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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Minolta DiMAGE Z1

Minolta Digital Cameras

   


Minolta DiMAGE Z1 Review

Review Date: Jan 29, 2004

Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur

Minolta DiMAGE Z1

User's Experience

Thursday, Jan 15, 2004 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • Minolta Z1
  • 16MB SD Card
  • 4 AA Alkaline Batteries
  • Shoulder Strap
  • Interface Cables: USB and Video
  • Lens Cap with cord
  • English and French Instruction Manuals: Z1, DiMAGE Viewer
  • Software CD: DiMAGE Viewer 2.2.1, ArcSoft Video Impression 2

Being here in Canada, all documentation comes in both English and French versions.

The DiMAGE Z1 Instruction Manual is well illustrated and written, and I was able to find all the information I needed to operate the camera.

There is also a DiMAGE Viewer Instruction Manual that is quite useful in explaning how to get the most of the Viewer software, including how to do tone-curve corrections (to adjust the overall colour of an image), histogram corrections, and sharpness.

I take the time to set the Minolta DiMAGE Z1 to the way I would like to use it:

MENU 1:

  • Drive mode = Single (also, Self-timer, Continuous, Progressive, Bracketing)
  • Image Size = 2048x1536 (also, 1600x1200, 1280x960, 640x480)
  • Quality = Fine (also, Standard, Economy)
  • White Balance = Auto
  • (Custom) Key func. = Flash mode (can also be set to Drive mode, White Balance, Focus mode or Color mode)

MENU 2:

  • Focus mode = Autofocus (also, Manual)
  • Full-time AF= Off
  • Flash mode = Autoflash (also, Auto Red Eye, Fill flash, Fill+Red eye, Slow Sync.)
  • Flash comp. = 0
  • Metering mode = Spot (also, Multisegment, Ctr. Weighted)

MENU 3:

  • Sensitivity = ISO 50 (also, Auto, 100, 200, 400)
  • Digital zoom = Off
  • Color mode = NaturalColor (also, Vivid Color, B&W, Sepia)
  • Flash comp. = 0
  • Sharpness = Normal (also, Hard (+), Soft (-))
  • Contrast = Normal (also, High (+), Low (-))

SETUP 1:

  • LCDBrightness = adjust brightness to liking
  • Power save = 3 min. (also, 1, 5, 10 min.)
  • Inst. Playback = 2 sec. (also, Off, 10 sec.)
  • Flash comp. = 0
  • Sharpness = Normal (also, Hard (+), Soft (-))
  • Contrast = Normal (also, High (+), Low (-))

SETUP 3:

  • Noise reductn = On

For Shooting Mode, I mostly leave the Exposure Mode Dial at Programmed AE.

In Manual focus, the up/down Controller keys are used to focus and a scale showing only approximate distance is displayed on the screen.

Note that in Autoflash mode, the flash will still not fire if you do not manually lift it up first.

You do not have to go into the menu to set the LCD brightness: simply press and hold the i+ button to display the LCD brightness scale and then use the right/left Controller buttons to select the desired brightness.

Time exposures of up to 30 sec. can be taken.

Macro is at 4 cm (1.7 in.) and is set at the press of a button.

First impressions:

Snow-Covered Bridge: 1/80 sec., F8.0, +0.3EV and ISO 50
Snow-Covered Bridge :
5.8mm, Aperture Priority, Spot, 1/80 sec., F8.0, +0.3EV and ISO 50

The Minolta DiMAGE Z1 is incredibly light and compact for a 10x optical zoom digital camera. It has a unique look with a nice melding of futuristic and contemporary design elements: for example, though the buttons are shiny and curved, they work exactly as you would expect them to. Its designer has opted for a metallic and shiny exterior with a nice finish. I cannot help trying to picture the Z1 in an all black body finish, and I hope Minolta would consider offering one in the future.

The handgrip is very comfortable and I can handhold at full telephoto shots if the shutter speed is fast enough. You would need to use a tripod for those long telephoto shots at slow shutter speeds. The neck strap is a convenient way to carry the camera for extended periods, but I find it tends to easily get all tangled up (perhaps too thin at the ends?). I find it a bit disconcerting that the strap eyelets do not quite line up (just feels funny), but I believe this is perhaps to provide proper support to the lens.

The Minolta Z1 comes with 4 disposable standard AA Alkaline batteries. [For the review, Minolta Canada also kindly sent me a Quest Platinum 2100 rechargeable battery kit which allows batteries to be recharged one at a time. You may also leave your fully charged batteries in the charger without damage. Nice!] Battery life is very good: I took more than 100 shots in sub-freezing temperatures, leaving the camera on most of the time, reviewing after every shot, and the batteries were still going strong. I recommend buying an optional battery charger and 2 sets of rechargeable NiMH batteries (4 in the camera + 4 spare). Since these NiMH batteries can lose charge even unused, I always carry 4 new AA Alkaline batteries as spare just in case.

Here are a couple of "futuristic" design elements that make the DiMAGE Z1 work just a bit different than what you might expect:

The power button is certainly not where you would expect it to be. It's not around the shutter release button and it's not on top of the camera. It's in fact the button below the LCD. Because the button is shiny, it's difficult to see the "Power" marking on it. But found it I eventually did.

I could not figure out how to switch between the LCD and Electronic Viewfinder at first. It's easy once you look in the manual and realize it's the ring around the power switch. For some reason, I was expecting the switch to be closer to the viewfinder. In its favour, the EVF is extremely bright and clear and covers approx. 98% of the frame.

I could not get the flash to pop up. I pressed every button and turned every switch with no success. Well no wonder, because the Instruction Manual says there's no button: you simply use your thumb and index finger to manually lift it up.

The zoom toggle lever is where you would expect it to be but its placement so close to the Exposure Mode Dial means that the latter cannot be easily rotated with your thumb alone. For me, this necessitates taking my eye off the viewfinder and angling my fingers to turn the dial.

The viewfinder diopter knob is just plain impossible to rotate, requiring the use of fingernails to do so. A slightly raised indentation would greatly facilitate this job. Or a wheel rotated by the thumb should also do the trick better.

The DC terminal socket is plainly exposed. No rubber plug. Potential hazards pop up in my mind: dust, humidity, corrosion?

The macro and flash buttons are on top of the handgrip, close to the shutter release button and angled just so that I inadvertently press the macro button a number of times and put the lens into super macro mode without realizing it.

Of course, these design decisions are not bad in and of themselves. I personally find that they just cause a certain amount of dissonance at first because they are not where I expected them to be. But, like every other digital camera, once I get used to their placements, it becomes second nature.

Now, one feature I really like is that the exposure compensation is defaulted to the Controller left and right buttons. Yeah! No more going to the menu to set exposure compensation. Now, with just a press of a button, you can manually bracket your exposure to ensure correct exposure. If only more digital cameras adopted this standard. Kudos to Minolta!

Using a camera in sub-freezing temperatures is quite a challenge, but the Minolta DiMAGE Z1 passed with flying colours. I was quite happy that condensation did not form on the lens as I left the safety of my warm car and stepped into the cold outside. The batteries held up, the mechanisms performed flawlessly, the autofocus was quick and precise, and there was negligible shutter lag.

If you are serious about your digital photography and fancy a long zoom lens, be sure to check out the Minolta DiMAGE Z1. Not only does it have all the features you need to learn and grow in your photographic skills, but it's also fast and the image quality is excellent, virtually noise-free.

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