Digital Camera Home > Digital Camera Reviews > Toshiba Digital Cameras > Toshiba PDR-M3

Digital Cameras - Toshiba PDR-M3 Test Images

(Original test date: 2/15/99)

Outdoor portrait: (642k) Good color and tonal balance, with surprisingly good exposure at the default setting. (638k) (Default shot taken on a different day though, with weaker sunlight...) Although we're told it has the same sensor, resolution in this shot looks slightly better to our eye than the predecessor (non-zoom) PDR-M1. Highlight detail is very good, but note that this image was shot under somewhat hazy sun (note the weak shadows). We had a run of bad weather, and bright sun was hard to find when we first shot this image. We came back a couple of weeks later, under more typical conditions and shot these versions, at a setting of +0.3 EV (642k) and at +0.6EV (642k). (The main image was shot at +0.6EV.) (NOTE: Although the conditions were better the second time around, the weather was still being uncooperative, forcing us to shoot very late in the day. Thus, both these pictures and the closeup shot below have a much warmer color cast than is usual, due to the low sun angle.)
 

Closer portrait: (592k) Excellent detail & exposure. Very little noise, good detail in hair with almost no JPEG artifacts. Slight contrast breaks in skin near eyes, due to sharpening. Overall excellent handling.  

Indoor portrait, flash: (643k) This is a very tricky shot for most digital cameras to handle well, thanks to the very different color balance of flash and household tungsten illumination. The relatively bright ambient lighting in this test tends to produce some odd colors in the final results. The PDR-M3 performed very well in this test, and we really liked the ability it gives you to adjust the flash output! Our main picture (643k) here was shot with the flash exposure set down by 0.6 EV units, and the ambient (non-flash) exposure set up by the same amount. The result is a very natural-looking picture, with much more subtle lighting than we're accustomed to seeing in digicam flash shots. For comparison, here are versions shot with the default exposure settings (645k) (producing a much more typically harsh digicam flash picture), and with the flash set down by 0.6EV (636k), but the ambient exposure left at the default.
 

Indoor portrait, no flash: (636k) This shot is a tough test of cameras' white-balance circuitry. We frequently find that digicams do best on this particular shot using their "auto" white balance setting, as the "incandescent" settings are often more suited to professional lighting than household lamps. Not so the PDR-M3: The main shot (636k) here was taken with the "incandescent" white-balance setting, and the exposure compensation adjusted up two steps to +0.6EV. Even the default exposure setting in "incandescent" mode (649k) produced a good shot, albeit a somewhat dark one. There is some remnant pinkish cast to the image, but we found that it cleaned up remarkably well in Photoshop, using a simple "auto levels" adjustment. By contrast, the automatic white balance of the 'M3 produces a very yellowish shot, as seen here (638k), with the exposure compensation set to +0.6EV.  

House shot: (683k) Our standard "House" poster shot is a great test of resolution and detail rendering. The PDR-M3 does quite well on this shot. Detail is very good, very much in the running with other 1.3-1.5 megapixel cameras. Color is good, but we used the "Sunny" white balance to avoid a slight pinkish cast with the auto white balance setting. As has become our custom on this test, we've prepared a matrix of shots, showing the various combinations of image size and compression ratio the PDR-M3 is capable of:


Large/Fine
(683k)

Large/Normal
(353k)

Large/Basic
(166k)

Small/Fine
(168k)

Small/Normal
(95k)

Small/Basic
(48k)

 
 

Far-Field shot: (700k) This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles, and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

We've found that digicam lenses frequently perform differently when focused at infinity than when used at closer distances. Accordingly, we use this shot to test the "infinity" performance, even though the scene content will vary considerably with weather and particularly the seasons. We were surprised by just how well the PDR-M3 did here, turning in a truly excellent performance, as evidenced by the fine detail in the bricks of the house, and in the branches silhouetted against the sky. We've produced two matrices here for you, one showing the variation in the image as a result of different image sizes and compression settings, as in the "House" shot above. The second group shows the effect of different settings of the camera's "sharpness" setting, with samples taken at "Hard," "Normal," and "Soft." - It looks to us like the "Soft" setting actually just corresponds to no in-camera sharpening at all, while "Normal" applies a bit, and "Hard" quite a lot. We found "Normal" worked well most of the time, although you may want to use "Soft" and subsequent processing in Photoshop for critical images, and "Hard" for ones you'll be printing on a low-resolution inkjet or laser printer. (Here again, the uncooperative weather combined with the winter season to result in a very low sun angle, and much warmer color cast than is typical for this shot.)

Size/Compression:

Large/Fine
(702k)

Large/Normal
(340k)

Large/Basic
(164k)

Small/Fine
(167k)

Small/Normal
(92k)

Small/Basic
(49k)

Sharpening: Hard/Normal/Soft

Large/"Hard"
(710k)

Large/"Normal"
(700k)

Large/"Soft"
(652k)

 

"Musicians" poster: (671k) Very good color, great sharpness - really a very good performance on this image! The main shot here was taken with the color balance set to "Sunny," as the automatic white balance setting left a somewhat pinkish tone, as shown here (159k - VGA resolution) With the "Sunny" setting though, the color is very good, indeed. Sharpness is also great, as you'll see when comparing the PDR-M3 shots with others in the Comparometer(tm) (see the link at the bottom of this page). Here again, we've shot a full set of resolution/compression combinations, listed in the table below.

Large/Fine
(671k)

Large/Normal
(324k)

Large/Basic
(157k)

Small/Fine
(158k)

Small/Normal
(88k)

Small/Basic
(48k)
 
Macro shot: (672k) - The PDR-M3 performed very respectably on this test, solidly in the middle range of cameras we've tested, in terms of magnification ratio, and better than many on the basis of color rendition. (It handled the subtle green tint of the dollar bill very well, and did a splendid job on the gold in the brooch.) We were surprised that it didn't provide a noticeable increase in magnification over the earlier non-zoom PDR-M1 though: We'd expected the telephoto end of the zoom would give more magnification. The principal (and by no means trivial) benefit appears to be the much-improved working distance of nearly 8 inches, allowing more options for lighting and working with the subjects. The flash also worked very well close-in. This shot (659k) shows the effect of the default flash setting, somewhat washing-out the detail in the coin. This was a case where the adjustable flash output came in quite handy: This shot (661k) shows the effect of the flash exposure being set down by -0.6 EV units. There's still strong glare from the coin, but the overall exposure is much better.  

"Davebox" test target: (632k) Again, the PDR-M3 performed very well on this test, showing excellent color balance and saturation, and good tonal range, although the deepest shadows are a bit "plugged." Again, we found the best results with the white balance set to "Sunny," the auto balance producing a slight pinkish tinge. The matrix below shows the effect of varying compression settings, all at the large image size, as well as samples taken with both auto and "sunny" white balance settings.

Auto
White Bal.

Large/Fine
(646k)

Large/Normal
(318k)

Large/Basic
(152k)

Sunny
White Bal.

Large/Fine
(632k)

Large/Normal
(317k)

Large/Basic
(153k)

 
 

Low-Light Tests (NEW!)
After a number of requests for a more quantitative measure of cameras' low-light capabilities, we've instituted an official low-light test, using the Davebox target, a single flood, neutral-density gels, and an accurate light meter to test camera performance under a range of dim lighting. (If it sounds like a pain in the neck, that's because it is!)

 

Coming! - We didn't have time to complete these before jetting off to PMA...

 

ISO 12233 ("WG-18") resolution target: (635k) (Technoids only) Here again, the PDR-M3 did very well indeed, with a visual resolution of roughly 600-650 line pairs per picture height in both vertical and horizontal directions. This is right at the top of the current crop of 1.3-1.5 megapixel digicams, and a slight improvement over the earlier PDR-M1. (The M1 & M3 have a bit of an advantage over most megapixel-plus digicams, in that their sensor is a true 1.5 million pixel one, vs the more common 1.3 megapixels in most units competing at the same price point.) As in other tests, it appears that the PDR-M3's zoom lens is actually slightly sharper than the fixed focal-length design of the 'M1. The 'M3 also seems slightly less prone to the "checkerboard" pattern we saw in the 'M1 when confronted with closely-space horizontal lines.
We went a little hog-wild here, what with variations in size, compression, and "Sharpness" settings:
Telephoto

"Hard"
Sharpness

Large/Fine
(647k)

Large/Normal
(318k)

Large/Basic
(159k)

Small/Fine
(148k)

Small/Normal
(82k)

Small/Basic
(49k)

"Normal"
Sharpness

Large/Fine
(628k)

Large/Normal
(318k)

Large/Basic
(155k)

Small/Fine
(148k)

Small/Normal
(82k)

Small/Basic
(49k)

"Soft"
Sharpness

Large/Fine
(632k)

Large/Normal
(305k)

Large/Basic
(148k)

Small/Fine
(143k)

Small/Normal
(80k)

Small/Basic
(47k)

 

Wide-Angle

"Hard"
Sharpness

Large/Fine
(652k)

Large/Normal
(3240k)

Large/Basic
(163k)

(missing)

(missing)

(missing)

"Normal"
Sharpness

Large/Fine
(635k)

Large/Normal
(320k)

Large/Basic
(158k)

Small/Fine
(150k)

Small/Normal
(84k)

Small/Basic
(50k)

"Soft"
Sharpness

Large/Fine
(640k)

Large/Normal
(307k)

Large/Basic
(151k)

Small/Fine
(145k)

Small/Normal
(80k)

Small/Basic
(48k)

 
Viewfinder accuracy/flash uniformity target: While the PDR-M3's LCD viewfinder is fairly accurate, consistently showing 89% of the final image area at both telephoto (150k) and wide-angle (150k) focal lengths, its optical viewfinder does considerably less well, showing only 80% at the wide-angle setting (152k), and 76% at the telephoto end (150k). While the smaller area shown in the viewfinder reduces the chance of inadvertently chopping off the top of someone's head in a picture, it will also tend to leave you with rather loose compositions, not using the available resolution of the sensor to its best advantage. Still, looking back over our test evaluations, if this is the worst we can find to complain about in this camera, it isn't much!  

 

What do YOU think? - Share comments on the images here!

Back to PDR-M3 Review

Jump to Comparometer(tm) to compare with other cameras

Or, up to Imaging Resource Cameras Page.

Or, Return to the Imaging Resource home page.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

 

Reader Comments!
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Toshiba PDR-M3, or add comments of your own!


Follow Imaging Resource:

Purchase memory card for Panasonic Lumix DMC-XS3 digital camera
Enter this month to win:

1 $300 Adorama Gift Certificate

2 $200 Adorama Gift Certificate

3 $100 Adorama Gift Certificate