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Toshiba returns to U.S. imaging market

After picking up its still digital cameras and leaving the U.S. more than five years ago, the company is back, this time with consumer camcorders.

Camileo S20 Toshiba

After a long absence from the U.S. consumer imaging market, Toshiba has bravely girded itself to reenter the battle in one of the more crowded, confusing categories: budget HD camcorders. Starting small, with three models that have been shipping overseas for about nine months, the company plans to carve a niche for itself by piggybacking on its laptop and consumer electronics distribution channels and via bundling and promotion opportunities.

Camileo X100 Toshiba

The three initial products--the company plans to introduce more later this year--are the Camileo S20, a $180 pistol-grip YouTube model (like Sony's Bloggie MHS-CM5); the Camileo H30, a $250 5X zoom traditionally styled model (like the DXG-A80V HD); and the $400 Camileo X100, a 10X zoom model that supports up to 60fps 1080pi (competing against models like the Samsung HMX-R10).

Camileo H30 Toshiba

What are their prospects? Well, the S20 faces stiff competition, especially since most of its direct competitors--which I consider pistol-grip models, not candybar designs like the Flips--offer a 5X zoom lens compared with the S20's fixed focal length. (Plus, they usually come in multiple colors, but Toshiba is sticking to basic black in the states, at least for a little white.)

The X100 will have to match slightly pricier but usually poor-performing entrants from weightier brands like Canon and Sony, so who knows? The middle H30, on the other hand, will live in a price segment awash with lesser standard-definition options and the occasional Sanyo or DXG model and thus might prove attractive.

Specs: (4/7/10: fixed some typos in the specs)

Camileo X100
  • 9.5 ounces
  • 1080/60i/30p H.264 AVI
  • 10MP CMOS sensor
  • 10X zoom
  • Digital image stabilization at 1080/30p and below
  • 4GB built-in memory plus SDHC slot
  • 3-inch LCD
Camileo H30
  • 8 ounces
  • 1080/30p H.264 AVI
  • 10MP CMOS sensor
  • 5X optical zoom
  • Digital image stabilization at 720p and below
  • SDHC card slot
  • 3-inch LCD
Camileo S20
  • 3.5 ounces
  • 1080/30p H.264 AVI
  • 5MP CMOS sensor
  • No optical zoom
  • Digital image stabilization at 720p and below
  • 3-inch LCD

What do you think? Is there a place for Toshiba in U.S. camcorders?