Fujifilm FinePix SL300 Review

May 30, 2012 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Fujifilm FinePix SL300 is a chunky DSLR-style compact digital camera aimed at the type of user that is venturing timidly into superzoom territory but still likes the familiarity of a standard compact. The SL300 features a 14 megapixel CCD sensor with sensor-shift image stabilisation, a massive 30x optical zoom with a focal range of 24-720mm, 720p HD video at 30fps, a 3 inch 460k dot LCD screen, faster start-up, improved auto-focus speed and an upgraded response time. Priced at $299.99 / £279.95, the new Fujifilm FinePix SL300 is available in black.

Ease of Use

The Fujifilm FinePix SL300 is styled like a DSLR camera, but is it built like one? Well, the casing is primarily plastic with leatherette trim in places where you will hold it. The Shooting Mode dial is large and easy to get hold of and it has a positive clicking action that prevents it from being moved out of place.

It appears after looking over the camera that despite the shape making it look as though it's a proper bridge camera that a keen photographer would use instead of a DSLR kit, the SL300 is actually more geared to a beginner that fancies a big zoom on their compact camera. If you're the former it would be better to look at the HS30EXR model which has a number of photographer friendly features such as RAW support and physical zoom and focus rings.

Fujifilm FinePix SL300 Fujifilm FinePix SL300
Front Rear

However, the SL300 is still a nicely equipped camera for the market it's aimed at. The large zoom will tempt many upgraders while the easy to use functions will set their minds at ease. We like the easy to hold design, the chunky grip feels good but the fake leatherette covering is a bit slippy. However, the camera is light enough for us to feel confident to hold it one handed. We also like the additional zoom lever on the side of the lens barrel which can be easily adjusted with your left thumb - an unusual but thoughtful touch.

The external flash hotshoe on top of the SL300 allows a more powerful optional flashgun to be fitted, like the EF-20, to complement the built-in flash, although we'd bet that most SL300 users will be satisfied with the latter as it offers a reach of up to 7m.

The Finepix (F) button on the SL300 has a more simple approach than seen on previous Fujifilm cameras. All that's shown is the ISO, image size and colour modes (colour, chrome and black & white). It's a rather unusual and limited collection of options to place in one menu and the Finepix button takes up a portion of the right shoulder next to the command dial. It would be good to see it used more as a function button maybe putting more commonly used features in there such as white-balance, resolution (image size is already in there), metering and AF.

Fujifilm FinePix SL300 Fujifilm FinePix SL300
Pop-up Flash Top

In front of this is the power switch which is a spring loaded slider, rather than a more conventional switch or button, and in practice we found it a little sticky and unresponsive. On top of the deep DSLR-style grip are the auto-focus area and burst shooting buttons. The zoom is a twisting type that sits around the shutter release and it's a shame that Fujifilm haven't incorporated the zoom ring in the same way that they've done on some other of their higher-end superzooms.

The Shooting Mode dial is a little bereft of options with only 10 in place. As well as the manual PASM modes, there's a Custom mode, Auto, SR (Scene Recognition) Auto, SP (Scene Position) which are basically the different pre-set scene modes, and a Panorama and Video mode.

The literally biggest feature of the Fujifilm FinePix SL300 is the 30x optical zoom which covers an eye watering focal range of  24-720mm in 35mm terms. It's great for photographing ships on horizons, closing in on wildlife and if room permits it adds compression to portraits.

Fujifilm FinePix SL300 Fujifilm FinePix SL300
Front Side

To help with keeping your images sharp at the longer telephotos settings , the Fujifilm FinePix SL300 has two types of image stabilisation. A high sensitivity value of ISO 6400 allows faster shutter speeds which work in tandem with the sensor shift image stabilisation system to help keep your pictures steady. It's a shame that the manual zoom ring of the HS-series of Fujifilm cameras hasn't made its way onto the SL300. Although there are 45 incremental steps in the zoom range, it's still no substitute for the manual control of a zoom ring. However, it does mean that photographers moving up from smaller compacts have a familiar zoom switch to use.

Fujifilm have improved on the standard panoramic mode that's found on most cameras these days. Typically, three photos are taken using a portion of the previous picture at half opacity to frame and align the next shot with. On the SL300 there's a much simpler way of doing things. After taking the first picture, a small yellow cross appears at the right side of the frame with a white circle that has a cross cut out in the centre. Aligning the two means the picture is framed perfectly for the next shot and to make sure it's done as soon as the cross fits into the cross shaped hole perfectly, the camera will automatically take a picture.

Looking at the pictures we took on the back of the SL300, they look crisp and well exposed thanks to the large and high-resolution 3 inch LCD screen. Complementing the LCD is an electronic viewfinder, allowing you to hold the camera up to eye level to compose a picture, which definitely helps when using the extreme telephoto focal lengths. The EVF is pretty small though and only has a resolution of 200K dots, so it's not the best example that you'll ever use. A diopter adjustment allows for fine-tuning of the magnification level.

Fujifilm FinePix SL300 Fujifilm FinePix SL300
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

The functions in playback take a while to get started, for example when the playback button is pressed, it's not possible to zoom into the picture for around 5 seconds after the picture has been displayed. Not good if you're in a rush, but then the shutter lag is such that it's not possible to be in a hurry using the SL300 anyway. Not that it's super slow, it's around the same as any other compact but maybe it's because it looks like a DSLR, we expected it to work more like one. Thankfully the startup time of a shade under 2 seconds is a lot more like it, as is the snappy auto-focus system, although the latter does tend to hunt around and even miss focus completely in poorer lighting conditions.

On the bottom of the SL300 is is a plastic tripod bush which - on a budget camera - isn't that much of a surprise but on a camera that has such a large zoom, the tripod is going to be an overworked accessory. For that reason, the tripod bush becomes a high traffic area and a plastic one won't last nearly as long as a metal one. The other area is in the battery compartment. The SL300 takes a lithium-ion battery rather than the 4x AA batteries that most Fujifilm bridge cameras take. This provides a respectable battery life of around 300 shots, but you do lose the flexibility of being able to easily source AA batteries in an emergency.

Over on the right-hand side is a mini HDMI output port that enables the SL300 to be quickly connected to an HD ready TV, though as usual there's no cable supplied. In the box is the lithium-ion battery, battery charger, driver software and quick start guide to get you shooting straight away. The full manual is on the disc that comes with the camera. There's also a strap to prevent you from dropping the camera and a lens cap to cover the lens when the camera's not in use.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 14 megapixe Finel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.

We can only describe the image quality on the SL300 as a bit weird. From a normal viewing distance, the pictures look great. They look sharp and rich in colour. However, cropping into them and the pictures look overly sharpened to the degree that they look painted. At ISO 64, the pictures show no digital noise at all. In fact we're really impressed with the low end ISO settings. Being overly critical, the ISO 200 setting does show extremely minor signs of noise poking through. Image quality is still very good, though and it's not until ISO 800 that quality takes a significant nosedive.

So it looks as though the SL300 has a very good noise reduction system but at ISO 800 it either can't cope or it gives up the ghost. Discolouration occurs at ISO 1600 and any dark areas change colour completely. We continuously got casts when shooting at high ISO but we're still impressed with the edge definition even at this high setting. In a bid to reduce the amount of noise interfering with the picture, at ISO 3200 and 6400 the camera knocks down the resolution.


There are 8 ISO settings available on the Fujifilm FinePix SL300. Note that the highest settings of ISO 3200 and 6400 are recorded using the Small image size. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

ISO 64 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Fujifilm FinePix SL300's 30x zoom lens offers an incredibly versatile focal range, as illustrated by these examples:




Despite being sharp straight out of the camera, the pictures do improve slightly from a standard sharpening in an editing suite such as Adobe Photoshop. Below are samples of images both sharpened and unsharpened.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

The Fujifilm FinePix SL300 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options.

Fine (7.05Mb)

Normal (3.55Mb)

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberration occurs when the lens can't focus all colours onto the sensor. It generally appears as a purple line along high contrast edges such as black lettering on white paper or branches against a sky. It occurred very rarely on the SL300 and when it did appear, it's a hard edged line of colour.

Example 1 (100% Crop)


There are two macro modes on the Fujifilm FinePix SL300. The normal macro mode can close in to around 7cm while the super macro can get in as close as 2cm. Using the normal macro mode will allow you to still zoom in whereas switching to super macro disables the zoom function.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The built-in flash is a flip up variety that has to be opened manually by pressing the small button on the left side of the flash. Red-eye reduction is done using the main menu. It's just a simple red-eye on/red-eye off option. We found that there's no trace of red-eye in the pictures anyway and this is down to the height of the flash when it's in operation. Because of the angle of light, it bounces the reflection that causes red-eye at an oblique angle to the lens. We found in our test that the camera gives very similar light spread with the flash than it does without the flash. At wide-angle there's a degree of vignetting in the corners which does peter out towards the telephoto end.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (24mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Wide Angle (720mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (720mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. Neither the Auto setting or the Red-eye reduction mode caused any amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)


For the main night test we used a manual control to get the settings that we wanted to use. In aperture priority, we chose the lowest ISO rating of 64 to reduce noise and f/8 to close down the aperture and use a longer shutter speed. We found that the noise performance was very good on the camera because long exposures can sometimes cause noise.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Image Stabilisation

Image Stabilisation is Fujifilm's name for anti-shake, which in the SL300 works via a sensor-shift mechanism. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)

Anti Shake On (100% Crop)

1/25th / 24mm
1/4th sec / 720mm

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Fujifilm FinePix SL300 camera, which were all taken using the 14 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 22 second movie is 77.1Mb in size.

Product Images

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Front of the Camera

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Front of the Camera / Pop-up Flash

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Isometric View

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Isometric View

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Rear of the Camera

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu


Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Rear of the Camera / Function Menu

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Top of the Camera

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Bottom of the Camera

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Side of the Camera

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Side of the Camera

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Front of the Camera

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Front of the Camera

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Memory Card Slot

Fujifilm FinePix SL300

Battery Compartment


On paper the Fujifilm FinePix SL300 has a lot going for it, especially considering the asking price. The 30x optical zoom means that you can reach subjects that are too far away for the majority of cameras, even other superzooms, and the camera looks good and is built to a decent standard. Image quality isn't up to scratch, though, looking more like a painting when viewed at 100% magnification, and we missed the physical zoom and focus rings that the more up-market HS30EXR and HS20EXR models offer. Still, if you really want a big zoom camera that looks and kind of feels like a DSLR, the SL300 certainly fits the bill.

Picture quality is good when viewed at a normal distance or seen on a standard size print but when they're zoomed into, it has an effect we can only describe as painted. If you can put up with this then the colours are recorded very nicely and there's a decent amount of detail too. We're unsure why the sensor performs like this and it makes us wish that Fujifilm could put the EXR sensor in all their cameras.

The SL300 is more responsive than the S4000 model that sits below it in Fujifilm's extensive bridge camera range, with a faster start-up time and snappy auto-focus speed. It does still suffer from slight shutter-lag, though, and the AF system often struggles to focus at all in low-light conditions. The decision to move to a lithium-ion battery rather than Fujifilm's usual AAs replaces convenience with longevity, although you'll still need an extra battery for longer shoots.

Style and features wise, the Fujifilm FinePix SL300 is ideal for photographers who have experience of a DSLR or those who want to experience everything a DSLR can do for them without the added cost or weight. Image quality wise, take a look at the sample pictures in our review and decide for yourself whether you like what the Fujifilm can do for you before buying.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 3
Value for money 4


Model FinePix SL300 / SL305
Resolution 14.0 million pixels*1
Sensor type 1/2.3-inch CCD with primary color filter
Storage media
  • Internal memory (none)
  • SD / SDHC / SDXC memory card *2
Fujinon 30 x optical zoom lens
focal length
f=4.3 mm - 129.0 mm, equivalent to 24 - 720 mm on a 35 mm camera
F3.1 (Wide) - F5.9 (Telephoto)
11 groups 15 lenses
Digital zoom Approx. 6.7 x (up to approx. 201.0 x, with 30 x optical zoom)
Aperture F3.1 / F8 (Wide)
F5.9 / F8 / F20 (Telephoto)  with ND filter
Focus distance (from lens surface)
  • Wide : Approx. 40 cm to infinity / 1.3 ft. to infinity
  • Telephoto : Approx. 2.8 m to infinity / 9.1 ft. to infinity
  • Wide : Approx. 7 cm - 3.0 m / 2.7 in. - 9.8 ft.
  • Telephoto : Approx. 2.0 m - 3.0 m / 6.5 ft. - 9.8 ft.
Super Macro
  • Wide : Approx. 2 cm - 1.0 m / 0.8 in. - 3.3 ft.
Sensitivity Auto,Equivalent to ISO 64 / 100 / 200 / 400 / 800 / 1600 / 3200* / 6400* (Standard Output Sensitivity) * ISO3200 / 6400 is effective in image size S.
Image stabilisation CCD shift type
Electronic viewfinder 0.2-inch, approx. 200,000 dots, color LCD viewfinder, approx. 97% coverage
LCD monitor 3.0-inch, approx. 460,000 dots, TFT color LCD monitor, approx. 97% coverage
Movie recording 1280 x 720 pixels / 640 x 480 pixels / 320 x 240 pixels (30 frames/sec.) with monaural sound. * Optical zoom function can be used.
Power supply Li-ion battery NP-85 (included)
Dimensions 122.0 (W) x 93.0 (H) x 100.0 (D) mm / 4.8 (W) x 3.6 (H) x 3.9 (D) in.
Weight Approx. 510 g / 17.9 oz. (including batteries and memory card)
Approx. 470 g / 16.5 oz. (excluding batteries and memory card)
Battery life Approx. 300 frames (AUTO mode)
Accessories included Li-ion battery NP-85
Battery charger BC-85
Plug adapter
Shoulder strap
USB-A/V cable
Lens cap and Lens cap cord
Owner's manual
  *1 Number of effective pixels: The number of pixels on the image sensor which receive input light through the optical lens, and which are effectively reflected in the final output data of the still image.*2 Please see the Fujifilm website to check memory card compatibility.

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