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Toshiba PDR-M700

Toshiba introduces 10x optical zoom and an updated user interface.

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 08/26/2003

Test Results
In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the M700's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the M700's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: The M700 produced pretty good color throughout my testing. Hue accuracy was pretty good, but saturation seemed to be just slightly low overall, although bright additive primary colors (reds, greens, and blues) tended to oversaturate slightly. The white balance options generally produced neutral images, although slight color casts remained in many situations. The auto and incandescent white balance options had some trouble with the household incandescent lighting of my "indoor portrait" shot, but the manual white balance kept the color cast within acceptable limits. Overall, good if not spectacular color.

  • Exposure: The M700's exposure system was more accurate than most, as it required less positive exposure compensation than average on both the "outdoor portrait" and "indoor portrait" shots. The camera's default contrast setting resulted in very contrasty images, but its contrast adjustment worked beautifully, producing a better than average image under the deliberately harsh lighting of my "outdoor portrait" test.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: The PDR-M700 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 700 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,000 lines, although you could perhaps argue for as high as 1,100 lines in the horizontal direction. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred around 1,250 lines.

  • Closeups: The PDR-M700 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a tiny minimum area of only 1.07 x 0.80 inches (27 x 20 millimeters). Resolution was very high, with strong detail in the printing and fibers of the dollar bill. The brooch was soft due to the shallow depth of field at such a short shooting distance. Corner softness is slightly visible in the left corners of the frame, but the distortion isn't distracting. Because of the close shooting range and the PDR-M700's long lens barrel, the flash was ineffective in this shot. (Plan on using external lighting for the closest macro shots with the M700.)

  • Night Shots: With its full manual exposure control, adjustable ISO, and a maximum exposure time of 16 seconds, the PDR-M700 has all the tools it needs for good low-light shooting. It really could use an autofocus-assist lamp though, as its autofocus system runs out of steam around 1.5 foot-candles, or 16 lux. (Plan on using the limited manual focus presets for shooting after dark.) The camera produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test at all four ISO settings. (Though the ISO 70 and 100 images were just a touch dim.) Color was pretty good, though in some cases the dim lighting resulted in a magenta tint. Noise was moderately low at ISO 70, increasing to high level at ISO 400. I also bright streaks of color in the upper left corner of the frame at the 100, 200, and 400 ISO settings on the longest exposures, apparently the result of some sort of chip problem. (These only appeared in the longest exposures, and only at ISOs of 100 and above, so the camera still shows pretty good low-light capture ability.) As is often the case though, the EVF was pretty useless in the darkest conditions, so at the lowest light levels the camera can capture an image at, you'll be somewhat "flying blind."

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The PDR-M700's electronic eye-level viewfinder (EVF) was just a little tight, showing 90 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 92 percent at telephoto. (Not bad results relative to optical viewfinders, though.) The LCD monitor was much more accurate, showing nearly 100 percent of the frame at both lens settings. (A little surprising, since the EVF and LCD should both be showing the same image.) However, images framed with the LCD monitor were shifted toward the top of the screen just slightly, cutting off the very top portion of the frame. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the PDR-M700's LCD monitor performed well here. (Just remember to include a small amount of extra space at the top of your composition.)

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the PDR-M700 was about average at the wide-angle end, where I measured barrel distortion of roughly 0.8 percent. (While this is average among cameras I've tested, it's still too much IMHO.) At the telephoto end, I found only a single pixel's worth of pincushion distortion, a vanishingly small 0.05% distortion. Overall, a good performance, particularly for such a long-ratio zoom. Chromatic aberration was average to a bit better than average at wide angle, showing relatively light color on either side of the target lines, but is somewhat more pronounced (that is to say "average") at the telephoto end. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) I also noticed significant corner softness, mainly in the lower corners of the frame.

  • Battery Life: The M700's run time is better than average for a digicam with an EVF, roughly 2.4 hours in record mode with the LCD enabled, and almost 3 hours when using the EVF. (These numbers are based on a standard of NiMH cells with 1600 mAh of true (vs advertised) capacity. With the most recent, highest-capacity NiMH AA cells, you could expect up to 25% greater run times.) I still strongly recommend carrying a set of freshly-charged spare batteries with you on any extended outings, but the M700 does have better than average battery life. Read my Battery Shootout for full details on the best batteries currently on the market, and my review of the Maha C-204F charger, to see why it's my longtime favorite.)

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Overall, the PDR-M700 ranges from average to fairly fast in its operation. Startup and shutdown are rather leisurely, and shutter lag is only average at 0.89-1.07 seconds (which actually isn't too bad for an ultra-zoom camera), but shot to shot cycle times are very good at about 1.4 seconds, and its continuous modes are quite fast indeed.

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The PDR-M700 combines flexible exposure control with a high-quality Canon-built 10x optical zoom lens and an updated user interface. The availability of fully automatic exposure control and preset Scene selections is great for novices, while the range of manual exposure options should appease enthusiasts. Beginners will also be able to step up to increased control as they become more experienced with the camera. The 3.2-megapixel CCD delivers enough resolution for sharp 8x10 prints, and exposure, tonal balance, and color are all quite good. While I didn't initially like the M700 as much as the somewhat higher-end ultra-zoom models from Olympus, its solid performance eventually won me over. For the money, it's a very good long-zoom digicam. Good enough, in fact, for me to make it a "Dave's Pick." If you're looking for a really long-ratio zoom lens on a budget, you should give the M700 careful consideration.


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