Toshiba may not be known for its prowess in the pocket camcorder market, but that doesn't mean it should be immediately counted out. Its latest pocket camcorder offering, the Camileo S30, hops on the touch-control bandwagon and tries to compete with the best with a user-friendly design. So can the Camileo S30 keep up with touch-based camcorder big shots like Sony Bloggie Touch? Read on and find out.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The Camileo is simplistic and basic in its design, but that doesn't mean that it's cheap or of poor quality. It's made of glossy plastic, but still has a respectable weight and feel about it, so it doesn't feel like it's going to break at any given moment. At 2.36" x 4.33" x 0.75", it can easily fit in your pocket or even a clutch, yet it still manages to sport a roomy flip-out, 3-inch LCD touchscreen.
A pop-open panel on the back spine of the camera houses its USB, TV, and HDMI ports. The most important controls of the Camileo are also featured on the spine of the device, including the record button, the zoom controls, the pause button, and the flash button.
The camera's three other buttons (power, photo/video toggle, and Internet Uploader, which I will explain later) are located on the inside of the device, underneath where the LCD screen folds in, and are easily accessible when the screen is open.
Other features include a light on the front of the camera, which can be used either as a flash or sustained lighting for video, and an SD slot on the top for memory cards up to 64GB.
In something of a design flaw, the lens of the camera isn't recessed. It runs flush with the front of the camera frame, leaving it completely exposed and vulnerable to fingerprints, the elements, and scratches. Located directly above the lens on the top of the camera is the microphone, while the speaker runs along the side of the camera, above where the LCD screen folds out.
Ergonomics and Controls
When it comes to usage right out of the box, it doesn't get much easier than the Camileo. When you flip out the screen, the camera automatically turns on (though, as mentioned, there is also a manual power switch, should you want to have the screen open with the screen off for whatever reason) and it's ready to go. At that point, one push of the sizeable, impossible-to-miss button on the spine of the camera and you're recording your first video.
The only basic function that I would say goes against common sense is accessing the on-screen menu for playback, settings, and switching between photo and video recording. To bring up the menu of options, you just tap anywhere on the touchscreen. This may seem like a good, simplistic choice on Toshiba's part, but when there is literally nothing on the screen -- there is no menu button, icon, or any sort of indicator -- your first thought isn't to just poke it. Call me stupid, but it took me three or four minutes before I figured it out.
Menu navigation can get a little frustrating, as the different categories like "effects" or "setup" are not labeled as such. Rather, you have to click (touch) an icon for the screen to display what submenu it leads to, and then click it again to actually access it. Aside from the fact that the required double-tapping is a bit of a nuisance, it can take a while before you memorize what each of the six icons on the main menu stand for. I still have to poke a couple of times before I find "setup" because I never remember which one it is.
My other issue with the on-screen menus is that you can't jump from one category to another. Let's say I go into "effects" and then "scene," and then when I'm done making my adjustments there I want to hop over to video settings. I have to use the "back" button (which requires two taps each time) on the screen to back out twice to the main menu and get to the video settings; I can't just go straight there. It just wasn't the smartest design, that's all. I recognize that these issues with the menus are minor gripes, but when everything else on the camera can be done so quickly and easily, these sorts of things stand out as noticeable quirks.
Menus and Modes
Once you tap the screen, toolbars appear on the top 'on' bottom of the display, offering shortcuts to quick settings like still/video, light/flash, playback/record, stabilization, delete, and the main menu. Once you enter the main menu, the options are as follows:
-Full HD (1080p/30fps)
-HD 60 (720p/60fps)
-HD 30 (720p/30fps)
-Off/1 second/3 second/5 second
-16 MP/8 MP/ 3 MP
-2 seconds/5 seconds/10 seconds/Off
Auto/Black and White/Classic/Negative
The Camileo's 3-inch display has a relatively mediocre resolution and is a resistive touchscreen. Toshiba's decision to go with a resistive touchscreen may have helped keep the price down, but you'll quickly realize that you get what you pay for when you have to batter the screen with the tip of your finger multiple times just to get things to register.
Also, the generous amount of real estate on the screen is somewhat hampered when you pull up the on-screen menu and options. Since the menu that pops up involves a bar on both the top and bottom of the screen, you tend to lose a little bit of visibility. It's not a lot, but it's definitely enough that you'll want to tap the screen again to make the menu bars go away before you continue to shoot.
Beyond that, there isn't much more to the display of the Camileo, which, while it may not be the sharpest thing I've ever seen, at least it truly displays what you're shooting; what you see on the screen while recording is exactly what you get, with nothing being truncated in the final product.
As I've continually stressed, the Camileo is incredibly easy to use and ready to shoot at the single press of the record button. Upon first usage, the default resolution for video is 1920 x 1080p for video and eight megapixels for stills. Switching between the two modes can be done by tapping the appropriate icon after accessing the on-screen menu.
The Camileo does sport a 16x digital zoom, but things tend to get a little grainy and blurry pretty quickly when you use it. It's a feature that should probably be used sparingly.
I wouldn't recommend using the Camileo without an SD card as it only sports 128MB of internal storage, which won't last long when you're shooting 1080p video. Meanwhile, battery life ranges from about two to three hours, depending on how much playback you do in addition to your video and photo shooting.
As a pocket camcorder, the Camileo handles most things like the white balance or exposure levels automatically, though there are presets available for the white balance and ISO. For white balance, there is daylight, fluorescent, and tungsten; and for the ISO, there is 800 and 1600 in addition to the auto setting.
The white balance, while also generally solid, can be tricked under right conditions. If bright colors enter the picture, oftentimes the white balance will adjust in such a way that the hues start to change and everything besides the bright colors starts to get a dull, yellowish tinge.
Whites can also get a little over exposed at times, like when I was shooting outside and there was a lot of snow around. When it was really being tested and there was a lot of white in the shot (with the sun reflecting off it, no less), the snow looked pretty washed out.
Since it has a fixed focus lens, images can get blurry if they aren't shot at the right distance, though the camera does have a toggle switch for close-up or far out shots, which is a very nice touch. Though each of these settings still have confines within which the image will stay in focus, it's still a convenient feature that Toshiba didn't have an obligation to include; many pocket camcorders (such as the Flip Video) have only a single setting for their fixed-focus lenses and can only be used at a certain distance to obtain a clear picture.
The Camileo also has time lapse, which is always fun. We used it at the 3-second time lapse setting for a sample video:
Video and Stills Quality
The quality of video on the Camileo is pretty standard for a pocket camcorder, which means that the level of detail is hit-or-miss at times. For instance, there is a lack of detail in our sample footage of the skunk, and the texture of the fur is not apparent, making it resemble a black blob. But for everyday shooting at a distance, the quality is perfectly acceptable.
At its highest resolution of true 1080p HD, the footage was a bit choppy at times, as it shoots at 30 fps. But colors looked crisp and there was only a touch of saturation in our footage that we shot outside. The Camileo also handles varying levels of light very well; though the shift is still noticeable, exposure levels hastily adjust when switching quickly from low-light to high-light shots.
This is what videos looked like under steady light:
And this is what they looked like under low light:
As for the still photos, the camera's standard resolution of eight megapixels -- with the option of knocking up to 16 megapixels, if you feel the need -- is more than sufficient. I don't think that anybody will be buying this product with the intent of using it primarily as a still-shot camera, but if you find yourself in the type of situation in which you have an unexpected Bigfoot spotting and the Camileo is the only thing you have on you, it can get the job done.
Operation and Extras
The camera comes with a number of accessories, including an instruction manual, a CD with the Camileo's ArcSoft software, a soft carrying case, a microfiber cleaning cloth for the touchscreen and TV, USB, charging, and HDMI cables... though it is worth mentioning that there is a health warning packaged with the camera that says handling the cords will expose you to lead, which is a little alarming. Nevertheless, the inclusion of an HDMI cable is a big plus on top of an already expansive suite of included accessories, and the packaged software isn't as throwaway as you might think.
Typically, the software bundled with pocket camcorders is pretty bare-bones, serving as little more than a platform through which you can import your media. Though the ArcSoft MediaImpression software isn't the most polished thing in the world, there's more to it than I expected.
The MediaImpression software has your basic set of options, such as the ability to import, archive, and print your media -- all of which is very user-friendly and can be easily done through a few clicks -- but it also has features like webcam video importing, a slideshow maker and a simplistic movie editor. Again, this isn't professional level stuff, but being able to create your own movie by splicing together your imported clips and slapping on some titles and themes is a fun addition, one that puts the software on par with something like Windows Movie Maker.
There's also the fact that the MediaImpression software allows you to capitalize on the Camileo's handy Internet Uploader feature. The Internet Uploader button on the camera basically lets you tag photos or videos you want to put online when you're sifting through them in Playback mode. Once you connect the camera to your computer, the tagged photos and videos are automatically uploaded to the internet outlet of your choosing (YouTube, Facebook, Picasa, or TwitVid).
As with most features on the camera, the feature is designed to be as simple as possible; all it takes is literally one press of the button while in Playback mode and your selected piece of media will automatically appear online the next time you jack in the Camileo. It's a simple plus to the camera that is made possible by the software, and it's one that saves users time and a few extra steps.
If you don't want to mess around with the included software though, you don't have to. The Camileo, once plugged in via USB, allows users to just drag and drop their media straight from the SD card should they wish; there are no compatibility issues or need for conversion either, since the camera shoots video files in .mp4 format. The only minor quirk with importing through drag and drop is that you may be a little confused as to which "removable disk" is your SD card when you first plug in the Camileo, as three different removable disk sources show up in Explorer: one for the SD card, one for the onboard storage, and one that seems to be some small amount of partitioned storage on the camera that doesn't appear to store anything of use. I don't even know why it shows up.
Sometimes, it's better to capitalize on the ease of drag-and-drop to view your media on a computer when possible, since navigating your archive of media in playback mode is a little cumbersome. For the Camileo S30, Toshiba has decided to forego the use of swipe gestures in playback mode to sift through your pictures and video, probably because they were sluggish and unresponsive on the last touch-based Camileo model (the X-100). But the new system of repeatedly pressing a forward and backward button to navigate through your entire library isn't much better, especially since there is no way to look at a thumbnail list of all your content at once.
The wonky menu system is once again exposed here, too. If you're in playback mode and decide to go to the main menu, once you exit out, you're automatically taken back to record mode instead of playback. At a certain point, it's a lot less frustrating to just move the pictures and video off of the card and go through them on your computer.
With the Toshiba Camileo, you get what you pay for and then a little bit more. At a very affordable price point ($140 with a 4GB SD card at the time of launch), the Camileo still records good quality video in full 1920 x 1080p HD and has a compact, sleek design, to boot.
Like other pocket camcorders, it may sport a fixed focus lens, but at least it gives you a little wiggle room with the switch for close-up or landscape shots, which gives it a leg up on some of the competition. You may not be shooting your next full-length feature film with this camera, but for a pocket camcorder, it does what it's supposed to do and does it very well with a few extras along the way.
It may have some minor issues that take some getting used to -- like the irksome menu system, exposed lens, and low-sensitivity touchscreen -- but ultimately, it's hard to feel too dissatisfied with these shortcomings when you only paid chump change for an otherwise solid product.