
Find out now in our review!
in the Box?
Finecam SL300R has an very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll
3.2 effective Megapixel Finecam SL300R camera
Secure Digital card
adapter / battery charger
including Adobe Photoshop Albums and drivers
includes a 16MB Secure Digital card with the camera, which is
good enough to start with, though you'll soon want a larger --
and faster -- card. Why do you want a faster card? In order to
take advantage of the super continuous shooting rate of the SL300R,
you need to use a "high speed" SD card with a fast
write speed. If you use a regular SD card (or an MMC card), the
camera can't shoot at 3.5 frames/sec. Lexar, SanDisk, and Panasonic
all sell high speed SD cards.
SL300R includes the BP-780S li-ion rechargeable battery, which
has 2.9 Wh of energy -- not a whole lot. Kyocera estimates that
you can take about 100 photos per charge. Battery life seemed
lower than average during my usage of the camera. Do note that
an extra battery (which I highly recommend purchasing) will set
you back $45. Unfortunately, compact cameras usually have proprietary
batteries like this, so there's not much you can do about it.
it's time to charge the battery, just plug in the included AC
adapter. It takes around three hours to recharge. The AC adapter
can also be used to power the camera when you're transferring
images to your PC, or if you just want to save the battery.
SL300R is a compact camera, similar in width and height (but
not depth) to the Canon Digital ELPH. As you'll see a bit later,
there's no lens cap for this camera, leaving the 300R's lens
thing that Kyocera does include is a simple carrying case for
the camera and a few memory cards.
only accessory for the SL300R that I could find was an external
rapid battery charger ($49).
includes Adobe Photoshop Albums in the box, which is nice photo
viewing/organizing/printing software. It's also Windows only.
Mac users will have to provide their own software (iPhoto will
work fine). The manual talks about USB drivers on a CD, but they
weren't on the Albums CD, so maybe they forgot to send that one
with my review camera.
rate the Finecam's manual as a little below average. Most of
the important information is there, but it was missing some things
(such as movie recording limits and camera specs), and the organization
leaves something to be desired.
Finecam SL300R is a compact metal camera with a swiveling lens.
The lens can rotate about 210 degrees, making it great for shooting
over the heads of people in front of you (for example). You can
also turn the lens toward you for self portraits.
SL300R is not a super-tiny camera, but it will fit into any of
your pockets with ease. When turned off, the camera looks like
a large credit card:
thing you need to watch out for is scratches on that metal body.
My review camera has been used by other reviewers before me,
and it was already scratched. So do use the case whenever possible
otherwise your camera won't look so hot. Overall, the build quality
on the SL300R is very good.
dimensions of the camera (while closed) are 100.0 x 62.5 x 15.0
mm / 3.9 x 2.5 x 0.6 inches (W x H x D), and it weights just
130 grams without the battery or memory card installed.
begin our tour of this camera now, beginning with the front of
SL300R has an F2.8-4.8, 3X optical zoom lens, with a focal range
of 5.8 - 17.4 mm. That's equivalent to 38 - 115 mm in 35 mm terms.
The lens is not threaded, nor is there any cover to protect it
from the elements. Watch your fingers!
to the left of the lens you'll find the camera's built-in flash.
The flash has a rather small working range of 0.6 - 2.5 m at
wide-angle, and 0.6 - 1.8 m at telephoto. You cannot attach an
external flash to this camera.
the flash are the self-timer lamp and flash sensor. There's no
AF-assist lamp on this camera.
the back of the camera, you'll find a 1.5" LCD display,
which has 118,000 pixels. Kyocera calls this a "DayFine" LCD,
meaning that it can still be used in bright outdoor light --
which is pretty important given the fact that the camera lacks
an optical viewfinder. Indeed, I did find that the LCD was easier
to see outdoors than your typical LCD.
I said, there is no optical viewfinder on the 300R. This may
or may not matter to you. It matters to me, so I personally would
skip this camera.
the LCD are two buttons, which control what "mode" the
camera is in. The corresponding mode lights up in the display
directly above the buttons. The five modes on the SL300R are:
have more on all of those later in the review. But first, I wanted
to mention the camera's stellar continuous shooting mode. You
can shoot at 3.5 frames per second until the memory card is full.
The big caveat is that you must use a fast SD card --
cheap cards won't do it. Kyocera included a fast card with my
review unit, and I can confirm that this feature works as advertised
-- it's pretty amazing.
the mode buttons are two more buttons, this time for display
(toggles LCD info on and off) and scene. The scene modes on the
- normal shooting
pick the "scene" you're shooting and the camera picks
the best settings for the job.
the right of those two buttons is the zoom controller, which
moves the lens from the wide-angle to telephoto position in about
two seconds. Don't expect to be able to precisely position the
zoom, though, as the lens only has 5 steps across the whole focal
the right of the LCD is the menu button and four-way controller.
The controller is used for menu navigation as well as for adjusting
the flash setting (choose from auto, auto w/redeye reduction,
flash off, fill flash, fill flash w/redeye reduction).
a look at the top of the camera, with the lens in the "closed" position.
Up here, the only things to see are the power and shutter release
to see here...
the other side you'll find the I/O ports. These include USB and
DC-in (for included AC adapter). There's no video out on this
we reach the bottom of the camera. Down here, under a fairly
sturdy plastic door, you'll find the battery compartment and
SD/MMC card slot.
thing missing from this camera is a tripod mount. Like the optical
viewfinder, this may or may not be a dealbreaker for you.
the Kyocera Finecam SL300R
no lens to extend, the SL300R starts up very quickly -- in just
Sorry these are so bad... but there's no
video output on this camera
good lighting, autofocus speeds were good, with the camera taking
about 0.5 second to lock focus. Low light focusing was not good,
due to the lack of an AF-assist lamp.
fast shutter speeds, shutter lag was not an issue. At slower
speeds (where you should really be using a tripod), it's noticeable.
speed is excellent. You can shoot another shot in a second or
less. And don't forget that awesome burst mode that I described
no way to delete a photo after it is taken. You must enter playback
a look at the various image size and quality choices available
on the Finecam SL300R:
images on 16MB card
Finecam SL300R does not have a TIFF or RAW file mode.
are named KIF_####.JPG, where #### = 0001 - 9999. The file numbering
is maintained even as you erase and switch memory cards.
Finecam SL300R has an overlay-style menu, as well as a "full
menu" hidden behind it. The items in the overlay menu include:
(2 or 10 sec)
size (see chart)
compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/3EV increments)
balance (Auto, daylight, incandescent, cloudy, fluorescent,
details - opens the full menu shown below
we go on, a note about white balance. The SL300R has a manual
("preset") white balance mode, so you can get great
white balance even with the lighting is tricky, by shooting a
white or gray card/paper.
are the items in the more traditional menu:
(on/off) - whether sound is recorded in movie mode
mode (Color, black & white, sepia)
[saturation] (+, normal, -)
(+3 to -1, in 1 step increments)
Preset - sets the manual white balance
mode (Program, F2.8, F7.5) - allows you to set the aperture
or let the camera decide
(Wide AF, Spot AF, MF) - see below
exposure (Off, 2, 4, 8 secs) - this is the extent of the manual
shutter speed controls
(Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800)
mode (Evaluation, center-weighted, spot area)
zoom (on/off) - increase your focal range by up to 2X at the
expense of image quality
very limited manual focus feature
are three focus modes on the SL300R. Wide AF uses a wide area
of the frame, while Spot AF uses a small area in the center.
The manual focus mode gives you five preset distances to choose
from: 0.6, 1, 3, and 5 meters, plus infinity.
SL300R has very limited manual exposure controls. You can choose
from just two apertures and three slow shutter speeds. Although
most point-and-shoot cameras lack even these limited manual controls,
more would've been nice.
is also a setup menu on the SL300R, which is accessed via the
mode switch. The interesting items here include:
mode (SAF, CAF) - single AF focuses only when you halfway press
the shutter release button; continuous AF is always trying
method (Speed, frame) - in speed mode, the LCD freezes while
the camera is focusing; in frame mode, it does not.
control (+2 to -2, 1 step increments) - LCD brightness
(Bright, low power) - LCD backlight strength
date (With date, without date) - prints the date on your photos
save (Off, 1, 3, 6 mins)
lock (on/off) - saves settings when camera is powered off
volume (Off, 1-3)
select (Yellow, red, purple, blue) - choose the color of the
screen (Kyocera, custom, off) - use the standard Finecam startup
screen or use your own photo.
review (Off, 2, 4 sec) - how long a photo is shown on the LCD
after it is taken
(Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese)
numbering (reset) - reset the file numbers
reset - return camera to factory defaults
enough about menus, let's move on to our test photos now. Since
the camera lacks a tripod mount, I can't perform all of my usual
had a heck of a time getting a decent macro shot out of the SL300R.
First, it wouldn't lock focus until I was well back from the
subject. And the subject itself just doesn't look great.
minimum distance to the subject in macro mode is 20 cm. The lens
is locked at the wide-angle position.
tripod mount means no night shot or distortion tests!
do have a redeye test, though. As you can tell, there's plenty
of redeye -- which is common on small cameras like this. I had
to crank up the ISO a notch to compensate for the weak flash.
That adds noise to the image, which you can see here.
image quality was good, though colors seemed dull to my eyes.
Noise levels were a bit above average as well, probably due to
the strong in-camera sharpening. Purple fringing did not seem
to be a major problem. But don't just take my word for it --
have a look at the photo gallery and
decide for yourself!
it's not state-of-the-art, the SL300R's movie mode is pretty
good. You can record 320 x 240 video at 30 frames/second, with
sound, until the memory card is full. A slower frame rate is
also available (15 fps), as well as a lower resolution (160 x
you turn on sound recording, the zoom lens cannot be used during
filming. Turn off sound recording, and zoom away.
are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.
a sample movie for you. I apologize for the wind noise -- it's
one of those many things that I can't control.
Click to play movie (6MB, 320 x 240, 30
fps, AVI format)
view it? Download QuickTime.
Finecam has a good playback mode, with the familiar features
all present. Those include slide shows, thumbnail mode, DPOF
print marking, and image protection. You can attach 30 second
voice clips to your images as well.
usual "zoom and scroll" feature is here too. You can
zoom in 2, 4, or 8 times into your photo, and then scroll around
the zoomed-in area. This feature is well implemented on the SL300R.
other nice features include image rotation and resizing. Images
can be resized to 320 x 240 or 160 x 12, and you can trim (crop)
them, as well.
pressing the display button, you can get more information about
your photo, as you can see above. There's no histogram, though.
SL300R moves through images with incredible speed. It's instantaneous
as you move from one to the next.
Does it Compare?
Kyocera Finecam SL300R is an interesting-looking camera whose
big claims to fame are its swivel-lens design and incredible
burst mode. Otherwise it's just an average 3 Megapixel / 3X zoom
camera. The SL300's lens can rotate 210 degrees, which is great
for ground-level shots, or for shooting over the heads of the
people in front of you. By gaining that rotating lens, though,
you lose the optical viewfinder. That may or may not matter to
you (it does to me). At least the 1.5" LCD is good quality
-- it's sharp, and viewable even in bright outdoor light. The
other nice feature about the SL300R is its burst mode -- you
can take photos at 3.5 frames/second until the memory card is
full, assuming you have a fast SD card. It's pretty amazing,
and great for action shots, or just keeping up with kids that
don't stop moving.
are quite a few things that irked me about the SL300, though.
In addition to missing an optical viewfinder, the camera also
lacks a tripod mount. Again, this may or may not bother you.
Low light focusing was not good -- an AF-assist lamp would've
been nice. While I appreciate the SL300's manual controls, they're
pretty limited. Along those lines, zooming can be frustrating,
with just five steps available. Expect quite a bit of redeye
on the SL300, as well. Finally, I found the battery life to be
below average, so be sure to buy a spare.
you want a compact camera for outdoor action shots, the SL300R
is worth a look. If you shoot indoors in dim lighting, or require
a tripod mount or optical viewfinder, you'll want to look elsewhere.
continuous shooting mode
is usable in bright outdoor light
average movie mode
I didn't care for:
low light focusing; no AF-assist lamp
speed, aperture, manual focus, zoom controls too limited
video out port
average battery life
Mac software included (unless mine was missing)
compact 3/4 Megapixel cameras I recommend looking at include
the Canon PowerShot S410 and SD110, Casio
Exilim EX-Z40, Minolta
DiMAGE Xg, Nikon Coolpix 3200 and 3700, Olympus
Stylus 410, Pentax
Optio S4i, and the Sony
Cyber-shot DSC-T1 (5MP).
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try
out the Finecam SL300R and its competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the samples
in our photo gallery!
a few more opinions?
another review at Steve's
Feedback & Discussion
you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking
for a personal recommendation.
discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.