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The older of the two Toshiba models in this test is styled more like an SLR than a compact camera. Its 3x zoom lens sticks out proudly - even before it is extended for use - and quite rightly so as this is one of the most distinguishing features of this camera. The 120mm maximum focal length is also of not - giving a marginally more powerful telephoto setting than is usual.
Although bigger than some of its rivals, the camera's design makes it very comfortable to hold - the grip for the right hand allows you to get hold of the camera tightly, and as you do this your thumb falls naturally to the zoom control. The layout is sell well thought at, that the main control wheel is placed at an angle to the top - making it easy to reach.
We were not so impressed with the position of the information screen. This has been placed next to the optical viewfinder - instead of on top as on most other cameras. It might not be obvious, but this makes it harder to glance at when shooting - and matters are made worse that this panel is recessed. This display is needed particularly to confirm the picture quality being used
The menu system of the camera, which relies on the larger and more-conventionally placed LCD screen, is very straightforward to use. You press the menu button, and then use the four-way rocker switch to work through the options; you then confirm your selection by pressing this joysick-style control. The menus displayed during this process are clear and to-the-point.
The flash unit is hidden from sight when not in use - and needs to be popped up by flicking a switch before its various options can be used. An automatic system is generally a better idea - as it avoids taking shots accidentally without the flash.
The camera takes a sensible attitude to manual controls; if you don't want these you switch to the automatic mode, if you want to fiddle around you go into a separate mode on the main dial. When the latter is activated, you can toggle between the various adjustments and select as appropriate using the rocker switch. As well as white balance presets and exposure compensation, there is also an aperture priority exposure mode. There are just two iris settings to choose from - f/3.5 and f/7.6 - but at least this gives you some control over depth of field. A more bizarre control allows you to change the zone used for focusing and setting exposure; five positions are possible; as you have a focus and exposure lock anyway, as on most cameras, this would seem superfluous. There is no manual focus facilities - and this is a shame as the AF system seems to hunt noisily before finding its target.
The camera comes with a custom lithium ion battery pack - which can be recharged when needed. It is a sensible arrangement, as batteries are probably the highest cost in running a digital camera. A further advantage is that you get a mains adaptor thrown with the package.
The camera uses SmartMedia cards, saving images as JPEGs and two different resolutions, and three image qualities. At the best of these six permutations the supplied 8Mb card can store eight shots. These are downloaded to your computer using a very simple transfer program, which on our iMac made the camera appear on the desktop as an additional drive. We are also pleased to report that the camera supports serial and USB connectors on both the Mac and PC.
The performance from the camera was of a high standard. The shots we took gave very good resolution and pretty sharp. Colours were also recorded well - particularly natural tones. Our one concern was that images had a tendency to be a touch blue - but as this is such an easy problem to correct afterwards, it does not colour our overall opinion.
This is a great, if not so little, camera that would make a sensible choice for someone that wanted a good all-round model. It is easy to use - well thought out, in most part at least - and offers the benefit of a very handy zoom lens. Worth a look.
- 3x zoom
- Connectivity with supplied cables
- Rechargeable battery
- Poorly-sited info screen
- Larger than some
Test by Chris George