Steve's Digicams

Toshiba PDR-M5
User Review

Menus, Screens & Playback


Toshiba PDR-M5

This is the Setup screen that is accessed by setting the main command dial to the Setup position.

Toshiba PDR-M5

You can adjust the intensity of the color LCD display by using this onscreen slider bar menu.

Toshiba PDR-M5

Here's a Record mode screen showing most of the relevant data displays. The red camera icon indicates the camera is in automatic mode, the waving hand means the flash is disabled and the shutter speed is prone to camera shake. There's an onscreen battery meter, flash mode icon, selftimer icon, the current time and date. And of course the number of pictures remaining at the current image quality setting.

Toshiba PDR-M5

This is the screen you see when shooting in the Movie mode. In the upper right is the 30-sec timer which is the maximum length of the movie you can record. The flash is always disabled in Movie mode.

This correction from the Toshiba tech dept:

"The movie mode is capable of taking more than just 30 seconds of .AVI video. If you set it up for the best resolution, (Full Fine), the size is 320x240 at 15fps and the file size is 16kB -- then the shooting time is 30 sec's.   HOWEVER, if you set the resolution/jpeg compression to (Half Basic), the size is 160x120 at 15fps, the file size is 4kB and the shooting time is 120 seconds! (Of course, there are steps in between for both Full and Half at fine, normal and basic quality (.jpeg) settings."

Toshiba PDR-M5

This is the Record mode menu showing:

  • Record Mode options:
    • 1SHOT - single exposure mode
    • BURST - continuous mode, 4 image at full resolution or 16 images at half size (800x600).
    • MULTI - continuously takes 16 quarter-VGA sized pictures and saves them as one full size image
    • BULB - long exposure mode, settings for 1, 2, 4, or 8 seconds
    • MOVIE - up to a 30-second 320 x 240 resolution AVI movie may be captured
  • Preview (on/off) holds the last picture taken for 2 seconds to allow for deletion before it is stored
  • ISO speed is 100 (default) or +1 (200), +2 (400) or B&W
  • Sharpness: Normal, Soft or Hard
  • Selftimer settings for 2 or 10 seconds
  • LCD display intensity adjustment.

Toshiba PDR-M5

The Bulb menu gives you access to the PDR-M5's long exposure settings. Default is 1-second but you can set it for 1, 2, 4, or 8 seconds.

Toshiba PDR-M5

The PDR-M5 does not really have an aperture priority mode but you can lock in either F3.5 or F7.6 to control depth of field. This is the screen during Manual Record mode that also allows control of:

  • White Balance (WB): Automatic, Flourescent (warm and cool), Incandescent and Daylight
  • Exposure Compensation (EV): Settings for +1.5, +1.2, +0.9, +0.6, +0.3, 0.0 (default), -0.3, -0.6, -0.9, -1.2 and -1.5
  • Aperture Value (AV): F3.5 or F7.6 or automatic
  • Area: Where the autofocus will center on; Center (default), Left, Right, Up or Down.

Toshiba PDR-M5

Play Menu options:

  • Select active folder,
  • Slideshow mode,
  • Protect or unprotect any or all images,
  • Resize large images to small resolution,
  • Change the quality (recompress) of images,
  • Copy images from one SmartMedia card to another,
  • Adjust the LCD intensity.

Toshiba PDR-M5

The PDR-M5 has the same type of 9-picture thumbnail display for quickly searching through the stored images and then jumping to any one you want displayed full screen.

Toshiba PDR-M5

This is a typical Playback screen showing the folder name, picture number, time and date and image resolution.

Toshiba PDR-M5

While an image is displayed full screen you can zoom in 2x or 4x and then freely scroll around inside the image to check critical focus or color or subject details. This is a much better way of zooming than just jumping from sector to sector as is done in other cameras.

Steve's Conclusion

Toshiba's new PDR-M5 is a fast camera, it's ready to take a picture within five seconds of turning it on.   Most of that time is used to extend the lens which is automatically retracted into the body when powered down or in "sleep" mode.  Image processing takes only 2-3 seconds for a 1600x1200 fine mode image even when using the flash.  The USB connectivity allows for rapid image downloads to PC or Mac computers without the need for an external card reader.

The styling of the camera itself is a departure from others in its resolution class.  It has a large grip area that gives it a very secure and steady feel in your hand.   Both LCD displays and all user controls are located on the rear, making them easy to view or access without juggling the camera around.  The data LCD display is illuminated for three seconds by a blue backlight whenever the shutter button or one of the three control buttons below it are pressed.  Using the data LCD you can set and change the image size and quality, flash mode or engage the selftimer as well as monitor battery condition.   And when the camera is turned off it will continuously display the time.

Overall image quality is very good.   Color balance and saturation is where it should be most of the time but occassionally the metering system will pick up a bright foreground object and give it too much priority over the rest of the scene.  The PDR-M5 could be greatly improved if it had a choice of matrix, center- weighted or spot metering.   I did notice some "noise" in the images that have been seen in most all of the other 2 megapixel cameras.  I now believe this to be an inherent problem with the (common) CCD imager used in all of them.  What is most noticeable are little "blotches" in shadowed areas that should be a continuous color.

Mechanically, the PDR-M5 is a fairly rugged camera even though it is made of high impact plastic.   It does have a somewhat noisy autofocus mechanism, there is no doubt that it is stepping through its range as it works.   The zoom lens moves quickly and smoothly from wideangle to telephoto positions.  If you forget to remove the lens cap it will get popped off as the lens extends so be sure to tie it around the strap lug.  The flash is similar to the one on the Olympus D-500 and D-600 series cameras, it folds down into the top of the body when not needed.  You do have to remember to push a switch to pop it up when needed or else all you will see is the flash disabled icon on the LCD.

The color LCD is adequate but not spectacular, indoors it works quite well for preview and review functions but as with most, it is practically unusable in brightly lit environments or outdoors.  The zoomed playback feature allows you to zoom-in at 2x or 4x magnification and then smoothly pan around the entire image to check for critical focus or subject content.   This is a great improvement over the usual "zoom into the center only" type of zoomed playback found on many other digicams.

The PDR-M5 is supplied with a rechargable lithium-ion battery and a combination charger and AC power supply.  If you're lucky enough to buy the camera at a Best Buy store in the U.S., it should come with two batteries instead of one.   This is a special arrangement and I don't know how long it will be valid so don't hold me to it.

    This info came to me via one of our readers, Barry Brandt:

    "I found out the following and thought potential buyers might like to know that the replacement Lithium battery and the battery quick charger from my search are only available through Toshiba. They send your query to which is the vendor to purchase parts from. I used their toll-free line and was astonished to learn the Lithium battery is $69.99 (yes, like in $70 bucks!) and the battery quick charger is $79.95...yow! The lens thread adaptor was NOT available.[11-2-99]"

    he also said:

    "The Toshiba PDR-M5 manual is well designed and useful. They even include a second small manual on the included software,.. which in my comparison of Olympus, Sony Mavica, and Panasonic Palmcam is superior.

    The Toshiba factory site offers downloads of the manuals in .PDF format. Oddly, Olympus at their site mentions they too have this BUT there is no link to be found."

If you mostly use the optical viewfinder and keep the color LCD usage down to a minimum, a fully charged battery will be sufficient for an average day's shooting.   The down side is that only the Toshiba battery can be used, so when it's dead you're done for the day, or at least for the next five hours which is the charge time required.   I must also note that the optical viewfinder, which appears to be large, in fact has a very narrow field of view.  You must keep your eye pressed closely up against it and be looking straight into the center or else the edges of your frame will disappear.  I was also unable to see much difference in the clarity of the viewfinder no matter where I set the diopter adjustment.

Steve's PDR-M5 Sample Pics

Imaging-Resource's PDR-M5 Review

DC Resource's PDR-M5 Review

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