Review: Minolta DiMAGE X20
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: September 2, 2003
September 3, 2003
DiMAGE X20 is a lower cost, lower resolution version of
their popular DiMAGE Xt model (see
our review). While the Xt is 3.2 Megapixel, has an optical
viewfinder, and uses a proprietary battery, the X20 is 2 Megapixel,
lacks an optical viewfinder, and uses AA batteries. It also
costs just $250 -- half of the (list) price of the Xt. Both
cameras use Minolta's unique vertical lens design, which has
the lens elements traveling down the length of the body, rather
than the front-to-back system found on every other lens. This
lens allows for the ultra-thin body.
X-series cameras aren't nearly as impressive as they once were,
especially after the Pentax
Optio S and Casio
Exilim EX-Z3 were introduced. But they're still quite small.
are plenty of compact 2MP cameras out there -- how does the X20
compare? Find out in our review!
in the Box?
DiMAGE X20 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
2.0 (effective) Mpixel DiMAGE X20 camera
Secure Digital card
AA alkaline batteries (not rechargeable)
page camera manual + software manual (both printed)
Viewer Utility + DiMAGE Software CDs
X20 includes a rather skimpy 8MB Secure Digital (SD) card. That's
just enough to get started with, but you'll want a larger card
in a hurry. I'd recommend 64MB as a starting point. The camera
can also use slower, lower capacity MultiMediaCards (MMC).
DiMAGE X20 is the first ultra-thin camera (that I can think of
at least) that uses AA batteries, instead of a proprietary lithium-ion
battery. This is good news, in my opinion. First, AA's are much
cheaper than lithium-ion batteries. Second, if you're ever in
a jam, you can buy regular alkaline batteries to get you through
said, Minolta gives you two non-rechargeable alkalines in the
box, which will quickly find their way into your trash (please
recycle them!). Since the camera only uses two batteries, picking
up a four-pack of NiMH rechargeables and a fast charger seems
like a wise idea to me.
estimates that you can take about 230 shots, or spend 300 minutes
in playback mode, using NiMH batteries. That's considerably longer
than the proprietary battery lasts on the DiMAGE Xt.
X20 has as built-in lens cover, so there is no need to worry
about lens caps. As you can see, it's a very small camera. More
on those weird circles in a bit.
only accessories I could find for the X20 include a metal chain
neck strap (ooo!), a carrying case, and an AC adapter. You can't
use the waterproof case like you can with the DiMAGE Xt.
with the camera is version 2.2 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
DiMAGE's manual is pretty good as well, with long explanations
and not a lot of fine print. Much better than the average camera
DiMAGE X20 and the DiMAGE Xt look quite similar. The two main
differences are the lack of the optical viewfinder and two mysterious
circles on the X20. More on that in a second.
engineering behind the DiMAGE X series is very impressive. Minolta
has managed put a 3X optical zoom lens into a camera less than
an inch thick. What they've done is put a prism at the back of
the lens, and then put all the moving parts and additional optics
down the camera body. The CCD sensor is actually on the bottom
of the camera. This
page explains it visually better than I can describe it in
X20 has an all-metal body, which, as you might imagine, feels
very solid. Do watch out though, as metal cameras can scratch
easily. The camera fits into your pockets with ease. The official
dimensions are 3.4 x 2.6 x 0.9 inches (W x H x D) and it weighs
just 115 grams empty. For the sake of comparison, the numbers
for the DiMAGE Xt are 3.5 x 2.6 x 0.8 and 120 g, respectively.
begin our tour of this camera now.
DiMAGE X20 has the same F2.8-3.7, 3X optical zoom as the DiMAGE
Xi/Xt. The focal range of the lens is 4.8 - 14.4 mm, which is
equivalent to 37 - 111 mm. Not surprisingly, there are no lens
accessories for this camera available.
with the other X-series models, you really have to watch out
for your finger. It's very easy to put your finger near
the lens and thus into the picture, especially at wide-angle.
the lower-left of the lens, you'll find one of the two mysterious
circles on the front of the camera. This one is actually a small,
convex mirror that you can use for self-portraits. It's quite
small, and I found it pretty hard to see unless the camera was
right in your face (or maybe my vision is poor). This feature
works best in the self-portrait mode that you can activate in
the menu system. If you squint, you can see the reflection of
my Canon D60 in the mirror.
to the left, we find the X20's built-in flash. The flash has
a working range of 0.1 - 3.6 m at wide-angle, and 0.1 - 2.7 m
at telephoto. The camera does not support and external flash.
the left of that is the microphone. Below that, in the other
circle, you'll find the indicator lights. These blink (in multiple
colors) when you turn the camera on, or when the self-timer is
being used. It's not an AF-assist lamp, nor is there one of this
camera, which is a shame.
to make up for the lack of an optical viewfinder, the DiMAGE
X20 actually has a larger LCD than the Xt (1.6 vs. 1.5 inch).
Minolta does not publish the resolution of the screen, but I'd
consider it to be pretty high. Images on the screen are bright
and fluid, as well. You can adjust the LCD brightness in the
I mentioned, there is no optical viewfinder on the X20. You must
rely on the LCD display, which can be difficult when you're outdoors.
The need for an optical viewfinder is clearly a subjective one
-- for me, it's a deal-breaker. I was surprised that the X20
lacked one, as there's definitely room for a small one here.
to the right of the LCD, you'll find the speaker.
now to the upper-right of the photo, you can see the four-way
controller, plus menu and playback mode buttons. I'm not a huge
fan of how Minolta put the up/down keys in the middle of the
left/right keys, rather than the typical "plus layout" that
I'm used to. This controller is used for controlling the zoom,
and moving through the menu system.
the top of the camera, you'll find the power and shutter release
buttons, as well as a switch which moves the camera between still
photo and movie mode.
nothing to see here, but I will make my usual "boo, hiss" comment
regarding the labeling of the camera. Minolta should have "3x
zoom" in big print -- instead of including the useless digital
zoom like they do here.
this side of the camera, you'll find a whole bunch of interesting
things. That includes the I/O ports, memory card slot, and battery
I/O ports include a dual A/V and USB port (normally covered by
a plastic slider), as well as a DC-in port for the optional AC
the left of that is the SD/MMC card slot. The included 8MB card
is shown as well.
that, under a sturdy plastic cover, you'll find the battery compartment.
The X20 uses two AA-sized batteries.
here is the bottom of the DiMAGE X20. The only thing to see here
is the plastic tripod mount, which is located right in the center
the Minolta DiMAGE X20
the other DiMAGE X-series cameras, the X20 starts up very quickly,
in about 1.6 seconds.
good light, the camera locks focus quickly, usually in about
half a second. In lower light, where the camera has to "hunt" to
lock focus, expect it to take a second, or a little longer.
lag is very short when a fast shutter speed is used, but you'll
definitely notice it when a slow shutter speed is used. You'll
want to use the flash or a tripod in those situations.
speed is very good. If you turn off the instant playback feature,
you can take another shot in under 2 seconds. If you're using
instant playback, you can half-press the shutter release to go
back to shooting immediately.
no option to delete a photo right after it is taken.
here's a look at the resolution and quality choices on the DiMAGE
on included 8MB card
the DiMAGE Xt, the X20 does not have a TIFF mode.
X20 saves images with a name of PICT####.JPG, where #### = 0001-9999.
The camera will maintain the file numbering, even as you erase/replace
DiMAGE X20 has a rather bizarre menu mode, which has many of
the items which are usually buttons on the camera body. There's
the "quick menu" shown above left, and a full menu
(activated by choosing "Menu") on the right. I would've
preferred having some of the items on the quick menu as buttons
instead. However, you can customize the left/right buttons to
control the flash, exposure compensation, or white balance, so
you can get around this.
items on the first menu screen are (left to right, top to bottom):
(Monochrome [black & white], sepia, red monochrome, blue
monochrome, green monochrome) - those last three are interesting
size (see chart)
setting (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, flash cancel,
night portrait [flash slow sync])
mode (Single-frame, self-timer, continuous, multi frame, self-portrait)
balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent)
compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
quality (see chart)
DiMAGE X20 is a pure point-and-shoot camera. There are no manual
controls of any kind -- even white balance.
continuous shooting mode will take photos at a maximum rate of
1.5 frames/sec. The total number of shots varies depending on
the selected image resolution and quality. For the highest resolution/quality,
it's just 3 shots... and for the lowest of both, it's 22.
multi frame option will take nine shots in a row and put them
into one image -- like a collage.
take a look at the full menu now:
there should be self-explanatory, so let's continue on to the setup
The interesting setup options include:
- <> Key
function (Flash mode, Exp. compensation, white balance, drive,
white balance, off) - define what the left/right buttons on
the four-way controller do.
[ISO] (Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400)
reset (on/off) - whether camera saves settings when powered
mode (Color, black & white, sepia)
memo (on/off) - add a 15 second sound clip to each photo
imprint (on/off) - prints the date/time on your photos
zoom (on/off) - using this lowers the photo quality
playback (on/off) - show the photo on the LCD after it is taken
number memory (on/off) - whether camera maintains the file
- LCD brightness
- Language (Japanese,
English, German, French, Spanish)
- Audio signals
/ Shutter FX - mess around with beeps and phony shutter sounds; You can
even record your own sounds.
- Volume (1-3)
- Power off
(1, 3, 5, 10, 30 mins)
- Video output
- Transfer mode
(Data storage, remote camera) - see below
camera" option lets those with Windows-based PCs use the camera for
videoconferencing, using software like Microsoft NetMeeting. Being a Mac
guy, I did not try it.
Let's move on
to photo quality now!
The DiMAGE X20
has an automatic macro mode -- you don't turn it on like with most cameras.
You can get as close to your subject as 10 cm. The X20 produced a nice photo
of the usual test subject -- it's quite "smooth". The colors look
pretty good, though the red seems a little orange to me.
Despite not having
any manual controls, the X20 did a nice job with the night test shot. It's
not razor sharp, but it still took in enough light, and noise levels are
low. This was a four second exposure, which is the slowest shutter speed
available on the camera.
usually have redeye issues, and the X20 is no exception. It's not horrible,
but not good either. You can usually clean it up in software. I used the
Auto ISO setting here, since the shot was just too dark at ISO 64. Also,
please note that I enlarged the crop slightly so you can make out the detail.
test shows many issues that come along with the fancy lens system in the
X20. The first is higher-than-average barrel distortion at the wide-angle
end of things. Second, you can see just a hint of vignetting, or dark corners.
Finally, there's also blurry corners, especially on the lower-right (see this
shot for a real world example).
On the whole,
image quality is good, but not as good as you'd get from a camera with a
more "traditional" lens system. Images are quite soft to begin
with, and the blurry corners don't help matters. Purple fringing was also
seen, though it's not bad enough to attain "problem status" (see this
shot as an example). Noise levels were low. The photo quality is more
than adequate for both websites and 4 x 6 inch prints.
Don't just take
my word for it, though -- have a look at the photo
gallery and decide for yourself!
The DiMAGE X20
lets you record movies until the memory card is full, making its movie mode
about average (these days). There are two resolutions to choose from: 320
x 240 and 160 x 120. Sound is recorded as well. The included 8MB card can
hold just 19 seconds of video, so you'll want a larger card if you're serious
As with most
cameras that record sound with movies, the optical zoom is disabled during
filming. You can, however, use the digital zoom.
Strap on your
seatbelt, this is one exciting sample movie. Actually, I'm kidding. Enjoy:
play movie (3.2MB, QuickTime format)
play it? Download QuickTime.
The DiMAGE X20's
playback mode has the same dual-menu system as it does in record mode.
options include slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, voice
annotations, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll.
The zoom and
scroll feature (my term) allows you to zoom in as much as 6X (in 0.2X increments)
into your photo, and then scroll around. This feature is well-implemented.
Some of the more
unique features include:
- Copies a 640 x 480 (economy quality) photo into a special favorites folder
- Image rotation
pasting" - crop a photo and then "paste" it into another.
Not sure how useful this one is.
- E-mail copy
- makes a 640 x 480 or 160 x 120 copy of a selected image for easy e-mailing
One other feature
that I appreciate is the ability to delete a group of photos, instead of
just one or all.
the X20 doesn't give you any information about exposure settings in playback
The camera moves
between photos very quickly, taking about 0.5 second to switch to the new
Does it Compare?
The Minolta DiMAGE
X20 is a good, ultra-compact 2 Megapixel camera -- as long as you don't miss
the optical viewfinder. The X20 is purely a point-and-shoot camera, with
no manual controls. The new menu system is clearly aimed at beginners. Photo
quality is good, though not as good as a camera with a regular lens (for
reasons described earlier). Where previous X-series cameras had an optical
viewfinder, the X20 only has a 1.6" LCD display -- which may be a deal
breaker for some people (myself included). Camera performance is quite good,
especially startup and playback speeds. The X20's low light performance was
not great, due in part to the lack of an AF-assist lamp. The movie mode is
decent, but not as nice as it would've been last year. Finally, I must compliment
Minolta on switching to AA batteries. Now if I could only get them to include
rechargeables in the box. If you want a pocketable camera for web photos
and small prints, then the DiMAGE X20 is worth a look. If you're doing larger
prints and like the design of the camera, try the DiMAGE
Xt. If you want manual controls, you'll have to find another camera altogether,
as none of the X-series cameras have them.
What I liked:
good photo quality
body with 3X zoom lens
- Fast startup,
shot-to-shot, playback speeds
- Movie mode
can record until card is full, with sound
- Mirror for
self-portraits on front of camera. Interesting? Yes. Useful? Not sure.
- Uses AA batteries
instead of proprietary lithium-ion
- Can be used
for videoconferencing (Windows only)
I didn't care for:
- Some vignetting,
fuzzy corners in images; images on the soft side
- No manual
- No optical
- Some redeye
and purple fringing
- I'm not a
huge fan of the four-way controller and the new menu system
- No AF illuminator
- So-so bundle
2 and 3 Megapixel cameras with a zoom lens include the Canon
PowerShot SD100, Casio
Exilim EX-Z3, Fuji FinePix A205 and A210, HP
Photosmart 635, Kyocera
Finecam S3L, Nikon Coolpix 2100, 3100 and 3500, Olympus
Stylus 300, Panasonic
Lumix DMC-LC33, Pentax Optio 33L and S,
and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P72 and DSC-P8.
A long list, yes, but there are lots of quality cameras in this class.
As always, I
recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the DiMAGE X20 and
its competitors before you buy!
to see how the photo quality turned on? Check out our photo
a second opinion?
your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due
to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal