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I had been talking to my family last summer about the need to replace my old and bulky Sanyo Video Camera.
Obviously someone took note and on Christmas morning I was presented with the Toshiba Camileo H30 Camcorder along with a 8GB card. I was pleasantly surprised with the gift and was soon opening the packaging to examine the contents, which were plentiful. Apart from the Camcorder there was the power adapter, both for the UK and for Europe, a lens cover, a cloth pouch, a battery, an USB cable for connection from the Camcorder to a computer, a set of Audio/Video leads for connection to the TV and best of all a HDMI cable to display your HD recorded content on to a HD Ready TV.
There was also the expected multi-lingual manual as well as the warranty booklet. If like me, you prefer just to get stuck into the hardware, without consulting the manual, then be prepared for the scratching of your head, trying to locate the battery cover. When finally found, the battery can only go in one way. Once in, I pressed the power on switch and the unit burst into life. As is usual, the first thing to be done, is to set the time and date but after that, off I went. I pressed the "record" button and started recording but after 30 seconds it stopped. No more space on internal memory. Luckily, I had the 8GB card which had to be slid into a port behind the battery.
I switched the Camcorder back on and began to examine the different menus. The first thing that I noticed was that the settings menu could be entered by using either the buttons and dials or by the touch screen display. What wasn't immediately obvious was that although I could move through the settings and options on the touchscreen display, I couldn't finalize the setting by this method and had to revert to the buttons.
I don't quite see the point of the touchscreen facility if all you can do is scroll through the menus
The Camcorder has the ability to record video in full HD at a top setting of 1920 x 1080p or it can be used as a "Digital still camera", with a maximum setting of 10 megapixels. The recorded media at both these settings is simply superb with the images crisp and clear but there is a "but"......
As long as the Camcorder is used in natural daylight, then the user will be totally impressed but use the unit indoors, the quality is very much reduced. The recorded video becomes very dark and grainy and even with lights on, the quality is not enhanced to any great degree. The still photos suffer from the same problem but not to the same extent, as there is a built in flash.
The Camileo H30 was purchased from Tesco after a bit of rebate and including the supported SDHC card it cost around £139. The biggest incentive for me when choosing this camcorder in this price range was the large 3 inch (7.6cm) touch screen panel. Secondly it was the 5x optical zoom which most other cameras in this price range did not provide. Optical zoom is much better than digital zoom as it causes no pixellation and therefore retains sharpness.
The touch panel is used to navigate through all the menus, photos and videos. It is quite sensitive but can be a bit sluggish at times. This is not a major hindrance as it performs adequately.
Browsing through numerous and large video clips can be noticably slow but navigating through pictures is swift. There are two modes, digicam and camcorder and they are mutally exclusive. Switching to either mode is simple by pressing the lit button on the rear of the camcorder (just above the dial). An orange lit camera icon indicates the camcorder is in photo mode and a blue lit camcorder icon designates video mode.
Although the camcorder is designed for video, it does remarkably well as a digicam. The 10 megapixel still camera function is capable of producing good quality pictures. It does struggle at times in low light conditions but in daylight or properly lit areas it will produce beautiful pictures time and again.
The H30 supports Full HD at 1080p (a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels) and also 720p. Video taking is where the camcorder shines. It is really easy to shoot and there is no chance of accidentally leaving it on: the design is such that the camera turns on when the LCD panel is pulled open and switches off when it is closed. This also means that if you are recording you can simply close the LCD panel and it will stop recording.
It isn't packed with camcorder functions however. Nonetheless Toshiba has added a Pre Rec function which also acts as the web upload button (situated under the LCD panel) allowing direct uploads to Youtube.
There is also a jog dial that has three basic functions which can be activated by lightly pressing it. It can also be used to navigate between photos and videos (backwards and forwards). The top left button on the dial adds digital brightness (it doesn't actually illuminate in real time, rather as a post processing effect) and the top right toggles the onscreen data. The button at the very bottom deletes video or photo clips.
There are as you would expect some effects such as black and white, negative, classic and sepia tone. Only one of these may be in use at any one time. The white levels cannot be set manually but there are presets as well as automatic white level balancing.
One of the major annoyance is the fact that image stabilisation cannot be employed for Full HD videos. It is quite a nusiance that image stabilisation only works at 720p - although its not so bad if you have steady hands unlike me.
Supported standards include RCA audio input, composite analogue output, mini HDMI and USB slots. These pretty much cover the major ways of transfering/backing up clips. Transferring the contents of a 4GB SDHC card using the supplied USB data cable took approximately 9 minutes. Not too bad since its USB2.
I was really impressed with the accessories that came with the camcorder. There was a lens cover, carry strap, lens cleaner, carry case (pouch), 2pin plug charger converter, remote control, composite cable, USB cable, charger, software and HDMI cable. These individually would cost quite a lot but all of these are included!
The software included allows you to upload directly to Youtube from the camcorder without needing to transfer to a computer.
PROS: Large touchscreen LCD panel. Good camera for both photo and video purposes. Full HD support. Easy to use. Many useful accessory items.
CONS: Lack of image stabilisation at Full HD. Sluggish clip browsing.
Conclusion: Well if you are a blogger, a video hobbiest or a person that wants a bit of both imaging worlds then this camcorder is perfect for you. It might not be feature rich but it carries out both photo and video capturing roles beautifully. Toshiba also includes purposeful accessories which would ordinarily as individual items cost half as much as the camera does.