Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D SLR Review

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Konica Minolta MAXXUM 5D

Steve's Conclusion

Following the availability of the MAXXUM 7D prosumer dSLR earlier this year, Konica Minolta loyalists have again been rewarded for their patience with the arrival of the MAXXUM 5D. Introduced with a body-only MSRP of $799, fully $800 less than the 7D at the time of its introduction, the MAXXUM 5D provides a less costly digital migration path for users of MAXXUM film cameras. While it falls short of the 7D's shooting performance (less burst depth and a slower buffer write speed), the MAXXUM 5D retains its sibling's most advanced technological feature, body-integral CCD-shift Anti-Shake that is claimed to work with virtually any MAXXUM AF lens.

Konica Minolta lowered the cost of the 5D in part by replacing some of the 7D's switches and control dials with menu choices. Gone are the 7D's metering, continuous/single AF, flash compensation and AF area selection controls, all replaced by a menu called-up by depressing the Fn button. While some may miss the 7D's plentiful switches and dials, the 5D's function menu is well-organized and very effective, consolidating functions that are scattered around the 7D's body.

Taking the place of the top-mounted data LCD present on many dSLR's is the large 2.5- inch LCD monitor which serves as a recording mode display as well as a playback and menu navigation monitor. The recording mode display is very informative, with indicators for essentially all of the available camera settings. It was also enjoyable to use, turning on and off automatically via the eyepiece sensors, and rotating automatically via the camera's orientation sensor; it is not necessary to remove the camera from eye level to view or change settings. The menu text was easy to read thanks to the large LCD, and navigation was easily accomplished using the 4-way controller and front control dial. The display is quite bright; in dim ambient light I sometimes turned it off to eliminate its distracting glare as I raised the camera to eye level. Although the same size physically, the 5D's LCD is lower resolution than the 7D's (115,000 pixels vs 207,000).

The LCD, while certainly bright and resolute enough for playback, is limited to a magnification of only 2.4X for small JPEG images and 4.7X for large ones. Konica Minolta fixed one shortcoming of the 7D: the 5D offers playback magnification of RAW images; the 7D does not. While playback zoom offers only limited magnification, its detail display, including histogram and exposure settings, was very effective.

The 5D's viewfinder is both bright and informative. All the necessary camera status information is presented on the bottom line, and focus areas are illuminated briefly when autofocus is locked. Complementing the 5D's Anti-shake feature, the right side of the viewfinder displays an Anti-shake scale that informs you of the amount of shake detected; reducing camera movement will improve the effectiveness of the 5D's Anti-shake feature. The viewfinder's deep rubber eye cup and dioptric adjustment easily accommodate eyeglass wearers, providing a clear and full view of the focusing screen and display areas.

The 5D's shooting performance is robust and competitive in the amateur dSLR market. From power-on till the first image was captured measured a mere 1 second; waking the 5D up from its power-saving sleep mode took about the same amount of time. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter and capturing the image, averaged about 1/10 second when pre-focused, and between 3/10 and 4/10 second including auto focus time, depending on the degree of focus change required. Shot-to-shot delay averaged 1.1 second in both single and continuous AF; using the internal flash, the shot-to-shot interval grew to between 1.4 and 3.7 seconds depending on subject distance.

The 5D's performance in Continuous advance mode was dependent on image size and quality. In Large Extra fine mode, the 5D captured 6 images in 1.8 seconds, with subsequent shots coming at 6/10 second intervals. 10 Large Fine images were captured in 3.3 seconds, with subsequent shots at 1/2 second intervals. It took under 3 seconds to flush a buffer full of JPEG images to the 5D's CF memory card. In RAW mode, the capture rate stayed at 3fps, but only 5 images could be captured before the buffer filled, and the interval to capture subsequent images slowed to 1 second; it took less than 4 seconds to flush a buffer full of RAW images. I'd rate the 5D's shutter lag good, autofocus performance average, its capture rate average, and its rate of buffer transfer to CF memory good. The 5D's performance was measured using a fast SanDisk Extreme III 1GB CF memory card, 18-70mm Konica Minolta AF DT lens, flash off, daylight lighting, 3008x2000 JPEG/Fine unless otherwise noted.

Konica Minolta's body-integral Anti-shake system is a first among dSLR's. Minolta claims that the 5D's Anti-shake will help you capture blur-free images at shutter speeds two to three stops slower than the 1/focal-length rule of thumb, and my experience agreed. Shooting with the 18-70mm AF zoom at full telephoto, a 35mm-equivalent focal length of 105mm, I was able to capture consistently blur-free images at 1/25 second, a 2 stop improvement over the rule of thumb 1/100 second. At a shutter speed of 1/13 second, about half the images were blur-free.

The 5D's autofocus system is flexible and accurate. It provides a choice of focusing modes including Manual, Direct Manual, Single AF, Continuous AF and Automatic AF, which allows the camera to switch between single AF and Continuous AF depending on subject movement. Continuous AF was quite responsive, being able to keep up with the flow of play on a soccer field. A Custom function is provided to give priority to AF, which prevents shutter release until the camera focuses, or Shutter Release, which releases the shutter even if focus can not be confirmed. The autofocus system can be set to Wide Focus Area, allowing the camera to select the optimum focus point from the 9 available, Spot AF Area using the center AF point, or Focus area selection, allowing the photographer to choose the focus point using the 4-way controller.

Low-light AF performance is very good even without the use of focus assist lamps, but the 5D will fire a few short bursts from its internal flash or use the focus assist lamp of an external 3600HS(D) or 5600HS(D) flash to achieve precise focus even in complete darkness. As good as the AF system is, there are always conditions that favor the use of Manual focus. The AF/MF switch, located on the left side of the body adjacent to the lens, switches the camera between manual and autofocus, allowing you to keep your eye at the viewfinder while switching focus modes. While in MF mode, the 5D's AF system monitors your focusing effort; it turns on the Focus Locked indicator in the viewfinder when it is in agreement, but does not illuminate the in-focus AF point.

The MAXXUM 5D's exposure system is capable and flexible. In ordinary shooting conditions, its automatic settings produce well-exposed, nicely saturated shots with accurate color reproduction. But when conditions are demanding, the 5D provides every exposure setting you could want. Dealing with unusual light sources? The 5D's White Balance system not only has all the standard presets, but each preset has a fine-tuning range of adjustment in 6 steps. Custom white balance can be set from a reference shot. You can even set white balance using the color temperature of the light source.

Both Exposure bracketing and Flash exposure bracketing are offered, with steps limited to ± .3 or .7 EV for three frames; bracketing drive mode can be set for single or continuous advance. Exposure compensation can be set ± 2EV in .3 EV steps. Contrast, saturation and sharpness can be adjusted in a range of 5 steps, -2 to +2, via the Color/Digital Effects menu. Color modes of Natural and Natural Plus (increased contrast and actuance) use the sRGB color space, while Adobe RGB and Embed Adobe RGB use the Adobe RGB color space. The 5D also offers scene-oriented Color modes that optimize the exposure for Portraits, Landscapes, Sunsets, Night Views and Night Portraits; these modes plus Sports Action are also selectable on the Exposure Mode dial. While not as flexible as the 7D in terms of bracketing and exposure compensation, the 5D's scene modes offer help to the less experienced photographer that the 7D does not.

The 5D produced good exposures using its internal flash; it provided sufficient coverage for a 18mm wide angle (27mm in 35mm equivalence) field of view, and its AF-assist and Red Eye reduction functions were both very effective. External flash, however, was untested. In our test of the 7D, we experienced consistent underexposure with the Minolta 5600HS(D) external flash and wide angle focal lengths; we can not say whether or not this problem has been fixed in the 5D.

The 5D's image quality is excellent. Standard settings produced richly saturated images with good contrast and sharpness. Image noise in highlight areas is low at speeds up to ISO 1600, and noticeable but usable at ISO 3200. Shadow noise is low up to ISO 800, detectable at ISO 1600 and noticeable at 3200. Overall, the 5D's high-ISO noise characteristics are very good for an amateur dSLR, and use of the 5D's Anti-shake feature allows the use of lower sensitivity settings than other camera's in its class.

The Konica Minolta 18-70mm AF DT kit lens complements the 5D nicely. You won't mistake this inexpensive piece of glass for a professional lens, but it produces good sharpness throughout its zoom and aperture ranges. Chromatic aberration (purple fringing in high contrast areas) was not evident in our test shots. The lens exhibits a bit of barrel distortion at full wide angle, but is essentially distortion free at moderate to telephoto focal lengths.

The 5D's NP-400 battery is quite powerful, lasting for more than 400 images with AS on before it was depleted. As always, keeping a second battery fully charged is highly recommended.

I thoroughly enjoyed using the MAXXUM 5D. Its controls have a professional feel, and are well-located on the body - easy to find and access, but not positioned where they might be accidentally activated. The menu system was logically organized and provided quick access to the 5D's shooting parameters. It's size was a good fit for my relatively large hand, more comfortable to hold than the canon Digital Rebel XT.

With a price aimed at the amateur dSLR market, the 5D faces stiff competition, largely from the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT. Its image resolution (6 vs 8-megapixels) and shooting performance might fall a bit short of the XT's, but the 5D's image quality is essentially equal and its handling superior. The 5D's body-integral CCD-shift Anti- Shake feature will be a tie-breaker for many users. Amateur dSLR's are generally outfitted with relatively inexpensive amateur lenses having no image stabilization feature; the 5D's Anti-shake feature allows you to enjoy low light hand-held shooting with every lens in your kit, while the Rebel XT requires the purchase of relatively expensive IS lenses for equivalent low light shooting. Users of MAXXUM film SLR's now have a relatively inexpensive migration path to digital; those who found the 7D a bit pricey may be pushed over the edge by the 5D's $799 MSRP. Users of consumer digicams now have another alternative to consider as they evaluate upgrading to a dSLR; many of them will find the 5D's combination of excellent image quality, integral Anti-shake and excellent ergonomics compelling.

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Imaging Resource's 5D review

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