Steve's Digicams


PDR-M4 User Review

Review posted 7/5/99

Toshiba PDR-M4

The PDR-M4 is Toshiba's first 2.14-Megapixel digital camera. It is housed in a highly durable metal body that is palm-sized and only slightly larger than the Canon A50. It yields 1600 x 1200 pixel images and is one of the fastest "turn on and shoot" cameras I have tested so far. Toshiba uses this as a selling point and they're not kidding -- it goes from OFF to ON in about 2 seconds.

Toshiba PDR-M4

Toshiba put a very fast USB data port on the PDR-M4 and it's one of the first cameras I have used that doesn't really need a card reader to download the images. I was going to time it but gave up after I saw it transfer about 8MB worth of images in less time than I could pick up my watch.

And the speed doesn't stop there, it saves a Full/Fine mode image in less than 4 seconds. There is a burst shot mode where it can take 4 images in less than 2 seconds. This is the result of 16MB internal RAM, of which 9MB is used as an image buffer. Even the playback mode is fast, it only takes about 4 seconds to bring up a Full/Fine mode image from memory.

The PDR-M4 features a builtin lens cap that opens when the camera is powered up in either Record mode. The lens is a fixed focal length 7.4mm f3.2 all glass, six element optic.

Toshiba PDR-M4

On the back is a 1.8" TFT color LCD that serves as a picture review display and a viewfinder with near realtime refresh rate. Common with many other digicams is the 4-way rocker switch used to navigate on-screen menus and execute the user's selections. The buttons are all clearly marked and their functions are fairly intuitive with minimal time spent reading the manual.

Toshiba PDR-M4

The top of the PDR-M4 has the main command dial, a small data LCD display and three more single-function buttons. The buttons from left to right are: Self-timer, Image Quality and Flash modes.

Toshiba PDR-M4

The top LCD display is the first that I have seen that is illuminated and can easily be seen in the dark - thank you, it's about time someone did this. As you can see from this photo the display is illuminated with a very techy looking blue flourescent color. Oh yes, when the camera is turned off the LCD displays the current time.

Toshiba PDR-M4

As with all the other Toshiba digicams the PDR-M4 comes with a lithium rechargeable battery pack and a combination in-camera charger and AC power supply. Toshiba claims the battery will take 100 photos with the LCD on and 200 photos with the LCD off.

Additional batteries can be purchased at a reasonable price ($42) here

Toshiba PDR-M4

Following the theme "Need for Speed" the PDR-M4 features USB connectivity for speedy downloads to PC or iMac computers. There is also a standard serial port for those without USB (shame on you!) And there's also a Video port for showing your pictures on the TV set. Video is output in both record and playback modes.

Toshiba PDR-M4

This is the SETUP menu displayed when the command dial is turned to the setup position. Here you can set:

  • Auto-Off: 1 min, 2 min, 3 min
  • Sound: On or Off
  • Time: Set the time and date
  • Language: English or Japanese
  • Screen (Color): White or Green
  • Image No.: Reset the picture number memory
  • Default: Reset all parameters to default

Toshiba PDR-M4

Options available while in Manual Record mode which include:

  • WB (White Balance): Auto, Sunny, Flourescent (warm and cool) and Incandescent
  • EV (Exposure Compensation): -1.5 to +1.5 in 0.3 increments
  • Flash: Decrease flash output -0.3, -0.6 or -0.6
  • Area: Determines where the camera will perform its autofocus

Toshiba PDR-M4

Recording Options Menu (available in Auto or Manual Record):

  • Rec, Mode: 1 Shot, Burst, Multi (16-shot), or Bulb (1-8 secs)
  • Preview: On or Off
  • Color: Color or B&W
  • Sharp: Normal, Soft, Hard
  • Bulb: 1, 2, 4, or 8 seconds shutter speed
  • Self Timer: 10 secs or 2 secs
  • LCD: Adjust LCD brightness onscreen in realtime

Toshiba PDR-M4

As with most modern digicams the PDR-M4 has a thumbnail playback mode that shows 9 small thumbnails and allows you to quickly jump to the desired picture to be displayed.

Toshiba PDR-M4

While playing back a picture you can use the 4-way switch to zoom in and move around the magnified image. The PDR-M4 has a unique onscreen indicator to let you know where you are in the overall image.

Toshiba PDR-M4

Here's the image delete screen. As with all of the PDR-M4's onscreen menus it is very easy to figure out what to do without reading the manual.

Steve's Conclusion

The Toshiba PDR-M4 is yet another good pocket-sized 2-megapixel digicam that offers the fastest off to on cycling time of any camera we have tested so far. And it currently holds the record as the fastest downloading camera due to its speedy USB data port. Full/Fine mode 1600x1200 pixel 900Kb images go from camera to computer in a few, short seconds. You really don't need a card reader with this camera even when using 32MB size SmartMedia cards.

Overall picture quality is very good, color is rich and full without being oversaturated. The lens is the usual wideangle type found on most fixed focal length cameras. It will make you get "close" to frame smaller subjects but it's good for indoor flash pictures of groups in cramped quarters. I prefer a zoom myself so I eagerly look forward to evaluating the new PDR-M5 when it becomes available.

As with all of the Toshiba cameras, the PDR-M4 comes with a dedicated lithium rechargeable battery pack and AC adapter. The battery charges in-camera or you can buy the optional external rapid charger. I found it to charge up quite adequately using the supplied charger and it was handy not having to remove the battery first. Toshiba claims 200 shots without the LCD on and about 100 with it on. I found the battery life to be somewhat less than that in real world useage but still very acceptable.

One of the unique features of the PDR-M4 is its illuminated top data display LCD. I hope other camera companies will follow Toshiba's lead here and offer illuminated displays as it made it very easy to check and change settings even in dimly-lit situations. Another unique feature is the ability to specify where the camera will perform its autofocus calculations from. This is handy when shooting the main subject off-center in the frame without having to resort to using focus lock.

All in all I think this is an excellent camera for those who need double megapixel image resolution in a truly pocket-sized package. It can be used by anyone with little to no previous digicam experience by using the automatic point-n-shoot mode where it operates just like a film camera. In manual mode it doesn't offer shutter or aperture priority but it does give more advanced users the control over exposure and flash output options.

Toshiba PDR-M4 Specifications

CCD Sensor 1/2-inch CCD with 2.14 million square pixels
Resolution 1600 X 1200 / 800 X 600 selectable
Interface USB (12 Mbps)
Serial (RS-232c and RS-422, Video (NTSC)
Boot Speed Less than Two Seconds
Internal Memory 16MB (9MB for image buffer)
File Size changeable after image capture
File Format
JPEG (dcf), Exif ver. 2.1
Storage Media SmartMedia (2-32MB)
Upgradeable to 128MB by firmware
Firmware Fully Upgradeable
Lens All Glass, 6 Piece Type. Autofocus, F3.2/F8 (macro)
Focusing Range 20 inch to infinity
Macro: 4-inch to 20-inch
Zoom Lens 2X Digital, 2.5X Playback
LCD Monitor 1.8-inch hyper amorphous type (556 x 220 resolution)
View Finder Optical
Power Source Rechargeable lithium-ion battery,
AC power adapter included
Dimensions 112 (W) x 68 (H) x 42 (D) mm
4.4 (W) x 2.7 (H) x 1.6 (D) inch
Weight: .6 lbs. (.7 lbs with battery)
Included Accessories Rechargeable Lithium Battery
AC Power Adapter
SmartMedia Card (8 MB)
Hand Strap
CD-ROM (Image Expert)
Serial Cables (both PC and Mac)
Video Cable (NTSC)
USB Cable
LCD Play Mode 9 images, multi, zoom, slideshow, and calendar
5-Mode Flash Auto, Red-eye Reduction, Fill-in, Off, Slow Synchronous
Mode Dial Set Up, PC download, off, auto record, manual record, playback
LCD Control Buttons Self-timer, picture quality, flash mode
Recording Modes 1 shot, burst shot (4 images < 2 sec), multi-shot (16 images per frame), bulb shot
Lens Cover Automatic, built-in Type
Optional Accessory Quick Battery Charger (Part NoPDR-CG1A),
Lithium Battery Pack (No. PDR-BT1A)

Steve's Toshiba PDR-M4 Sample Pics

Imaging-Resource PDR-M4 Review

DC Resource PDR-M4 Review

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