Point and shoot, then drag and drop – Toshiba PDR-M1 digital camera – Hardware Review – Evaluation

Lisa Arndt

The best thing about a digital camera is venturing outside and taking pictures. The worst thing is that you’re often tied to a notebook PC in order to view them. No more. We tested the new Toshiba PDR-M1, an easy to use and hard-working digital camera that delivers high resolution pictures, lets you view them in a built-in LCD panel, and send them to your computer with ease.

The PDR-M1 is the size of a standard 35mm camera, making it lightweight and easy to carry. Instead of looking through a viewfinder, you aim the camera at a subject and view the image on the LCD panel (which can be turned off to save battery life). With a built-in flash that provides low-light, forceful, force-off, and automatic low-light flash, and a 2x zoom, you can take almost any picture anywhere.

Storing and sending images to your PC is a joy with the SmartMedia card, a storage device the size of a color slide that holds either 2MB, 4MB, 8MB, or 16MB of pictures. The unit we tested had a 4MB card. Pop the SmartMedia card out of the camera, slide it into the supplied dummy floppy disk, and insert in your PC’s floppy drive. Because the camera’s images are automatically saved in the familiar JPG format, you can just drag and drop the images to your hard disk using Windows Explorer or the bundled photo software.

You can save images at low resolution (640 by 480 pixels) or high resolution (1,280 by 1,024). Toshiba claims that SmartMedia can hold five high-res images on a 4MB card, but we were able to squeeze nine or more images. In addition, you can change image quality and compression ratios, weighing fidelity against disk size as you choose between normal (1:8 JPG compression), basic (1:16), and fine (1:4 compression). We loved that we could change the image specifications for each shot, fully maximizing our memory card and image quality.

The PDR-M1’s image quality proved as sharp as, if not a bit sharper than, most digital cameras we’ve seen. However, if you’re expecting film-quality images, you’ll be disappointed. Even a megapixel digital camera can’t match the warmth and clarity of a single-use 35mm camera. But don’t get us wrong–the quality is getting there. Digital images still tend to resemble video stills with slightly smudgy lines and the occasional bluish skin hue. But with a good image-editing tool, you can clarify any shortcomings.

Although the Toshiba camera was extremely easy to operate, we found it impossible to take quick, impromptu pictures. The camera has a lag time between the time you press the shutter and the time the image is captured–we lost a few family pictures because some one had moved out of frame or looked away. But for formal shots rather than candid moments, the PDR-M1 is impressive.

PDR-M1 Digital Camera

Requirements WIN 95/98 or MAC 4 AA batteries

Est. Street Price $600 READER SERVICE 109

Manufacturer Toshiba, 800-288-1354,



Home Office Computing’s product scores are weighted averages of 1- to 10-point ratings for: Value (30 percent of total), Ease of Use (20 percent of total), and Suitability for Home Office Use (20 percent of total).


V = Value

P = Performance

E = Ease of Use

S = Suitability for Home Office Use


PDR-M1 Digital Camera Score: 7.9

HP OfficeJet 710 Score: 7.9

Winfax Pro 9.0 Score: 7.3

Axis Orion 100M Score: 8.1

Unicent Avanta B450 Score: 8.2

Netopia R2121 Dual Analog Router Score: 7.3

Publish It Deluxe 3.02 Score: 7.5

COPYRIGHT 1998 CURTCO Freedom Communications

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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