In an ideal world, all electronic gadgets would be waterproof. We'd be able to use our iPod, digital camera and games console in sea, snow and sand -- even the bathtub -- safe in the knowledge that a little liquid wasn't going to transform our favourite device into a damp squib.
Sadly, this is not the case. But, for those who spend more time splashing about than normal, there are devices like the Toshiba Camileo BW10 waterproof camcorder, available for just £120 and specifically designed to withstand the frequently fatal effects of moisture on electronics.
Drop in the bucket
That's not to say you'll be taking Cousteau-style footage of deep-sea life with the BW10. It's only resistant to about 2m and is aimed more at capturing moments of extreme sporting prowess. If you swim, ski, sail or partake in any other pastime that involves a certain amount of the wet stuff, the BW10 could be a useful accessory.
From our own experience in strictly monitored testing conditions, we can safely attest that if you were to, say, plop the unit into a bucket of water and swish it around a little, the Camileo BW10 would emerge completely unscathed.
Small fish, big pond
Small, light and rugged in a rubbery sort of way, the BW10 comes in a selection of lively colours -- yellow, turquoise and silver. It's designed to be wielded upright like a camera phone, with a small, 51mm (2-inch) LCD screen on the rear providing a preview of the picture.
It would be a mistake to draw direct comparisons to mainstream camcorders in terms of features and functionality. The BW10 isn't aimed at budding Spielbergs or even less ambitious home-movie makers -- it's intended for rough and ready outdoor use and its limitations reflect this.
For a start, virtually all the camera's functions are firmly locked in 'auto' mode. Only a very basic button selection is available: on/off, video, photo, menu and a five-way navigation pad. It's possible to select quality settings for still and moving images but that's about as hands-on as you get. On the bright side, this makes the BW10 extremely simple to use. Switch it on, point it at your subject and press the big button.
Anyone serious about sports photography or video, however, may be miffed at the dearth of options in terms of shutter speed, aperture control and the like. Similarly, the unit's lack of image stabilisation makes it somewhat less-suited to fast-moving action shots, which is a real shame for a self-professed 'sports cam'.
The Camileo comes up empty-handed in the optical-zoom department. It does have a digital zoom, but it's not great, rendering everything in squashy block-o-vision at its full 10x zoom. Analogue video output is not supported, so you'll need either an HD Ready TV or a computer to view your results. What you do get is an LED video light, a face-chasing feature and HDMI output. There's no HDMI cable included, though.
In fact, accessories in general are pretty thin on the ground. There's a wrist strap and cloth carry pouch in the box, but you don't even get a charger. When your BW10's 70-minute battery life starts to peter out, you'll need to find a USB connection to power up. Images are stored on SD memory cards (also not supplied), which slot in underneath a waterproof hatch.
Sink or swim
When it comes to picture quality, again, it would be unfair to weigh the BW10's results against those from a £400 Panasonic camcorder, for example. Despite its claim of 1080p video-recording capability, the Toshiba device simply isn't in the same league as the big boys. This is partly to do with optics and imaging hardware -- many of today's pricier camcorders have high-quality lenses and advanced image sensors that are better at separating colours and coping with lower levels of light.
It's also partly to do with software compression. The BW10 doesn't use the AVCHD standard favoured by many conventional high-definition camcorders. This shows in the device's video image, which can deliver unnatural, over- and under-saturated colours, and strange glassy outlines. You may also notice a large amount of unwanted blockiness during camera movements. Still photos, meanwhile, are about the same quality as those you might expect from a similarly equipped (5-megapixel) mobile phone.
That's not to write off the BW10 altogether. As we've already mentioned, not everyone needs the highest picture quality all of the time. If you're shooting movies for sharing on YouTube, for example, they'll end up highly compressed anyway, so the quality issue may be moot.
It might be missing many of the features and accessories you'd expect from a camcorder but, compared to many other models, the Toshiba Camileo BW10 is extremely easy to use and, crucially, much cheaper. As our highly scientific bucket test proved, Toshiba's colourful candybar cam isn't afraid of a little water, either.
Edited by Emma Bayly