Review: Toshiba PDR-M70
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2000
Monday, June 18, 2001
are three kinds of cameras out there: those that go for traditional
photography features, those that go for gimmicks, and those that
have both. The
PDR-M70 is one of those cameras that has every feature the pro
photographer desires, plus some of the more "gimmicky"
features that consumers (and certain digital camera website editors)
enjoy. Starting with a 3.3 Megapixel CCD, the M70 has both point
and shoot ease and full manual control, if desired. But it also
has movie mode (with sound), and a unique personal voice recording
function. Let's start the review to learn more about this $799 camera.
in the Box?
PDR-M70 has everything you could possibly ask for... well, except
for something for the lens cap to hook onto! When you open the box,
here's what you'll find:
3.3 Mpixel Toshiba PDR-M70 camera
including Sierra Imaging's ImageExpert and drivers
for camera and software
the good news: Toshiba includes not only a rechargeable battery,
but also an AC adapter! You just plug the adapter into the wall,
and the other end goes right into the camera. Nice!
is no serial cable included -- in fact, I don't think the camera
supports RS-232 connections. So it's USB or nothing!
manual is quite well done, still a rarity for digital camera manufacturers.
the bad news: One of my favorite things to pick on is lens caps,
and Toshiba gives you a big plastic one, with no strap. If you remember
the Olympus C-3030Z review, you'll recall how its unrestrained lens
cap fell over a fence and down a mountain side, never to be seen
again. Too bad Toshiba made the same mistake (though I haven't lost
the lens cap yet).
PDR-M70 is an attractive silver camera, of average size and weight.
It fits fairly well in the hands, though you have to be careful
where you place your left hand, so you don't cover up anything important.
The body is made of solid-feeling plastic which seems pretty sturdy.
Let's take a closer look at this camera now:
the back of the camera. The optical viewfinder is quite large, and
features diopter correction for those of us without perfect vision.
Unfortunately, nose smudges on the LCD will occur regardless of
which eye you use to look into the viewfinder.
1.8" LCD is bright and fluid, and usable in all but the brightest
sunlight (no surprise there). You can adjust the LCD's brightness
from a menu within the camera.
buttons of interest on the back include: the four way switch, which
is used for navigating menus and changing settings in manual mode.
The four silver buttons below that enter the menu, change modes
(e.g. single shot to continuous shooting to auto-bracketing), macro
mode / photo info and delete.
zoom controls towards the top right are well placed, and work as
you'd expect. The zoom itself is quite smooth.
next stop is the top of the camera, where you can see one of my
favorite features of Toshiba digital cameras: a backlit LCD! When
I took it up to the usual nighttime photo spot at Twin Peaks, I
realized one thing that nobody has done yet -- backlit buttons!
It's nice that the LCD is lit up, but pressing buttons in the dark
is still a guessing game!
the LCD, you'll find the following information: Battery strength,
SmartMedia card inserted (??), Flash, Size, Quality, Remaining Photos,
has an easy-to-understand system for resolution and quality. You
can choose between two resolutions: Full (2048 x 1536) and Half
(1024 x 768), and three qualities: *, **, and ***. The more "stars",
the less JPEG compression, hence the higher quality. You can store
anywhere from 13 to 39 photos on the included 16Mb card (in Full
mode), depending on the quality you've chosen.
buttons below the LCD change flash, size/quality, and self-timer
settings. A big thank you to Toshiba for including both 2 second
and 10 second self timers!
the right of that is the mode wheel, with a few items that may be
unfamiliar. Your choices are:
priority mode (Tv)
priority mode (Av)
explain some of these in further detail in the next section. Apparently
the term "Tv" comes from Canon's early SLR cameras, and means "Time
Value". [Updated 5/31/00]
above the mode wheel is the power switch, with the shutter release
in the middle. No complaints here - this thing is well designed.
the left side of the camera, you'll find the port for connecting
to your PC or to your television (the same connector, too) as well
as the port for plugging in that AC adapter. Above that is a headphone
jack, a first for a camera I've reviewed. At the bottom left is
a flash sync port for an external flash. After sifting through the
manual for a bit, I noticed that the shutter speed is fixed at 1/125
sec when using an external flash... that's weird.
the other side of the camera, where the SmartMedia slot is located.
The plastic door seems pretty sturdy, and stays closed. The SmartMedia
slot isn't spring-loaded -- you just pull the card right out.
at the bottom is the battery slot, tripod mount, and speaker (!).
Audio plays a big role on the M70, and the speaker does a good job
of projecting the audio, as long as your finger isn't covering it.
The tripod mount seems to be plastic.
in all, a good showing for the PDR-M70 in this department.
the Toshiba PDR-M70
head-to-head review of the Coolpix 990 and C-3030Z raised the bar
for DCRP reviews, so I'm going to try to make this section a bit
more detailed in our "regular" reviews as well. I'm going
to cover six areas in this section: Auto record, manual record,
playback, movie mode, voice recording, and menus.
up the camera is a quick process (especially if you remembered to
remove the lens cover!), with the M70 all ready to go in about four
mode is just that, fully automatic. There are a few basic settings
you can change, such as size/quality, flash, and macro. There are
also several preset modes:
shots of moving subjects
last one of the list is interesting, and reminds me of the 16 shot
mode on the Coolpix 950 and 990. The camera will take 36 frames
at 0.07 sec intervals, and put them into one full size collage.
you're taking pictures, you'll appreciate the lack of shutter lag
-- the camera is very responsive. In Full/*** mode, there's a delay
of three to four seconds before you can take another photo. As I
mentioned, the 3X optical zoom is quick as well (there's a 2X digital
zoom as well, if you desire).
annoyance in auto mode is that you cannot adjust white balance settings.
For example, in the macro shot below, I had to use aperture priority
mode so I could set the white balance to incandescent light. If
you need to adjust white balance in auto mode, you're out of luck.
review would be complete without the Mickey macro shot?
mode is pretty good on the PDR-M70 -- you can get as close as 0.3"
can change the ISO from 100 to 200 or 400, by hitting the menu button.
This seems a bit inconsistent with the overlay menus, especially
in manual mode.
PDR-M70 has a very full-featured manual mode, comparable to the
Coolpix 990 and C-3030Z.
a look at what you see on the LCD in shutter priority mode. I happen
to have the menu on here (Toshiba uses an overlay system, rather
than menus on a separate "page"), with white balance selected.
You can also set what area of the field the camera focuses on, and
you can choose between auto focus and infinite focus (there is no
manual focus on the M70). Most everything on this screen is self-explanatory,
with perhaps the exception of the histogram. The histogram, which
is the green "graph" in the lower right, is a measure
of luminance in the field of view. This feature is normally seen
on high end digital cameras, though I don't think the average consumer
will pay much attention to it. But it's nice to know it's there.
Traditional night shot from Twin Peaks (1 sec exposure, reduced
shutter priority mode, you can choose from speeds as fast as 1/1000
sec to as slow as 8 seconds. Aperture priority has a number of choices
between f2.0 and f8.
nice thing about both all the record modes is that you can quickly
jump to the last photo you took by hitting the delete button (see
above). You can then delete the photo (or all of them) without jumping
to play mode. If you want to browse photos, you'll have to turn
the mode wheel to playback mode, of course.
8/28/00] According to the PDR-M70
FAQ, there is a "hidden" full manual mode, as well
as a manual focus mode! By pushing a few buttons, you can set both
aperture and shutter speeds! A manual focus feature is there too
-- it's all in the FAQ!
your photos has always been a strong point with Toshiba cameras,
and nothing has changed on the M70. All the traditional features
are there, like slide shows, protection, thumbnails, and printing.
You can also zoom into your photos, and scroll through them in real
time. Some other interesting features include the ability to change
the quality or size of a photo (in the downward direction only,
of course), and to copy images from one SmartMedia card to another.
M70 also provides a wealth of information about a photo you've taken.
You just hit the "i" button (same as macro) and you get...
lots more information! There's that histogram again.
a bit strange with this playback mode is folders. To jump between
viewing photos and movies, you have to change folders by hitting
the Mode button. I'd prefer it if they were all in the same place,
like on the Casio cameras.
between photos is fairly quick in playback mode, as is zooming and
seems to me that lots of people are blowing off movie mode. I, for
one, think that video is a nice supplement to still photos. Why
take just a still of your child's birthday party, when you can take
a short video clip to send the grandparents?
M70 does a great job at video, and thankfully, audio too! You can
record from one to five minutes of AVI video on a single 16Mb card!
Just like with still photos, you can choose sizes (Full is 320 x
240, Half is 160 x 120) and quality (stars).
than go on and on about movie mode, just take a look at a movie
I made below:
Click to play movie (AVI format, 3Mb)
probably not going to win any awards for cinematography, but you
get the idea!
feature is totally unique to this camera (as far as I know) and
is well implemented. Instead of dictating into a mini-tape recorder,
you can use your camera instead! Up to one hour of audio can be
recorded on the included 16Mb card.
a look at the audio recording screen. You can have as many tracks
as you want, and they can be as long as you want (well, until the
card fills up). You've got the same controls as your CD or tape
player: stop, play, pause, fast forward, and reverse. The speaker
volume is also adjustable during playback. There's also a level
meter so you can see if you're too loud -- or too quiet. This is
definitely a gimmicky feature, but since Toshiba didn't really skimp
anywhere else, I don't mind.
to a sample from one of the rollercoaster shows I was watching
on Monday night (instead of writing this review) in WAV format.
already mentioned that Toshiba uses the overlay style menus for
most functions... and the traditional menus for others. Here's a
look at two levels of the menus in record mode:
menus are pretty nice looking, and animated too. Even deleting photos
is cool looking. My only issue is why the ISO setting is here, instead
of in the overlay menus.
the menu in playback mode, with many of the functions that I described
real complaints in this area either.
Does it Compare?
got jumped on in the last review for not commenting on photo quality.
The truth is, I don't think I'm any better judge of photo quality
than anyone else, so I'll leave the final decision up to you. While
I'd personally say that the quality is right up there with the other
3.3 Mpixel cameras, many of the photos seemed a little "soft"
to me, even in Normal Sharpness mode. That doesn't prevent me from
highly recommending this camera, though.
featured -- movies, audio, manual controls
well designed with thoughtful touches like backlit LCD
responsive in all modes
stuff "in the box"
white balance settings in auto mode
uncompressed TIFF mode
seem a bit soft sometimes
PDR-M70 really keeps up with the competitors, and in some areas
(especially the non-photo areas like movies and audio), it's ahead
of them. This is a very crowded arena right now, with the likes
of the Casio
PowerShot S20, Nikon
Coolpix 990, Olympus
C-3030Z, and Sony
DSC-S70 as direct competitors. At $799, the PDR-M70 is one of
the cheapest cameras of the bunch, and one of the best values. Though
I do recommend that you personally try out the M70 and its competitors
yourself, I can't think of any good reason not to recommend this