Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z6 Review
The Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z6 is the latest "super zoom" entry from Konica Minolta and contains many of the high-end features found on past models like Anti-shake technology, 2.0-inch LCD and 12x optical zoom lens, but with an increased resolution of 6.0-megapixels. It includes all of the customary exposure modes found on past models, making it usable by just about everyone. The Auto and Scene modes are perfect for the less experienced, while the more advanced users will appreciate the Aperture priority, Shutter speed priority and Manual modes.
Konica Minolta's "Z" series cameras are some of the smallest, long focal length cameras on the market. However, even with their diminutive size, they fit quite comfortably in your hands. The majority of the controls are well placed and easy to access with either of your hands, with the exception of the Macro and Flash mode buttons. These are located inbetween the Mode dial and microphone/speaker, making it a bit more difficult to adjust their settings. Like its predecessors, the Z6 features two high-quality displays, the 2.0-inch LCD and eyelevel EVF. Outdoors the LCD works good with minimal angles that reflect the sun. When the sun is just too bright, simply flip the switch to the EVF. On the negative side, neither display "gains up" in low light and makes it difficult to frame the subject. The EVF has a full dioptric adjustment, which is helpful for those of us with less than perfect eyesight.
Shooting performance was very robust. From power-up to first image captured measured approx. 2.2 seconds, which includes extending its 12x zoom lens and booting up. Shutter lag was an impressive 1/10 of a second when pre-focused, and 2/10 of a second including autofocus. The shot-to-shot delay averaged approx. 1.0-1.6 seconds without the flash and about 2.6 - 3.5 seconds with the flash. Sports shooters will enjoy 2 modes of rapid sequential shooting: Continuous, which is a standard burst capture mode, and Progressive, which captures images continuously at a much faster rate. Using the Continuous mode, I was able to capture 6 frames in approx. 2.5 seconds. In Progressive mode, I captured 17 frames in only 1.6 seconds. Unfortunately, the viewfinder blanks out momentarily inbetween each frame captured which often made it difficult to follow fast-moving subjects; however this is not so when using the Progressive mode. Our tests were done using a SanDisk Ultra II 512MB SD card, 2560x1920/Fine quality, Program mode, preview off, flash off, unless otherwise noted. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
If you love the ability to zoom in on distant subjects, then you're going love the the Z6's powerful 12X optical zoom, which covers an equivalent range of 35 - 420mm. Thanks to its "silent zoom" mechanism, it operates very smoothly, producing sharp images along the way. I did notice moderate barrel distortion at the wide angle end and slight pin cushioning at full telephoto. This is a moderately fast lens with a maximum aperture of F2.8 (wide) to F4.5 (tele), which allows for the use of higher shutter speeds. Thanks to the AS (Anti-Shake) system, you'll be able to capture images with less hand shake at slower shutter speeds than normal. We always recommend the use of a tripod or monopod for long telephoto shooting, even with cameras that have an AS (Anti-Shake) or IS (Image Stabilized) system. While it boasts a 48x range by combining the 4x digital and 12x optical zoom, 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 it later with an image editor. The autofocus system is fast and accurate in brightly lit conditions, and was a little better than average in low-light conditions even though it lacks an AF-assist lamp. However, it will fail if the light level is too low or if your subject lacks the necessary contrast. We have said countless times that these models would greatly benefit from an AF-assist lamp, hopefully they will all have one someday.
Like past "Z" models, the Z6 is powered by 4 standard AA-type batteries, this means you can use alkaline, one-use lithium, and NiHM batteries. As always we recommend using high-capacity rechargeable NiMH batteries, they'll save you money in the long run, they last longer, and are better for the environment. We found the battery life quite acceptable, capturing all of our sample images (about 120 shots) and concluding our other tests, with a single set of 2500mAh NiMH rechargeables and using the camera's power-saving features.
The overall image quality of the Z6's 6-megapixel Fine mode wasn't what we had expected. While the majority of our images were sharp, there was very noticeable noise present in areas of contrast, giving images a grainy look. There were also moderate traces of Chromatic Aberrations, but this is typical of ultra-zoom cameras. Our outdoor samples had good color saturation with good exposure in most cases, however in instances of harsh sunlight it did tend to over-expose the entire shot. The Z6 offers a variety of image adjustments like sharpening, contrast and color modes, that will allow you to create that certain look in your images. There's five pre-programmed scene modes, that help you capture optimum photos in a variety of different shooting situations. Using Portrait mode both indoors and out produced great results, in fact portrait photography seems to be the camera's best suit. Our people shots were sharp and well exposed with pleasing skin tones. Its flash has an average range of just under 12 feet. I found it worked well for portraits in small to medium sized rooms and also did well as a fill-in flash outdoors. If you need more flash power, the Z6 features a flash hot shoe for use with Minolta-dedicated flash units.
When pictures aren't enough, the Z6 can record movies at QVGA (320x240) resolution at either 30 or 15 frames per second. I was surprised that it doesn't feature a VGA (640x480) resolution mode like other "Z" series models. Because it features "Silent zoom" technology, the optical zoom can be used during recording. The Anti-Shake system also improves the ability to use the zoom when capturing video by lessening the effects of camera shake. Overall our movie samples were good with the usual compression artifacts, and its AF system did an awesome job when panning and zooming.
Bottom line - we felt a little let down by this latest addition to the "Z" line. While it offers all of the features we love about these "super zoom" models, its mediocre image quality really drags it down. It has the ability to capture awesome video, but only at the smaller 320x240 resolution. With a MSRP of $399, it offers an OK value, especially for those who enjoy taking portraits. If you're in the market for a digicam with great telephoto capabilities and love the features of Konica Minolta's "Z" series, but don't necessarily need 6-megapixels of resolution, we recommend you take a look at the 5-megapixel DiMAGE Z5.
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