Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/02/24/review_camcorder_toshiba_camileo_s20/

Toshiba Camileo S20

HD video on a budget

By George Cole

Posted in Hardware, 24th February 2010 08:02 GMT

Review Toshiba’s Camileo S20 is aimed at a very demanding consumer. The type of consumer who wants a highly portable pocket camcorder with HD recording, and yet, has a budget of just £120. So, the Camileo S20 seems to offer it all – price, performance and portability. But can it really deliver so much for so little?

Toshiba Camileo S20

Light in the hand and on the wallet: Toshiba's Camileo S20

The Camileo S20 looks stylish and comes in a choice of four colours – pink, red, silver and black. It’s a super-slim model measuring 59 x 106 x 17mm and weighing around 120g with battery and card. Within its compact body is a 5Mp 1/2.5in CMOS chip, f/3.2 fixed focus lens, 4x digital zoom, video light and the ability to record Full HD (1920 x 1080/30p) video, as well as 720/30p HD, WVGA and VGA video.

It also offers still photo shooting at a standard 5Mp, with a '16Mp' high quality option, which uses interpolation. Video is shot in the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC format, and stills are in JPEG format. You also get a 3-inch flip-out LCD screen (230,400 dots resolution) and 96MB of internal memory for recording – it takes SD/SDHC cards too, inserted from a slot hidden behind a plastic cover on the top of the S20. The unit is powered by a lithium-ion battery and has an internal charger.

Round the back is another plastic cover conceals AV, HDMI and mini USB ports. In both the video and photo modes, you can select from seven scene options. The video mode also has several effects: time lapse, slow motion, digital stabilisation and motion detection. There are also four white balance settings for photo and video modes, plus two selectable ISO speeds (800 and 1600) for still photo shooting.

Considering the price, the Camileo S20 comes with a superb set of accessories. As well as the usual battery, charger, AV and USB cables, you also get an HDMI cable, mini tripod, UK and Euro plug adapters, cleaning cloth and pouch. There are also CD-ROMs containing Arcsoft software and a trial version of Magix Movie Edit Pro 15. Alas, both are for PC only. Indeed, the only major disappointment is the lack of support for platforms other than Windows.

Toshiba Camileo S20

Made with Windows users in mind

While your mileage may vary, recent versions of Apple’s iMovie video editing software do support AVCHD, although no Toshibas appear on the compatibility list. As with many camcorders, you need to be tethered to the device to import this footage – copying off an AVC file to the desktop to import to iMovie later won’t work. That said, we did use the eternally useful Handbrake to transcode S20 AVI files this way. The application can be tweaked to output more than just iPhone and Apple TV-friendly clips that can be used by other software.

Powering up the Camileo S20 is simple – you just twist open the LCD screen and the camcorder turns on. It takes around six seconds from switch on to recording. Fold away the LCD screen, and the camcorder switches off. There’s also a power button on the left of the camcorder body, which is concealed when the LCD screen is folded away, so you can never inadvertently switch on the Camileo S20 when it’s in a pocket or bag.

Toshiba Camileo S20

Most of the buttons have dual functionality

There are quite a few little buttons scattered around this camcorder, many with dual functionality. There’s one that doubles up for either YouTube uploading or to engage the pre-record function. For the latter, press this in during shooting mode and the Camileo S20 maintains a record buffer of three seconds before you actually commence capturing video with the record button.

There are switches to change from photo and video modes, as well as between macro and landscape modes when photo shooting. At the back, there’s the record button, a wide/tele rocker with an OK button in the centre, plus three more small buttons. Close inspection reveals that these three buttons also double up their functions, for either menu navigation or resolution, video light and playback controls.

While all this seems encouraging, the Camileo S20’s menu system is a dog’s dinner. To access it, you press the OK button on the zoom rocker and are presented with a rotating menu composed of five icons, which are scrolled through using the zoom rocker. The icons for the video mode represent resolution, white balance, scene modes, effects and set-up settings.

So let’s say, you want to switch on the motion detection system. You might think this would involve scrolling through the menus, finding the effects menu and then pressing the OK button. Wrong; you press the right button. On selecting the effects menu, you then use the zoom rocker to scroll down to “Motion Detection,” and press the right button to enter a submenu, where you use the zoom rocker to toggle between the on and off settings and then press the OK button to confirm.

Toshiba Camileo S20

No optical zoom, just digital, which is best left alone

If you want to access another menu, you press the left button twice and then use the zoom rocker to scroll through them again. To exit the menu system, you press the playback button. And there’s more. Once you power-off the Camileo S20, all your custom settings are lost, except for resolution. If you are shooting and use the zoom function, it’s very easy (and very frustrating) to press the OK button and inadvertently activate the menu system.

Sample Video

Toshiba Camileo S20

Time lapse video at 1 frame every 3 seconds
Click for a scaled movie clip

Toshiba Camileo S20

720p video recording
Click for a scaled movie clip

Toshiba Camileo S20

1080p video recording
Click for a scaled movie clip

Toshiba Camileo S20

1080p video recording
Click for a scaled movie clip

Toshiba Camileo S20

1080p night video recording
Click for a scaled movie clip

Navigation aside, the Camileo S20 is pretty good to handle. The camcorder uses a pistol grip design and so most of the camcorder body is supported by your hand. You can operate this camcorder with either hand, although using it left-handed is less comfortable, as the LCD screen gets in the way a bit. The screen is clear and bright, and rotates through 270 degrees, which is handy for shooting at various angles (including self portraits). Also, the top loading SD card slot makes it quick and easy to access – ideal if the S20 is on a tripod.

Sample Shots

Toshiba Camileo S20

Still from 720p video
Click for a full-resolution image

Toshiba Camileo S20

1080p still from video
Click for a full-resolution image

Toshiba Camileo S20

No digital zoom
Click for a full-resolution crop

Toshiba Camileo S20

4x digital zoom
Click for a full-resolution crop

Toshiba Camileo S20

Click for a full-resolution crop

Toshiba Camileo S20

Click for a full-resolution crop

Toshiba Camileo S20

Click for a full-resolution crop

Toshiba Camileo S20

Click for a full-resolution crop

Toshiba Camileo S20

Click for a full-resolution crop

Toshiba Camileo S20

Click for a full-resolution crop

We were fairly impressed with the Camileo S20’s video recordings in both 1080p and 720p modes. Motion was smooth, colours were vivid and, in good light, noise levels were low. Unsurprisingly, night shots did suffer from noise, and the built-in video light was pretty ineffective - which isn’t surprising, when you consider that it only offers 11 lux illumination when the Camileo S20 is 50cm away from a subject, and just 1.2 lux at 1.5m distance. Resolution was not as sharp as we’ve seen on a few other models, but lest we forget the price of this camcorder.

Toshiba Camileo S20

Great value, but menu navigation can be a bit of a fiddle

With the time lapse feature you can select an interval of one frame every one, three or five seconds and here, the mini tripod came in very handy. It’s great fun to use and even a 24-hour time lapse recording in WVGA mode will only notch up a 114MB file, so it doesn’t use that much memory card space. Motion detection too, worked well, although be warned, just moving the Camileo S20 is enough to activate it. Audio quality was pretty decent, although wind noise is noticeable.

As a still camera, the Camileo S20 is adequate. There was little difference between standard and ‘high quality’ modes but in good light it can deliver reasonable results. Interior shots were a little soft and noise was noticeable just avoid the high ISO settings, which simply boost noise levels without helping much in low light. Likewise, the 4x digital zoom is best ignored, as this simply reduces picture quality.

Verdict

When you consider what you get for your dosh, the Camileo S20 offers very good value for money. It’s compact, includes HD video, has loads of useful accessories and offers a pretty good performance. Non-Windows users would be wise to check thoroughly its compatibility, as the workarounds maybe too much bother. Yet those among the MS faithful looking for a budget HD pocket camcorder should certainly give this model some thought. ®

More Camcorder Reviews...


Sony
HDR-TG7VE

Toshiba
Camileo P30

Sanyo Xacti
VPC-HD2000

Pure Flip
Mino HD