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Toshiba PDR-M71

Toshiba introduces a feature-packed, value-priced 3 megapixel model!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 08/24/2001

Executive Overview
Neatly housed in an jet-black all-plastic body, the 3.2-megapixel PDR-M71 is a companion model to the 4.2-megapixel PDR-M81 introduced in July (2001). It has most of the features we enjoyed in the previous PDR-M70, but with some expanded user controls, including a full manual exposure mode. Absent from this latest design though, is any provision for an external flash unit. The PDR-M71 is compact, measuring 4.2 x 2.8 x 1.8 inches (107 x 71 x 47mm), and should fit easily into a large coat pocket or purse. It's also lightweight, approximately 12 ounces (340 grams) with the batteries and media card installed, and comes with a small carrying case and wrist strap.

The PDR-M71 offers a real-image optical viewfinder that zooms along with the telephoto lens, and a 1.5-inch color LCD monitor for composing images. The LCD monitor's detailed information display includes exposure information, camera settings, battery power, and even a small histogram (in shooting mode) for double checking your exposure. A Canon 2.8x zoom lens is built into the camera, with a focal length extending from 7.25 to 20.3mm (equivalent to a 35-98mm lens on a 35mm camera). Focus is automatically controlled from 2.7 feet (80cm) to infinity in normal mode, and from 4 inches to 2.62 feet (10 to 80cm) in Macro mode. Three fixed-focus settings are available via the Focus button (which also accesses the Macro mode). They include 1 meter, 3 meters, and Infinity settings. A digital zoom function increases the camera's zoom range by 2.2x (but remember that digital zoom generally decreases image quality).

When it comes to exposure, the PDR-M71 provides as much or as little control as you need. In the Automatic record mode, you can choose fully automatic exposure, or select from a handful of Scene exposure modes (Portrait, Landscape, Sports, Night, and Multi-Shot). Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Night modes deal with specific shooting situations, adjusting the aperture and shutter speed to best capture these subjects. Multi-Shot mode captures a series of 16 small (600 x 400-pixel) images at intervals of approximately 0.13 seconds (7.5 frames per second), which are saved as a single 2,400 x 1,600-pixel image (good for stop-action sequences of moving subjects). This mode would be useful in any situation where you need to capture fast-changing action, or where speed is more important than resolution.

Under the Manual record mode, you have the greatest exposure control. Here, you can choose from Program AE, Aperture Priority (Av), Shutter Priority (Tv), or Manual exposure modes. In Program AE, the camera maintains control over aperture and shutter speed, while the user controls other variables such as ISO, White Balance, etc. In Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, the user controls aperture and shutter speed (respectively), while the camera selects the most appropriate corresponding exposure variable. Manual mode gives the user complete control over both aperture and shutter speed, plus all other exposure controls except Exposure Compensation. Apertures are adjustable from f/2.9 to f/8, and shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 15 seconds.

By default, the camera determines exposure using the Multi metering system, which measures light across the entire frame and averages the readings to determine aperture and shutter speed settings. A Spot metering option is also available, which confines the reading to the very center of the viewfinder. Sensitivity is adjustable in ISO equivalents from 100, to 200, and 400. You can lighten or darken exposures by adjusting the Exposure Compensation from -2 to +2 exposure values (EV) in one-half-step increments. White Balance is also manually adjustable, with six settings to match a variety of light sources. In addition, the PDR-M71 provides Color, Contrast, and Sharpness adjustments.

An Autoexposure Bracketing mode captures three images at three different exposures (-0.5, 0.0, and -0.5 EV), allowing you to choose the best exposure from the set. In Burst Photography mode, the PDR-M71 captures three images in quick succession (at approximately 0.8-second intervals), from which you can choose one image, or keep all three. (Actual frame rates vary with image size, image quality, shutter speed, and the amount of image information being recorded.) For self-portraits, the PDR-M71 offers 2- and 10-second Self-Timer modes, controlled by a button on top of the camera. There's also a Movie mode that captures moving images with sound at 320 x 240- or 160 x 120-pixel resolution sizes.

The PDR-M71 saves images in one of three resolutions (2,048 x 1,536; 1,024 x 768; 640 x 480 pixels), with three JPEG compression levels available for each (Fine, Normal, and Basic). Images are saved to SmartMedia cards, and an 8MB card is included with the camera. A software CD accompanying the camera contains USB drivers and interface software for downloading images, and a USB cable is provided for connecting the camera to a PC or Macintosh computer. An AV cable (NTSC for US and Japanese models, PAL for European models) connects the PDR-M71 to a television set, which can be used for image composition or playback. The camera is powered by four AA alkaline, NiMH, or lithium batteries (four alkaline batteries are supplied with the camera), or an optional AC adapter, which is available as an accessory.

The PDR-M71 ships with Sierra Imaging's Image Expert (for both Mac and Windows platforms) as well as Toshiba USB drivers and Apple QuickTime software. These programs enable you to import images via the USB port, edit and print still images, play imported movies, and save imported images or movies to your computer hard drive.

The PDR-M71's updated user interface and fully manual exposure control are welcome enhancements to the PDR digicam line, but we sorely regret the deletion of the external flash connector of the M70. The M71 could make a great camera for novice users though, who want to learn more about digital photography by incrementally increasing the amount of user control, and it has enough features to keep more advanced consumers interested.

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