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Toshiba may not have won any prizes for the image quality offered by its camcorders just yet, but it's certainly competing well on price. The Camileo H10 provided 720p shooting for less than £150. Now Toshiba raises the value stakes yet again with the P30, which promises 1080p shooting for a similar amount.
Unlike the H10, the P30 uses a palmcorder format, and it's remarkably tiny, too. It weighs around 160g with battery and memory card, and measures just 104mm along its longest edge. These proportions may not be quite as small as the new breed of pocket Internet camcorders such as the Creative Vado HD, so it's not quite trouser-friendly. But it wouldn't ruin the cut of a jacket, and Toshiba supplies a handy pouch for protection. This is particularly useful as, bizarrely, Toshiba has continued its recent trend of not including a lens cap, so you better be careful not to scratch or get dirt on the optics.
Toshiba isn't as detailed about the internal specification of its products as some other manufacturers. The sensor is a 5-megapixel CMOS, but there's no information about its size. The high resolution allows the P30 to perform its party trick of shooting 1080p video. This is recorded with 29.97 progressive frames a second (effectively 30fps), but the native resolution is anamorphic 1,440 x 1,080, like HDV and the initial versions of AVCHD, rather than 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD. There are also QVGA, VGA, WVGA 60, and 720p HD shooting modes.
The Camileo also promises 8-megapixel still images, using interpolation. The actual resolution is 3,200 x 2,400, which isn't quite 8-megapixels. If you want to stay within the native resolution of the sensor, a 2,592 x 1,944 option is available.
The P30 does include a small amount of built-in memory, but this 96MB complement is only going to be sufficient for a couple of minutes of footage. Footage is recorded as H.264 MOV files, and the 1080p mode uses a fairly miserly 8.58Mbits/sec, so a 1GB SD card will be enough for around 16 minutes of footage. With 8GB SDHC cards costing around a tenner these days, storage for a couple of hours of footage won't break the bank.
Features are few and far between, however. There's a 5x optical zoom. A small LED video light is built in, but it's pretty weak, proving ineffective much beyond about 1m. This also doubles as the flash when in digital photo mode, and it's not much more effective here either. At least it has its own control button on the rear, making it easy to enable.
Manual settings are particularly scarce, however. Aside from a macro mode, you can alter exposure in seven steps from -1 to +1 EV, and that's it. There is no manual focusing and no control over shutter speed. Scene modes are on offer, but Toshiba has bundled digital effects in the same category. So alongside Night mode and Backlight compensation are Black and white, and Negative effects.