Review: Minolta DiMAGE Xi
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: December 17, 2002
January 30, 2003
of the most innovative cameras of 2002 was the Minolta DiMAGE
our review). Packing a 3X optical zoom in a small, ultra-thin
camera is nothing short of an engineering marvel. The DiMAGE
X was a
2 Megapixel camera, but fell short in several areas, including
the end of 2002, Minolta began shipping the DiMAGE
which is very similar to the original "X", but with
a 3.2 Megapixel CCD, and a few other enhancements.
does the perform versus the original DiMAGE X, as well as the
competition? Find out in our review! Oh,
and I'll be reusing a good deal of text from my DiMAGE X review,
to save some time.
in the Box?
DiMAGE Xi has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.2 (effective) Mpixel DiMAGE Xi camera
Secure Digital card
- NP-200 Li-ion
battery (rechargeable) w/charger
page camera manual + software manual (both printed)
Viewer Utility + DiMAGE Software CDs
DiMAGE Xi's 16MB Secure Digital (SD) memory card is twice as
large as the one included with the original DiMAGE X. It'll be
a good card to start with, but you'll probably want to buy a
larger one soon after your camera purchase. The Xi works with
both SD and MultiMedia (MMC) cards.
most ultra-small cameras, the Xi uses a small, proprietary battery.
Long time readers of this site know that I'm not a huge fan of
these expensive batteries ($30 a pop), but they are really unavoidable
on cameras like this. This particular lithium-ion battery, known
as the NP-200, has 2.8 Watt/hours of power. That's
it to last
for too long per charge. Minolta estimates that you can take
about 170 photos, or spend 110 minutes in playback mode, on a
includes an external battery charger with the camera. Just pop
in the battery, plug the whole thing into the wall, and charge
away. It takes 80 minutes to recharge the NP-200.
Xi has as built-in lens cover, so there is no need to worry about
accessory line-up has expanded a bit since the DiMAGE X. You
can now buy the MC-DG110 Marine Case ($250), which lets you take
your camera up to 30 m underwater. Other options include a regular
camera case ($14), AC adapter ($50), and metal chain neck strap
with the camera is the Minolta DiMAGE Viewer Utility software,
v2.1. The good news is that it's now Mac OS X compatible. The
bad news is that it doesn't actually work -- it just crashed
when I try to use it. On Windows or in OS 9, it's pretty good,
and improved over the original version. It's certainly not a
substitute for something like Photoshop Elements though.
DiMAGE's manual is pretty good as well, with long explanations
and not a lot of fine print. There's even a little section on
I mentioned, the engineering behind the DiMAGE X and Xi is very
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
Xi has an all-metal body, which feels very solid. Do watch out
though, as metal cameras can scratch easily. It fits into your
pocket better than almost any camera out there. The official
are 3.3 x 2.8 x 0.8 inches (WxHxD) and it weighs just 130 grams
DiMAGE Xi has the same F2.8, 3X optical zoom as its predecessor.
The focal range of the lens is 5.7 - 17.1 mm which is equivalent
to 37 - 111
mm. Obviously, there are no lens
accessories for this camera available.
thing you really have to watch out for with the DiMAGE Xi is
your finger. It's very easy to put your finger near
that lens and thus into the picture!
to the left, you can see the optical viewfinder, followed by
the flash. The X's flash has a working range of 0.25 - 3.2 m
at wide-angle and 0.25 - 2.5 m at telephoto. These numbers are
an improvement over the DiMAGE X.
the DiMAGE X, there is no autofocus-assist lamp. This feature
greatly aids in low light focusing, and it's a shame Minolta
didn't put one on the Xi.
the back of the DiMAGE Xi. The camera has an average-sized (for
a small camera) 1.5" LCD display. The LCD is bright and fluid,
and the brightness is adjustable via
optical viewfinder, found at the upper-left, is very small,
and lacks a diopter correction feature.
switch above the LCD toggles the camera between playback and
four buttons below the LCD are for:
- toggles LCD on/off
(Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill-flash, flash cancel, night
portrait) / Delete photo
- for menus
at the top-right of the photo, you can see the four-way switch,
which controls the menus, exposure compensation, and the zoom.
The exposure compensation is
the usual -2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments. The lens moves slowly
but smoothly, though there's no indication on the
LCD of the current zoom setting. It takes about two seconds to
go from wide-angle to telephoto.
at the lower-right, you can see the speaker.
at the top of the DiMAGE Xi, you can really get a feel for just
how thin this camera is. Over on the left is the microphone (rather
poorly placed -- make sure you don't cover it with your fingers
while filming movies!).
At the center, you'll find the on/off button. Just to the right
of that is the shutter release button.
another illustration of the thinness of this camera. At
the bottom, under the rubber cover, you'll find find a USB
A/V port (it's a single port for both).
the other side of the camera, with 16MB SD card and battery
shown. The plastic door that covers these slots seems rather
flimsy, especially compared with the rest of the body.
can also see the port for the optional AC adapter, up at the
the bottom of the Xi, complete with plastic tripod mount. It
is neither in the middle of the camera, nor inline with the lens.
the Minolta DiMAGE Xi
DiMAGE Xi starts up in just 1.5 seconds -- one of the fastest
times I've seen. In good lighting, autofocus speeds were good
-- less than one second. In lower light, when the AF system has
to hunt, it will be slower. Despite having no AF-assist lamp,
the Xi did a respectable job at focusing indoors and in low light.
with many cameras, shutter lag depends on the shutter speed being
used. If you're in good lighting, or using the flash, the lag
is minimal. In lower light situations, it will be noticeable,
so you need a steady hand, or better yet, a tripod, to keep things
from becoming blurry.
speed is good. If you turn off the instant playback feature,
you can take another shot in about 1.5 seconds. It'll be more
like three seconds if instant playback is on, but you can half-press
shutter release to go back to shooting immediately.
a look at the resolution and quality choices on the DiMAGE Xi:
on included 16MB card
you can see, the DiMAGE Xi has a TIFF mode. You probably don't
need to use this, as the differences between a TIFF and Fine
quality JPEG are very hard to notice.
Xi saves images with a name of PICT####.JPG (or .TIF), where
#### = 0001-9999. By turning on the File # Memory
2 menu, which is only found in playback mode), the camera will
maintain the file numbering, even as you erase/replace memory
Xi's menus has few new items compared to the original DiMAGE
X. I'll highlight new or updated items in bold.
The menu choices are:
mode (Single-shot, continuous shooting, self-timer, movie,
size (see chart)
balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent)
- Auto reset (on/off) - whether camera saves settings when
zoom (2X, 4X, off)
- Sensitivity (Auto, ISO 50, 100, 200, 400)
imprint (on/off) - prints the date on your photos
biggest new feature is ISO sensitivity that you can set. Before,
the camera chose the ISO setting automatically, which isn't always
a good thing. Kudos to Minolta for adding this.
audio recording feature has been improved. You can now record
continuously for up to 30 minutes.
shooting mode will let you take images consecutively at a maximum
rate of 1.6 frames/second. You can take 6-23 shots in a row at
x 1536, depending on the quality setting. You cannot choose
TIFF mode, though.
also a basic setup menu, where you can adjust LCD brightness, auto
power off settings, beep noises, and set the date/time.
move on to photo quality now!
DiMAGE Xi doesn't have a true macro mode -- you don't turn it
on or off. But you can still get as close as 25 cm to your subject
in the standard shooting modes. The
Xi produced a good quality macro shot, with accurate colors.
The image is just a tiny bit soft, but certainly gets
thumbs up from me.
night test shot turned out pretty well, but not great. The colors
are a little too brown with the auto white balance (I didn't
try other settings). You can't set the shutter speed, so you're
at the mercy of the camera's brain to pick a good one. The slowest
shutter speed available is 2 seconds.
and purple fringing (chromatic aberration) levels were low in
this shot, which is good.
redeye test turned out nicely, which surprises me, considering
the size of this camera. The DiMAGE X performed just as well.
Note that this shot was slightly enlarged and brightened so you
can see the details.
shot above is a totally new test I'm trying out. This board
is shot at the wide-angle setting under natural light from about
2 feet away (give
The image is then auto-leveled in Photoshop. The purpose of this
test is to a) illustrate distortion (barrel and edge) and b)
show any vignetting that may occur. By the way, the red dot is
actually on the paper, it was not added in Photoshop.
can you gather about the DiMAGE Xi from this test? Well, for
one, it definitely has vignetting, which is when the corners
of an image are darkened. You can see some of this in the photo
gallery as well. You can also see the barrel distortion that
is typical of a camera at its widest setting.
test is a work-in-progress, so don't take it as gospel. If
you have suggestions about how this test could be improved,
let me know. I'm also trying to get a color comparison test
going, but I need more consistent lighting first.
quality on the DiMAGE Xi is good, overall. There is some vignetting,
as I just discussed. Sometimes, the edges do look a little fuzzy.
There's also the same "video capture" look that the
original DiMAGE X had. Those are the tradeoffs that you get with
ultra-compact lens. But for most folks, they are trade-offs that
you can live with.
images produced by the Xi have vibrant, accurate colors, with
very little noise. Purple fringing was rarely a problem, and
exposures were good overall. Don't
just take my word for it -- have a look at the photo
judge the photo quality for yourself!
DiMAGE Xi can record movie clips at 320 x 240 for up to 35 seconds. Movies
are saved in Quicktime format.
its predecessor, sound is recorded with the movie. Be sure not
to cover the microphone with your left finger. The zoom lens
is disabled during filming, but you can use the digital zoom
if you want.
is a sample movie for your enjoyment:
to play movie (3.9MB, QuickTime format)
play it? Download QuickTime.
DiMAGE Xi's playback mode is fairly basic.
There's no slide show feature, but there is image protection,
and thumbnail mode.
only real advanced features are audio captions and zoom and
scroll. Audio caption mode lets you add a 15 second sound clip
image. Zoom and scroll mode lets you zoom in 4X into your image
and scroll around. The scrolling is rather sluggish -- not nearly
as nice as I've seen elsewhere (e.g. Canon PowerShot cameras).
shown with each image is extremely basic: just date/time, filename,
and the resolution and quality settings. No exposure info or
histograms are available, though most point-and-shoot cameras
don't show this.
Does it Compare?
it's not quite as good in terms of photo quality and features
as larger 3 Megapixel cameras, the Minolta DiMAGE Xi is still
a very good camera considering just how small it is. The engineering
that went into designing this camera is amazing -- the Xi is
truly a take-anywhere camera. Photo quality is good, though there
is some trouble with vignetting at times, and photos still have
a bit of a "video capture" look to them. The features are fairly
limited as well -- this is a point-and-shoot camera. Performance,
especially startup times, were very good. There's some shutter
lag when the lighting isn't great, but I've found that to be
fairly common with digital cameras. And Mac users take note --
the included software doesn't work with
Mac OS X. Even
shortcomings, the DiMAGE Xi is still worth
a look, if you're in the market for an ultra-small camera.
photo quality with accurate color, no purple fringing
small body with a 3X zoom lens
startup, shot-to-shot speeds
in movie mode
I didn't care for:
vignetting in images; images often have "video capture look"
door covering SD/MMC and battery compartment
ultra-small 3 Megapixel cameras include the Canon PowerShot
S230 and S30, Casio EX-Z3 and QV-R3, Fuji FinePix A303 and F401, Konica
KD-310Z, Kyocera Finecam S3x/S3L, Nikon
Coolpix 3500, Olympus
Stylus 300, Pentax Optio 330RS/GS/S,
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P7 and
and the Toshiba
PDR-3310. A long list, yes, but there
of cameras to consider in this class!
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try
out the DiMAGE Xi and its competitors before you buy!
to see how the photo quality turned on? Check out our photo
a second opinion?
out the review of the DiMAGE Xi over at Steves
welcomes 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 recommendation.