DCRP Review: Toshiba PDR-3300
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Wednesday, July 10, 2002
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 10, 2002

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When you're talking about digital cameras to someone, the name Toshiba rarely comes up. That's unfortunate, because Toshiba's digital cameras are some of the best out there, are are excellent values too.

Case in point: the PDR-3300. This $349 camera features a 3.2 Megapixel CCD, a 2.8X Canon zoom lens, and a plethora of manual controls. The 3300 replaces the popular PDR-M71.

How dose the PDR-3300 stack up against the 3 Megapixel competition? Find out in our review!

What's in the Box?

The Toshiba PDR-3300 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.2 effective Mpixel Toshiba PDR-3300 camera
  • 8MB Secure Digital card
  • Four alkaline AA batteries (non-rechargeable)
  • IR Remote Controller
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • Camera case
  • CD-ROM featuring ACDSee software and drivers
  • 135 page camera manual plus software manual (both printed)

In order to keep the cost of the camera down (I assume), Toshiba was very stingy in the memory card and battery departments.

The camera includes an 8MB Secure Digital card. When you see how few photos it holds, you'll want a larger one right away. You can use either SD or MultiMedia (MMC) cards with the 3300.

You'll also find four, non-rechargeable AA batteries in the box. Once they die, you'll be out of luck, so I recommend buying a set or two of NiMH rechargeable batteries. They last longer, cost less, and don't end up in the trash after 30 pictures.


This should give you an idea about the size of the PDR-3300

As you can see above, the 3300 has a built-in lens cover, so no lens caps are necessary.

Toshiba throws in two very nice accessories with the PDR-3300: a remote control, and soft camera case. The remote control can only be used for two things: taking the picture (record mode), or going to the next picture (playback mode). Still, it's a nice thing to have.

As far as optional accessories go, there are many choices. An AC adapter is available, so you can save your batteries while transferring photos. The 3300 can use conversion lenses and filters, but not in the traditional way. You first need a lens adapter, which attaches to the camera via the tripod mount. You then attach the the lens or filter to the adapter.

The PDR-3300 includes the popular ACDSee software. This software, as well as the camera are compatible with Mac OS X and Windows XP.

The camera manual is one huge book with four languages (English, French, German, Spanish). The quality of the manual is about average.

Look and Feel

The PDR-3300 isn't going to win any awards for looks. It's a pretty boxy-looking camera, and I could live without the cheesy clear plastic panel no the front. Of course none of this affects the most important things: usability and photo quality. The body is mostly made of plastic.

Although the right hand grip is small, the 3300 is easy to hold with one hand or two. The camera falls into the midsize category -- it'll fit in most, but not all pockets. The official dimensions of the camera are 4.5 x 2.7 x 1.8 inches (WxHxD), and it weighs in at 230 grams (8.1 oz) empty. For the sake of comparison, the Olympus D-550Z is 4.4 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches and 180 grams.

Let's begin our tour of the PDR-3300 now!

The PDR-3300 features a Canon-made F2.9 lens. The focal range is 7.25 - 20.3 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 100 mm. That's right, it's just shy of a full 3X. The lens is not threaded, but you can use conversion lenses using the method described in the previous section.

The four items above the lens include the optical viewfinder, IR receiver, self-timer lamp, and the flash. The 3300's flash has a working range of 0.5 - 2.9 m. I'm not sure if this is at wide-angle or telephoto, as Toshiba was not specific. You cannot use an external flash with the 3300.

One thing not seen here is an autofocus-assist lamp, which helps the camera focus in lower light conditions.

Here now is the back of the PDR-3300.

The 1.6" LCD is a bit smaller than the 1.8" display usually found on cameras of this size. The LCD resolution (60K pixels) isn't that high either, but the images on it are bright and fairly fluid.

Above the LCD is the huge optical viewfinder -- one of the largest I've seen in some time. There is no diopter correction knob, to put things into focus for people with poor vision.

The Disp(lay) button to the left of the LCD toggles the LCD, and what's on it, on and off.

The three buttons to the right control:

  • Flash (Auto, forced w/redeye reduction, forced, flash off)
  • Self-timer (10 or 2 seconds)
  • Delete photo

Above those three buttons is the four-way switch. This is used for menu navigation, plus adjusting the exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/2EV increments). Just left of that is the button which invokes the main menu.

At the upper left are the well-placed zoom controls. The zoom mechanism moves smoothly and quietly.

Here's the top of the camera now (had to rotate this one, hence the weird background). The PDR-3300 is rather strange, as it has a switch for the lens cover and another for the power. Why they couldn't just make it one switch is beyond me. The little icons above the lens cover switch (at left) don't make much sense either.

In between those switches you'll find the mode wheel. The choices are:

  • Movie mode
  • Manual record
  • Auto record
  • Playback mode
  • PC connect
  • Setup

I'll have more on these later.

The last thing of note on the top of the camera is the shutter release button. One thing missing is an LCD info display. If they didn't have two switches up here, they certainly could fit one in.

Nothing to see on this side of the camera.

The interesting stuff is on this side. Under a rubber cover (that didn't like to stay closed), you'll find ports for USB/Video out as well as DC in.

Here's an angled look at the bottom of the camera. Just above where the four AA-size batteries go, you can see the SD/MMC card slot. The downside of having the card slot down here is that you can't remove the card while the 3300 is on a tripod.

There is also a metal tripod mount on the bottom.

Using the Toshiba PDR-3300

Record Mode

Assuming that you opened the lens cover, the PDR-3300 takes over 5 seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures. That's a bit slower than average. If you didn't open the lens cover, the camera will put an error message on the LCD.

When you press the shutter release button halfway, the camera generally locks focus in a second or less. I had more trouble than normal getting the camera to focus on subjects, especially indoors. Shutter lag (the time between fully pressing the shutter release button and the photo being taken) was minimal. If you just press the button all the way down without stopping halfway, you can fire off a shot in a little over a second (of course, it may not be in focus!).

Shot-to-shot speed is average -- about 5 seconds between shots at the highest quality setting.

Speaking of which, here's a look at the image size and quality settings available on the PDR-3300.

Size Quality # photos on 8MB card
(included)
# photos on 64MB card
(for reference)
Full
2048 x 1536
*** 5 51
** 8 77
* 16 154
Half
1024 x 768
*** 22 215
** 34 322
* 68 645
Small
640 x 480
*** 34 322
** 51 484
* 102 968

To change the quality setting, you have to burrow into the menu system a bit. You can't just cycle between them -- you can use one setting at a time.

The PDR-3300 has automatic and manual modes. Unlike some other low-cost cameras, Toshiba really means it when they say "manual mode". You have full control over everything except white balance. In automatic mode, things are locked up except for the "scene modes". These include:

  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Sports
  • Night shot
  • 16 multi-photography shot (takes 16 shots in a row and puts them into one photo)

The 3300 has two menus: one overlay-style and one traditional.


Besides the overlay menu at left, also note the exposure info and histogram

The overlay style menu is used for adjusting the following:

  • Scene (see above)
  • Exposure control (Program mode, aperture priority mode, shutter priority mode, full manual)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, bluish fluorescent, reddish fluorescent, incandescent)
  • Metering (multi, spot)
  • Drive (one shot, burst mode, AE bracketing)
  • Focus (AF, macro, 1m, 3m, infinity)

In auto record mode, focus and scene will be your only options here. Now, more about those manual modes.

In aperture priority mode, you set the aperture (range of F2.9 - F8), and the camera picks an appropriate shutter speed.

Shutter priority mode is just the opposite -- you choose a shutter speed (15 - 1/1000 sec) and the camera chooses the aperture.

In full manual mode, you choose both.

In burst mode, the camera will take up to 3 shots at an interval of 0.8 seconds between shots. AE bracketing mode will take three shots in a row with different exposure compensation values (-0.5EV, 0EV, +0.5EV) -- these values cannot be edited.

The more traditionally-styled menus have even more options. These include:

  • Preview (on/off) - shows photo after its taken
  • Color (Standard, vivid, monochrome, sepia)
  • ISO (Normal, 2X, 4X) - where X is equal to 100; do note that 2X is the default in auto record mode!
  • Sharpness (Normal, soft, hard)
  • Contract (Normal, strong, soft)
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - I recommend keeping it turned off
  • LCD brightness (-5 to +5)
  • Quality - see chart earlier

There is also a setup menu, with basic things like date/time, beep, auto power off, etc.

That's enough about menus, let's talk photos now!

Although the subject is nicely focused and sharp, though not as saturated as I would have liked. You can get as close as 10 cm (3.9 inches) from your subject in macro mode on the PDR-3300.

It was a very foggy night when I took the above shot, which gives the sky a brown cast (not just on this camera, either). Still, the image is pretty well exposed (perhaps a bit overexposed), and I don't see any purple fringing like on some other cameras that I've taken this shot with. There isn't much in the line of noise, either.

The 3300 did a really nice job with the redeye test. There really isn't any redeye to speak of here (at least when using the redeye reduction feature). The cropped image above was enlarged 200% so you can see the details.

The PDR-3300 shot sharp, well-exposed images in my (brief) testing. Chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) were not a problem. However, I did notice a pronounced blue cast in a few of my samples, especially outdoor images with lots of sky. Take a look at the gallery to see the samples. I should add that I didn't notice this in the few outdoor samples over at Steves Digicams, so I'm not sure if it's a real problem or not.

Movie Mode

The PDR-3300 has a pretty basic movie mode, though you have lots of controls over the quality. You can choose between full (320 x 240) or half (160 x 120) sizes, plus ***, **, or * in the quality department. The fewer stars, the lower the quality of the video, and the lower the movie can be. For example, a Full/*** movie can be 30 seconds, while a Half/* movie can be 180 seconds, and so on.

Sound is not recorded with your movie. The files are saved in AVI format.

You can use the zoom lens during filming.

Since people like to photograph their pets (not to mention that I forgot to take a movie outdoors), here's a short movie of my sister's dog:


Click to play movie (1.0MB, AVI format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

Toshiba cameras have always had one of my favorite playback modes, and that continues on the PDR-3300. The camera has the basic features down: slide shows, DPOF print marking, and image protection are here. You can view one image on the screen at once, or nine.

More advanced features include zoom and scroll, rotating, resizing, and "quality reduction".

Zoom and scroll lets you move in 2X or 4X into your photo, and then scroll around. This is useful for checking the focus.

By moving the four-way switch up or down, you can rotate your image in 90 degree increments. You can also resize your image, or lower the quality (to save memory, or for e-mailing).

You'll find plenty of additional information about your photo by hitting the Disp button. You can see exposure info, plus a histogram.

The 3300 moves through images on the LCD with about a 1.5 second delay, which is about average.

How Does it Compare?

Things were sort of "hit or miss" with the Toshiba PDR-3300. The hits are the great price for a 3MP zoom camera, the full manual controls, and nice playback mode. The misses are the so-so bundle, fussy autofocus, and the blue cast I noticed in some photos. I urge you to check out the other reviews and sample photos out there before making a final decision about the photo quality. Aside from those problems, the PDR-3300 does get my recommendation. The 3300 also measures up nicely compared to the competition from Sony and Olympus -- and it has many more manual controls.

What I liked:

  • Great value - 3X zoom, 3 Megapixel for under $350
  • Full manual controls, save white balance
  • Very nice playback mode
  • Remote control and camera case included
  • Supports external lenses/filters
  • Histogram in record and playback modes
  • Good job at reducing redeye

What I didn't care for:

  • No AF illuminator
  • Fussy auto-focus
  • Blue cast in a few images. Fluke?
  • No sound in movie mode
  • Bundle could be better (no rechargeable batteries, small SD memory card included)
  • Cheap looking body; must flip two switches to turn on camera

Some other (lower cost) 3 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot S30, Kodak DX3900, Kyocera Finecam S3, Nikon Coolpix 885, Olympus C-3020Z and D-550Z, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P5, DSC-P7, and DSC-P71, and the Toshiba PDR-3300 and PDR-3310.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the PDR-3300 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Take a look at our photo gallery to see how the 3300's pictures turned out.

Want a second opinion?

Be sure to read Steve's Digicams review of the PDR-3300.

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions about this review. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not write asking for personal recommendations, missing software/manuals, or technical support.

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