Minolta DiMAGE X Review
By Movable Type Admin
The Minolta Dimage X is the world's thinnest and lightest digital camera with a full, 3X optical zoom lens (as of Feb 6, 2002.) It is a very small and highly "pocketable" camera that's built to take a beating and keep on clicking. The body is 95% stainless steel, the only non-metal parts on the outside are the Secure Digital or MultiMedia Card door, the battery door and the small rubber flap over the I/O port. When powered down the lens is protected by a built-in lens cover. The lens doesn't move due to the "folded" 3X optical zoom lens, the DiMAGE X is only 3/4 of an inch thick. The 37-111mm (35mm equivalent) lens doesn't extend out from the body, it moves vertically within the camera body to change zoom setting. Unlike a lot of other cameras with telescoping lenses that take 5 or 6 seconds to power on, the Dimage X's lens cover drops into the body and it is ready to go in well under 2 seconds. No waiting for the lens to ratchet out. This is an excellent camera for the business person's shirt pocket or purse, the "on the go" tourist or the extreme sport enthusiast. It will handle pretty much anything short of being submerged.
Minolta has a small, high-resolution 1.5" color LCD that was a little hard to see in bright light at factory default brightness setting. It has eleven positions in the brightness setting mode. It was not hard to cup my hand around the viewfinder and keep shooting in the bright sun when I was shooting Macro. Using the viewfinder in bright sun works well as long as you remember you get a little more in the picture than you see. On PlayBack, I noticed about a ten percent increase in picture area.
The Dimage X is powered by a small 750mAH rechargeable lithium battery (NP-200) that's good for about an hour or two of continuous use. The problem with a proprietary battery is that you can not use any kind of "off-the-shelf" battery if it dies on you out in the field. So the wise owner will immediately buy a second battery and keep it charged and ready. Minolta supplies a nice, small external charger for the battery that takes about an hour to fully charge a depleted pack.
Images are stored on Secure Digital (SD) or Multi-Media (MM) cards, Minolta includes an 8MB card which is nowhere big enough. I'd suggest a 64MB size card for even the semi-serious user. 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 Dimage X is very robust. As I already mentioned it only takes less than two seconds from pushing the power button until it is ready to snap the first picture. It takes well less than a second to go from Record to Play mode. The camera has a fairly fast autofocus system but it is without a focus assist lamp. The total shutter lag (time from pressing shutter to actually capturing) is about a second and a half. This is a little faster than average. In Large/Fine mode the shot to shot time is about a second and a half. The continuous drive mode lets you capture up to seven 1600 x 1200/Fine images per burst at around 2fps.
Overall the image quality is quite good but often the pictures can be in need of some contrast and a little too warm. Unlike other Minolta cameras it does not have a contrast, saturation or sharpness control. Which is far from insurmountable. After importing your image into the computer, Minolta supplies the Dimage X Image Viewer Utility software. Using it to import your images into your computer was very simple and makes it very easy to tweak the contrast and color. Photoshop's auto-levels made an almost perfect adjustment by itself, if you have that program. Being a small camera it also has a small built-in flash and its coverage is somewhat limited. For small group shots it's OK if shooting in wide angle but don't expect much beyond 8 to 9 feet especially if it's really dark and in Telephoto not over 7 feet. The lens exhibits moderate barrel distortion in full wide angle and a little pincushioning at full telephoto but no more than most 3x zoom lenses and better than some. The optical viewfinder covers about 90% of the captured image and has no dioptric adjustment.
Minolta seemed to hit a market segment square on the head with this camera and its price. It has a street price of $399 (as of introduction). As I said in the beginning of my conclusion, the Dimage X is an excellent camera for the business person's shirt pocket or purse, the "on the go" tourist or the extreme sport enthusiast.
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