Review: Minolta DiMAGE 7i
Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, July 15, 2002
Monday, July 15, 2002
year, Minolta introduced the DiMAGE 7, which became one of the most
talked about digicams of 2001. The DiMAGE 7 (see
our review)featured a 5 Megapixel CCD, 7X Minolta GT lens, and
tons of manual controls. However, it also featured poor autofocus,
lousy battery life, a cheap-feeling body (for the price), and a
different color space.
clearly listens to reviewers and users alike, and the end result
is the new DiMAGE
7i ($1099). The 7i attempts to fix all the complaints that were
brought up about its predecessor. And for the most part, Minolta
has done a great job at doing so. The changes between the DiMAGE
7 and 7i are:
autofocus is now twice as fast
faster shot-to-shot speeds
continuous shooting mode -- as fast as 7 frames/sec at 1280 x
controls for brightness, contrast, and saturation.
vivid and solarization color modes
audio and video recording capabilities
out more about this exciting camera in our review!
this camera is so similar to the original DiMAGE 7, some of the
content will be the same.
in the Box?
DiMAGE 7i has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
4.95 effective Megapixel Minolta DiMAGE 7i camera
1850 mAh NiMH rechargeable batteries
featuring DiMAGE Image View Utility and drivers
page camera manual + 67 page software manual (both printed)
the exception of the way-too-small memory card, Minolta has gotten
their act together in the bundle department. But you will need a
bigger memory card, as a 16MB one on a 5 Megapixel camera just does
not cut it. I recommend a 128MB card at the very minimum. The DiMAGE
7i supports the IBM Microdrive, as well.
the original DiMAGE 7 included throw-away AA alkaline batteries,
the 7i includes four very powerful Sanyo NiMH rechargeables. And
you'll need these 1850 mAh beasts, as the 7i still has its predecessors
hunger for power. Minolta estimates that you'll be able to get about
110 minutes / 200 shots per charge. Of course, that's what they
said for the DiMAGE 7 too. For a more independent test of battery
life, check out this
section of the DP Review story on the DiMAGE 7i. That test shows
that the batteries last twice as long on the 7i.
you can see, a battery charger is also included. The 7i also includes
a lens hood (useful for shooting outdoors) plus the usual lens cap
(with retaining strap) and shoulder strap accessories.
of accessories, the D7i can use an external flash, including macro
ring and wireless flashes. Minolta's 3600HS ($250) and 5600HS ($450)
are the "regular" external flashes that work right out
of the box. If you want to use another type (non-Minolta) flash,
you'll probably want the PC Flash Adapter ($90).
can also attach filters to the lens. I'm not aware of any conversion
lens adapters for the 7i. Two other accessories of note are an external
power pack, and an AC adapter.
with the camera is the Minolta DiMAGE Viewer Utility software, v2.0.
This is a newer version than I last tested, and it's easier to use
now. It's still not Mac OS X native, though. You can retouch and
view photos quite easily with this software.
complex camera requires a good manual, and Minolta again delivers.
There are even sections on photography basics and Minolta's history.
There's lots of text to read, and not too many "notes"
in small print.
of my big complaints about the original DiMAGE 7 was that it felt
"cheap" for a camera that sold for well over $1,000. I'm
pleased to report that the D7i is a lot higher quality, with one
exception: the grip. Instead of a rubberized grip (the black part
you can see in the photos), it's made of cheesy plastic. Otherwise,
things are much improved.
D7i is reminiscent of SLR film cameras, just a little more bulky.
It's a large-sized camera and will not be finding its way into your
pockets anytime soon. It is very easy to hold, thanks in part to
official dimensions of the D7i are 4.6 x 3.6 x 4.4 inches (W x H
x D), and it weighs in at 525 grams (18.5 oz.) empty.
start our tour of the DiMAGE 7i now, beginning with the front of
of the highlights of the DiMAGE 7i is the F2.8, 7X optical zoom
Minolta GT lens. The focal range is 7.2 - 50.8 mm, which is equivalent
to 28 - 200 mm. If you're saying "wow, 28 mm is unusually wide
for a digital camera", you're right. The lens is threaded for
49mm attachments, as well.
lens barrel operates the zoom lens mechanically, a nice feature
to have. There is no button to operate it -- just your wrist! There
are markings on the barrel for 28, 35, 50, 100, 150, and 200 mm.
In addition, there is a switch which locks the camera into macro
mode, at either full wide-angle or full telephoto.
the back of the lens barrel (not seen here), there's a wheel for
manual focus. This is an electronic, rather than mechanical dial.
It tells the camera to adjust the focus, rather than physically
moving the lens itself.
pop-up flash (shown in the photo at the top of this page) is raised
manually. The flash range depends on focal length and ISO setting,
but is roughly 0.5 - 3.8 m (wide-angle) and 0.5 - 3.0m (telephoto).
the Sony DSC-F707, the DiMAGE 7i uses a "double flash"
trick (known as TTL Flash Metering) to ensure proper exposure. The
first flash is used to illuminate the subject, while the camera
judges the correct exposure to use. The second flash is the one
that actually lights up the subject for the picture. There camera
also uses info from the autofocus system (Advanced Distance Integration,
or ADI) to ensure "optimum flash exposure". All of this
happens in a fraction of a second!
you want to add your own flash, there's a hot shoe (proprietary,
I believe) on the top of the camera (I'll have a closer look in
a bit). Minolta's Program Flash 3600HS and 5600HS, as well as the
Ring Flash 1200 and 2400 are compatible. I'm not sure about non-Minolta
flashes - my guess is that they will not work.
is no AF assist lamp on this camera, so focusing in low light isn't
going to as good as it could be.
last item of note on the front is a microphone -- a new feature
on the D7i.
back of the camera shows the numerous buttons and switches available,
and there's more where that came from.
1.8" LCD has been improved since the D7 -- it's a bit sharper
now. It's also bright and fluid (when you pan around a scene). It's
also positioned so nose smear (from using the viewfinder) won't
be a problem.
above that is the fabled Electronic Viewfinder (EVF). The EVF is
like a little LCD that you look into, in place of a regular optical
rangefinder. The advantages are that you can see 100% of the frame
(no parallax error) and all the exposure info is shown. The disadvantages
are difficulty in viewing in bright or dim light and increased power
consumption. While the EVF here is bright and fluid like the main
LCD, it's also lower resolution. You can tilt the EVF up to 90 degrees,
so you can look straight down into it -- a nice touch. (By the way,
if your sunglasses are polarized like mine are, you possibly will
not be able to use the EVF with them on.)
light levels in a room get low, the image on the LCD and EVF turns
to black & white. This leads to a much more visible image than
it would be if it were in color. The camera also uses this B&W
mode to help focus in lower light. Don't worry, though -- the image
is still recorded in color.
switch just to the right of the EVF controls whether the EVF or
LCD are used. The default is auto, which uses a nifty sensor (which
detects if you're using the EVF) to switch between the LCD and EVF.
items to the right of the LCD include the Menu button, new and improved
four-way switch, and the Quickview/Delete and Magnification buttons.
Quickview feature will quickly put you in playback mode. The magnification
button (it's that square, poorly-labeled silver button at the lower
right) lets you zoom in as much as 4X into photos, in both record
and playback mode. In record mode, this is useful for confirming
four way switch does double duty as the "flex focus point"
controller. When activated, you use the switch to move cross hairs
around the LCD to the area that you want the camera to focus on.
the top right is the Spot AE metering button. Pressing this will
let you choose something in the frame to use to set the exposure.
This button is customizable via the menu system.
More on that later.
below the LCD is the compartment for the 4 AA batteries. To the
lower right of that, under rubber covers, are the ports for DC in,
A/V out, and a (wired) remote control.
a look at the top of the camera, with yet more controls. At the
center of the photo, you can see the hot shoe. There's a plastic
cover on it when it's not in use. To the right of that is the LCD
info display. A nice feature with this is that it's backlit -- a
feature not seen enough on digital cameras. The backlight turns
on when the scene is dark -- no button needs to be pressed.
three items to the right of the info display are the mode wheel,
"digital subject program button" (AKA scene mode), and
a "return to default settings" button (which Minolta calls
the Pro-Auto button).
"scene mode" has the following choices:
mode wheel has the following selections:
the top of the grip, you'll find the shutter release button, as
well as a dial for changing manual settings.
dumb think about the PC Connect option on the mode wheel -- you
have to then use the four-way switch to "start USB", before
your computer recognizes the camera.
one side of the camera, featuring yet more dials and buttons. The
way most of these controls work is similar to the Olympus E-10.
You first select what option you want. Let's use Drive as an example.
You then hold the button down, while using that dial I just pointed
out on top of the camera, to change the setting.
can also get a better look at the manual focus ring in this shot.
top dial has the following options:
(Memory 1, 2, 3, Store Memory) - you can store three different
sets of settings for easy retrieval
(Multi-segment, center-weighted, spot)
Mode (Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Full Manual)
(Single Frame, Continuous, Self-timer, Bracketing, Interval Shooting,
UHS continuous advance)
Balance (Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Custom)
(Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800)
exposure modes include Program, Aperture and Shutter priority, as
well as Full Manual. The Program mode chooses the best settings
for you, and you can use "program shift" (by halfway pressing
the shutter release and turning the dial) to try other shutter/aperture
combinations as well.
Aperture priority mode, you choose from a range of F2.8-F8 in wide-angle,
and F3.5-F9.5 in telephoto. Shutter priority mode gives you a range
of 4 sec - 1/2000 sec speeds to work with. Full manual mode lets
you choose both shutter and aperture settings. There is also a "bulb
mode" available in full manual mode, which lets you keep the
shutter open for as long as the shutter release button is held down
(up to 30 seconds). A tripod and remote shutter release cable is
basically a requirement for bulb mode.
Drive selections of note are continuous shooting (two types!), bracketing,
and interval shooting.
regular continuous shooting mode, you can take up to give full size,
Fine quality images, as fast as 2 frames/sec, depending on what
settings you're using. You can take anywhere from 4 - 40 pictures
per "burst", depending on the quality/resolution setting.
You cannot use the RAW or Super Fine modes.
(ultra high speed) continuous advance is a new feature on the D7i,
which will take anywhere from 15 - 39 frames, at a rate of 7 frames/second.
The catch (there always is one) is that images are saved at 1280
x 960. You can see a few samples in the photo gallery.
are an incredible four types of bracketing on the DiMAGE 7: exposure,
contrast, color-saturation, and filter (more on these in a second).
The camera will shoot three photos at different settings, so you
can take the best shot possible. (You use the digital effects control
dial to select which type of bracketing you want.) It will take
one step up and one setup down from the current setting.
interval shooting mode lets you take photo(s) at an interval of
your choosing. The choices range from 1 minute to 60 minutes. You
also choose the number of frames, from 2-99. You'll want an AC adapter
to pull this off, as the batteries won't last long enough to do
any good. A new feature on the D7i is the ability to make a movie
of the interval shots taken. It will be played back at 4 frames/second.
usual white balance choices are available, as well as a custom white
balance for those times when the presets don't work.
back to the photo of the camera now, the next dial is the digital
effects control. Here you can change exposure, flash, contrast,
and color-saturation compensation, plus change the "filter".
and flash compensation are both the same item on the digital effects
dial. You use the dial on the top of the camera to change exposure
compensation, and up/down on the four-way switch for flash compensation.
Both are -2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments.
and color-saturation compensation are fairly self-explanatory Here
you can choose from -3EV to +3EV in 1EV increments.
Illustration of filter feature (from manual)
filter feature is new to the D7i. When in color mode, you can use
it to tweak how "warm" or "cool" an image's
colors look. In black and white mode, you can change the tone. The
image above should make all of this easier to understand.
last item on this side of the camera (finally!) is the auto/manual
focus switch. In manual focus mode you just turn that dial around
the lens barrel to focus the lens. The current focus distance is
shown on the LCD and EVF. You can use the magnification function
to make sure your subject is in focus. One thing that I noticed
on both the D7 and D7i is that you can easily bump the AF/MF button
without knowing it.
no more buttons! On this side of the camera, you'll find the CompactFlash
slot and USB port.
is a Type II slot, so the Microdrive is fully supported!
my opinion this whole area is poorly designed. The CF card is harder
to eject than it should be, the door is flimsy and plastic, and
the darn camera strap ring is always in the way when you want to
close the door. This is one thing that hasn't changed for the better
since the original DiMAGE 7.
can also catch a glimpse of the D7i's new speaker on the left side,
in the background.
but not least, here is the bottom of the camera. The only thing
down here is a metal tripod mount, located right in the middle of
the camera (not in line with the lens).
the Minolta DiMAGE 7i
it doesn't have to extend its lens, the DiMAGE 7i starts up in under
D7i's autofocus has been dramatically improved. On the old model,
it was slow and often didn't lock focus at all. Not anymore -- the
camera locks focus on some of my most difficult subjects (drink
glasses, speaker covers) in less than a second. Despite not having
an AF illuminator, the D7i does a pretty good job at low light focusing.
You can use manual focus point selection (using the four-way switch)
to choose the area of the frame that you want the camera to focus
on, as well.
you fully press the shutter release button, the photo is taken without
delay. You can take another shot almost instantly, thanks to the
D7i's hefty amount of buffer memory. You can also review your photos
for 2 or 10 seconds, and delete them before they are saved to the
You'll see the same thing on the EVF as you would
on the main LCD. Note the histogram as well.
a photo in RAW or Super Fine mode will, unfortunately, lock up the
camera for 15-20 seconds while it writes the image to the CF card.
of which, let's take a look at the image quality and resolution
choices available on the D7i:
on 16MB card
why I recommend a larger memory card? RAW image mode saves the raw
CCD data, which must be processed in the Image Viewer first before
you can do anything with it. Images recorded in Super Fine mode
are recorded as TIFF files. Of course, the TIFFs are larger than
RAW files, so I don't know why you'd use that.
most of the controls on the DiMAGE 7i are dials on the camera body,
there are still many options available via the menu system. These
mode (single, continuous) - whether camera is always trying
to focus, or just when you press shutter release halfway
size (2560 x 1920, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480)
(RAW, Super fine, Fine, Standard, Economy)
mode (fill, red-eye, rear flash sync, wireless)
channel (1-4) - for those using wireless remote flashes
control (ADI, pre-flash TTL only, full power, 1/4 power, 1/16
power) - the last three are new on the D7i
AF/AEL (AF/AE hold, AF/AE toggle, AE hold, AE toggle) - customize
the function of the Spot AE button
button (digital zoom, electronic magnification) - a fancy
way of turning the digital zoom on/off
(1-10, 15, 20, 30, 45, 60 mins) - chooses the interval for
(2-99) - chooses the total number of frames that will be taken
in interval mode
mode (Still image, movie) - whether the interval mode saves
images as separate photos or as one movie
movie (on/off) - if this is on, the camera will put those
pictures taken in UHS mode into a movie
imprint - print the date or any text on your photos. This
is a rare feature!
mode (Vivid color, natural color, B&W, solarization) -
updated for the D7i
(hard, normal, soft)
bracketing (0.3, 0.5, 1.0EV) - sets the increment for bracketing
playback (Off, 2 sec, 10 sec) - amount of time that images
are shown on the LCD after they are taken
memo (Off, 2 sec, 15 sec) - turns on ability to attach sound
clips with photos
usual setup items are also available by switching the camera's mode
wheel to "setup". Some of the interesting items include:
and EVF brightness (1-5)
sound settings (beep, phony shutter sound)
mode (Standard, focus frame, histogram, grid, scale, image only)
- choose what shows up on the LCD/EVF when you press the Display
AF (on/off) - when this is on, you can make manual focus adjustments
after the camera has locked focus (only works in single AF mode)
don't know about you, but I'm tired of talking about menus. Let's
talk about photo quality instead.
mode on the D7i is a bit different than on most cameras. You must
set the focal length at either full telephoto, or full wide-angle.
At the telephoto end, you have a bit of "play" in the
focal length. The focusing range is 30 - 60 cm at wide-angle, and
25 - 60 cm at telephoto.
shot above (cropped down) was taken at the wide-angle setting. The
photo came out exceptionally well, too. The colors are nicely saturated
and the subject is in perfect focus (unlike some situations where
the "nose" is blurry and the rest is sharp).
had so much fun using the D7i that I took two different night shots:
from Yerba Buena Island
from the plants in the frame, I was pretty happy with these photos.
Both were taken in program mode and are 3-4 second exposures. The
noise level is fairly low, but it's still noticeable. You may also
spot dead pixels in the bottom half of the photos. But overall,
I'm impressed with the results. (Now if only that bright light wasn't
there in the bottom photo...)
D7i also turned in a good performance in our new redeye test. Note
that the shot above was blown up a bit so you can see the detail.
the original DiMAGE 7, Minolta used a non-standard color space in
their image processing algorithm. This required you to run the photos
through the DiMAGE Viewer Utility in order to get more accurate
color. The good news is that you no longer have to do that on the
D7i, as the color space is much closer to the accepted sRGB standard
the whole, I was very happy with the D7i's photo quality. The noise
levels (especially in the blue sky) were a bit higher than they
should be, but that's really my only complaint.
Patch of sky from DiMAGE 7i
Patch of sky from Sony DSC-F707
the crops above show you the noise difference. If I'm not mistaken,
both cameras use the same CCD. Anyhow, the D7i's lens gives you
nice, very sharp images, with nicely saturated colors. Chromatic
aberrations (purple fringing) were not a problem, which says a lot
about the quality of this lens. Don't take my word about the photo
quality, check out our extensive photo gallery
and judge for yourself!
movie mode has been improved on the DiMAGE 7 with the addition of
sound recording. You can record up to 60 seconds of video.
are saved at the unusual resolution of 308 x 240 -- kind of like
can use the zoom lens during filming, as you'd expect. The only
catch is that if you're using continuous autofocus mode, sound will
not be recorded. Sound is recorded in single AF mode.
D7i has a unique "night movie" feature as well. In this
mode, the movie will be in black & white, but you will be able
to get quality video in very low light levels. This is similar to
what some camcorders do.
thing that I noticed is that you need to prefocus your movie carefully
before you start filming. I recorded several out of focus movies.
a quick sample movie for you. It was pretty windy outside when this
to play movie (1.3MB, QuickTime format)
play it? Download QuickTime.
it's not fancy, the DiMAGE 7i's playback mode does its job well.
The basic features we're all used to by now are here: slideshows,
DPOF print marking, image protection, and thumbnail mode. The only
real "advanced" feature is the ability to copy an image
from one CF card to another. There's no rotation or resizing available.
zoom and scroll feature is here, via the magnification button. You
can zoom in as much as 4X into your image and then move around in
you more information about your image, you can press "up"
on the four-way switch. You can see above the information it will
give you. Unlike on the original D7, you can now scroll through
your images in this extra info mode.
camera moves through the images on the LCD very quickly, especially
considering their size. It's almost instantaneous.
Does it Compare?
has done an excellent job in designing the DiMAGE 7i. Its predecessor,
the DiMAGE 7, was a good camera but had many annoyances than made
it less desirable than other 5 Megapixel cameras, such as the Sony
DSC-F707. That is not the case with the D7i -- it's a fabulous camera
that I truly enjoyed using. Rather the pros and cons here, just
take a look at the bullet points down below.
for the inevitable comparison between the DiMAGE 7i and the Sony
DSC-F707. Minolta has closed the gap with Sony, leaving buyers with
a tough choice. The D7i has a longer zoom lens than the Sony, but
its images are a bit noisier. The Sony has the fancy Hologram AF
focusing system and Nightshot gimmicks, but Minolta's low light
shooting and movie making abilities are very good too. The DiMAGE
wins big in the storage department, with its CompactFlash Type II
support. You really can't go wrong with either camera -- so I advise
you to personally try those two and the other cameras that I've
manual controls than original D7
low light focusing, even without an AF illuminator
performance in AF, shot-to-shot, and playback mode areas
impressive 7X zoom lens
LCD info display
nice continuous shooting modes
for lens filters and external flashes
1850 mAh NiMH batteries
in movie mode
I didn't care for:
to learn & use
parts (grip, CF slot area) still cheap feeling on this expensive
16MB CompactFlash card included
resolution isn't great
a bit noisier than competition
mode could use a few more features (image rotation, resizing)
cameras to check out include the Nikon Coolpix
5000 and 5700,
DSC-F707, and the Fuji
FinePix S602 Zoom (I suppose).
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the DiMAGE 7i and its competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion? How about a third?
definitely want to read reviews of the DiMAGE 7i from Steve's
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