Toshiba's Camileo S20 is a high definition camcorder that records 1920 x 1080p video in the H.264 format. It features an ultra-slim design, 4x digital zoom lens, digital image stabilization, a 3-inch LCD and retails for $179. Official specs can be found here. Video recorded with the S20 can be found here.
Toshiba Camileo S20 At a Glance
The Good: Light weight, simple to use, good feature set for the price.
The Bad: Confusing controls, limited optics.
The S20 records 1920 x 1080p video via a 5-megapixel CMOS sensor. You also have the option to record 720p video as well as WVGA and VGA-quality movies.
At 1080p, the S20 delivers decent video quality for a pocket camcorder and it's certainly one of the least expensive 1080p HD models on the market at $179. While you'll notice some washing out of the colors in bright sun, the video wasn't as over-exposed as it was on Toshiba's flagship model, the X100. In low light, you'll grapple with some pixalation, which is pretty common among lower-cost camcorders, but Toshiba threw in an LED video light to offer some modest illumination to improve things. Unfortunately, the light is placed in such a way that your finger will almost certainly be covering it during the course of normal use. You'll have to self-consciously keep your finger from obstructing the light.
On the still photo side, the S20 can snap 3-, 5-, or 16-megapixel photos. You're safe sticking with the 5-megapixel shots, as that's the true resolution of the S20's image sensor (the 16-megapixel resolution sounds impressive, but it's achieved via a software trick called interpolation). You shouldn't expect much from a pocket camcorder in the photo department, but the S20's still camera was a pleasant surprise. You'll need a fair degree of lighting in the room and a still subject (and steady hand) to avoid image blur, but it's nevertheless a serviceable camera in a pinch.
You can access six scene modes when shooting stills as well as white balance, ISO and a self-timer, giving the camera some added functionality.
Take Anywhere Design
The most striking (in a good way) element of the S20's design is how thin it is: it's a scant 2/3-inch thick. It's lightweight too, at 3.5 ounces, making it one of the most portable HD camcorders on the market.
Given it's size, the S20 has only a few external controls. Running along the side of the camcorder is a record/shutter button, a zoom lever, and three buttons for image playback, activating the LED and setting the video resolution. (These same buttons perform different functions when you're in the camera's menu.) On the exterior of the camcorder there's also a dedicated control for flipping between still photo and video mode. Pop open the LCD and there's a dedicated pre-record button and an on/off switch.
The svelte body of the S20 is attractive but does come with some trade-offs. The controls are placed tightly together and the buttons are small. To save space, the S20's buttons do multiple jobs, so it can be confusing to navigate around, especially when you're in the menu itself. You need to use the zoom lever to scroll through the multiple menu items and use the forward and back buttons to make changes to the S20's settings - it's a bit of a clumsy way to get around, especially if you're hurrying to get a shot.
That said, the Camileo S20 does have a nice large 3-inch LCD screen so at least you don't have to squint to see what you're doing. All that's missing is a better user interface.
Excellent Feature Set
For a $179 camcorder, the S20 doesn't scrimp on the features. Most low cost pocket models skip the features, not simply to keep the price down but to make the camcorder as simple to use as possible. Toshiba took a slightly different tack with the S20, investing it with a few bells and whistles not found on competitive products like the Flip. That makes it both a more functional product, but also more complicated to use (although not terribly so).
Indeed, the S20 carries over many of the features found on the more expensive X100, including time lapse recording, a macro mode for up-close focusing, motion detection (which starts recording when the camcorder detections motion) pre-record (which grabs a few seconds of video before you actually hit "record") and slow motion recording. As with the X100, the results from these features vary. Slow motion is very cool but the quality of the footage is degraded (which happens on most camcorder slo-mo modes). Motion detection works as advertised, but perhaps more creative minds than mine can find a good use for it.
Also nice - the S20 includes an HDMI cable.
Given the size (not to mention price), it's unreasonable to expect a powerful zoom. The S20 offers only a 4x digital zoom, which only engages when you're shooting in 720p mode and in any event produces enough digital noise that's probably worth avoiding outright.
Flash Memory Storage
The S20 packs 128MB of internal flash memory - not enough for much more than a few seconds of video - and takes SDHC cards up to 32GB for up to five hours of recording at 1080p.
A Pocket Friendly Camcorder
Toshiba's Camileo S20 offers a good value for your money. The tiny dimensions of the S20 make it ultra-portable, but also makes navigating around the menu system harder than it should be.If it's video quality isn't quite on par with the leading models in the category, it packs more features and functionality than most of its competitors with an attractive design.