On the front below the shutter release is the command dial that works with the
other control buttons, you hold them down and rotate the dial to change the various
Most of the camera controls are located on top. The WB button controls the white balance (Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Flash or Custom). The Counter button displays the memory card status (see below). The Mode button lets you change the exposure mode. The Drive button lets you select single frame, continuous (5 frames at 1.5fps), selftimer or remote control modes. The Quality button lets you select the image quality (Super [TIFF] or Fine, Normal or Economy JPEG).
On the right is the Power / Play / Record / Record with Preview switch, the "P" button quickly puts the camera back to Programmed auto mode. The Spot button engages the spot metering.
Play Mode allows you to review captured images. As with most digicams you can display single images full screen or bring up an index of 4 or 9 thumbnail size images. The Menu button displays a screen with these options:
The data LCD normally shows the current settings for white balance (AWB), exposure mode (PAMS), image quality (Super, Fine, Normal or Economy), the drive mode (single, multi, selftimer, remote), and the number of pictures stored. All of the camera's recording features are set here, you do not use the color LCD except for playback review.
Unique to the RD 3000, it displays the size of the memory card
in use (62MB) as well as the number of shots remaining at the current quality
The I/O ports on the left side of the body: a standard PC type external flash sync port, a high-speed SCSI port and a Video Out port (NTSC or PAL.) Normally these ports are covered, shown here without the protective cap.
The camera can be operated from the computer when tethered via the SCSI port. Minolta supplies the Digita Desktop software to communicate with the camera but it takes about half a minute to acquire each of the images.
The control buttons on the side are for setting the flash fill mode or flash compensation value (+/- 3EV in 0.5 steps), it also serves to set the aperture value when in Manual mode. The other button is for setting the exposure EV compensation (+/- 3EV in 0.5 steps.)
Pressing the Exposure Comp and Spot Metering
buttons while turning the command dial adjusts the ISO speed to either 200
or the "gain up" 800 setting.
The RD3000 is equipped with a CompactFlash Type II card slot and comes with a 64MB CF Type I card. It can accomodate any CF Type I or II device including the IBM Microdrive.
If using a Microdrive you can store 44 uncompressed TIFF images or about 350
Fine mode JPEG images.
Unlike most professional digicams, the RD3000 is powered by four, standard AA type
batteries. NiMH rechargeable batteries are recommended and supplied. In
normal use, even when not using the color LCD much, the camera tends to go through
a set of batteries fairly quickly. The time and date information is retained by a
seperate lithium "button" type battery. The RD 3000 can also be powered by the
supplied external AC/6vdc power pack.
Available Minolta Vectis (V series) APS lenses include:
Shown here is the 22-80mm zoom, when used on the RD3000 with its 1.5x focal length magnifier this lens becomes a 33-120mm zoom. Due to the optical relay system the maximum aperture is always F5.6 no matter what lens is used.
The AF/M button on the lens enables manual or auto focus modes.
The RD-3000 is an unusual camera both physically and internally. On the outside it is a very "boxy" looking camera that is surprisingly light given its cubic volume. When I first saw it I figured it would be more than a handful but the design is very ergonomic. Once you slide your hand in the grip, it's very comfortable and the controls are well laid out for ease of use. Internally it is very different from all the other SLR digicams with the exception of its sibling the Minolta RD-175. Both of these cameras use dual CCD imagers with a high-tech relay optic system (3 mirrors, split prism and condensor array) which accounts for the bulky sized body.
The images from the dual CCD imagers are electronically stitched in the camera during processing to form the finished image. Overall the image quality is very good. Saturation is on the low side which is a good thing in a professional camera as the images will more than likely be post-processed anyway. The noise is fairly low as well if the camera isn't in the "gain-up" ISO 800 mode.
My one big gripe is with the metering system, it tends to go radically one way or the other depending on lighting conditions. Often my outdoor pictures were underexposed about one full f-stop when there was a good portion of sky in the foreground. When shooting in subdued light or shade the exposure was nearly perfect every time. As with all cameras it takes a little time to learn the way it does (or doesn't do) things. I much prefer a camera to underexpose in this case as it is usually recoverable in software later. Overexposed pictures completely lose the details and colors and no amount of post-processing can restore them.
The RD-3000 is available in 3 configurations:
There is plenty of control with this camera as it offers Program automatic, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority and full Manual modes. I found myself using the camera in continuous drive mode due to its slow processing time. If you shoot in single-shot mode you are forced to wait twenty to thirty seconds between pictures. Using the continuous drive mode lets you shoot up to 5 pictures at 1.5fps which are stored in the internal buffer. Using the continuous drive mode to shoot single-shot pictures was very easy and became my defacto standard way of using the RD 3000.
The RD 3000 is quick at startup requiring only about two seconds from a cold start. It can be left on for a very long time without draining the batteries as it doesn't run the color LCD except in playback mode. I was really amazed at how long the camera ran on a set of 4 NiMH AA type batteries. The autofocus (at least with the 22-80mm lens) was rather slow and gave the camera an overall shutter lag time of about 2 seconds. It wasn't a whole lot faster when using manual focus so the autofocus system was not entirely responsible for this unusually long lag time.
Using the RD 3000 with the dedicated Minolta flash units is a snap thanks to the TTL hot shoe on the top. There is also a regular PC flash sync connector so nearly any type of external or studio strobe may be used easily. Flash compensation from +3 to -3 EV in 1/2 EV increments is available by pressing the manual fill flash and exposure compensation buttons and then turning the command dial. It does take a bunch of fingers though!
The RD 3000 is equipped with a CompactFlash Type II card slot so it can be used with any solid state CF card or IBM Microdrives. I didn't test out the camera's SCSI interface as I no longer have any PCs with a SCSI card in them. Using the color LCD you can access the 'Card Info' screen which displays the total amount of space, the amount of space remaining, recorded frames and the number of available frames for each quality setting. Using the monochrome data LCD you can find out how many MB of space are left on the card, a handy feature I wish more digicams had!
All things considered the RD 3000 is a very capable camera but best suited (in my opinion) for use in the studio environment. That's not to say that plenty of people are not using this camera outdoors, I'm sure they are, it just lends itself better to slower-paced subjects and controlled lighting. The RD 3000 package including four lenses, 64MB CF card, AC adapter and rechargeable batteries for $5000 is a very good deal considering the body alone is $4000. A similarly equipped Nikon D1 would probably cost you at least $8000 or more.
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