Steve's Digicams

Toshiba PDR-M5
User Review

Review posted 10/7/99


Toshiba PDR-M5

The Toshiba PDR-M5 offers 3X optical zoom, 1/2-inch CCD with 2.14 megapixel 1600 x 1200 (or 800 x 600) resolution, USB/Serial connectivity and a burst mode.   It is housed in a high impact plastic body that breaks away from conventional styling. At first glance it appears to be an SLR, upon closer inspection reveals itself as an optically-coupled rangefinder camera.

Toshiba has used the most advanced digital signal processing (DSP) technology available to provide superior speed for the PDR-M5. This DSP chip set allows the PDR-M5 to operate at a higher burst rate than most other digital cameras. There is a minimal delay between shots of 0.8 seconds.

In burst mode, the internal 16 MB of memory acts as a "buffer" temporarily storing images before transferring them to the removable SmartMediaŽ card. The buffer combined with the DSP chip set allows users to shoot up to four continuous shots at the camera's highest resolution setting in two seconds.

Jump to the PDR-M5 specifications.

Toshiba PDR-M5

The futuristic styling of the PDR-M5 continues on the rear with a "form follows function" design complete with ergonomically-placed buttons and the large, color LCD display.

Toshiba PDR-M5

Even from the top, the PDR-M5 is a "cool" looking camera. The popup flash, when not in use, closes cleanly into the body and all but disappears. When needed, a simple push of the release button brings it into action.

Toshiba PDR-M5

On the bottom is the battery access door and a (unfortunately) plastic tripod socket that is positioned slightly beyond the balance point and favors the lens side of the camera.

Toshiba PDR-M5

The PDR-M5 features a 3x optical zoom (38mm to 115mm equivalent) lens that extends when the camera is powered on and retracts back into the body when powered down or when the camera goes into sleep mode. The PDR-M5 also has a 2X digital zoom feature.

The aspherical, eight-element, all-glass (F3.8W / F5.5T), lens focuses from 12 inches to infinity, the macro mode covers down to about 5-inches for sharp close-ups.

Toshiba PDR-M5

The lens mount is threaded for the PDR-ARM5 52mm add-on adapter to allow the use of filters and third-party lenses like Raynox and Kenko. This adapter works like the one for the Olympus C-2000Z in that it lets the lens slide freely inside.

Toshiba PDR-M5

The five-mode flash system (automatic, red-eye reduction, forced-fill flash, slow synchro and force-off) is easily adjusted to any lighting condition up to 8-feet from the subject, helping to extend the range of the camera indoors and outdoors.

Toshiba PDR-M5

I really like the placement and feel of the PDR-M5's command dial. It is detented and positioned for easy operation. The modes are clearly labelled and kept to a minimum, it has the usual Auto, Manual, Play, Connect to PC, Setup and Off positions.

As was pointed out by one of our avid readers, you do have to cycle through the "Off" position to go from Record to Play modes which means cycling the lens in and out each time. However, if you're really fast at changing the switch from Rec to Play position you can "fool" it.

Toshiba PDR-M5

As with all previous Toshiba cameras we have reviewed, the PDR-M5 features a high-capacity 3.7v 1100mAh lithium-ion rechargable battery and comes with a combination charger and AC power supply.

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

Toshiba PDR-M5

Behind a flexible, rubber door are the M5's I/O ports which include a very fast USB port that also doubles as a serial port connection.

The video out signal is standard NTSC format which allows you to view your pictures on any TV set equipped with a Video In jack. You can also use this feature to record a slideshow of your favorite pictures onto video tape and send it to grandma who has no computer.

The AC adapter and battery charger plugs into the 5vdc input jack on the bottom. The battery is charged "in camera."

Toshiba PDR-M5

The user controls are all clearly marked as to what they do and thankfully none of them are double-function type buttons. Next to the color LCD display is the Menu, Display, Macro, and Delete buttons. Above those is a 4-way rocker switch that lets you navigate the menus and playback functions. Selection confirmation is performed by pressing the center of the 4-way switch which is marked "Enter."

The zoom lens is controlled by the sculptured "T  W" rocker switch near the top which is easily operated by the thumb.

Toshiba PDR-M5

Here's a closeup of the data LCD in its illuminated state. Like the PDR-M4, Toshiba has used a high-tech, backlit LCD so that the user can check and change common camera features even in the dark.

Below the LCD are the selftimer, image quality and flash mode buttons.

Note the sliding lever under the optical viewfinder, this is a dioptic adjustment. The viewfinder appears to be large but once you put your eye up to it you'll notice that it has a rather narrow angle of view. Some people may have a problem getting a clear viewfinder image no matter how much they fiddle with the diopter control.

On the righthand side of the optical viewfinder is the status LED that indicates the following camera states:

  • Solid Green
    • Indicates AE and AF are locked with shutter held halfway down
    • Camera is in standby mode
    • Charging of battery is completed
  • Blinking Green
    • Indicate lack of AF or AE
    • Selftimer is in operation
  • Solid Red
    • Writing to SmartMedia card
    • SmartMedia card being accessed, do not turn off
    • Charging of battery
  • Blinking Red
    • Over or under-exposure on preset aperture value
    • Battery error
  • Orange
    • Signal processing in progress
    • Charging of flash

Toshiba PDR-M5

The SmartMedia card access door should open a little farther (IMHO) but does afford enough room to grasp the edge of the card. The PDR-M5 uses the "push in and pop out" type of card ejector mechanism that I think all SmartMedia-enabled cameras should have.

Compatibility is guaranteed by Toshiba through 64MB according to the user manual. I can personally guarantee that it works fine with 32MB cards but I haven't seen a 64MB capacity card yet.

Continue on to
Menus, Screens & Playback

Toshiba PDR-M5 Specifications

MSRP $799.99
CCD Sensor 1/2 inch CCD with 2.14 million square pixels
Resolution(Total) 1600 X 1200 / 800 X 600/ 320 X 240 selectable
Interface USB (12 MBPS)
Serial (RS-232c and RS-422, Video (NTSC)
Zoom Lens 3X optical, 2.0x digital zoom, 2.5 playback zoom
Movie Function .AVI, 120 sec (8mb), 960 sec (64mb)
Boot Speed Less than four seconds
Internal Memory 16MB (9MB for image buffer)
File Format JPEG, exit ver. 2.1, DCF ver.
1.0: 3 compression modes: 1/4; 1/8; 1/16.
File size changeable after image capture
Storage Media SmartMedia 8MB included
Upgradeable to 128MB by firmware
Firmware Fully upgradeable
Sensitivity Equivalent to ISO 100/200/400
Lens All glass, 8 piece type.
Auto-focus, F3.5-F5.0/F7.6-F11.0 with attachment adapter (52mm) for additional filters and lenses
Focal Length F7.4mm-22mm (35mm = 40mm-120mm)
Focusing Range 35 inches to infinity
Macro: 10-inches to 353-inches
LCD Monitor 1.8-inch hyper amorphous type (556 x 220 Resolution)
View Finder Optical
Macro: 10-inches to 353-inches
Power Source Rechargeable lithium-ion Battery, AC power adapter included
LCD Play Mode Single, 9 images, multi, zoom, slideshow, calendar and movie
Macro: 10-inches to 353-inches
5-Mode Flash Auto, red-eye reduction, fill-in, off, slow synchronous
Mode Dial Set up, PC download, playback, off, auto record, manual record
LCD Control Buttons Self timer, picture quality, flash mode
Recording Modes 1 shot, burst shot (4 images/1 sec),
multi-shot (16 images per frame),
bulb shot (1,2,4,8 sec),
AV/movie function (120 sec)
Battery Life Flash used _ time with LCD monitor on;
approx. 160 images
With LCD monitor off; approx. 240 images
Number of Images
(8MB SmartMedia)

8 frames (1600 x 1200) 32 frames (800 x 600)
16 frames (1600 x 1200) 62 frames (800 x 600)
32 frames (1600 x 1200) 128 frames (800 x 600)
Dimensions 5.1 (W) x 3.1 (H) x 2.8 (D) inches
Included Accessories Rechargeable lithium-ion battery
AC power adapter
SmartMedia Card (8 MB)
Hand strap
Serial cables
Video cable (NTSC)
USB cable
Optional Accessories Quick Battery Charger (part no. PDR-CG1)
Lithium-ion battery pack (part no. PDR-BT1)
Attachment adapter (part no. PDR-ARM5)

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