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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Minolta DiMAGE Xt

Minolta Digital Cameras

   


Minolta DiMAGE Xt Review

Review Date: July 1, 2003

Category: Point-and-Shoot

Photoxels Awards
JeansPocket Certified: Easily fits in the front pocket of a pair of jeans OriGenial: Original design and ingenious internal zoom lens mechanism
 

User's Experience

First, I take an inventory of what's in the box to ensure all parts have been received:

  • DiMAGE Xt
  • Wrist Strap
  • Li-Ion Battery
  • SD Memory Card [I believe a 16MB card is standard, though I received two 32MB cards for the review.]
  • Battery Charger and Power Cable
  • A/V and USB Cables
  • 2 English Instruction Manuals (Xt and Viewer) plus 1 CD (Viewer)
  • 2 French Instruction Manuals (Xt and Viewer)
  • [I 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.]

Next, read the well-written and well-illustrated Instruction Manual. Right away, I want to figure out where the battery and memory card go in.

Charge 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.

  • According 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.

While the battery is charging, let's read more of the Instruction Manual.

OK, 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.

To 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.

The 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 open accidentally.

Skim through the Instruction Manual.

Install 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 Checker.
  • [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.
  • I start up the Viewer and browse an existing image directory. It works fine!
  • Absolutely no problem whatsoever encountered on installation.

80 mins later...

The 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 its functions.

It 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 LCD.

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.

1/45 sec., F2.8 and ISO 50, +1.0EV with fill-in flash
1/45 sec., F2.8 and ISO 50, +1.0EV with fill-in flash

First impressions:

Very 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.]

Concerning 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 again.

All right, it's time to upload the pictures and see how my first snapshots come out.

Before 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.]

I 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.

Meanwhile, 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.]

OK, 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.

A 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.

I 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 water.

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.

There 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.

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