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Amazingly, image stabilisation is only available when shooting at 720p HD resolution or lower. Presumably, this is because it is of the electronic variety and the circuitry can't cope with the data rate of 1080p. It's a rather grave omission, even considering this camcorder's low price.
With sufficient light, the P30 does a reasonable job. However, the lack of any form of image stabilisation in 1080p mode is very noticeable. The very aggressive compression further accentuates this. The top-end models from Canon and JVC are now using H.264 encoding with nearly three times the data rate used here. Compression artefacts are quite noticeable with the Toshiba, particularly ghosting in fast motion. Colour fidelity isn't too bad, but the P30 also has trouble resolving detail in areas of shadow.
Overall, whilst performance is well behind most Full HD camcorders we've tested, footage shot in decent lighting is just about adequate to keep the £150 price feeling like a bargain. However, in low light the Camileo P30 is one of the worst performers we've tested. As illumination drops the whole scene takes on a red hue, and most details are lost. Darker areas end up totally black. Indoor shooting under poor artificial light is something consumers often want to do, and the P30 is sure to disappoint in these conditions.
Similar statements apply to the quality of still images. With virtually no access to manual settings, the P30 relies on the lighting conditions. So in decent illumination the shutter speed is high enough for a reasonably sharp image. Photography in lower light is much brighter than the video, but pictures will only be clear if you hold the camcorder very steady and shoot stationary objects. Otherwise, the image will be extremely blurry due to the low shutter speed, making them effectively unusable. The flash doesn't help very much here either.
The MOV-based video files will also be less compatible for editing on a PC, as this is a Mac-oriented video format. But at least connectivity options are relatively comprehensive. The IO ports lurk behind a silver panel on the rear of the P30. Aside from the USB port for PC hookup, there's a mini-HDMI connection and a minijack combining composite video and RCA audio. Toshiba includes a mini-to-standard HDMI cable in the box, too, so you won't need to buy an adapter to watch your footage on an HDTV.
The prospect of 1080p shooting for £150 sounds too good to be true. Unfortunately, in the case of the Toshiba Camileo P30, it is a bit of a pipe dream, with low-light performance the main deal breaker. Although image quality in the best conditions is acceptable for the price, if you want a cheap camcorder to capture a few family moments, you would be better off avoiding the HD buzzword and sticking with a more dependable standard definition model. JVC's Everio GZ-MS120 or MG330 will produce much more consistent results, even if they can't boast the pixel resolution.
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