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Toshiba Camileo SX500 review: Toshiba Camileo SX500

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We would alert anyone who's considering the Camileo as a potential purchase that the electronic image stabiliser is probably best left set to 'off'. Our test footage produced some highly unsatisfactory motion when using the stabiliser, almost as if it was attempting to sporadically freeze the image.

Another culprit is the SX500's autopilot, which frequently fails to hit its mark. Autofocus, for example, sometimes struggles to work out what to actually focus on, while auto white balance seems to randomly flit from one setting to another, causing colour warmth to fluctuate wildly, even during a locked-off shot. In low light, though, the auto settings do a fairly good job of compensating for loss of illumination compared with other similarly priced camcorders -- and even some more expensive ones.

Still photography is better than average, too. Test shots taken at both standard (5-megapixel) and interpolated (12-megapixel) settings were detailed with natural colours. The only problem here is framing your shots. There's no dedicated photo mode and the LCD monitor defaults to 16:9. It's only when you start to press the shutter button that the screen switches to 4:3, at which point it becomes horribly apparent that your original framing was way off the mark.

Conclusion

In some ways, it is entirely unfair to expect a £175 camcorder to compete with models that are almost twice its price. A more realistic comparison would be cheap pocket video devices, such as the Flip Video Ultra HD and Toshiba's own S20 or H30. Against this type of product, the Toshiba Camileo SX500 holds its own very well indeed, offering a comparably superior image (as long as you set it to 1080i and switch off the stabiliser) as well as a greater selection of features for a roughly similar price.

Toshiba's SX500 was never designed for the demands or expectations of expert users -- picture quality and range of features is limited in that regard. But within those limitations, the SX500 succeeds where other budget camcorders fail, balancing its video and photo abilities with accessibility and affordability much better than most sub-£200 products.

Edited by Emma Bayly 

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