Camera chameleon

Toshiba's new PDR-T10 digital camera is slick and purposefully uncomplicated – and when you get bored with its appearance, you can change that too
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Perhaps you thought that the thing that made mobile phones catch on was the pay-as-you-go pricing plans, and the dramatic improvement that having more competitors able to offer digital services brought. You'd be right; but don't overlook how, within those rapidly-expanding markets, a remarkable amount of share was won by phones with exchangeable faceplates.

Perhaps you thought that the thing that made mobile phones catch on was the pay-as-you-go pricing plans, and the dramatic improvement that having more competitors able to offer digital services brought. You'd be right; but don't overlook how, within those rapidly-expanding markets, a remarkable amount of share was won by phones with exchangeable faceplates.

One might think they would have been an afterthought. Not at all. As Nokia demonstrated, being able to personalise your phone with a faceplate that only a million other people had was a big driver in uptake when there were so many phones offering an indistinguishable feature-set of address book, ringtones and games. Years after the mobile-phone explosion, faceplates still sell steadily because they're like clothes, an expression of how you're feeling at the time and what looks trendy right now; plus they're a lot cheaper than a new phone.

If you're wondering why I'm going on about this, it's because the Toshiba PDR-T10 has just that – a changeable faceplate. It may not seem a giant leap for mankind, but where consumer goods are concerned, small steps can make a big difference.

Allied to this initially attractive frontage is a wonderfully slimmed-down set of user controls. If we're honest, digital cameras are used more like point-and-click throwaway film cameras than professional systems where one considers f-stops, shutter speeds and focal lengths. And this camera acknowledges this, stripping what it does down so far that it takes some involvement to find the more powerful features.

With a digital camera, the only variables that you tend to care about having any control of is whether or not you use flash, and how many pixels the picture will contain. And, of course, which faceplate it's wearing this evening. (So far there are eight; "Collect them all!" urges Toshiba, with a slight air of desperate huckstery.)

With just two physical buttons – power and shutter – the PDR-T10 rates high on slickness. The power-up process is very rapid, a couple of seconds, which compares very favourably with many other systems. What I liked about this camera was that it never pretended to be anything other than a very efficient way of capturing a moment. But isn't that what photography is about?

The subtlety comes with the other two buttons, which I didn't discover for some time. That's because they're touch buttons located on the LCD at the back where you view your picture. Poking them experimentally one day I discovered that this was where you changed the picture resolution, set the date and time, the light sensitivity (equivalent to the "speed" of a film; it can manage between 100 and 400 ASA), f-stop equivalent (from F3.1 to F8, if you're counting), white balance, self-timer and flash system. The maximum resolution is 1600 by 1200 pixels, enough for a high-quality 10x8 picture that would be hard to distinguish from a studio print. But you won't get many of those onto the standard 8Mb SD flash card; your shopping list should include at least a 128Mb card (which will up your bill by around £100) so that you can store more photos if you take it on holiday.

The touch buttons are especially clever, because it means that the chance of pressing a button by accident with your nose or face if you're looking through the viewfinder is virtually zero – unlike some other cameras. And I suspect they've got a better chance of surviving the rigours of itinerant life than some of their more fiddly siblings.

Getting the pictures into your computer equally painless; on PCs and Macs, it's the normal dance of driver installation and USB plugs. No worries there.

So it's got style, it's got interchangeable faceplates, and it's got an attractive price tag: £175. It could be the breakthrough that digital cameras need to take over from single-use cameras – which still, lest we forget, dominate the entire camera market in total sales volume.

Comments