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Toshiba PDR-M700

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

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 08/26/2003

Executive Overview
One of the newest arrivals on the digicam scene, the Toshiba PDR-M700 features many of the same exposure control options I've enjoyed on the most recent Toshiba models. What's exciting about this new model is the true 10x optical zoom lens (using quality Canon optics), larger LCD panel (a full 2.5 inches), and a slightly redesigned user interface that's a little more playful than previous Toshiba designs. The PDR-M700 is just slightly bulky (it definitely won't fit into your shirt pocket), but it's still compact enough for easy traveling. The all-silver plastic body sports a similar shape to previous Toshiba models, and has a substantial hand grip for a secure, comfortable hold. A neck/shoulder strap comes with the camera, as well as a soft camera case, to make toting it a little easier.

The PDR-M700 is equipped with a 10x optical zoom, 5.7-57.0mm lens, equivalent of a 37-370mm lens on a standard 35mm camera. Aperture can be automatically or manually adjusted from f/2.8 to f/8.0. (The maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/3.1, depending on the zoom setting.) Focus ranges from 3.9 inches (10 centimeters) to infinity, which includes the macro range. The camera also offers an Infinity focus setting, as well as two fixed focal distances (1.0 and 3.0 meters) through the Record menu. In addition to the 10x optical zoom, the PDR-M700 also offers as much as 4x digital zoom (but keep in mind that image quality suffers with digital enlargement). The PDR-M700 does away with an optical viewfinder, instead offering a 2.5-inch color LCD monitor and a smaller "electronic" eye level viewfinder (EVF) for composing images. Both displays are complete with image information and menu screens, and the Display button on the rear panel switches the view from one to the other. The LCD monitor displays a good bit of information about the camera and the exposure settings, including a small histogram of the image's tonal range, which helps you gauge how much an image may be under- or overexposed. As is the case with many cameras having only electronic viewfinders though, the M700 is difficult to use in low light situations. You can only see what the camera is pointing at in light levels roughly corresponding to that of a well-lit city street at night, so the camera's low light ability is rather limited. - It can actually capture images in very dark surroundings, it's just that you just can't see what it's pointing at until after the shot is captured.

Complete exposure control is available on the PDR-M700, including full manual exposure control. The Mode dial on top of the camera selects between Automatic and Manual Record modes. Within each major recording mode you have a range of exposure modes to choose from. In Automatic Record mode, you can opt for Auto exposure mode, or Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Portrait + Landscape, Night Scene, or Multi scene settings. (Multi mode captures 16 small images continuously at 0.13-second intervals, which are saved as one 2,048 x 1,536 image.) Under Manual Record mode, you can choose from Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 16 seconds, depending on the exposure mode selected. Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments, and an Autoexposure Bracketing option captures either three or five images at different exposure settings. By default, the PDR-M700 uses a Center-Priority metering mode, but a Spot option is also available.

White Balance options include Auto, Sunlight, Cloudy, Daylight (Bluish) Fluorescent, Reddish Fluorescent, Incandescent, and two Preset options (manual settings). Sensitivity can be manually set to ISO equivalents of 70, 100, 200, or 400, with two Auto settings available. Sharpness and contrast adjustments are available as well, in addition to black-and-white and sepia monochrome settings, and a Vivid color adjustment for more saturated colors. The PDR-M700 offers two- and 10-second self-timer options, and a Remote Control mode for use with the included IR remote. The camera's built-in, pop-up flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, and Slow Synchro modes. The PDR-M700 also features Standard and High Speed Continuous Shooting modes, as well as a Movie mode for recording moving images with sound.

Images are recorded to SD memory cards, and a 16MB card comes with the camera (although strongly I advise picking up a larger card so that you aren't limited by a small image capacity). Four AA batteries power the camera (either NiMH or lithium is recommended), and a set of single-use alkaline batteries is included. I advise picking up two sets of rechargeable NiMH batteries and a good charger, so that you have a freshly-charged set on-hand at all times. Click here to read my "battery shootout" page to see which batteries currently on the market are best, or here for my review of the Maha C-204F charger, my longtime favorite. Also included with the camera is an A/V cable for connecting to a television set, and a USB cable for downloading images to either a Mac or PC. The accompanying Digital Still Camera software CD includes ACDSee for minor image editing and organization capabilities.


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