At its launch, Toshiba billed the A100F as the world's smallest Full HD camcorder with a 100GB hard drive, which is a bit like saying the Millennium Dome is the world's smallest tent with a 20,000-seater auditorium.
Still, 100GB isn't to be sniffed at, and with a 10x optical zoom up front and a 3in screen strapped to the side this Tosh's vital statistics almost match our top dog Sony SR12.
Design on a budget
Sadly, that's where the comparisons end. Where the Sony has full manual controls, a hot shoe, a lens thread and mic and headphone ports, the A100F has precisely none of these things. And while its shimmering rear-end is worthy of a builder's wolf whistle, never has the phrase 'nice arse, shame about the rest of the body' rung more true.
From the dodgy plastic body to the faux-focus dial and flimsy controls it screams 'budget'. Only, it's not. At over £1000, it's actually more expensive than the Sony. Thankfully, sizable retail discounts bring it back into contention and you can actually pick it up for around 200 notes less than the cheapest Sony deal.
The design isn't a total write off. The large 3in screen is coated in a high quality, finger-print-attracting finish, and the rubber-esque coating and metal accents to the hard disk enclosure lend it a much-needed air of desirability.
Nice and easy
Bells and whistles may be in short supply, but it’s incredibly easy to use. The menu controls are all located on the giant-sized LCD with the option of using a traditional four-way rocker or a decidedly el-cheapo plastic control wheel that actually does a mean job of zipping through the options.
Everything is clearly laid out but if it all gets too much for you there's also an I-failed-general-studies 'Auto' button, which keeps things as basic as possible. It even lights up the record button and zoom rocker in soothing blue light in case you're having trouble finding them.
Annoyingly, ‘auto’ also turns on the useless digital zoom feature and leaves it turned on even once you've reverted back to normal mode so you have to dig back into the menus to turn it off, lest you should stray into pixellated mush territory every time you zoom in to the max.
The 100GB storage might not match the Sony's 120GB platter, but it’s hardly paltry. It'll hold over 13 hours in top quality HD, which is more than we'd ever want to face in the edit suite.
The footage itself is top notch in decent light with pleasing colours and an auto white-balance that actually does its job. The lens is also wider than most, which means you won't have to back up quite so much to get everybody in.
Don’t let the sun go down
Low light performance is less impressive. There’s an auto-gain feature, but it could be more aptly described as ‘auto-grain’ given the picture it produces. And we're not overly impressed with the auto-focus, which tends to struggle to catch up with the zoom at times.
There's no hot shoe for a video light but the A100F does pack two heavy-duty white LEDs at the front to light the way. They won't blind stray animals but they will illuminate a couple of meters ahead, which is more than can be said for most camcorder LEDs.
So, the A100F isn’t a camcorder for Spielberg wannabes, but it’s a commendable effort nonetheless and seriously easy to use. One for the camcorder virgins, we feel.