BUILD AND DESIGN
The Toshiba Camileo S20 shoots 1080p at 30 fps video (H.264) through its five-megapixel CMOS sensor and fixed-focus lens, and takes stills up to 16-megapixels. There is no optical zoom, but it does offer a 4x digital zoom that DCR recommends avoiding because it degrades picture quality just like most other digital zooms. It has only 128MB of built-in memory, but takes both SD and SDHC cards.
At only 2/3-inches thick, the Toshiba Camileo S20 is an extremely compact pocket-sized HD camcorder. It also weighs approximately 9 ounces, give or take.
At first glance, it resembles a standard candy bar pocket HD camcorder, like the Flip or PlaySport. However, with a lens on top of a narrow edge and a flip-out LCD screen, it’s actually a pistol grip style camcorder, reminiscent of the Sony bloggie CM5 if the bloggie went on a serious diet.
The S20 sports the same colors and sheer plastic of the H30 – black and metallic silver with a touch of red. That means that like the H30, it’s a fingerprint magnet.
On one flat end is the flip-out LCD screen just beneath the on-board speaker. The three-inch LCD flips up 90 degrees and rotates 180, revealing the power button (the S20 also powers on when the LCD is flipped open) and a prerecord button that when activated records up the three seconds of footage before the record button is pressed.
Flip the S20 over and on the other side is a slide-out compartment hiding a removable lithium-ion battery. Just above that is the still/movie toggle button.
Looking at the S20 head-on reveals the fixed focus lens, on-board microphone, and LED light, which can be used as a steady light for both video and stills.
Opposite the lens side are the control buttons, including a record button, zoom toggle that doubles as an “OK” button and navigation lever for the menu, and three quick access buttons with multiple functions. Under that is a compartment hiding the AV out, HDMI out and USB out.
On top of the Camileo S20, users can switch between macro and landscape mode, and there is a covered compartment hiding the SD/SDHC card slot. Flip it over, and there is a tripod receptacle on the bottom of the pocket HD camcorder along with a wrist-strap slot.
Ergonomics and Controls
The S20 is extremely thin and light, and I find the pistol-grip style preferable to candy bar camcorder for extended shooting as it feels more natural in my hand. However, I have a few issues with the Camileo, in addition to the aforementioned glossy finish that leaves no fingerprint or smudge unseen.
First and foremost, there is such thing as being too thin. Due to its width, the S20 can be tough to secure and operate with one hand, especially with the screen swiveled up, which reduces the S20 thickness about 40 percent. Also, the control buttons run more than halfway down the backside of the camcorder. While the record button is on top and easily accessed, reaching the rest with your thumb is an awkward endeavor.
Finally, the lens is flush against the front and the microphone is directly underneath. It’s very easy for a finger to slip over either during recording. There is a small notch below the mic, presumably to warn users of impending finger creep, but it does little to protect the mic or lens. Also, an exposed lens is ripe for scratches and smudges. Toshiba did include a nice case with the S20, but some sort of cover is prefered.
As a reviewer, I’m probably being a bit nitpicky. Toshiba ultimately made an extremely light and compact pocket camcorder, which requires certain ergonomic sacrifices. Overall, they did an admirable job of cramming in all the necessary controls and knobs.
Menus and Modes
It’s apparent from the menu options that Toshiba endeavored to make the S20 something more than a Flip wannabe. The S20 has a relatively deep menu, for a pocket camcorder anyway.
On the video side, options include:
- Scene: Auto, skin, night, backlight, black and white, classic, negative
- Effect: Stabilization (digital stabilization), motion detect, slow motion, time lapse (one, three and five seconds)
- Resolution: 1080/30p, 720/30p, WVGA, VGA
- White Balance: Auto, daylight, fluorescent, tungsten
- Settings: Sound, TV (60Hz, 50Hz), language, time
For stills, menu items include:
- Resolution: (16, 5, and 3 megapixels)
- White Balance: Same as video
- Scene: Auto, skin, night, backlight
- Effect: Self timer, ISO (auto, 800, 1600)
- Setting: Same as video
I love the inclusion of time-lapse video and slow motion. I can see casual users having fun with both. Same with the scene modes. Check out my time-lapsed trip from my cubicle down Route 95.
Unfortunately, accessing the menu items is a confusing and tedious chore. Each button, including the record button, has two functions with one dedicated to navigating the menu. It’s extremely unintuitive, and even after a few days of testing, I still wasn’t able to navigate the S20 without errantly pressing the wrong button on multiple occasions.
The S20 sports a 3.0-inch LCD, which is very large for a pocket camcorder. Many entry-level and mid-range camcorders actually have smaller displays topping out at 2.7 inches. As with any LCD, it is difficult to see in direct sunlight. There are no dedicated display controls in the menu to adjust brightness or cut through the glare.
Another thing missing is touch controls. Touch would go a long way to making S20 menu navigation more manageable. The H30 has them and it’s a shame S20 doesn’t. Toshiba actually showed two similar models at the IFA expo in Berlin last month, the P20 and S30, both sporting touch screens. While they are only currently set for UK release, I think they’ll find their way Stateside soon enough.