Minolta DiMAGE Xt Review
The DiMAGE Xt is the upgrade of the popular DiMAGE Xi and features the same 3.2-megapixel imager and f/2.8 "folded" 3X zoom lens along with new features in a 5% smaller and 8% lighter body. One of the new features is the XR (Extended Recording) movie mode that captures 320x240 or 160x120 size motion video with audio, the length of movie clips is limited only by the capacity of your memory card. The DiMAGE Xt can be used as a video conferencing camera. When connected by its USB cable, the camera can be mounted on a table-top tripod or placed in its charger stand and then used with a program like Windows Messenger. Be sure to read my DiMAGE Xi conclusions as the image quality and the basic camera operations and processing speed are the same.
The DiMAGE Xt's controls have been redesigned to make the camera easier to operate and require less accessing of the menu system. There's a mode dial to select the recording, playback or setup mode. A QuickView button lets you playback the last image captured, quickly and then return back to record mode. The 4-way selector now has an "enter" function and the "left" and "right" buttons can be customized to change the exposure compensation, white balance, drive mode, ISO speed or color mode. The user can personalize the DiMAGE Xt's audio signal for the AF confirmation and shutter release sound effect. The rather flimsy flip-up door that covered the battery and SD compartment on the DiMAGE X/Xi has been replaced by a more durable and much classier looking door that opens sideways. The entire exterior of the DiMAGE Xt is more stylish and elegant that the previous "X" cameras.
As with the DiMAGE X and Xi, the DiMAGE Xt cannot be held like an ordinary camera. One look at these cameras and you know that they're not designed like other cameras so you must adopt a new way of holding them. If you don't you will find the upper left portion of your picture is vignetted by your left index finger more often than not. The unique lens of the "X" cameras is physically mounted very close to the edge of the camera so care must be taken not to block its field of view, especially when it is in wide angle. The proper way to hold the camera is to "pinch it" down low, between your thumb and index finger of your left hand. This gives you a very firm grip of the camera and keeps your fingers out of the way of the lens and flash. Problem solved!
As with the DiMAGE Xi, the Xt has pretty good battery life considering the miniscule size of its 3.7v 750mAh battery. Minolta claims it has the capacity to record 130 pictures (half with flash) using the LCD. We had no problem capturing about 70 shots over the space of several hours using it like an "ordinary person" before the battery indicator gave us the first warning. The runtime can be greatly extended by using the optical viewfinder whenever possible. Most people tend to use the color LCD monitors too frequently, probably because they automatically "come on" when the camera is powered up. This is necessary as the only data display is on the color LCD so when you turn it on you need to know how many pictures can be taken, how much battery power is left as well as the basic recording options in effect. As with all cameras that use a proprietary battery pack -- we highly recommend the purchase of a second battery. You can't use any other type of battery in this camera, once it is dead you are out of the picture taking business until it is recharged.
Like most of the other ultra-compact cameras, the DiMAGE "X" cameras use Secure Digital flash memory cards. I had my doubts about these cards (as well as Memory Sticks) when they first came out but they have since become available in larger capacities and the price per megabyte has dropped dramatically in recent months. The 512MB SD cards are still priced rather high but the 256MB and 128MB SD cards are at just about the same price point as CompactFlash. Just a week ago I bought a new SanDisk 256MB SD card off of eBay for just $65! The DiMAGE Xt is also compatible with MultiMediaCard (MMC) memory cards too.
I know that our Japanese friends are never satisfied until they make something even smaller. I just hope they leave this camera alone, any smaller and it wouldn't be as useable. The DiMAGE Xt is an excellent choice for business users, tourists, sports enthusiasts or anyone that needs an ultra-compact and durable, high resolution digicam. This is a point-n-shoot camera that can be just as easily operated by novices as experienced digi-photographers. The 2048x1536 size images can make photo-quality prints up to 8.5 x 11-inch size. The overall image quality is very good and the equal of much, much larger cameras. Thanks to the optional and also very compact Marine Case MC-DG200, the DiMAGE Xt can be used at the beach, on the water, under the water and in any weather condition without fear of damage.
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