DCRP Review: Minolta DiMAGE G500
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: October 25, 2003
Last Updated: October 25, 2003

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The Konica Minolta DiMAGE G500 ($499) may say Minolta on the front, it's pretty much a rebadged Konica KD-510Z. As it turns out, that's not a bad thing (for the most part).

The G500 is an ultra-compact metal camera with a 5 Megapixel CD, 3X optical zoom lens, manual controls, and dual memory card slots.

There are quite a few other cameras in this class. How does the G500 compare? Find out now!

What's in the Box?

The DiMAGE G500 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 5.0 (effective) Mpixel DiMAGE G500 camera
  • 16MB Secure Digital card
  • NP-500 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • Camera manual + software manual (both on CD!)
  • DiMAGE Viewer Utility + DiMAGE Software CDs

A 16MB Secure Digital (SD) memory card does not go far on a 5MP camera. So consider a larger one your first purchase after the camera. I recommend 256MB as a good starting point. The G500 is somewhat unique in that it has both SD/MMC and Memory Stick card slots. Please note that it does NOT support the new Memory Stick Pro cards (why, I do not know).

The G500 actually has 2MB of on-board memory as well, but you can only save 640 x 480 images to it. (I don't know why they bother doing this if you're going to put so little memory in the camera).

As with most of these ultra-compact cameras, the G500 uses a proprietary lithium-ion battery. The included NP-500 battery has 3.0 Wh of power, which is typical for a camera like this. Minolta estimates that you can take about 150 pictures with 50% flash use, or spend 90 minutes in playback mode. That's a bit lower than other cameras in this class.

Proprietary batteries are pretty hard to avoid on cameras this small. Keep in mind that an extra battery (a recommended purchase) will set you back $40.

When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. This isn't one of those cool "plug right into the wall" chargers -- you must use a power cord. It takes 2.5 hours to fully charge the battery.

A sliding lens cover is part of the design of the G500. This is also the main power switch for the camera. I found it too easy to turn the camera on and off -- I prefer a button myself. Also, the lens cover slides in the opposite direction that you'd expect it to -- not a complaint, just an observation.

Accessories for the G500 are fairly limited. You can pick up an extra battery, an AC adapter ($50), or a carrying case.

Included with the camera is version 2.2.1 of the Minolta DiMAGE Viewer software. It's certainly not a substitute for something like Photoshop Elements, but it does basic editing fairly well. The software is Mac OS X native. If you're just looking to connect your camera and transfer files, you'll be pleased to hear that it's Windows XP and OS X compatible -- and you probably won't have to install any drivers.

Since this is really just a Konica camera, you won't get the nice printed manual normally associated with Minolta cameras. In fact, you won't get a printed manual at all -- it's a PDF file on CD (boo!).

Look and Feel

The G500 is a compact and attractive all-metal camera. It's not super small like the Minolta DiMAGE X series, but it's still very pocketable. The build quality is excellent, though the camera loves to show fingerprints. Controls are well-placed, and the camera is easy to operate with one hand.

The official dimensions of the G500 are 3.8 x 2.3 x 1.2 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions), and it weighs 200 grams empty. Ready for our tour?

See what I mean about fingerprints? You need to take good care of this camera to keep it looking nice! It's also quite hard to photograph from this angle.

The DiMAGE G500 has an F2.8-4.9, 3X Hexanon zoom lens. The lens has a focal range of 8 - 24mm, which is equivalent to 39 - 117 mm (not a camera for those who love wide-angle photos). Lens accessories are not supported.

Directly above the lens is the built-in flash. The flash has a working range of 0.5 - 3.5 m at wide-angle, and 0.5 - 2.0 m at telephoto. You cannot use an external flash with this camera.

The only other items of note are the light sensor (just below the flash) and the self-timer light (a strip of LEDs below the lens). The self-timer light also lights up when a picture is about to be taken.

There's no AF-assist lamp on the G500. The new Minolta G400 has a passive AF system, so maybe the next revision of the G500 will as well.

The G500 has an average-sized (for a compact camera) 1.5" LCD display. The LCD is high resolution, with 117k pixels, which shows your photos crisply. The refresh rate is excellent, as well. Both the brightness and color of the LCD are adjustable in the setup menu.

At the top-center of the photo is the G500's optical viewfinder. It's on the (very) small side, and it lacks a diopter correction knob.

To the left of the viewfinder are three buttons. They are for entering playback mode, toggling what is shown on the LCD, and deleting a photo.

On the opposite side is the zoom controller, which very quickly moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in under a second.

Down at the very bottom of the picture is the four-way controller and the menu/set button. The four-way controller is used for navigating the menus, and is also adjusts the flash (auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, slow sync, flash off) and focus/drive settings. The focus/drive settings are macro, landscape, self-timer, self-timer + macro, self-timer + landscape, and 1m/2m/4m manual focus. Most people won't care, but do note that cannot do self-timer with those preset focus distances.

You can customize what the up/down buttons do by using the setup mode (described later).

So it's pretty simple on the back of the camera.

The only things worth mentioning on the top of the camera are the microphone and the shutter release button.

Nothing to see here.

On this side of the camera, you can see the sole I/O port on the camera. It's a USB (1.1) port. The G500 lacks a video out port. There's no DC-in port either -- the AC adapter kit uses what is called a DC coupler, which is basically a battery with a wire coming out of it.

Finally, here is the bottom of the DiMAGE G500. You can see the plastic (boo!) tripod mount, battery compartment, and dual memory card slots. As I mentioned earlier, the G500 can read SD, MultiMedia, and Memory Stick formats. Memory Stick Pro cards are not supported. The plastic door covering all this is on the flimsy side.

Over on the left, you can spot the included SD memory card and NP-500 battery.

Using the Minolta DiMAGE G500

Record Mode

The G500's startup speed blew me away -- it took around 1.3 seconds for the lens to extend and then the camera was ready to shoot.

The camera's autofocus speeds were average -- it took approximately one second (maybe a little less) to lock focus in most cases. Indoor focusing in low light wasn't great -- at least there's a manual focus feature (though it's somewhat limited).

Shutter lag was quite low, even at slower shutter speeds. Nice.


No histogram in record mode

Shot-to-shot speed is good. If you turn off the Quick view feature, you can take another shot in about 2 seconds.

To delete a photo after it is taken, you just press the "trash" button.

Now, here's a look at the resolution and quality choices on the DiMAGE G500:

Quality Resolution Approx. file size # images on 16MB card (included)
2592 x 1944 Fine 2.1 MB 7
Normal 1.3 MB 12
2048 x 1536 Fine 1.2 MB 13
Normal 750 KB 21
1600 x 1200 Fine 700 KB 22
Normal 400 KB 40
640 x 480 Fine 200 KB 80
Normal 100 KB 160

To find out how many pictures a larger card can hold, just do some multiplication (e.g. a 256MB card holds 16X as many photos as a 16X, to multiply by that).

The G500 does not have a TIFF or RAW mode.

The G500 saves images with a name of PICT####.JPG, where #### = 0001-9999. The camera will maintain the file numbering, even as you erase/replace memory cards.

Probably the biggest flaw of the G500 is its menu system, which it inherited from the Konica side of the business. While it's attractive, I found it to be difficult to navigate, with options strewn all over the place. Minolta's own menu system, while not perfect, would be a vast improvement (G510 anyone?).

Anyhow, here are the menu options on the G500:

  • Resolution (see chart)
  • Movie on - enters movie mode (described later)
  • Exposure (-1.5EV to +1.5EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, tungsten)
  • AE [metering] (Center-weighted, spot)
  • Monochrome (Off, sepia, black & white)
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - using the 3X digital zoom will lower your photo quality
  • Monitor adjust
    • Brightness
    • Color tone (one for each: red, green, and blue)
  • Voice memo - record up to 30 seconds of audio
  • Add rec - add a 30 sec voice note to a photo (this is different than the previous option)
  • Slow shutter (on/off)
    • With flash (1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125 sec)
    • Without flash or slow sync (1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15 sec)
  • Man exposure on - see below
  • Image quality
    • User set (Off, 1, 2)
    • ISO (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
    • Flash (-1EV to +1EV, 0.5EV increments) - adjust the flash strength
    • Saturation (-2 to + 2, 1 step increments)
    • Contrast (-2 to + 2, 1 step increments)
    • Sharpness (-2 to + 2, 1 step increments)
    • Color (-2 to + 2, 1 step increments, for each color [red, green, blue])
  • Setup - described below

The G500 has a strange mix of manual controls. It has some manual controls, but Konica Minolta didn't go "all the way" (limited manual focus and aperture, no manual white balance). The way to get to those is to use the "man exposure on" option described above. There, you can use the four-way controller to select both the aperture and shutter speed (there's no "priority modes" on this camera). The shutter speed range is 15 - 1/1000 sec, while the apertures are much more limiting: you can only choose from two apertures at any point. At the wide-angle position, choose from F2.8 and F4.7, while at telephoto, it's F4.9 and F8.3. In between those positions are other values. This isn't as nice as a camera where you can choose from a full range of values.

The color controls in the image quality section are a nice touch, though.

In addition to the record menu, there's a setup menu, which has the following options:

  • Format (SD, MS, internal) - format the memory card or internal memory
  • Rec menu (Basic, details) - basic mode shows a very stripped down version of the menu. I described the detailed menu above.
  • Quick view (on/off) - shows photos on LCD immediately after they are taken
  • Info display (on/off) - whether to show info on LCD
  • Sound - turn the beeps and blips on and off
  • Date set
  • Self-timer delay (3, 10 sec)
  • Auto power off (Off, 3, 10 min)
  • Number reset (on/off) - reset the file numbering
  • Memory priority (SD, MS) - decide which memory card is used first, if you have both types inserted
  • Language (Japanese, English, French, German)
  • Add rec set (If selected, always) - whether to always record a voice clip when you take a photo
  • Custom
    • Flash - choose which flash modes are available
    • Macro - choose which focus/drive modes are available (macro, landscape, self-timer, manual focus, etc)
    • AF AE AWB
      • Exposure compensation - lets you adjust this via the "up" button on the four-way controller
      • White balance - adjust the WB using the "down" button
      • AF lock - lock the focus using the "left" button
      • AE lock - lock the exposure using the "right" button
    • Continuous
  • Default - returns camera to factory settings

See what I mean about confusing menus? There are some things buried here that should be easier to get to (continuous shooting being a good example).

Speaking of which, the continuous mode will take photos until the memory card is full. When I first tried it, I was disappointed with the 5 second delay between shots. Then I thought "maybe I should turn off the Quick view feature", and that helped dramatically. I was then able to take photos at roughly one second intervals.

I don't know about you, but I am tired of menus. Let's move on to photo quality.

Although the background has a brownish cast to it, the subject itself looks good. The colors are accurate, and the photo is detailed enough to count the dust on the figurine. You can get as close as 6 cm to your subject at wide-angle, and 50 cm at telephoto.

I definitely could've exposed the night shot for a few more seconds. The 4 second exposure was evidently not enough. Thankfully, the manual mode on the G500 will let you use shutter speeds as slow as 15 seconds. Noise and purple fringing were non-existent in this shot.

As you'd expect on an ultra-compact camera, there is some noticeable redeye. It can be removed fairly well in photo editing software. Note that the crop above was enlarged and had its levels adjusted for easier viewing.

The distortion test shows moderate barrel distortion at the wide-angle end of the lens and no vignetting. I see some blurriness in the bottom-left corner, which you'll also spot in many of my real world photos as well.

I was pleasantly surprised by the photo quality on the G500. For a compact camera, they are very good. Minolta definitely has the sharpness cranked up, which adds a tiny bit of noise to the images. Color and exposure were also good. Purple fringing / chromatic aberrations were nowhere to be found (except for a little in the torture test). I guess the blurry corner is my only real complaint -- good job Konica/Minolta!

Don't take my word for it -- have a look at the gallery and decide for yourself!

Movie Mode

The G500 isn't going to win any awards for its movie mode. While it would've been decent in the year 2000, it's pretty lacking in late 2003. You can record up to 30 seconds of 320 x 240 video, with sound.

Getting to movie mode is a little odd, too -- it's an item in the record menu.

As is typical with zoom cameras, you cannot use the optical zoom during filming. Digital zoom cannot be used either, which is unusual.

Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.

The sample below is one of those "hold the camera in the air and hope you get something interesting" movies:


Click to play movie (1.4MB, AVI format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The G500 has a very complete playback mode. Basic features include slide shows, voice annotations, thumbnail mode, image protection, DPOF print marking, and zoom and scroll.

The zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom into your image by as much as 12X, and then scroll around. This feature is well-implemented on the G500.

Some of the nice "bonus features" include image resizing (to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240) and the ability to copy or move photos between memory cards (or internal memory). One other feature that I appreciate is the ability to delete a group of photos, instead of just one or all of them.

At first glance, it appears that the G500 doesn't show any exposure information about your photos. But press "up" on the four-way controller and you'll see the info shown in the above-right photo.

The camera moves through photos at an average clip, with a 2 second delay between high res photos.

How Does it Compare?

Though not a perfect camera, the Konica Minolta DiMAGE G500 can keep up with the best of them. It features an ultra-compact metal body, 5 Megapixel CCD, 3X optical zoom lens, and quite a few manual controls. Photo quality is very good, with my only complaint being slight blurriness in the corners. The camera starts up faster than almost any other camera with an extending lens, though I found it too easy to accidentally turn the camera on and off. When taking pictures, the G500 offers average focus and shot-to-shot speeds, and very low shutter lag. Downsides include a clunky menu system, outdated movie mode, so-so battery life, and redeye (which is normal for a camera like this). While the manual controls are nice, things would be better with shutter and aperture priority modes, true manual focus, and manual white balance. It would've been nice to see Memory Stick Pro support and histograms as well. Despite all these things, the G500 gets my thumbs up thanks to its great photo quality (and high resolution), small body, and street price of under $400.

For those who don't need the 5 million pixels (which should be many of you), the DiMAGE G400 may be worth considering. It's 4 Megapixel, and it adds a hybrid autofocus system, even faster startup time, better continuous shooting, a modern movie mode, and more.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality
  • Compact, all-metal body (which is hard to keep clean)
  • Very fast startup time
  • Quite a few manual controls (more would be nice)
  • Support for SD, MMC, and Memory Stick formats
  • Endless continuous shooting mode (albeit at 1 frame/sec or so)
  • Nice, high resolution LCD display

What I didn't care for:

  • Blurry corner in several pictures; redeye
  • Clumsy menu system; no organization, hard to navigate
  • Too easy to accidentally bump and power on/off the camera
  • Doesn't support Memory Stick Pro cards
  • Plastic tripod mount
  • Outdated movie mode
  • No AF illuminator or video out
  • No histogram in record or playback mode

Other ultra-compact 4 and 5 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot A80, S45, S50, and S400, Casio Exilim EX-Z4U and QV-R40, Fuji FinePix F700, Kyocera Finecam L4v and S5R, Konica Minolta DiMAGE F300 and G400, Nikon Coolpix 4300, Olympus C-50Z and Stylus 400, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC43, Pentax Optio 555 and S4, an the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P92 and DSC-P10. A long list, I know, but it means that there are many good choices out there!

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the DiMAGE G500 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Want to see how the photo quality turned on? Check out our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion?

Get another review over at Steve's Digicams.

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

Keep in mind that this review is just one person's opinion. Your conclusion may be different than the one above.

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