Fact Sheets on the Best Digital Cameras
 
 
 
 
    Bookmark and Share  
 
Home
News
Articles (RSS Feed)
Press Releases
Site Map
 
Best Digital Cameras
Buyer's Guide
Point-and-Shoot
Beginner
Serious
Advanced
Ultra Compact
Ultra Zoom
User Manuals
 
Digital Camera Reviews
Reviews Matrix
Photoxels Awards
 
Fundamentals
Tutorials
Glossary
 
History of Cameras
Featured Sites
Contests
 
About Us
Contact
Privacy Statement
 
Photo Store
Digital Cameras
Accessories
 
 

 
You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2

Minolta Digital Cameras

   


Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 Review

Review Date: May 24, 2004

Category: Advanced Amateur - Prosumer

Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2

User's Experience

Monday, Apr 26, 2004 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • Konica Minolta A2
  • Lens Shade
  • Neck Strap
  • Li-Ion Battery & Battery Charger
  • Interface Cables: USB and Video
  • Lens Cap
  • English and French Documentation: A2 Instruction Manual, DiMAGE Viewer
  • Software CD: DiMAGE Viewer 2.3.3, Video Studio 7

The Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 looks and feel like a SLR in use, and the way it has intellegently implemented its functions through buttons and dials means that you can focus on taking the picture instead of navigating the menu. If you are a SLR user, chances are great you won't experience any frustration using the A2's controls.

The battery charger comes with a power cord and it takes about 150 mins to fully charge a depleted Li-Ion battery. There is unfortunately no indication how much of the battery is already charged: red light means the battery is charging; light out means the battery is fully charged. Be aware that a low battery will affect the AF system and you won't be able to properly transfer images to your PC.

There is no CF card supplied with the A2. I recommend you purchase at least a 512MB CF card, or as large a memory card as you can afford. For example, a 256MB CF card will allow you to record about 31 Extra fine Large images (3264x2448 pixels) or 20 RAW images or 15 RAW+JPEG images or 10 TIFF images. A 8MP image takes a lot of space (though compressed) so unless you fancy changing CF card in the middle of a shooting session, check out the larger capacity CF cards. The A2 accepts both CF Type I and II.

With Windows XP, you don't need to install any software to transfer images from camera to PC. Just plug the USB cable into your camera and PC USB socket, switch the A2 to Playback Mode, and turn the camera on. The A2 is automatically configured as an external drive. You can then either use Windows Explorer or DiMAGE Viewer to transfer the images. Transfer times vary according to the amount of data in the image, your available PC memory, USB speed, etc.

It took me about 8 sec. to transfer an extra fine image from the camera to my PC. The A2 comes with high-speed USB 2.0, though my PC only has USB 1.0 ports, and so you will get faster results with a high-speed USB port:

Image Quality

Transfer Time (sec.)
(USB 1.0 port instead of USB 2.0 port)

Extra Fine 8
RAW 20
RAW + JPEG 25
TIFF 40

Here are approximate writing time when saving images to my CF type I memory card (timed from when the red light comes on to when it turns off). However, thanks to the A2's internal buffer, you won't have to wait the full time to take another shot; the number in parentheses is the number of shots I was able to fire off one after another before the camera locked up writing to memory card:

Image Quality Writing Time (sec.)
Extra Fine

20 (7)

RAW 35 (3)
RAW + JPEG 35 (1)
TIFF 50 (1)

In other words, using Extra fine image quality, you should not experience any shutter lag. I was able to take 7-8 images before the camera locked up writing to memory card; thereafter, I was able to fire off the next shot after every 4 sec. until the internal buffer was completely cleared. Power up is fast at about 2-3 sec.

There are two CDs included: DiMAGE Viewer and Video Studio.

The A2 Instruction Manual is well illustrated and written, with a good sized print font, which is quite rare among user manuals. There is also a DiMAGE Viewer Instruction Manual that helps you with basic and advanced image processing.

Bell Peppers: 1/13 sec., F2.8, and ISO 64
Bell Peppers
28mm, Program, Multi-segment, 1/13 sec., F2.8, and ISO 64

In extremely low-light situations, automatic monitor-amplification (if set on in the Recording Menu #3) intensifies the EVF and LCD monitor image and switches to B&W. The A2 does not have AF-assist and so, as expected, it will hunt for a focus lock in extreme low-light. But give it a contrasty subject to focus on, and it does pretty well.

AF in Low-Light
Telephoto Macro
7.2mm, Program AE, Multi-segment
2 sec., F2.8, ISO 64
Telephoto Macro 50.8mm
Program AE, Multi-segment
1/200 sec., F5.0, ISO 64, Fill-in Flash
Light from monitor only (tripod used) Light from monitor only (hand-held)

To test the AF, I switched off all lights in my home office at night except for the light from my monitor (see image at left, which gives an indication how dark the room was and how close to the monitor the subject was). I placed Bamm-Bamm about 12 cm (5 in.) away, switched the camera to Telephoto macro and moved in close. I also turned fill-in flash on to obtain a fast enough shutter speed so as to eliminate camera shake (the shot is hand-held, Anti-shake on); after all we want to know if the A2 will lock focus properly in dim lights. I placed the flex focus point on Bamm-Bamm's left eye. The image in the monitor switched to B&W and I moved the camera around slightly until I got a focus lock.

I also took a number of shots with the A2 on a tripod, and took long exposures (4-30 sec.) without the flash. I used the self-timer to eliminate camera shake. No problem with AF lock. However, I had the luxury of moving the camera slightly left and right to obtain a focus lock on a non-moving subject; in a real-life situation (say, a pub, restaurant or concert with dim lights), if you do not have enough contrast for the AF to lock on properly, you'll probably be out of luck.

Autofocus

I think I should comment on the AF at this point because so many discussions have gone on about it in the forums. I was a bit concerned about this issue when I unpacked the A2 and got ready to set it through its paces. I paid particular attention to the following two problem areas reported by other reviewers:

  • Out-of-focus (OOF) images even when the white focus indicator lights up to indicate proper focus lock.
  • Absolute refusal to lock focus at times.

I am glad to report that I found that the A2's autofocus seems to work as normal as one could expect. [Perhaps, my review camera was a later series.] Here is what I found using my review camera:

  • In Single AF mode, focus is precise and fast. When the white focus indicator comes on, the image is clearly in focus; when it does not come on (the colour is red), the image is clearly OOF. This is as it should be, so absolutely no problem here.
  • However, I did find the Continuous AF (C-AF) to be a little bit too sensitive at times. In Continuous AF mode, the white focus indicator will come on to confirm focus on half-press of the shutter release button. As expected, the C-AF continues to adjust focus. Sometimes (not all the time), after the white focus indicator comes on, the C-AF continues to focus and when it stops, the image looks OOF in the monitor. I have therefore disabled Full-Time AF in Set-up menu #4 and used Single AF mode exclusively. This does not bother me since I am not a great fan of C-AF anyways (the constant motor noise bothers me lots).

So, is there a focus problem with the A2? For me, at least with the review camera I had, there was no problem per se, at least not the BIG problem I thought I would be faced with. I was expecting the A2 to either be unable to lock focus most of the time or give wrong focus indication most of the time, but that was simply not the case. [Then, perhaps again, I was lucky, and your experience may be different. I suggest you keep abreast of development on the forum boards.]

Any of the following situations could potentially cause OOF problems: not waiting a moment for the Anti-shake to stabilize the image; using a too slow shutter speed for the corresponding focal length; or trying to focus on a subject with not enough contrast. The latter is a more frequent cause than you would think. When I don't get a focus lock, I simply move the camera slightly or move the focus flex point (e.g. from the face to the eyes) and the AF locks on right away.

If you have an A2, and worry about having OOF problems, do the following test first to see if this might solve your AF "problems":

  • Disable Full-Time AF in Set-up menu #4;
  • Switch to Single-focus AF;
  • Ensure you use a shutter speed of at least the reciprocal of the focal length (with Anti-shake on), or else set the camera on a tripod (with Anti-shake off);
  • Choose a stationary test subject with enough contrast.
  • Use flex focus point on your subject.
  • If using a tripod, set to self-timer 2 or 10 sec.
  • Depress the shutter.

Still getting OOF pictures? Send your camera back for an exchange.

Anti-Shake Technology

The A2's Anti-Shake Technology is unique in that it stabilizes the image sensor instead of a lens element to minimize camera shake. Conceptually it's a great idea because if it is used in a future Konica Minolta dSLR, this Anti-shake technology could potentially mean image stabilization for any lens used. [I just read that this is indeed the case for the new Minolta Dynax dSLR. We won't have to pay premium money for special IS lenses!]

The Anti-shake is great, but your mileage will vary depending on the focal length you use and how steady your hands are. Perhaps, it's wise to review the A2's Anti-shake technology and understand how it's supposed to be used:

  • Anti-shake is most effective at long focal lengths. Anti-shake is less effective when in macro mode (or other short subject distances), and should be turned off when the camera is mounted on a tripod. If you move the camera too much (e.g. panning) or if the subject is moving, Anti-shake may not be effective.
  • There are three possible focus indicator colours that show on screen and that you should pay attention to: White (Anti-shake is off), Yellow (Anti-shake is on but shutter speed is too slow for it to be effective), and Blue (Anti-shake is on and effective). Additionally, if the focus indicator turns Red, the camera is overheating because of operating and ambient temperatures; the Anti-shake system will then turn off automatically.
  • According to Konica Minolta, Anti-shake is effective handheld at 1/25 sec. and above. Of course, this also depends on the focal length used and how steady your hands are. If you are new to long zoom lens, be aware that the slowest shutter speed we can generally hand hold a camera without suffering from camera shake is at the reciprocal of the focal length. For example, at 50mm (using 35mm equivalent), the slowest handheld shutter speed would be 1/50 sec. And at the full telephoto focal length of 200mm, the slowest shutter speed you can use handholding the camera is 1/200 sec. Anything less than that and chances are great you will get OOF shots. Remember, I am here talking about the slowest shutter speed -- and assuming you have a very steady hand. Most people would need one or two stops above that speed.
  • After you half-press the shutter release button, you are also supposed to wait a moment for the image sensor to stabilize the image before you take the picture. By enabling "Display + Exp." for the Anti-shake in the Setup Menu #4, you are supposed to be able to see the effect of the Anti-shake system in the live image. [Personally, I am not sure if I can tell the difference.]
  • Now, the A2's Anti-shake is supposed to gain you about two stops, i.e. at 200mm, you might be able to get away with 1/60 sec. -- if you have very steady hands. If not, I would recommend staying with the reciprocal of the focal length (i.e. 1/200 sec.) with the added peace of mind that the Anti-shake is helping you steadying the camera.

Other features of the A2 that I appreciated:

  • A grid can be overlayed on the screen to allow precise horizontal and vertical levelling. Holding down the Function button, press the information button to cycle through a grid, a scale, or none.
  • The focus area is movable -- what Konica Minolta calls the FFP, or Flex Focus Point. I find this much more preferable than pre-focusing and re-composing, and irreplaceable in macro mode.
  • The macro switch is right on the lens barrel.

<< Handling & Feel

QuickFact Sheet >>

 

 

 

 



  Home | Best Digital Cameras | Digital Camera Reviews | Tutorials | Special | About | Shop  
 

Product technical specifications are as represented by the manufacturer
and subject to manufacturer's change, so please do not rely on them without verification.
All trademarks, service marks, and Copyrights are the property of their respective owners.
Privacy Notice. Copyright © 2002-2015 Photoxels. All rights reserved.