Toshiba PDR-T30 Review

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Toshiba PDR-T30

Steve's Conclusion

The PDR-T30 is Toshiba's third touch-screen entry into the digicam market. It has an all- glass, 2x optical zoom lens with up to 2x digital zoom and a metallic brushed chrome looking case. It is a 3.2 MegaPixel upgrade to the near identical 2MP
PDR- T20 released in August, 2002.  The PDR- T10 is a 2MP touch- screen that was introduced in June, 2002. The PDR-T30 is a very "pocketable" automatic point - n- shoot with introductory pricing of $449 as of November, 2002.

When the power switch on the top is activated, the lens can't extend unless the front lens cover is slid open. When powered up with the lens closed it goes into play mode. If the power switch was integrated into the lens cover it would automatically turn on in record mode. This would make it more convenient to catch that quick candid moment. It takes a little less than 10 seconds to capture the first shot. Shooting in "High Quality" mode, the camera captures, processes and stores an image in less than 4 seconds which is about half the time of the PDR- T10. The shot-to-shot cycle time is about 3 seconds. The total shutter lag (time from pressing shutter to actually capturing) is less than two seconds. Where most of these times are at best average, if you do the usual half-press of the shutter and wait for the green focus light, then shoot, it decreases the lag time to almost nothing which is very impressive. These times are with the flash enabled so they include flash cycle time where applicable. When powered down, the lens retracts back into the body and you slide the protective cover over it.

This is one of the compact digicams that uses a proprietary battery and doesn't allow you the flexibility of using any type of "off the shelf" batteries. The T-10 was a smaller camera and used two AA's, I'd have to say Toshiba stumbled a little in going to the expensive proprietary battery here, especially since there is no optical viewfinder and the power consuming LCD has to be on all the time. In actual use Toshiba states the battery life is sufficient for 120 frames shot with flash, one every thirty seconds. I didn't find battery usage to be a problem but we recommend the purchase of a second battery just in case it's needed. Including the rechargeable battery and charger/ AC power supply with the camera helped to drive up the cost of this unit and didn't help its price point in comparison to other 3MP 2x zoom digicams.

The physical size and weight of the PDR-T30 allows it to be carried in your hand or by the strap all day without fatigue. It's what I'd call a pocket / purse size camera. The placement of controls on the LCD touch screen display are less than ergonomic, and the 4-way navigation control is one of the less user friendly I've used. It takes a fingernail to control its 4-way motion and even though I have fingernails, when I tried to move the control left or right, I usually ended up pressing it in and making a selection I didn't want. Other than the zoom, there isn't a lot of need to change anything once it's set up so it wasn't insurmountable. Just point and shoot.

There is no shutter priority, aperture priority or manual modes. You can set one of six scene modes to be more creative or just put it in Auto which yields more than satisfactory results (see Sample Photos page). After all, the pictures are what this is all about and I was impressed. One point of contention was the lack of a tripod socket. The camera has a Landscape mode that allows up to a four second exposure but without a way to mount the camera on a tripod there is no hope to hold it still enough to get a sharp picture when the shutter speed drops below a thirtieth of a second. The PDR-T30 uses the color LCD as the viewfinder, there is no optical viewfinder and as such, it can be a challenge if you're outdoors in the bright sunlight. I have yet to see a color LCD that is 100% useable in the sunlight and the PDR-T30's is no exception. The brightness control is accessed in the record or play menu and lets you adjust the LCD for sun viewing. I found this just over drove the brightness on the LCD and it 'washed-out' some. Without a doubt the only really successfully way I found to shoot in bright sun was by cupping the left hand around the LCD and using the right hand to shoot the exposure as shown on the Features & Controls page. In all other lighting conditions and in playback mode the LCD is more than ample.

General snapshots is where this camera excels. The overall color saturation and auto metering were very good but the image sharpness could stand a little in camera sharpening. As to indoor flash, Toshiba was listening to our dissatisfaction with the flash range on the PDR-T20 and extended it from seven feet to ten plus feet, even at full telephoto zoom on this camera. Skin tones were good in most flash shots but there was a slight greenish cast noticeable. Focus confirmation does stumble and fail in lower light and requires attempting focus lock on a more contrasty part of your subject. Focus assist illumination (a light to help the camera "see" in lower light) would be a big help for this camera. Many other manufacturers are doing this on much less expensive cameras (like the 2 MP Canon A40 for around $260.)

The PDR-T30 could do well against other three megapixel 2x zoom digicams if the street pricing gets under the $399 MSRP mark. Size, weight and photo quality are major considerations in choosing this camera. It's the kind of camera that you don't mind taking along on all-day outings as it's easy to carry in your hand or pocket, it's always with you. In automatic mode it's very easy to operate and qualifies as a point-n-shoot digicam that anyone can use successfully.

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