By October 5, 2010

Toshiba Camileo S20 Review

toshiba_camileo_s20-274x300 The Toshiba Camileo S20 is a pocket camcorder capable of recording full High Definition video. In fact, pocket camcorders are a relatively new phenomenon that are characterised by their somewhat limited feature set – for their size and sheer portability though, they have proven to be very popular especially for the YouTube enthusiasts. This Camileo S20 from Toshiba is as thin as cutting edge smartphones were not long ago, yet packs features like a slow-motion and a 3 inch display.

So what did we think of it? Is it worth carrying around yet another device? Read on to find out.


What’s in the box?

  • Camileo S20 camera
  • Soft carrying case
  • Mini tripod
  • Mini USB charger, 3 pin UK and European plugs
  • HDMI to mini HDMI cable
  • 3.5mm to composite/audio connector
  • Screen wipe
  • Lanyard
  • Quick Start guide
  • ArcSoft software DVD/User manual
  • Video Deluxe 15 Plus/Movie Edit Pro 15 Plus (Trials)

See Matt’s Camileo S20 unboxing video for more!


Toshiba Camileo S20 Specification:

  • Toshiba Camileo S20 Silver Camcorder – Flash card
  • Product Type: Camcorder – 1080p – Widescreen Video Capture
  • Dimensions (WxDxH): 1.7 cm x 5.9 cm x 10.6 cm
  • Weight: 115 g
  • Media Type: SD card
  • Flash Memory: 128 MB built-in
  • Supported Flash Memory: SD Memory Card, SDHC Memory Card
  • Sensor Resolution: 5.0 Mpix
  • Effective Sensor Resolution Still: 5.0 Mpix
  • Shooting Modes: Digital photo mode
  • Lens System: Lens – f/3.2
  • Focus Adjustment
  • Focus free
  • Min Focus Range: 1.5 m
  • Digital Zoom: 4 x
  • Display: LCD display – TFT active matrix – 3" – colour
  • 1 x Li-ion rechargeable battery ( included )



On the top, we have the cover for the SD card slot, and a toggle switch between normal and macro focusing modes. On the back, you can just see a button which switches between image or video mode, and the sliding cover which allows access to the removable battery.



On the side we have the main controls, accessible for your right thumb. Starting from the top, there is the main record/stop button for the video mode which also serves as the camera button. Below that rests a wheel which controls up/down in menus and doubles as the (digital) zoom toggle, while pressing it in selects options in menus. Then we come to the trio of buttons, the resolution select/left, flash/right, and the play mode/back keys. Then at the bottom, there’s the flap for video out, HDMI out, and mini USB ports. At the very bottom, there is a lanyard hole and ¾ inch tripod screw thread.



There’s obviously the 3 inch LCD display that folds out, and a power button and pre-record toggle button where the screen rests when the camera is shut.



Finally, on the left hand side there’s the lens, the microphone, and a small LED flash.



  • Compact size and lightweight
  • Removable battery
  • Chargeable through USB
  • HDMI out
  • Flip open to power on



  • Feels slightly cheap
  • Index finger covers flash/mic
  • Questionable still image quality
  • Poor close ups



I was quite intrigued about these small camcorders but I’ve never looked into them much as I am not the sort of person who likes to capture every moving moment. I do however get those moments where I would like to film something, yet the only camera I have on me is on my phone which isn’t really good enough. Even so, I am slightly weary of a cheap compact camera claiming ‘full HD’ as resolution and image quality don’t always go hand-in-hand – I admit that from such a small camera, I wasn’t expecting great things from it. So from a novice’s point of view who is new to the pocket camcorder bandwagon, is it worth the £140 asking price?

When I first picked it up, I was surprised at how light it felt – at 115 grams it’s pretty light for its size and it does give it a slightly cheap feeling (the hollow sound when tapping it didn’t help either) but it wasn’t that bad really; I expect it would take a fair number of unfortunate encounters with concrete to really break it. The screen’s hinge actually felt pretty good. Considering that the screen articulates on such a small hinge, it felt nice and solid and the automatic power on when you flip the screen out is a nice touch. In terms of usability, I thought that the S20 faired pretty well – the positive side to its lightweight body means that it’s easier to grip, as the slimness makes it far from ergonomic when holding it for extended periods of time.

Unlike other pocket camcorders, the Camileo S20 has a flip out viewfinder which are usually only found on ‘proper’ camcorders. Personally I think that Toshiba have made the right decision here; not only does it allow for a larger display, but there is much greater flexibility in how you are filming in relation to the subject. Obviously, a flipping, rotating viewfinder is going to be more delicate but I think it’s a worthy sacrifice for the advantages it brings. Speaking of the display, it’s pretty good. At 3 inches, it’s on the large end of the scale as far as pocket camcorders are concerned, and fortunately it’s a matt display – we have seen many cases of a decent screen on a mobile that is spoilt by a super shiny coating that ruins outdoor readability. So outside, the S20’s display does well; I did hope for a bit more brightness at times, but I could always see what I was recording even with the sun directly on it.



So the hardware is relatively solid, but what about the menus? Well, I’m pleased to report that overall, the menus are easy to use as well as being quite fully featured. The zoom controller doubles as navigation buttons to cycle through the menus which are clearly and logically laid out. What I like here is that you can always see the next level of menu’s without having to click it. This means that you can find the specific option without having to go into it to check, and then back out again if it’s not there. The menus themselves are, like I said, quite full featured so let’s have a look at some of them. Firstly, there are the options for video resolution – 1080p at 30fps, 720p at 30fps, WVGA at 60fps and VGA also at 60fps. Using the zoom jog dial to navigate the menus, there are also various options for the white balance depending on your lighting conditions – I found the fluorescent mode particularly useful for (you guessed it) filming under fluorescent lights. There are a number of scene modes too; Auto, Skin, Night and Backlight. The night mode was pretty much essential in mid to low lighting conditions, otherwise the image quality can drop to a dark, grainy blur of motion.

Included are a small number of extras that is pleasing to see. The first is image stabilisation – for a camera of this size and (lack of) weight, it is quite difficult to keep a steady hand while filming. With the stabilisation on, there was a noticeable improvement in the smoothness, though you’d still have to try your hardest to keep your hand steady for smoother video. Motion detection was also pretty fun to play with, and although some of the time it was too slow to catch the real meat, it certainly worked and it would be useful for keeping an eye on your stuff! The slow motion is also a slightly gimmicky feature, but yet again, it’s certainly fun to play with. The output is a measly QVGA that is very grainy, but for capturing moments at four times slower than normal, it does the job.

However, it’s not all good news as there are some limitations. Firstly, there’s the lack of optical zoom, which although is common among these types of camera, we are limited to the 4x digital zoom which gets just as fuzzy as you’d expect. The zoom isn’t available at all when shooting in full 1080p HD as is the image stabilisation, so any full HD video you shoot won’t be taking advantage of the extra bells and whistles here. Like most quick grab-and-go cameras there aren’t any manual options for anything, though it’s certainly excusable given the point-and-shoot nature of these kind of camcorders. The last notable restriction is the 128MB internal memory size, of which 96MB is actually available, ant this would get you about 30 seconds worth of 1080p video before it will start running dry. Although the lack of internal storage space isn’t much of a problem when you have an SD card slot, it’s still something you’ll need to factor into its cost. You’ll want to invest in a high-speed SD card of some capacity, probably 8 or 16GB, as an hour of HD video in the avi format it records in would require about 4GB of space.


So we’ve covered the S20 itself, what about the stuff that matters most – the footage? Well I’m pleased to say that all things considered it’s quite good, and although there are a few things that could be improved, I was pretty happy with the results.

Let’s start with the stills. The Toshiba S20 shoots 5MP still shots and on the whole the shots aren’t too bad, and of course, being primarily a camcorder, still images weren’t first on the menu when it was designed. There is very little shutter lag on this thing, mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t autofocus like a real camera. The time between each picture is also quite fast (though speed of your SD card will play a part too) The pictures themselves vary in quality depending on lighting conditions, but in perfect conditions, it’s quite good, exhibiting accurate colour and exposure – it’s about level with an above average 5MP phone, maybe the Nokia N95. When lighting conditions drops below perfect, it’s a much better idea to grab your smartphone or point-and-shoot that you’ll no doubt be carrying too.

Being such a small and inexpensive camcorder, I wasn’t expecting amazing results even if it does boast 1080p, but I’m glad to say that for the most part, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s important to keep in mind that this breed of camcorder lets you capture every special moment thanks to the simplicity and portability, so it’s the content that comes first, quality (a close) second. From this angle, footage was actually quite reasonable; it was smooth and nearly noise-free even in 1080p, and although the colour would benefit from being a bit more vivid, I was more than happy with my (daylight) video. Played back on a computer the video looked pretty good and even on a large HD TV, the difference between 720p and 1080p is very marginal.

In low light, the S20’s footage unsurprisingly suffered from issues that plague every budget camcorder, even with the night mode and/or high-ISO turned on. The motion gets blurry and noisy, and colours get a bit wishy-washy – it generally looks quite muddy. The tiny little flash was brighter than I expected and it does help illuminate your subject up to about 2 feet away, but while you can now see them, it is just as if not more grainy. The zoom is the last drawback – despite being controlled via a little analogue-looking jog dial, it is very difficult to control the speed of zoom; it is either zooming, or not zooming.




The S20 is one of many in the mini-budget camcorder market, but it does have a few features that make it stand out, especially its (very) slim body, and (very) light weight. Another advantage it has over competition like the Flip cameras is the form factor – the pistol-grip design allowed Toshiba to keep it slim and incorporate a large 3 inch screen; the fact that it swivels around 270 degrees makes it much more flexible (literally!) and much easier to film from odd angles such as over a crowd. The quality of the footage it takes is quite decent and although the still pictures aren’t that great they’re not supposed to be the S20’s forte.

However for such a low price, the S20 does pack a lot of punch (and a lot of accessories in the box) and for that reason alone, I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for an ultra-portable camcorder within this price bracket.


Review by: Vince

[ Post Tags: Toshiba, Camileo S20, HD Camcorder, video camera, ]

Posted in: Reviews

About the Author:

More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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