Minolta DiMAGE F100 Review
By Movable Type Admin
The DiMAGE F100 is Minolta's 4-megapixel addition to its popular line of compact digital cameras. The "fit and finish" of this camera is excellent, the rectangular point- n-shoot shape makes it simple to slip into a pocket or purse and no need for much concern about its durability as it's housed in a highly durable aluminum body. It is light enough to carry all day but not so light that it is hard to control. New labor saving functions in this camera are Area autofocus, Subject Tracking autofocus and Automatic Digital Subject Program Selection.
Subject Tracking AF and Area AF work together to locate and follow the subject through three- dimensional space within the camera's wide focusing area at a speed up to 9 mph which is close to the speed of a child running or a grown-up walking at the camera. It works well as designed if your subject is slow enough, stays within the focus brackets (center 50% of screen), and you keep the camera motionless.
The Automatic Digital Subject Program Selection automatically selects one of five subject programs (portrait, sports action, landscape, sunset, or night portrait) to pick the best exposure and image- processing controls based on the subject and scene. This helps free you from the need to look at a scene, figure the conditions and make camera settings for each new situation.
Images are stored on Secure Digital (SD) or Multi-Media (MM) cards, Minolta includes a 16MB card which is nowhere near big enough. I'd suggest a 64MB or 128MB size card for even the semi-serious user. The cover on the card slot is a little troublesome to snap open unless you have a fingernail or two. The built-in USB port will swiftly move your pictures from the camera to your computer, drivers included for Windows 98 SE, ME, 2000Pro, XP, Mac OS 8.6 - 9.21 or Mac OS X 10.1. The overall operation of the F100 is average. It takes about five seconds from camera on until it is ready to snap the first picture. It takes less than three second to go from Record to Play mode. The camera has a fairly fast autofocus system but it is without a focus assist lamp for very low light conditions. The total shutter lag (time from pressing shutter to actually capturing) is about a two seconds. This is a little below average. In Large/Fine mode the shot to shot time is about two seconds, add four to five seconds for flash and yields an average file size of 2.0MB. The continuous drive mode lets you capture 1.5fps to a max. of 3 frames. If using the uncompressed SuperFine (TIF) mode be prepared to wait a good 45 seconds between shots as the "busy" light glows at you. This camera like most today is optimized for processing JPEG images and this isn't a bad thing as a Fine quality JPEG makes an excellent print. The only differences is that with a TIF image there are no compression artifacts to interfere with post- processing editing and the average Large/TIF file size is 12MB.
I like the fact that Minolta's cameras still use 2 AA type batteries versus the proprietary and often "wimpy" battery packs that seem to be all too popular these days. For what it costs for one of those proprietary packs you can buy two (or three) sets of 4 high-capacity NiMH AA batteries and a rapid charger. And the NiMH battery technology continues to evolve, the capacity is now up to 1800mAH per cell with 2000mAH cells on the near horizon.
Ergonomically the F100 is well designed, one small gripe about the camera is the top data LCD not being illuminated - why don't they do this? On the positive side -- with your right hand normally gripping the camera and your index finger on the shutter release, your thumb falls naturally on the 4-way selector that controls the zoom. You can easily operate the mode dial with your thumb or index finger. On top is a large and very readable monochrome LCD that displays all the important and frequently changed camera settings at a glance The shutter release is well designed with a nice "half- pressed" and "fully pressed" point that gives the user plenty of tactile feedback and the conventional "sounds" of a shutter. The speaker plays other sounds whenever a button is pushed which is adjustable in a menu.
The F100 is a rangefinder camera, it has an eye level coupled viewfinder that zooms in and out with the lens. The optical viewfinder has a fairly narrow viewing angle and lacks any kind of dioptric adjustment. The coverage of the optical finder is about 80% which means that you always capture more than you see. The LCD when used as the viewfinder is much more accurate at about 100% coverage. The color LCD is smooth and clean except in low light conditions. The multi-step zoomed playback mode allows for checking the focus, color or composition of the shot. The color LCD is covered by a shiny, clear plastic protector and could benefit from a non-glare coating. When Macro mode is selected the color LCD comes on automatically to prevent parallax errors of the optical viewfinder at close range.
As with all cameras the most important part is the lens and Minolta has put a very good 3x optical zoom lens on the F100. It covers the 35mm equivalent of 38-114mm focal length with a maximum aperture of F2.8-F4.7. There is moderate barrel distortion at full wide angle which is normal for most zooms but there's virtually no pincushioning at full telephoto, all in all a very nice lens. The autofocus system covers from 17.7 inches to infinity in normal mode and its dedicated macro mode covers from 5.7 to 21.5 inches. Unusual is that the macro mode is fixed at a 2x telephoto setting of 15.5mm, the zoom control is disabled until you leave macro mode. In the Multi record mode the AF point is user-selectable, any of the 5 AF points may be chosen using the 4-way controller. The flash does a very good job of "throttling down" when used in the macro mode and produces properly exposed pictures without having to use any exposure compensation.
There are two main still image recording modes on the F100, AUTO or Multi. In AUTO mode you
can select the image size and quality, enable voice memo or digital zoom or drive mode from the
menus or select Macro, Portrait, Sports, Landscape, Night Scene, Sunset or Text mode from the
back controls. Switching the camera to the Multi position gives the user access to three full
pages of menu options (outlined on the
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