Despite its muscle in other parts of the audiovisual market, Toshiba is surprisingly not a big name in camcorders. But back in 2006 it launched the Gigashot range, taking advantage of new video formats which record to hard disk, a key technological area for Toshiba. Although the reception of the first few models was a little muted, Toshiba has continued to develop its Gigashots, and the latest in the line targets the premium high definition market - which is increasingly where all the action is. With a 100GB hard disk, the Gigashot A100FE hopes to compete alongside Sony, Panasonic and Canon. But does it have what it takes?
With its built-in hard disk, the Toshiba isn't as light as some of the camcorders we have seen recently, such as Sony's HDR-CX6EK or Panasonic's HDC-SD9. Weighing in at around half a kilo, and measuring nearly 14cm in length, you will definitely want a camcorder bag to transport it. As with Canon's and Sony's HD camcorders, the Gigashot uses a CMOS sensor. It's a similarly sized sensor, too, offering a healthy 1/3in diagonal and 2.4-megapixels. The camera's Fujinon lens offers a reasonable 10x optical zoom, and you can add x20 and x80 digital zoom on top, if you like your images blocky.
Like virtually every new high definition camcorder these days, the Gigashot uses MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 compression. In this case it isn't the AVCHD standard, but something called HDMV instead. This is part of the Blu-ray specification. There are three quality modes available - XQ, HQ and SP. The top XQ mode boasts 18Mbits/sec - an even higher data rate than Panasonic's HDC-SD9 and HS9, although the frames are interlaced rather than progressively scanned. HQ operates at 12Mbits/sec and SP at 9Mbits/sec.
Even in the top quality mode, the capacious 100GB hard disk is enough for 12 hours of footage - and twice that in SP. The XQ mode records at 1,920 x 1,080, whilst the lower two use 1,440 x 1,080, but they all run at 30 frames/sec, rather than the European 25 frames/sec. This could pose compatibility problems with some European audiovisual equipment. Still images only have two options - wide and normal. These correspond to resolutions of 1,920 x 1,080 and 1,440 x 1,080 respectively.