Steve's Digicams

Toshiba PDR-M3 User Review


Review posted 5/11/99


Toshiba PDR-m3





Toshiba's PDR-M1 has won WINDOWS Magazine's influential WinList® for five straight months since January 1999. The magazine praised the PDR-M1 as being a "low-cost megapixel camera that brings high-quality to the midrange price point."

Toshiba's new PDR-M3 expands on its megapixel brother with the addition of a 3x (35-105mm 35mm equivalent) optical zoom lens with macro focus down to only 25cm. Toshiba made some other improvements over the PDR-M1 that improved the overall picture quality.

Here's a rundown of the PDR-M3's major specs:



Image Sensor 1/2-inch CCD with 1.5 million square pixels
Resolution 1280x1024 or 640x480 pixels
Compression Levels Fine (1/4), Normal (1/8), Basic (1/16)
File Format JPEG (Exif Ver. 2.1)
Storage Media SmartMedia Card
(3.3V, 2MB to 32MB capacity)
Lens 3x optical zoom 7.4-22mm
(35-105mm in 35mm equivalent)
Aperture F3.8 to F11
Focusing Range 0.9m to infinity (macro : 0.25-0.9m)
Exposure Metering 64-zone through the lens (TTL)
LCD Monitor 1.8 inch color LCD
Low-Temp TFT 70,000 pixels
Finder Optical viewfinder
Interface RS-232 Serial
NTSC video output
Power Source Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
AC power adapter/charger included
Dimensions 122 (W) x 85 (H) x 60 (D) mm
4.8 (W) x 3.3 (H) x 2.4 (D) inch
Weight 350g (without battery)
Accessory Rechargeable lithium-ion battery (Fuji's NP-100), AC power adapter, SmartMedia, hand strap, lens cap video cable, CD-ROM, cables
Play Mode 9 images multi, zoom, slideshow
Strobe Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-In, Ext Sync, Off
Wide : 0.4-3.0m (1.3-10ft)
Tele : 0.4-2.0m (1.3-6.7ft)
Mode Dial Setup, Self Timer, Manual Rec, Auto Rec,
Play Back, Erase, Protect, PC Connect
Advanced Functions Digital 2x Zoom, Black/White, Playback Filters
Manual White Balance, Exposure Comp, Ext Strobe)





The Toshiba PDR-M3 is a compact and lightweight camera housed in a silver plastic body and sports both an optical viewfinder and a 1.8" TFT color LCD display screen that can also be used as a viewfinder. The 3x zoom lens extends out from the body when the camera is switched on and automatically retracts when powered off.



The optical viewfinder is bright and large and has a diopter adjustment to suit your visual capabilities. It shows about 75-80% of the captured frame depending on the focal length of the lens.

I use my left eye for aiming and framing so the LCD gets plenty of nose prints on it. Not to fear though, the LCD is protected by a plastic lens that is easy to clean. The color display is excellent indoors but it isn't very easy to see when used outside in the bright light.





The PDR-M3 ships with a rechargeable Lithium battery and Toshiba has also included a combination AC power supply and in-camera charging unit. If completey exhausted the battery will take about 7 hours to recharge. Lithium batteries can be charged no matter what state of discharge they are in and Toshiba recommends charging before each use.

Toshiba has an optional external, rapid charger that can replenish the lithium pack in about one hour.

PDR-M3's lithium battery



The M3's I/O ports are located on the lower left side of the body. The Digital port is a RS-232 serial port for download to the computer, cables supplied for both PC and Macintosh.

The Video Out port allows you to connect the camera to any TV or VCR with a RCA video in jack.

The 5V input port is where the AC adapter/battery charger is plugged in to power the camera and charge the battery.





Unlike some digicams the M3's SmartMedia memory card can be easily accessed even when it is on a tripod. The access door is on the right side of the camera. Thankfully the card sticks out far enough for a user with fingers as large as mine to grip the edge of the card and remove it.

The PDR-M3 can use any size SmartMedia card from 2MB up to the soon to be released 32MB.





Typical of most digital cameras the M3 has been designed for right-handed users. The controls are well marked and easy to operate with your index finger. The operational mode is selected by a large dial on the back of the camera. Icons represent the following: Setup, Self-Timer, Manual Record, Auto Record, Playback, Delete, Protect and Connect to PC.



Here's the Setup screen where you can set the image sharpness for Normal, Hard or Soft. Color or B/W mode. Consecutively number images or start back at number one on each memory card. Turn the Beep on or off. Set the time and date. And Reset all parameters to default.



A 4-way rocker switch controls the zoom by pushing the top or bottom when in Manual or Automatic Record mode.

Pressing the rocker switch to the right or left activates the advanced functions when in Manual Record mode:

  • White balance can be set for Incandescent, Cloudy, Bright, Auto, or Flourescent (warm or cool).
  • Exposure override of +/- 1.5 f/stops in 0.3 increments.
  • Flash output is variable from +/- 0.6 in 0.3 increments.
  • Aperture can be automatic or manually set for maximum or minimum aperture to control depth of field.
  • External flash synch can be turned On or Off.

Pressing the "Set" button brings up another menu where you select:

  • Flash mode (Auto, Red-Eye, Off, On or Ext Sync).
  • Image Quality (Fine, Normal or Basic).
  • Image Size (1280x1024 or 640x480).
  • Macro On or Off.





In Playback mode the PDR-M3 displays the last image taken first and you use the 4-way rocker switch to move through the saved images. By default the time/date and image number are displayed, this can be turned off by pressing the Display switch next to the LCD.

One very nice touch is that when you are viewing an image you can press the 4-way switch and zoom up to 400% of the original picture. This is super handy to see if the focus was right on a certain portion of the image, even on the small builtin 1.8" LCD.





You can also display up to 9 thumbnails to easily navigate through your saved images quickly. This screen also shows the Delete function where you can delete a single frame, all the pictures on the card or format it.








Conclusion



The Toshiba PDR-M3 is an OEM Fuji MX-600


So I guess by now that you get the idea that Toshiba has packed a lot of functionality into a relatively small package. Besides being an easy to use point-n-shoot digicam the PDR-M3 can also satisfy the more advanced user with a variety of manual controls.

Read an even more comprehensive user review of the Toshiba PDR-M3 at the Imaging-Resource and they have sample pictures too.

I was very impressed with the ease of use of the M3 and the placement of the controls. The camera is small and light and easy to use. The 1280x1024 resolution will yield excellent 3.5x5-inch prints on today's color inkjet photo printers and even the 5x7-inch prints I did were good. 640x480 mode is good if the desired output is going to be your television screen. You can eliminate some of the expenses of other digicams as you don't need to buy batteries, chargers or AC adapters. For the money the PDR-M3 is a good buy in the current megapixel market.

The real test of any digital camera is what the images it captures look like and for that you need to move on to:


Steve's PDR-M3 Sample Pictures









802,004,295


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