Minolta DiMAGE Xt Review
Date: July 1, 2003
I take an inventory of what's in the box to ensure
all parts have been received:
Memory Card [I believe a 16MB card is standard,
though I received two 32MB cards for the review.]
Charger and Power Cable
and USB Cables
English Instruction Manuals (Xt and Viewer)
plus 1 CD (Viewer)
French Instruction Manuals (Xt and Viewer)
believe a soft case is optional, but I received
one for the review. The case has a belt loop
and 2 internal pouches: one for an extra SD
card and the other for an extra battery.]
read the well-written and well-illustrated Instruction
Manual. Right away, I want to figure out where
the battery and memory card go in.
up the battery! The Xt comes with a very handy
external battery charger that allows you to charge
the battery inside the camera (just place the
camera on the charger stand) or charge a battery
by itself. Very convenient.
to the Instruction Manual, the battery takes
about 80 mins to charge by itself or 120 mins
to charge in camera. So, we opt to charge the
battery by itself.
the battery is charging, let's read more of the
let's figure out where the SD Memory Card goes.
Just beside the battery slot in the combined battery/memory
card compartment. Slide the card straight in,
give it a little press and release, and it's securely
locked in place.
remove the card, press in and release, and the
card pops up a bit. Then, 'tug' it out gently.
A bit arkward at first because the card is quite
small and there's not much space to pinch it and
lift it out. Removing the SD card seems to require
a bit of a gentle tug to lift it out. Overall
it's easy once you get used to it.
combined battery and memory card compartment door
is sturdy and opens and closes smoothly. Slide
and open to unlock; close and slide to lock. There
does not seem to be any risk that the door might
through the Instruction Manual.
the Minolta Viewer 2.1 software on my Windows
XP Home Edition. [It'a a Sony VAIO Pentium 4 at
1.6GHz with 512MB RAM.]
As per the Instruction Manual, I disable all
memory-resident applications such as my Virus
[Optional, my own preference: I then run Spybot
Search & Destroy to get rid of any memory-resident
spyware that may have installed itself in memory
while I was surfing the Internet.]
Put the Viewer CD in and it autoruns.
Click on 'Starting up the DiMAGE Viewer Installer.'
The InstallShield Wizard walks me through each
step. I change the drive from C: to D: [because
that's where I like to install all applications
that did not originally come with the computer].
It's done! The Installation Menu displays and
I exit the program.
start up the Viewer and browse an existing image
directory. It works fine!
no problem whatsoever encountered on installation.
battery is all charged up. I go out and start
shooting around the house, in the backyard and
especially the neighbor's beautiful flowers and
shrubs. I did not attempt to compose but just
to familiarize myself with the camera, its handling,
changing settings without worrying whether it's
going to result in an over- or under-exposed image,
etc. The idea was to get to know the camera and
is pretty sunny outside, just pass the noon hour,
and it is sometimes difficult to see the LCD image.
Also, since the lens is not aligned with the LCD,
there is a parallax factor to take into consideration
when taking close ups. But never mind, as long
as I can make out the image on the LCD, I frame
and shoot away. After all, I want to judge the
quality of the images on the monitor, not on the
I use the default auto settings most of the times,
plus use flash a couple of times for fill-in or
to freeze motion when the breeze is blowing the
flowers a bit too much. I like it that there is
a dedicated button for the flash, so it's just
a matter of pressing the flash button a couple
of times to select flash on, flash off, or flash
auto. Hey, so far, it's all been very intuitive
-- no hunting for functions buried somewhere deep
in the menu.
sec., F2.8 and ISO 50, +1.0EV with fill-in flash
user-friendly camera with the most common functions
easily set by just pushing a couple of buttons.
I feel comfortable using the camera right away
and find navigating the menu with its three tabs
also intuitive. I did not have to fumble around
to change settings. [It helped that I skimmed
through the Instruction Manual beforehand and
knew where the settings I was interested in were.]
shutter lag, there is good news: the camera is
quite responsive and I did not have to wait before
taking the next shot. Shoot, compose and shoot
right, it's time to upload the pictures and see
how my first snapshots come out.
I plug in the camera to my computer using the
supplied USB cable, I place the Xt in the battery
charger and let the battery charge up -- again
as per the Instruction Manual. [Otherwise the
whole setup can 'freeze up' -- so says the Instruction
Manual, and so have reported some early users.
I did, on occasion when I just took one or two
pictures, just plug the Xt in and uploaded without
any hitch, but then my Xt is always in its charger/stand
and charged up max.]
find the included battery charger quite convenient
to use. You can insert a Lithium-Ion battery in
and a new one will charge in about 80 mins. Or,
you can just drop your camera right into the charger
(which then also serves as a camera stand) and
a depleted battery inside the camera will charge
in about 120 mins. I leave the charger plugged
in and when I finish a shooting session, I just
drop the camera in the charger. Perhaps a small
thing for some, but I personally find it very
convenient and this ensures the battery is always
charged to the full when I need to use the camera
the next time.
I go through the Instruction Manual once again,
this time a bit more carefully. [Hint: Although
a digital camera should be intuitive to use, we
always recommend that you read the Instruction
Manual that comes with it.]
the battery is once again fully charged. I make
sure the camera is OFF, slide the small protective
cover to reveal the USB jack, plug in the USB
cable into the USB jack, plug the other end into
my computer, and turn on the camera (the power
button is slightly recessed to prevent accidental
turning on/off and requires holding it in for
a couple of seconds to activate it).
My PC recognizes the camera as a drive and a pop
up screen asks me what I want to do. I select
'Copy pictures to a folder on my computer.' The
transfer takes approximately 1 sec per image.
To disconnect the camera from the computer, I
click on the unplug/eject hardware icon on the
task bar to disconnect it, wait for the all-clear
message, turn off the camera and then unplug the
USB cable from the computer, and then from the
camera. Again, as per the Instruction Manual.
quick evaluation of my first snapshots show that
they suffer from camera shake, and also that my
finger got in the way of the lens a couple of
times. The shutter release depresses easily halfway
and locks the focus (and exposure) but to press
it completely requires a little bit more effort
and that's where the camera shake is introduced.
Understandable for such a small and light camera,
so I practice a bit more shooting around the room
and pretty soon, I get the hang of it, as demonstrated
by the pictures on this and the other pages.
head for Edwards Garden. Some flowers are out,
but not quite the show it will be in a few weeks.
I make sure my battery is fully recharged, and
I have two 32MB SD cards with me, with each card
able to hold about 18 images at the 2048x1536
Fine quality (note: the Xt also saves in TIFF).
It is very sunny so the pictures should be a good
test of the camera's ability to deal with high
contrast and highlights. There is also a stream
that courses through the garden and I take some
pictures of the reflections of a bridge over the
Xt is barely visible when I have it in my hand
but I keep it in my pocket when I'm just walking
around looking for a good scenic spot. I leave
the camera on most of the time and I spend just
over an hour at the park. I run out of card space
but the battery is still going.
are more features of the Xt that I have not tried
yet: voice memo to record a few seconds of comments
with each picture; movie (recording time limited
only by recording media capacity, 320x240 with
sound); continuous shooting at 1.3fps; remote
camera for videoconferencing using Microsoft NetMeeting.
What I find really cool with the Xt is that, even
though it is a point-and-shoot digital camera,
I am still able to obtain high quality pictures
in Program AE mode. Using only exposure compensation
and fill-in flash, I can also override the camera's
metered exposure ever so slightly when I think
it's required. Overall, I am very happy with the
Minolta DiMAGE Xt because of its pocketability,
the quality of its 3.2 megapixels pictures, and
its ease of use.