The range of pocket camcorders available seems to be growing by the day and there are now plenty of options on offer. Toshiba recently expanded its range with the introduction of the Camileo S30 and P20 which both sport slimline, pocket-friendly designs. We took a closer look at the S30 to see how it would compares with its rivals.
The full HD Camileo S30 is available in a range of fancy colours including blue, red, silver, and "raspberry". Our review model was the black version which is lovely and shiny, and as such, was covered in fingerprints minutes after emerging from the box although Toshiba has thoughtfully included a cleaning cloth. Measuring just 59 x 106 x 19mm, the S30 is very compact indeed and is more or less the same size as a smartphone when the screen is folded away. Tipping the scales at just 150g, it's also very lightweight which is great news if you actually intend to carry it round in your pocket.
The pistol grip design means that the screen folds out and can be swivelled through 180 degrees to find the best viewing position possible, depending on how and what you're shooting. For example, tilting the screen downwards is very useful for filming over the tops of people's heads when you're in a crowd. The screen also tilts downwards to the side slightly, which should mean that it will move, rather than snap off if it's subjected to any downward pressure. Flipping the screen out automatically turns on the camcorder so that it's ready for use within about 2 seconds. To turn it off you can either just fold the screen back into its place or use the off button located on the inside of the grip. If the S30 is left on for more than 3 minutes then it will turn itself off automatically to conserve valuable battery power.
You'll find the large record button positioned intuitively at the top of the S30's back panel so that it's well placed for your thumb and you'll find a vertical slider switch just below it for zooming in and out. This control is also used to adjust the volume on video playback. Below that, there's a small pause button, along with the button for the light which you press twice to turn on and once to turn it off. The light itself is located under the lens on the front of the device and can be used to for recording video in dimly lit conditions or as a camera flash when in stills mode. Underneath the pause and light buttons, there's a panel that flips out to reveal a small range of connections comprising an HDMI, a TV out and a Mini-USB for charging or hooking up to a computer.
On the underside of the S30 you'll find a standard tripod connection and unlike most other pocket camcorders, you actually get a tripod on the box. This thoughtful add-on has three bendy legs so that you can adjust it to find the right shooting position and it's also very small and light so you could slip it into a pocket or bag without taking up too much room.
The top of the device is home to the built-in microphone along with a macro switch for close-up shots and an SD card slot for topping up the on-board 128MB Flash memory. The memory slot is compatible with SD, SDHC and SDXC cards up to 64GB. Flipping the screen out reveals a few more hard buttons - a power switch, a button for switching between camera and camcorder mode and beneath that is the internet button. This can be used to directly upload a video or photo to the web when the S30 is connected to a computer, without having to manually transfer the file across, thanks to the included ArcSoft software (supplied on a disc). We actually found it easier to uninstall the software and just drag and drop the files onto our computer in the usual way, as is often the case with these automated processes.
Many of the functions carried out by the "hard" buttons can also be accessed using the touchscreen. If you're used to using a fancy capacitive touchscreen on your smartphone, then you might be slightly disappointed to know that the S30's screen is of the resistive variety. While it works ok most of the time, it can be slightly temperamental to use and needs a fair amount of pressure. The fact that the touchscreen also doubles up as your viewfinder means that you'll probably have to clean off the fingerprints every once in a while. The icon-based menu system is relatively straightforward although it takes a few goes to get used to it, but you should be up and running after about 5 minutes of tinkering. It is, however, slightly annoying that you have to work through several layers to get to most of the settings and you have to tap on an icon once to highlight it and then again to select it - so that choosing any setting takes double the time that it should.
The S30 is capable of capturing video (MPEG4/H.264) at a 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution, at 30 frames per second with its 8-megapixel CMOS sensor. If you're not fussed about recording in full HD then you can also choose from three other recording modes - HD60 (1280 x 720p at 60fps), HD30 (1280 x 720p at 30fps) or VGA (640 x 480 at 30fps). As well as selecting the recording resolution, you can turn on the motion stabilisation mode to reduce image blur created by shaky hands. Along with a fixed focus lens (F=2.5), the S30 sports a 16x digital zoom.
There are a few neat recording options available on the S30, including a slow motion setting and a motion detection mode that will start recording when movement is detected. There's also a pre-record button that records 1 second more before you actually hit the record button to ensure that you don't miss anything. There's an option for time lapse recording which can be set at a recording rate of one frame per second, one frame every 3 seconds, or one every 5 seconds.
We found the zoom to be a little clunky, although a smooth digital zoom on a pocket camcorder is something of a rariety so we can't complain too much. Despite the 1080p recording, we found the footage to be slightly soft, where we would have expected a fair bit more clarity. In this respect, the Tosh doesn't quite measure up to rivals such as the Flip Video UltraHD. The S30 performs better than most when light is limited, but quality is still an issue. On the plus side, it was nice to have optional extras like time lapse and slow-mo recording. The sound wasn't brilliant - there was a contant rustle in the background, but this isn't at all unusual on a pocket camcorder.
To capture still images (JPEG) you'll need to switch to camera mode, either using the button on the inside of the grip or the relevant icon on the touchscreen. For the best quality possible, the high resolution mode offers 16MP images (4608 x 3456), or you can opt for standard 8MP snaps (3264 x 2448), or low resolution 3MP pictures (2048 x 1536). The S30 automatically sets the appropriate ISO setting or alternatively you can choose ISO 800 or 1600 with the latter being best for the darkest surroundings. Other features include a self timer and a choice of scene settings including auto mode, Skin mode for making skin tones look more natural, night mode and backlight for when there's a bright light behind the subject. You can also adjust the white balance and shoot in black and white, sepia or negative.
We actually preferred the results produced by the stills mode, rather than the video mode although we still would have liked a little more clarity on the images, as the edges of objects look very slightly fuzzy. We also found that the macro mode made minimal difference to close-up shots.
The S30's 128MB of built-in memory will get used up very quickly, so realistically you'll need to budget for a decent-sized memory card as well. According to Toshiba, a 1GB card will give you 195 photos (16MP), 10 minutes of 1080p footage or 40 minutes on the lowest resolution.
The Toshiba Camileo S30 is a great-looking piece of kit and we found it really comfortable to hold and easy to use. The in-depth menus are slightly frustrating but as you'll probably be using the same setting for most of time, this isn't a deal breaker. What we were disappointed by was the image quality - both on video and photos. Having said that, if you're just after some quick vids to bung on Facebook or YouTube then the S30 should do just fine. However, if you're planning to record an important event like a wedding or your child's first steps then you might be let down by the quality of the video.
At £139.99, the S30 is a bit pricey compared to some of its rivals although we found it online for as little as £120. Keep in mind that you'll need to buy an SD card too. The S30 does, however, have the benefit of a decent-sized fold-out display.
If you want a pocket camcorder that's simple to use and offers good quality video then the Flip Video UltraHD is a better choice, while if you're after something with a few more features then something like the Sony Bloggie Touch might be a better bet.