Review: Toshiba PDR-M71
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2001
Thursday, October 25, 2001
is a midrange, 3.2 Megapixel camera, based on their PDR-M81 (see
Like that camera, the M71 features a 2.8X Canon zoom lens, movie
mode with sound, manual controls, and more. At $499, it's also very
competitively priced. How well does it work? You'll have to read
the review to find out!
with several recent camera reviews, since this camera is almost
identical to the M81, I will be reusing much of the content for
that review. Don't worry, it will be updated where needed and the
conclusions and tests are all new.)
in the Box?
PDR-M71 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.0 (effective) Mpixel Toshiba PDR-M71 camera
AA alkaline batteries
featuring ImageExpert and drivers
page manual (printed)
get the negatives out of the way up front. First, Toshiba includes
an incredibly skimpy 8MB SmartMedia card with the camera. It was
unforgivable on the 4MP PDR-M81 and is disappointing on this camera
they don't include rechargeable batteries, so you'll want to pick
up a NiMH charger and a few sets of batteries.
They'll last a lot longer than throwaway alkaline batteries and
are better for the environment. At least they're not using the proprietary
batteries like they used to.
the good news. It's not often when they throw a case in the box
with a camera these days, so I was pleased to see a soft case in
PDR-M71 has a rather unique lens cap, though it's hard to tell from
the above photo. It's more like a "lens plug", and it's
got a tether so it won't get lost. If you turn on the camera with
the cap on, it will give you a warning.
the M71's lens isn't threaded, Toshiba will make available in November
a lens adapter which uses the tripod mount. This will let you use
37mm attachments. You can also buy a step-up ring which will let
you use 43mm attachments as well.
manual included with the camera is about average for a digicam,
meaning that it's confusing and poorly laid out. Half the manual
is English, while the other is French (I hate it when they do that).
There's also a separate manual for the ImageExpert software as well.
PDR-M71 is a rather odd-looking camera that I found to be easy to
hold and use. I'm not a big fan of the "textured plastic"
that is found on the grip and backside of the camera. The body does
seem solid though and should be able to survive out "in the
wild". The controls are all in the right places and you can
use it with one hand as well.
dimensions of the M81 are 4.2 x 2.8 x 1.8 inches (W x H x D) and
it weighs 240 grams empty. The camera isn't large in any sense,
but I wouldn't call it pocket-size either.
take a 360 degree tour of the PDR-M71 now.
the front of the camera. The F2.9 lens is manufactured by Canon,
and is the same as on the PDR-M81. The focal range of the lens is
7.25 - 20.3 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 98 mm. The lens is not
the top right of the above photo you can see the microphone.
towards the left is the flash, which has a working range of 0.8
- 3.0 meters. Flash strength is not adjustable via the menu.
onto the back of the camera. You can probably see the cheesy (in
my opinion) textured plastic here.
1.5" LCD display is smaller than average, but is bright and
fluid. You can adjust the brightness via the menu system, if you'd
the top-left of the photo is the optical viewfinder. While it lacks
diopter correction (for those of us with glasses), it is large.
There are crosshairs in the center of the viewfinder, as well. Those
of you who use your right eye to look through it won't smudge the
LCD with your nose either.
button below the LCD (Disp/i) is used for toggling what information
is shown on the LCD.
to the right of the LCD are:
switch (for menus)
at the top right is the zoom control. I wish the button had a little
more "play" to it. The zoom is not variable speed, and
it's a bit slow moving as well.
the top of the PDR-M81, where you can see the LCD info display,
some buttons, the mode wheel, and the shutter release button.
LCD info display shows things such as battery strength, size/quality
setting, flash setting, and shots remaining. It does not show shutter
speed or aperture, like some other displays do. One feature I miss
from the PDR-M70 (see our review)
is the backlit display. It's a handy feature that too few cameras
buttons to the right of the info display include:
(2 or 10 sec)
thing I don't like about the size/quality button on the M71/M81
is that instead of scrolling through all the choices, it only has
three that you set up in the menus. I suppose for everyday usage
this is fine, but I preferred the old way myself.
towards the right is the mode wheel, which has the following choices:
have more on these later in the review.
is one side of the M71. You can see the speaker, power port (left),
and USB/AV port (right). There is no serial support available on
is the other side of the M71, with the included 8MB SmartMedia card
shown. The card is easy to insert and remove from the spring-loaded
slot. The door that covers the slot seems strong as well.
here is the bottom of the PDR-M71. Here you'll find the battery
compartment as well as a plastic tripod mount. The battery compartment
holds 4 AA-sized batteries, and is lockable.
the Toshiba PDR-M71
you power up the PDR-M71, a "fanfare" sound plays, and
the lens extends. You'll have to wait just over 4 seconds before
you can start taking pictures. Pressing the shutter release button
halfway results in locked focus in about one second.
isn't as much shutter lag on the M71 as there was on the M81. The
camera locks focus quickly, and takes the picture after a short,
yet noticeable delay.
recommend turning off the sound on the camera, though. When you
take a picture, the camera will produce an artificial "shutter
sound", which gives you the impression that it took the photo.
However, due to the lag, it hasn't yet (listen and you'll hear the
real shutter a few moments later).
speed is decent on the PDR-M71. You'll wait about 3 seconds between
shots at the highest quality setting.
are many quality settings on the M71, but as I mentioned, you have
to choose 3 of them to assign to the quality button on the top of
the camera. There camera uses "stars" as a measure of
quality. The more stars, the less JPEG compression, and higher quality
chart below explains:
photos on 8MB card
photos on 64MB card
2048 x 1536
1024 x 768
640 x 480
wasn't a TIFF mode available on the M81, nor is there one on this
let's take a look at menu options. The follow options are available
in Auto or Manual mode:
(on/off) - shows image after it's taken
(Standard, vivid, monochrome, sepia)
(Normal, 2X, 4X) - equivalent to 100, 200, 400
(normal, soft, hard)
(normal, strong, soft)
zoom (on/off) - 2X digital zoom; will reduce image quality if
setup menu (use the mode wheel to get there) has some other common
options that aren't worth mentioning here.
Auto Record, there will only be a few controls. That includes the
above menu items, flash, quality, and focus. You can adjust exposure
compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV, 0.5EV increments) by using the left/right
buttons. In addition, there is a "scene mode" accessible
via an overlay-style menu that lets you choose from the following:
- 16 continuous frames (7.5 frames/sec) put into one collage
you want more manual controls, then turn the mode wheel to Manual
Record. Here you'll won't get the scene mode, but you'll get this
other stuff instead:
(Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Full Manual)
Balance (Auto, Sunlight, Cloudy, Fluorescent [x 2], tungsten,
(1 shot, burst, automatic exposure bracketing)
AE bracketing feature doesn't let you choose the settings to use:
instead it uses -0.5EV, 0EV, and +0.5EV. Burst mode will take up
to 3 shots, at a 0.8 sec interval.
priority mode will let you choose the aperture, while the camera
picks the appropriate shutter speed. The range of values is F2.9
- F8.0. If you set the aperture to F2.9, the shutter speed is limited
to 1/750 sec.
priority mode is just the opposite: you choose the shutter speed,
the M71 picks the aperture. Shutter speed ranges from 1/1000 - 15
sec. If you choose 1/1000 sec, the aperture will be limited to between
F3.4 and F8.
full manual mode, you pick both the shutter speed and aperture.
a busy screen in Manual Record mode!
feature in manual mode is a histogram shown on the LCD. This is
a pretty uncommon feature that most people probably won't pay attention
to, but it's nice to have.
camera did a good job with both the color and detail in our macro
test. You can get as close as 10cm (at full wide-angle) in macro
mode on the M71.
M81 did a pretty good job with the night shot test as well. There
isn't too much noise, and the buildings are sharp and recognizable.
thing to note is that I did not have the "green image"
problem that I did with the M81. See the review
for more on what that was about.
photo quality on the PDR-M71 was good, with accurate color, and
minimal chromatic aberrations. Take a look at the gallery
and judge for yourself.
PDR-M71 has a pretty good movie mode. You can choose between Full
(320 x 240) and Half (160 x 120) sizes, and the three "star"
qualities in each. Depending on the size and quality chosen, you
can record anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes of video, with
sound. That's pretty close to as good as I've seen on a digital
cannot use the optical zoom during filming, since the sound of the
lens moving would be picked up by the microphone.
an unexciting sample movie:
to play movie (1.5MB, AVI format)
continues to have one of the best playback modes out there, and
now it's even flashier.
features are all here on the PDR-M71. That includes slide shows,
DPOF print marking, image protection, and zoom and scroll.
zoom and scroll feature now has a "zoom window" effect
that's pretty cool. You can zoom in two or four times into your
photo, and then move around them in real-time. This is still the
best implementation of this feature out there, in my opinion.
of the advanced features include the ability to resize and change
the quality of your photo. This will replace the current photo on
the card, so be warned! You can also copy photos from one SmartMedia
card to another.
you want to get lots more info about your photo, the M71 delivers,
as you can see above.
Does it Compare?
I didn't think that the PDR-M81 was competitive with the other 4
Megapixel cameras out there, I don't feel the same way about the
M71. For just $499, the M71 represents a great value. You get a
3 Megapixel camera with an almost 3X zoom lens, full manual controls,
movie mode, and good picture quality. On the downside, you don't
get TIFF mode, and the bundle could be a lot better. But for those
looking for a midrange camera with lots of bells and whistles, the
Toshiba PDR-M71 is one not to miss.
good photo quality
amount of manual controls
use external lenses and filters (if you buy the adapter, that
good playback mode
I didn't care for:
startup times; a bit of shutter lag
includes alkaline batteries and tiny 8MB SmartMedia card
cameras that you might want to consider include the Canon
PowerShot S30, Casio
Finecam S3, Nikon
Coolpix 885, Olympus
Optio 330, and the Sony DSC-P5
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the PDR-M71 and its competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion? How about a third?
sure to read Steves
Digicams review of the Toshiba PDR-M71. If that's not enough,
Resource has one too.
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for
a personal recommendation.