Toshiba PDR-5300 Review
Occupying a spot at the high-end of Toshiba's consumer digicam product line, the PDR-5300 packs a 5-megapixel imager and 3x optical zoom lens into a small, easy to use package. In automatic mode, the PDR-5300 is a point-n-shoot easy enough for a beginner to use, and provides scene modes of sports, portrait and night portrait to help the beginner capture good images in those shooting conditions. The creativity of the advanced user is served by Manual exposure mode as well as aperture and shutter priority modes.
Shooting performance is below average for a camera of this class. Power-on to first shot captured measured a leisurely 7.5 seconds; this is not a camera that will allow you to capture unposed impromptu moments. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, was a respectable 2/10 second when pre-focused but a slow 1.5 seconds including autofocus time. Shot-to-shot averaged just over 4 seconds. The PDR-5300's continuous capture mode took a respectable 3 shots in 1 second, but the LCD viewfinder went blank during capture; you'll be happy that a zoom-coupled optical viewfinder is included you you can follow the action while shooting. These timings were obtained using a 256 MB SD memory card, with the camera set for an image size of 2560x1920 at best quality with flash and image Preview off, and include viewfinder delay, photographer response time, and image capture - they are numbers you can reproduce in the real world. When pre-focused in single shot or continuous mode, the PDR-5300 will allow you to capture action where you can anticipate it occuring, but its leisurely autofocus and shot-to-shot performance will cause you to miss spontaneous events.
The 3x, 35 to 105mm in 35mm equivalence, zoom lens produces sharp images throughout its range, but with a bit of barrel distortion at extreme wide-angle, and pincushoining at extreme telephoto. It operates smoothly through its zoom range, with about 10 steps between wide-angle and telephoto, adequate for composing your shots. There's also a 4X digital zoom but as we have stated over and over, digital zoom is best turned off. Digital zooms simply enlarge the center of the image to fill the entire frame. It may look good on the LCD but it often yields a pixelly and soft image, don't use it, just move closer to your subject.
We had mixed results from our outdoor test shots. While the images were sharp and well-exposed, we found that in bright direct sun the PDR-5300 color balance was inconsistent, sometimes producing a distinct yellowish cast; this did not occur in overcast conditions. We also experienced a yellowish cast using fill-flash outdoors. The LCD viewfinder was very usable even in the bright Florida sun; its brightness is adjustable, and it has an anti-reflective coating.
We also had mixed results with our indoor shots. We noticed a yellowish cast in our flash portraits similar to what we experienced outdoors. Because of the limited flash range and 35mm maximum wide-angle, your shooting will be limited to portraits of individuals and small groups, or small rooms. The PDR-5300 has an autofocus-assist lamp, and it was effective in conditions of low ambient light; the LCD viewfinder was also quite readable in those conditions. The PDR-5300 is effective at squelching its flash at close range, and has good macro focusing; it would be a good choice for taking images of small objects for online auction listings.
As they say, size isn't everything and, in the case of the PDR-5300, the 5-megapixel imager is not able to overcome the color balance and shooting performance issues we experienced; we honestly can't recommend this camera. If you're looking for an under-$400 family digicam capable of producing consistently good results, we suggest that you consider the recently-reviewed Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC43, the KODAK EasyShare DX6440, or the Minolta DiMAGE G500.
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