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Toshiba PDR-M70

Toshiba brings true photographic features to their new 3 flagship model!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 8/17/2000

Executive Overview
Overall, we were pleased with the PDR-M70. You get a fair range of control options without too much hassle, and a clean user interface. The PDR-M70 is relatively compact and lightweight, although slightly thick. Still, the camera should fit into most large pockets and purses, and an accompanying neck strap should help out as well. The lens telescopes out from the body when the camera is turned on, and even in the retracted condition the lens assembly protrudes slightly, requiring a protective lens cap when the camera's not in use. And for some reason, Toshiba has left out any type of strap for securely attaching the lens cap.

Unlike the earlier PDR-M5, the PDR-M70 doesn't have much of a hand grip, or any type of finger rest for gripping the camera, possibly in an effort to streamline the camera body. We generally like a little more to wrap our fingers around, or at least to grab onto. Aside from that, all of the buttons and controls are well placed and easy to reach. We were a little disappointed with the layout of the bottom of the camera, which puts the tripod mount and the battery compartment too close together. This is only a concern, however, if you plan to do a lot of studio or other tripod work. We were glad to see a dioptric adjustment control on the optical viewfinder (which makes life a little easier for eyeglass wearers), and the inclusion of an external flash sync terminal.

The PDR-M70 features a real-image optical viewfinder and an LCD monitor for composing images. The LCD monitor displays a good bit of information (almost too much) about the camera and the exposure settings, as does the smaller LCD panel on top of the camera. Also on the LCD monitor is a histogram of the image's tonal range, which helps you gauge how much an image may be under or overexposed. We generally like to see less reliance on an LCD based menu system, but we found the PDR-M70's menu screens very quick to navigate and change settings in, with a very straightforward interface.

The 3x optical zoom 7.0 to 21.0 mm lens, equivalent to a 35 to 105 mm lens on a standard 35 mm camera, offers six different aperture choices, from f/2.0 to f/8.0. Focal range extends from approximately 31 inches (80 cm) to infinity in normal mode. In macro mode, the focus ranges from around 4 inches (9 cm) to infinity at the wide angle setting and from 8 inches (20 cm) to infinity at the telephoto setting. The macro button also accesses an Infinity focus mode, for shooting far away subjects with a fixed focus. (Particularly useful for night shots when it's too dark to focus.)

We experienced very nice exposure control on the PDR-M70, thanks to its bounty of features. Automatic capture mode is pretty standard, with the camera making all of the major exposure decisions. However, you do have access to some presets for special shooting situations: Portrait, Landscape, Night, Fast-Moving Subject and Multi-Shot. The Multi-Shot function actually captures 36 small images and saves them as one 2048 x 1536 image. Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority capture modes give you control over the shutter speed (eight to 1/1,000 seconds) or aperture, as well as exposure compensation (+/-1.5 EV in 1/3 EV steps), white balance (Auto, Outdoors, Blue Fluorescent, Red Fluorescent and Incandescent), AE/AF lock (top, bottom, left, right and center), ISO (100, 200 or 400) and the Automatic Bracketing feature. A "hidden" full-manual exposure mode allows control over both aperture and shutter speed simultaneously, as detailed on a Toshiba FAQ page for the camera. In all capture modes, you have control over the flash (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction Auto, Redeye Reduction Forced, Forced, Suppressed and Slow Synchro), access to the Continuous Shooting exposure settings, sharpness, contrast, special color modes and the Self-Timer and Macro functions. There's also a 2x digital zoom feature, although we recommend taking advantage of the optical zoom for the best quality.

Depending on the available SmartMedia space, the PDR-M70 also allows you to record short movies with sound and play them back (files are saved in the AVI format). In the Audio capture mode, you can record short audio clips, without images, to accompany captured still images or to simply serve as reminders. The PDR-M70 goes quite a bit beyond most digicams that include a sound option, actually presenting itself as a fairly capable digital audio note-taker.

The PDR-M70 ships with a single Toshiba PDR-BT2 lithium-ion battery pack, which is recharged simply by leaving it in the camera and connecting the AC adapter to the camera body. The inclusion of the small status display on the top of the camera helps a little with battery consumption, as it reports the majority of the camera's settings so you can work without the LCD monitor. Also included with the camera is an NTSC A/V cable for connecting to a television set (European models come with PAL cabling). An included USB cable allows you to download images to either a Mac or PC, and the accompanying ImageExpert software helps organize and correct your images, as well as play back movie and audio files.

As we mentioned earlier, the PDR-M70 is a fun camera with a lot of exposure options. It accommodates both point & shoot users looking for fully automatic exposure control, or photo buffs who need explicit aperture and shutter control. Plus, its 3x optical zoom, movie and sound recording capability, and relatively compact size make it a perfect companion for vacations or trips to the park. Although there's no full manual mode, the histogram function and the ability to directly control shutter speed or aperture will meet the needs of many more advanced photo buffs.

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