A great camera in a unique package
by Rick Smith (June, 2000)
While I have had great success with the Toshiba PDR-M5, I have a few suggested improvements. Most are minor or are true of most cameras in this price class - but I can dream ...
Have a higher ISO rating - There were many interior shots I would have liked to take in available light, but only by using a flash was I able to eliminate the "motion blur" caused by the slow shutter speed. If there isn't enough light, this camera warns you and then changes to a slower shutter speed. Sometimes this shows up as motion blur.
Several months ago and over a thousand shots ago, it seemed to me that the camera was able to, in trade show lighting, take more of these without needing a flash or blurring due to the slow shutter speed. While this is completely subjective, it seemed that the camera isn't as sensitive as it once was. Now, indoor shots, with direct spotlights on the subject, have motion blur. Exterior, daylight pictures seem to be unaffected. This is the only troublesome problem I encountered with this camera.
More zoom - Even though the 3X zoom is on par with others in this category, why not push the envelope with a larger one like Sony or Casio or even what Canon may have in the future.
Better macro capability - I would like to take pictures as close as I do with the Sony Mavica (almost on top of the object), but few cameras can achieve this. The imposed 18 inch macro zone makes it harder to use than the constantly "in focus" capability of the Sony Mavica, but this is a MUCH higher resolution camera. The macro mode takes getting used to. With the zoomed picture playback, you can check your focus. Make sure you do this when doing macro shots. In the beginning, I didn't zoom into each shot to check focus and ended up with good looking pictures in the viewfinder, but they were really out of focus. Fortunately for me, the Toshiba had so much resolution that I was able to reduce the picture size and get the image BACK in focus and recover the shot. Sometimes pulling away from the object and cropping the shot will result in a better quality image.
Improve switch on zoom control - Awhile back I started having trouble controlling the zoom. Sometimes, I couldn't change it, so I had to power off the camera and then set the zoom right away. Even though this was a hassle, the pictures were compelling enough to justify this extra work. Who said great pictures were simple? While I had no problems with the "playback zoom" that used the same control, lens zoom had a problem.
When I was at Digital Photo Expo, I met a Toshiba rep and asked them about this problem. He tried it and he had no problems controlling my zoom and I had no problems controlling his camera. But mine still didn't work. After watching what he did for a few minutes, I realized that the problem was the difference in our touch. I pressed very hard and he didn't. Since I had been controlling the zoom with heavy pressure, after nearly 2,500 pictures, the switch didn't work like it once did. Using a more delicate touch, my zoom now runs just fine as if it never had a problem. So if you have a problem with the zoom, don't press so hard. The pixel zoom, which appears to be a computer function, instead of a mechanical one, works fine with either a light or heavy touch.
Different shaped lens cap - The included lens cap is fine for normal usage, but can't protect the lens when the lens is extended and the battery doesn't have enough power to retract the lens. This is another reason to carry an extra battery. The lens of the PDR-M5 "pops" out of the camera and pushes the lens cap out of the way. This is a great feature - it assures that you never leave the lens cap on the camera. Just be sure to attach the lens cap to the camera or the cap will be on the floor the first time you turn the camera on.
If you lose power (run out of batteries), the lens cap doesn't fit because the lens is extended. If the lens cap had either a smaller cap in front, underneath or attached differently, it could help protect the lens when it can't be retracted.
© 2000 Rick Smith All rights reserved.