Bill Childers' Toshiba PDR-2 Digital Camera

A review of the Toshiba PDR-2 Digital Camera
by Bill Childers

On the strength of David's Kodak DC20 review, I went and purchased one for use with my 200LX. Specifically, my wife and I were going to be going to Europe, and I didn't want to drag around my big Sony Mavica digital camera. I also wanted to be able to post web page journals while on the road, and the DC20 worked fine for this task. (See Bill and Kelly's UK Trip Page for the actual site.) However, the DC20's limitations sure showed up during the trip; the slow serial downloads, the ability to only store eight pictures, and the relatively low resolution made me pine for a camera with better techinical specs.

Toshiba finally came out with the camera I was looking for; the PDR-2. It's approximately the same size as the DC20, but it's got quite a bit of aluminum in it's case, so it feels more rugged. It's also heavier, though. But it's size is just about the same, it's actually thinner in places. The PDR-2 doesn't use a serial cable to communicate; the back of the camera unfolds and it plugs into a PCMCIA slot. Unlike the Nikon Coolpix 100, this camera works with the LX just fine, the LX sees it as an A: drive. The PDR-2 saves images directly to .jpg format, so they can be viewed by LXPIC, emailed, or put into web pages.

Another neat thing about the PDR-2 is that it uses SmartMedia as it's memory storage. For those who haven't seen SmartMedia, it's a matchbook sized flash card, that's about the same thickness as a creditcard. The "feel" of the plastic case of a SmartMedia card even feels like a creditcard. The PDR-2 can store 24 high quality images on a 2MB card, and the camera comes with two 2MB cards. If you bump the jpg compression up, the camera can store 48 images on each card. That's the kind of storage I was looking for; something more like a film camera, with replaceable film cartridges.

The PDR-2 also gets excellent battery life... I haven't run my battery dead yet. It uses a fairly standard photographic lithium battery, the CR123. It's resolution is fixed at 640x480, which is marginally greater than the DC20.

The PDR-2 requires a bit of coaxing to get the LX to turn on, the PDR-2's current requirements must be at the edge of the LX's tolerance. I flick the power switch on the camera at the same time I turn on the LX, that allows the machine to turn on (I suspect the camera powers the PCMCIA adapter momentarily from its built-in battery.)

My PDR-2 also came bundled with a parallel port PCMCIA/CompactFlash reader. I needed one of these anyway, and this was my justification for buying the camera.The PDR-2 isn't perfect, though. It's lowlight abilities are not good, and it does not have a flash. It also has a fairly low equivilant shutter speed, because it uses a CMOS sensor instead of a CCD.

Bottom line: The PDR-2 works well as a 200LX companion. Its small size, large picture capacity, and quick PCMCIA transfer all lend themselves to taking pictures on the run.

Copyright 1999, David Sargeant.
Last Updated 1-24-1999