Toshiba PDR-4300 Review

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Toshiba PDR-4300

Steve's Conclusion

The PDR-4300 is Toshiba's entry-level but fully-featured 4.0-megapixel digital camera. The PDR-4300 delivers sharp and colorful 2400 x 1600 finished JPEG images the equal of other cameras costing hundreds more. The suggested retail price is just $379! There's no doubt that it employs a Canon 2.8x optical zoom, it says so right on the lens. When powered up the lens extends and is ready to take the first picture in about 4 seconds.

Shooting in "Full" size mode, the camera processes and stores an image in less than five seconds but it can snap another picture before the last one is completely processed. This makes the shot-to-shot cycle time about 3 seconds or less. These times are with the flash disabled and in single shot mode. Switching to Sequence mode is even faster. The PDR-4300 will let you shoot up to three frames (in Full size) at a rate of about 1 frame per second. You then get an onscreen display indicating the 3 frames that are buffered in memory and can selectively view, store or delete any or all of them. The PDR-4300 has AE Bracketing, the camera will take a sequence of shots and vary the exposure slightly between them, this assures that at least one of them is as close to "perfect" as possible.

The PDR-4300 is powered by four standard AA size batteries which is a trend with all the recent Toshiba cameras. They used to employ proprietary lithium rechargeable batteries in all their cameras but most consumers prefer to be able to use "off the shelf" types of batteries. I highly recommend the use of high-capacity NiMH batteries which are now plentiful and affordably priced. Two sets of batteries and a rapid charger can be had for around $50 and this is often less than the cost of one proprietary lithium battery pack.

One of the things that I liked about the PDR-4300 is the use of a non-glare LCD display. There is no data LCD display so it requires the use of the color LCD to access the menu system. Needless to say that under these circumstances you need the most readable LCD possible whether you're indoors or outdoors. The PDR-4300's LCD is quite readable outdoors. The manual mode options are easily changed with onscreen prompts and do not require complex or confusing menus.

Besides taking good still images the PDR-4300 can record full motion video clips but they are silent, the camera has no microphoene. The capture rate is 15 frames per second at 320 x 240 resolution and movie clips of up to three minutes (in lower quality) can be processed in the internal buffer. Some cameras store their video as QuickTime (MOV) format movies, the Toshiba creates standard Windows AVI movies. The optical zoom can be used in movie mode because there is no audio being recorded.

The shutter lag (time between pressing shutter and actually capturing the picture) is somewhat variable. If you do the usual half-press of the shutter and wait for the green focus light it will average about 1.25 seconds. However if you just aim the camera and fully press the shutter it snaps the picture in a little less than a second. I did this many times and it never seemed to misfocus unless the subject lacked the necessary contrast for accurate autofocus in the first place.

I think the PDR-4300 will do well against other four megapixel cameras because of its aggressive pricing of $379 (as of April 2003) and good image quality. Size and weight considered, it's the kind of camera that you don't mind taking along on all-day outings. In automatic mode it's very easy to operate and qualifies as a "no brainer" point-n-shoot that anyone should be able to use. It physically resembles a compact 35mm film camera so those that are new to the digital world will immediately feel comfortable with it. For those users that like playing with knobs and dials, there's plenty of manual camera features to stimulate your creative side. If you need a smaller camera then check out the PDR-3310, it's about the size of a deck of playing cards.

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