Toshiba PDR-M1 Digital Camera
1.5 million pixel sensor, great color, autofocus, and digital zoom
||1.5 Million pixel sensor|
||1280 x 1024 resolution|
||2X digital zoom|
||Autofocus lens w/macro|
||Flexible "manual" exposure mode|
As one of the true giants in the world of computers and electronics, it's no surprise that Toshiba entered the digital camera market. (Probably the only true surprise is how long they waited before doing so.) While they haven't been particularly active in consumer imaging, various parts of Toshiba have been involved in sensor technology, storage media, and of course processing chips for a long time now. (At $53 billion a year, there are a lot of "parts" of Toshiba to go around!) On the semiconductor side, Toshiba has long been a world leader in CMOS technology, and that capability was reflected in their first digital camera, in which all the camera electronics, including the image sensor, are integrated on a single, low-power chip!
With their first digital camera, the PDR-2, Toshiba created a logical accessory to accompany their seemingly ubiquitous laptop computers: The PDR-2 was remarkable for its compact size, portability, long battery life, and clever interfacing to laptops. With VGA resolution, and only average image quality though, the PDR-2 was clearly more of a computer accessory than a photographic tool in its own right. With the PDR-M1 however, Toshiba has clearly entered the realm of no-excuses digital photography: Its image quality, functionality, and user interface are at the top of the current market (July '98), Toshiba is targeting an aggressive price point for the PDR-M1 ($699 street price at the time of release), and has lined up an impressive range of distribution partners. In combination, these factors promise to rock the competition, and give users new reason to rejoice.
The most obvious groundbreaking characteristic of the PDR-M1 is its high, 1.5 megapixel resolution. Refreshingly, Toshiba has chosen to rate the device rather conservatively, using a 1/2-inch, 1.5 megapixel sensor to create final files with only about 1.3 million pixels in them. The value of this conservative approach is evident in the excellent resolution we measured in our testing.
In most of its other major parameters, the PDR-M1 doesn't extend the state of the art, but consistently comes in comfortably at the upper end of current offerings: It sports a 4-mode flash, both an optical viewfinder and bright 1.8 inch LCD, and an autofocus lens that focuses down to only 3.5 inches (9cm) in macro mode. It also provides a 2x "digital zoom" option, now becoming more common among high-end digital cameras. A real standout feature of the camera is the unusual degree of control it offers in "manual" mode, with 0.3 EV-unit control of exposure compensation across a 1.5 EV range, separate exposure adjustment for the flash (!), and no less than 5 different white-balance settings.
The PDR-M1 is housed in an attractive, compact anodized aluminum case, with a rotating lens cover on the front to protect the lens when not in use. At 4.9 x 3.3 x 1.4 inches (123 x 82 x 36 mm), and 8.6 ounces (245 gm) without batteries, it's smaller than many other models, if not the most compact we've seen. It passes the "shirt pocket" test, fitting into a standard men's-size shirt pocket, but it's weight of 10.4 ounces (295 gm) with batteries would probably lead most people to find other ways of carrying it. (IMPORTANT UPDATE: Reader "JJohns" from rec.photo.digital notes that his production model of the PDR-M1 has a plastic case, not aluminum as we reported above. Either we were fooled by a plastic case that felt like aluminum, or our preproduction test unit was different than the production models.)
As with essentially every digital camera we've tested, the PDR-M1 is "right-handed," with most of the controls set up for use by the thumb and fingers of the right hand. Overall, its design, ergonomics, and user interface are excellent, although we do have a minor gripe in that the provided wrist-loop hand strap is too small to easily permit shooting with the strap around your wrist. We found the camera controls and menus very easy to navigate in normal shooting, and even the complexity of "manual" mode was easy to maneuver through.
As have many digital camera manufacturers, Toshiba has resolved the "optical vs LCD" viewfinder dilemma by providing both. The optical viewfinder on the PDR-M1 is clear and bright, but crops the image relative to the CCD's field of view somewhat more than we'd like, showing only about 79% of the area actually captured by the camera. The LCD viewfinder is better, but still not perfect, revealing about 88% of the final image area. Fortunately, the areas shown by both the optical and LCD viewfinders are fairly well centered within the final frame, somewhat easing the task of achieving accurate framing.
Other than our complaint about excessive image cropping, both optical and LCD viewfinders worked well. The optical finder is bright and easy to use even for eyeglass wearers (a point we're always sensitive too, belonging to that category ourselves), and the LCD finder is quite bright and sharp, with a very high refresh rate that makes tracking even fast-moving objects quite easy.
Besides the "live" image itself, the LCD shows a number of useful information displays when used as a viewfinder, including data & time, current image quality setting, digital zoom mode, and a "shake" warning when the camera has selected a slow shutter speed. In "manual" mode, the current status of essentially all of the adjustable settings are shown on the LCD, including exposure compensation, white balance setting, flash exposure setting, and whether "synchro" mode is enabled or not (more on this last option later).
The PDR-M1 has a sharp all-glass autofocus lens design, with a focal length equivalent to a 35mm lens on a 35mm camera. (This translates to a moderate wide-angle, long proven to be the most useful focal length in generations of film-based point & shoot cameras.) The maximum lens aperture of f3.2 is a bit "slower" than most current digital cameras, but we found nothing lacking in the PDR-M1's low-light performance as a result. The lens aperture switches automatically between the f3.2 maximum opening and an f8 aperture as directed by the exposure system.
The autofocus distance for the lens ranges from 20 inches (0.5 m) to infinity in normal mode, and from 3.5 inches (9cm) to 20 inches in macro mode. Even with the somewhat wide-angle lens, this close-focusing capability produced very good macro performance. To get even closer, albeit at a lower resolution, you can use the "digital zoom" function (see below) while in macro mode, too.
The one significant limitation we found in the PDR-M1's optical design was the lack of filter threads for mounting external auxiliary lenses. This is unfortunate, as the camera's other excellent capabilities suit the camera for use by more-sophisticated camera buffs, who frequently would want to further enhance its functionality through auxiliary lenses.
"Digital Zoom" is becoming an increasingly popular option on megapixel digital cameras, but it operates quite differently than an optical zoom lens, and so requires some explanation to avoid confusion.
All digital zoom tecniques involve taking data from a portion of the CCD array, and using it to "fill" an image file in some fashion. We say "in some fashion" because there are two ways in which manufacturers "fill" the file: The first approach is to simply chop out the data from the central pixels of the CCD array, and package it as its own file, pixel-for-pixel. This results in a smaller data file, containing only the pixels from the center of the array. You could achieve the same result by simply cutting out the center of the file in an image editing application, and saving it as a separate image. The effect is the same as using a longer focal-length lens on a lower-resolution camera, but you end up with a lower-resolution picture as well. Nonetheless, the abilty to create a "telephoto" image (albeit at a lower resolution) without resorting to copy/paste operations in software is often a decided advantage. (Close-up shooting of subjects for 'web publishing comes to mind.) This "in-camera cropping" approach is used by Toshiba in the PDR-M1, producing a 640x480 image that is a pixel-for-pixel copy of the center of what would normally be the full-frame 1280x1024 image.
The other way to "zoom" digitally also begins by taking data only from the central portion of the sensor array. This time though, rather than just saving it in a file "as is", the camera interpolates it back up to the size required to fill the original frame: The "zoomed" file has the same number of pixels in it as the original, but object edges are softer and there's less detail. Again, while not a true zoom, this effect is similar in some respects, and the result may be useful for some applications.
Of the two approaches, we feel that the "in-camera cropping" approach chosen by Toshiba is probably the most useful. Our overall opinion on digital zoom techniques is that they can be a genuine convenience for some applications, but they in no way take the place of a true optical zoom lens. Bottom line, it's a nice feature to have for those times you need it, and a worthwhile addition to digital cameras, as long as it comes more or less for free (eg, ads little or nothing to the end-user cost of the camera).
One issue with digital zoom is that there's no way to preview its effects in the optical viewfinder. For this reason, the LCD panel on the PDR-M1 automatically powers-up whenever digital zoom is selected. This is necessary, but also means increased power consumption in digital zoom mode. Exposure
Toshiba rates the PDR-M1 at an effective ISO of 100. (In other words, you should expect its light sensitivity to be about on the order of ISO 100 print film.) In practice, we found it performed somewhat better than this rating would indicate, as we'll explain below.
The lens has a maximum aperture of f3.2, automatically stopping down to f8 as needed. Shutter speeds range from 1/4 to 1/1,000 of a second. Combining these factors with the stated ISO light sensitivity rating of 100 should produce a range of usable illumination from about EV 10.5 to EV 21. The lower end of this range is fairly bright, corresponding to a reasonably well-lit interior scene. In practice, we found we could obtain entirely usable images at light levels much lower than this, perhaps as low as EV 7 or 8. (Our formal tests don't include an explicit check for low-light operation, but our impression was that the camera is much more sensitive than the "official" minimum illumination level of EV 10.5 would indicate.)
As is common with many digital cameras, the PDR-M1 includes a focus and exposure lock feature, in which both focus and exposure are set when the shutter button is pressed halfway down, and then held until the shutter is actually fired, or the button released. This lets you expose and focus the camera properly with off-center subjects, then recompose and re-frame the image before taking the final exposure.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Given the 1/4-second maximum exposure time of the PDR-M1, we feel compelled to insert our by-now-standard flame here about hand-holding shots in available light. Other cameras with similar slow-shutter capability already on the market have in some cases been criticized for poor autofocus performance in low light situations. We suspect that much of the problem stems from users trying to hand-hold the cameras during very long exposures. An experienced pro might be able to hold a camera steady for an eighth of a second or so, but nobody is going to get sharp pictures hand-holding a camera for a quarter-second exposure! Take our advice, and use a tripod or otherwise brace the camera when the light is dim! Above all, don't blame Toshiba for fuzzy exposures in low light: They should be hailed for expanding the range of situations in which digital cameras can effectively be used. (Flame off...)
Metering accuracy on the PDR-M1 seemed to be quite good, although here again, we don't have an objective test designed to evaluate this. The manual states that the camera uses a through-the-lens 64-zone metering system to determine exposure, which would explain its good performance under widely varying conditions. Like any autoexposure system though, that of the PDR-M1 is still subject to being "fooled" by strongly backlit or other difficult subjects, so Toshiba provides the ability to manually override the automatic exposure. Exposure compensation can be set whenever the camera is in "manual" mode, allowing a variation of as much as +/- 1.5 EV units from the exposure determined by the camera. Particularly welcome in the PDR-M1 is the ability to adjust exposure in what are nominally 0.3 EV units. (An EV unit corresponds to about 1 f-stop of exposure adjustment.) We found this fine-grained exposure adjustment very nice compared to most cameras, which only let you adjust in units of 1/2 EV. (As we'll discuss below under flash operation, the 1/3 EV exposure adjustment capability extends independently to flash exposure as well.)
White balance on the PDR-M1 is very flexible as well, with no fewer than six different settings: Automatic, incandescent, two types of fluorescent (warm and cool white), and both sunny and cloudy daylight. In most of our testing, we used the "sunny" white-balance setting, as the "auto" mode produced images with a slightly warmer than neutral color cast.
As an adjunct to the fluorescent white-balance settings, the PDR-M1 also has a "Synchro" option when operating in manual mode. What this apparently does is adjust the exposure system to favor longer shutter speeds, to avoid problems with fluorescent-tube flicker. This perhaps needs a bit of explanation: Fluorescent lights typically flicker at twice the power-line frequency (eg, flickering at 120 cycles per second in the US, and 100 cycles per second in most of the rest of the world). In most cases, this flickering is too fast for our eyes to notice, but a camera can produce a bad exposure if its shutter is open for anything less than 1/120th of a second, and happens to open while the tube is in the "dim" portion of its flicker cycle. With some cameras, it's possible to take five separate shots under the same fluorescent lighting, and get five different exposures! The "Synchro" option on the PDR-M1 tries to leave the shutter open for an entire flicker cycle, so the amount of light captured will match the average lighting level measured by the autoexposure system. We didn't experiment too extensively with this feature, but the camera did seem to produce consistent exposures under fluorescent lighting with it enabled. The slower shutter speeds provided by Synchro mode can also be used to advantage in flash photography: The flash only works in "red-eye" mode while the synchro option is enabled, but the longer exposure time provided by synchro will allow more ambient illumination to enter the lens. This may be helpful for some indoor shots, where you want more of the background to be visible.
Finally, along with its other exposure capabilities, the PDR-M1 does include the near-obligatory self-timer mode, allowing the photographer 10 seconds or so to get into the picture. (Note that this mode can also be used to advantage when shooting under very low light conditions, on a less-than-perfect tripod. Enable the self-timer, trip the shutter, and then back off: By the time the shutter actually fires, any vibrations in the tripod will have died down enough to produce a razor-sharp shot.)
The PDR-M1 incorporates a fairly typical 4-mode (Auto, Off, Fill, and Red-Eye) flash, with a range extending to about 10 feet (3m). Auto and Off modes are self-explanatory, while "fill" forces the flash on, even if the camera doesn't think it needs it. This is useful for "fill" illumination of back-lit subjects in otherwise bright surroundings. Red-eye reduction mode fires a brief pre-flash prior to the main exposure, to force subjects' eyes to contract, largely eliminating the internal reflections that cause "red eye" in photos.
While its basic operation is fairly conventional, we were surprised and pleased to find an option for adjusting flash exposure independently of ambient lighting, when the camera is in "manual" mode. Although the range of adjustment is only +/- 0.6EV, this is the first time we've seen an option for adjusting flash exposure on an inexpensive digital camera. Overall, the PDR-M1 gives the photographer more control over the balance between ambient and flash lighting than any other camera we've tested to date.
Operation and User Interface
Thanks in part to its thumb-operated "mode dial", we found it easy to navigate the PDR-M1's various modes and options. Major camera operating modes are selected by rotating a control dial on the upper right-hand corner of the camera's back to one of eight different positions. The modes thus selected include setup, self-timer, manual capture, automatic capture, playback, image deletion, image protection, and PC connection. We like camera user interfaces with mode-dial controls because they let you select among multiple functions without having to resort to a (slower) LCD menu structure.
The setup menu is used to control a variety of less-frequently changed camera functions, including flash setting, image quality, image size, sharpness, frame numbering, annunciator beeps, date and time, and camera reset. Flash settings on the setup screen select from among the four available flash operating modes described earlier. The image quality setting selects varying levels of JPEG image compression, with fine, normal, and basic corresponding to compression ratios of 4:1, 8:1, and 16:1, respectively. File size selects between base resolutions of 1280x1024 and 640x480. (Note that any compression level may be selected with either file size, producing a total of 6 different combinations of image quality and file size.)
The sharpness control (normal, hard, or soft) varies the amount of edge-enhancement the camera applies. All our test images were taken with the "normal" setting, which apparently applies some edge enhancement. The "soft" setting seems to correspond simply to the absence of sharpening, rather than any deliberate softening of the image. Accordingly, we recommend the "soft" setting for those who want greater control over their image sharpening, using an application like Photoshop(tm). Alternatively, if you plan to print your images on a typical color inkjet at moderate sizes, the "hard" setting will increase the apparent sharpness of the image at smaller print sizes.
The frame numbering option is a useful one for keeping track of images after they've been transferred to your computer. With frame numbering on, the camera remembers the highest frame number whenever the SmartMedia is changed, or whenever all the images are erased in the camera. Thus, every image receives a unique number, so you can simply dump them all into the same disk directory without worrying about conflicting file names. (Note: We did encounter a problem with this on two occasions, in which the frame numbering started over at a lower number. We weren't able to determine the exact cause, but suspect it was because we were working back and forth with two different SmartMedia cards, and erased them outside of the camera, using our FlashPath(tm) floppy-disk adapter. Once we settled down to always erasing the cards in the camera, the problem never recurred.)
The PDR-M1 normally beeps softly to indicate changes in camera status, or specific camera operations (such as mode changes, shutter triggers, etc). If you want to maintain a lower profile for candid shooting, you can turn these annunciator beeps off in setup mode. Setup mode is also where you'd change the date & time, or reset the camera to its default settings.
The first stop around the mode dial from "setup" is self-timer mode. Operation here is entirely typical and self-explanatory: When the camera is in self-timer mode, pressing the shutter button starts a 10-second countdown, flashing an indicator light on the front of the camera to warn the subjects to get ready. Small numerals on the LCD screen also count down, as operator feedback, in case the photographer remains behind the camera. The self-timer function is one case where the mode dial interface removes some capability, in that you can't combine manual exposure adjustments with self-timer operation. Perhaps not a great loss, but we'd definitely prefer having the exposure flexibility of manual mode available for self-timer shots as well.
Speaking of manual mode, that's the next setting on the mode dial. As fairly serious amateur photographers (note we said "serious," not "good!"), we're always looking for greater control over the picture-taking process. The PDR-M1's "manual" mode offers a fair bit more control than is available with most competing cameras, and we found the user interface very easy to navigate to make exposure and white-balance adjustments. When the camera is in manual mode, a small menu appears along the bottom of the LCD screen, superimposed over the live viewfinder image. The four entries on this menu control white balance, exposure compensation, flash power, and "Synchro" mode. (We described each of these functions earlier, so will only discuss the operation of the menu structure here.) To navigate these menu items, the small 4-way rocker switch just to the left of the mode dial is used. Toggling this switch from side to side moves between the menu items, while rocking it up or down selects values within the chosen menu. When you're all done, push the "EXE" switch to lock-in your settings. This is a great interface, and one we would be happy to see other camera manufacturers adopt. We could make changes rapidly, and always knew what the current status was. Very nice!
There's really very little to say about "auto" mode, as that's all it is: Automatic! At first, we thought it would be annoying to not be able to apply exposure compensation while in auto mode, but it takes so little time to switch back and forth to "manual" mode that it really isn't an issue. What's more, the existence of manual mode as a separate function lets you leave the camera set for some special condition, then rapidly switch between ordinary automatic operation and your special setup.
Zoom and Macro Control
You can access the 2x digital zoom function in either manual or auto recording mode, by pressing the "^" button, at which point the LCD screen will illuminate (if it was previously turned off), to serve as a viewfinder. The Macro option is similarly activated by pressing the "Macro/<^>" button (that's actually supposed to be a 4-way arrow indicating the rocker switch). As with the 2x zoom mode, this switches on the LCD screen, and configures the camera's optics for macro shooting.
The PDR-M1's playback mode has a wide variety of functions to match the rich capabilities in other areas. Playback functions are controlled through a combination of the "Disp", "Exe", and rocker-button controls. While operation is very simple to master, a full description of the navigation process would take too much room here, so we'll only cover the capabilities, not the control structure.
In standard operation, you can step back and forth between stored images, viewing them one at a time on the LCD screen. You can also select a 9-shot view, which packs 9 different images onto the screen at once. In this mode, as you step forward and back, a cursor highlights the currently-selected image, and you can switch to viewing that one at full size with a single button-push.
Like several other megapixel cameras on the market, the PDR-M1 lets you zoom in on an image, turning the LCD screen into a "window" into the image as a whole. The PDR-M1 goes most of the competition one better in this respect though, by providing a whole range of playback zoom ratios, ranging from 1.2:1 all the way up to 4:1. (Most competing cameras only provide a 2:1 option.) We were surprised however, by an apparent limitation in the zoomed playback mode that prevented us from seeing all the way to the edges of the stored images: Even in 4:1 mode, the final images downloaded to the computer contained more image data than we were able to see while the images were in the camera. The portion of the image along the edges that can't be seen is fairly small, but enough to be an inconvenience for us in some of our more critically-aligned test shots.
The PDR-M1's playback mode also supports "slide shows," in which the camera sequences automatically between all images, one every few seconds. Compared to most of the other features of the PDR-M1, slide show mode is a bit limited, in that you can't select specific images for inclusion in the show, nor can you change the per-image display time.
Image Protection & Deletion
Individual images in the camera's memory (or all currently existing ones) may be protected against accidental deletion through operations performed in the cameras "protection" mode. Once an image is protected, it can't be deleted unless it is first "unprotected." This can be an efficient way to manage image memory when you're capturing multiple versions of each shot: Once you decide which images you want to retain, protect them, and then do a "delete all" to clear the remainder without having to step through them one at a time to delete all the ones you don't want. Image deletion on the PDR-M1 is also accomplished from a separate mode, rather than as part of playback mode. Overall, we'd probably prefer to be able to erase images directly from playback mode, but the PDR-M1 has so many "play" functions that it would be hard to add flexible image deletion options on the same menu.
PC Connection Mode
At the time we received our evaluation unit, the software package wasn't completed yet, so we did all our interfacing via a "FlashPath(tm)" floppy-disk adapter for the SmartMedia cards. As a result, we didn't get to exercise the PC connection mode, and so have little to report here. (Based on experiences with other cameras though, we have to say that the $99 FlashPath adapter is a very worthwhile addition, and will almost certainly be far faster than using the camera's built-in serial interface.)
Image Storage and Interface
The PDR-M1 uses the tiny "SmartMedia" memory cards to store its images on, and comes equipped with a 4-megabyte unit as standard equipment. (8 megabyte cards are now readily available, and 16-meg units should begin appearing in stores as early as August '98.) The furnished 4-megabyte card holds anywhere from 5 to 77 images, depending on image size and quality level chosen.
Normal computer interface would be via the built-in serial port, but as noted above, the pre-production model we received for testing didn't have the software package included with it yet. Maximum serial-port speed is 115Kbaud however, so transfer times on the order of 50 seconds for the highest-resolution images are likely. (At least, that's a fairly typical transfer time for seriall-connected digital cameras with similar resolution, operating at 115 Kbaud.)
Given that we used one ourselves with our evaluation unit of the PDR-M1, this would probably be a good place to insert a plug for the optional "FlashPath" floppy-disk adapter we mentioned earlier. This amazing $99 accessory unit looks like a floppy disk, and in fact slips directly into your PC's floppy disk drive. A small slot in the side receives the tiny SmartMedia cards, and special driver software (included with the FlashPath for Windows '95, promised soon for the Mac and Windows NT) tricks the computer into thinking that the device is in fact a 4 megabyte floppy. (Or whatever size corresponds to the SmartMedia card you inserted.) You can then transfer files back and forth between your computer and the SmartMedia card just by dragging them in Explorer, or even opening them directly from your photo applications! The resulting transfers are quite a bit faster than a serial cable would allow, but slower than those using PCMCIA-card adapters. (The transfer rate appears to be the same as with a floppy disk.) At $99, the FlashPath isn't a cheap accessory, but the increased usefulness of the whole camera system is easily worth it.
The PDR-M1 is powered by 4 AA batteries, and Toshiba calls for either alkaline or long-life (1000 mAh) NiCd batteries. They claim an image-capture capacity of approximately 200-250 images with the LCD on, or 500-700 images with the LCD off. While we can't attest to these capacities directly, we shot over 150 images with heavy LCD usage as well as flash exposures on a single freshly-charged set of 1200 mAh NiMH, and the battery-condition indicator never budged off "full."
Overall, the PDR-M1 appears suprisingly efficient in its usage of battery power, although our standard recommendation of NiMH battery technology for digital camera users still holds. For those using the camera for extended periods in the studio, Toshiba sells an AC adapter (PDR-ACM1) separately.
Unfortunately, since our evaluation unit was a pre-production sample, we didn't receive a software package along with it. The advertised software package is a bit sparse, compared to the cornucopia offered with some devices. Nonetheless, the furnished software appears to be adequate for downloading images from the camera and using them in other applications.
For the Windows platform, Toshiba provides ImageExpert from Sierra Imaging, an application we have examined previously, and found to be both useful and well-executed. On the Mac platform, the software furnished is a dual package called "Picture Shuttle/Eztouch," which we haven't seen as yet.
In every Imaging Resource product review, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed: Explore the links at the bottom of this page, to see how well the PDR-M1 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying. You're also welcome to download the images (for personal use only) to see how they look when output on your own printer: There's really no substitute for this in evaluating an imaging device, as there are usually huge differences between how an image looks on-screen, and how it looks when printed out.
The comments here are a summary of our more detailed analysis on the "Pictures" page for the PDR-M1: Refer to that page for a more in-depth analysis of the test results.
Overall, the PDR-M1's image quality was outstanding! Color accuracy was very good, albeit with a very slight yellowish cast. Bright colors showed good saturation, while delicate pastels were rendered accurately and subtly. Detail was exceptional as well, although we noticed a few odd tone breaks in the outdoor model shots that we believe are the result of the in-camera image sharpening (which we left set to "normal" for all our test shots). We didn't notice these minor blemishes until we'd already returned the demo unit, but suggest that users experiment with the "soft" setting on the sharpening option, and use image-manipulation software to perform sharpening operations on critical images.
Probably due to the conservative interpolation used in the PDR-M1 (a 1.5 million pixel sensor being used to create a 1.3 million pixel final image), its visual resolution was among the very highest we've seen, at rougly 700 line pairs per picture height. While virtually no color artifacts are present in the resolution test images, and the lens shows essentially no geometric distortion, we did observe an odd "zipper-like" artifact in closely-spaced horizontal lines.
We found the optical viewfinder on the PDR-M1 a little "loose," only showing about 80% of the final image captured by the CCD, while the LCD finder was a bit better, at 88% coverage. Both were well-centered however, making it easier to achieve consistent results, and both were bright and clear.
Despite the moderately wide-angle (35mm equivalent) lens on the PDR-M1, it displayed excellent macro capability, covering an area of only 3.0 x 3.8 inches (7.7 x 9.6 cm) at its closest focusing distance of 3.5 inches. We also found that the flash worked extremely well even at the minimum focusing distance, a very nice capability for quick macro shots.
The "Digital Zoom" on the PDR-M1 uses the "in-camera cropping" approach, producing a 640x480 image taken from the central region of the CCD array. In this mode, resolution is about equivalent to typical 640x480 cameras.
See for Yourself!
Take a look at the test images from the PDR-M1 (with extensive comments), or jump to the Comparometer(tm) page to compare its reference images with those from other digital cameras.
Overall, the PDR-M1 turned in an excellent "megapixel" performance, with excellent color, exceptional resolution, an good user-interface ergonomics. Especially given its aggressive pricing, it clearly deserves serious consideration from anyone considering purchasing a megapixel-level digital camera.
Reader Sample Images!
Do you have an MX-2700 camera? If you'll post an album of your samples (it's easy to do, and free) on a photo-sharing service and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we'll list the album link here for others to see!