Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z10 Review
The entry-level DiMAGE "Z" series from Konica Minolta, the Z10 is a "super zoom" digicam that offers users 3.2-meapixels of resolution combined with a fast, 8x optical zoom. It follows the popular trend of compact size and wide focal range like the DiMAGE Z2 from earlier this year, but at an even more affordable price. The Z10 offers a full range of exposure modes from automatic to manual plus five pre-programmed scene modes. The Z10 can operate as a simple point-n-shoot for the beginner, yet has the features that will satisfy the creative urges of the more advanced user.
One of the most dominant features of the Z10 is its big 8X optical zoom with a focal length range of 36mm to 290mm in 35mm equivalence. If your shooting needs exceed the 36-290mm range, Konica Minolta offers an optional ZCW-500 0.7x wide-angle converter lens which extends the wide angle coverage to 26mm. The lens operates smoothly and produces sharp images throughout its zoom range, but exhibits some barrel distortion at the wide-angle extreme and slight pincushioning at full telephoto. The lens is fairly fast with a maximum aperture of F3.2 (wide) to F3.4 (tele) which allows for the use of higher shutter speeds. The lens is not stabilized, so handheld shooting at full telephoto may result in blurry images at lower shutter speeds. We recommend the use of a tripod or monopod for long telephoto shooting. While Minolta claims a 32x range by combining the 4x digital and 8x optical zooms, we recommend that you avoid using the digital zoom because it degrades image quality; if you need to enlarge a portion of an image, you'll achieve better results by cropping later in an image editor.
The Z10's shooting performance was very robust. From power up to first image captured measured approx. 1.5 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, was an impressive 1/10 of a second when pre-focused, and 5/10 of a second including autofocus. Shot-to-shot delay averaged around 1.7 seconds without the use of the flash and only 2.0 seconds with the flash. The Continuous and Progressive modes captured five shots in an average of 2.5 seconds. Sports shooters will enjoy 2 modes of rapid shooting: Continuous, which is a standard burst capture mode, and Progressive, which captures images continuously at about 2 frames per second but saves only the last 5 frames when the shutter is released. Unfortunately, the viewfinder blanks out momentarily in between each frame captured which often made it difficult to follow fast-moving subjects. Our tests were done using a SanDisk Ultra II 256MB SD card, 2048x1536/Fine quality, Program auto mode, preview off, flash off, unless otherwise noted. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
As with all of Konica Minolta's "Z" series cameras, the Z10 features an impressive macro capability. You can see some examples by taking a look at our sample photos page. In low ambient light, both the LCD and its reflected viewfinder image were easy to view, and the autofocus was a little better than average in these conditions. However, it will fail if the light level is too low or if your subject lacks the necessary contrast. The Z10 lacks an AF illuminator and we feel that these lamps should be standard on all digicams. We found the LCD viewfinder quite usable outdoors, even in bright sunlight. Its high refresh rate provided a high-quality real-time preview of moving subjects, and its viewfinder image reflected by the Switch Finder allowed for easy panning.
I was very pleased with the overall image quality, especially for a camera in this class. The vast majority of our test images were sharp, well exposed and properly saturated. You'll get great results in auto or "P" mode and the pre-programmed scene modes will help you capture more creative situations. The Z10 has a moderate wide-angle field of view, and its built-in flash has a powerful range (when in Auto mode) of up to 17.39 feet. You won't be able to illuminate an entire dance floor, but your indoor living room shots and group portraits should please you. When shooting outdoors, I saw very little noise in high contrast (open blue sky) areas or low contrast (shadow) areas.
The Z10 is powered by 4 standard AA-type batteries, this means you can use alkaline, one use lithium, or NiHM batteries. As always, we recommend using high-capacity rechargeable NiMH batteries because they're reusable and more powerful than alkalines. We found the battery life quite acceptable, capturing over 150 images and concluding our other test, with a single set of 2400mAh NiMH rechargeables and using the camera's power-saving features.
I was a little disappointed that the Z10 doesn't feature the high-quality movie mode found on the Z2. It does allow you to capture motion video at sizes of 640x480 or 320x240 at 15fps without audio. When using the smaller 320x240 mode, you can also select a frame rate of 30fps. In addition, the Z10's autofocus system operates continuously during movie capture. You can also use the optical zoom while recording a movie, and adjust white balance and color modes via the movie record menu. Be careful when using the zoom option as the focusing system has difficulty keeping up with the lens. We recommend you set the focal length before recording, and if you're going to use the zoom, do it slowly.
Bottom line - Konica Minolta's DiMAGE Z10 will make a great choice for anyone who wants an affordable "super" zoom, with robust performance, and very good image quality. With its relatively light weight and compact size, you can carry it around all day, without cramping your hand and shoulders like you would encounter with a heavier camera. The 3.2-megapixel images yield beautiful, high-quality 8x10-inch or larger prints. With a street price of only $329, 8x optical zoom, and great image quality, it's sure to be a hit.
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