Z1 ($399) marks newly-merged Konica Minolta's entry into
the growing ultra zoom camera market. Where Olympus used to
be the only game in town, now the majority of the camera manufacturers
in this space. That means a cameras has to be pretty darn good
to be the best in the class.
Z1 may look like just another ultra zoom camera, but it has several
features that set it apart from (most of) the competition. These
shoe for external flash
30 frames/sec movie mode
- Unique "switch
finder" that you'll see later
does the Z1 fare? Find out now!
in the Box?
DiMAGE Z1 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
3.2 (effective) Mpixel DiMAGE Z1 camera
Secure Digital card
AA alkaline batteries (not rechargeable)
cap w/retaining strap
page camera manual + software manual (both printed)
Viewer Utility + ArcSoft software CDs
includes a 16MB Secure Digital (SD) card with the camera, which
is barely enough to start with. I highly recommend picking up
a 128MB or larger card right away. The Z1 can use SD cards, or
the slower (and lower capacity) MultiMedia (MMC) cards.
purchase you'll need to make is for more batteries. Minolta includes
four alkaline batteries with the camera, which will quickly find
their way into your trash can (or should I say, recycling bin).
So go buy two sets of NiMH batteries instead -- they'll last
longer while saving the environment -- and your money -- as well.
Minolta estimates that you can take about 250 photos (with 50%
flash use), or spend 300 minutes in playback mode using alkalines,
so expect better results with high power NiMH cells. The nice
thing about these AA-based cameras is that you can use alkalines
more battery life, and don't mind carrying around a bulky battery
pack? Then check out the Minolta EBP-100 battery pack kit ($275).
It holds two lithium-ion batteries, which should provide
you with hours of battery power (sorry, I don't have exact numbers).
includes a lens cap and retaining strap with the Z1.
the DiMAGE Z1 is equipped with a hot shoe, you can use a external
flash. Keep in mind that you must use a Minolta flash, as its
a proprietary hot shoe. Compatible flashes include the Program
Flash 2500 (shown above), 3600HS, and 5600HS.
Image courtesy of Konica Minolta
only lens accessory for the Z1 is a wide-angle conversion lens
available ($120). This lens will give you a wide-end of 28 mm.
Other accessories include an AC adapter ($60) and leather neck
strap. And I already mentioned the battery pack.
with the camera is version 2.2.1 of the Minolta's 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
the Z1 is Windows XP and OS X compatible -- and you probably
won't have to install any drivers.
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 Z1 is a unique looking camera, with a silver plastic body.
I'd rate the build quality as average, reminding me of the Toshiba
PDR-M700. It's definitely not as well built as the plastic Kodak
DX6490 or the all-metal Olympus C-750UZ. Something else I notices
is that the lens rattles if you give the camera the slightest
shake. I'm not sure if this actually affects camera operation,
but it's food for thought.
Z1 is easy to hold, thanks to its large right hand grip. Let's
take a look at the dimensions of the Z1, and how they compare
with the other ultra zoom models:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
x 3.1 x 3.2
x 3.2 x 3.1
x 3.4 x 3.4
x 3.2 x 3.2
C-740 Ultra Zoom
x 2.6 x 2.7
x 3.4 x 4.2
x 2.7 x 2.6
you can see, the Z1 is right in the middle of the pack in terms
of size, but its plastic body makes it one of the lightest cameras
in the bunch. And how about that Panasonic -- it's huge!
begin our tour of this camera now.
DiMAGE Z1 has an F2.8-3.5, 10X optical zoom lens. The focal length
is 5.8 - 58 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 380 mm. The lens
is threaded, and the camera supports the wide-angle conversion
lens that I mentioned earlier.
above the lens is what Minolta calls Rapid AF -- basically a
passive autofocus sensor. This sensor helps speed up focusing
in good lighting, and also helps the camera focus in dim light.
It's a similar concept as an AF-assist lamp, but it's useful
in daylight as well. It's nice to see Minolta adding this feature
to their cameras. Now if we could get everyone else to go along
with it (the Kodak DX6490 had it as well).
upward, we find the built-in flash. The flash has a working range
of 0.75 - 6.1 m at wide-angle and 1.2 - 4.8 m at telephoto (with
the ISO set to automatic). As I mentioned before, the camera
supports several Minolta external flashes.
only other items of note on the Z1 are found toward the left
side. These include the microphone and self-timer lamp.
back of the camera has one of the most bizarre features I've
seen on a camera. You're probably guessing that this is just
another ultra zoom camera with an electronic viewfinder. Not
so. Minolta has designed a contraption which mechanically flips
a mirror in front of the LCD, projecting the image in the viewfinder
page shows how it works pretty well. The viewfinder has a
diopter correction knob to focus what you're looking at.
the availability of perfectly decent electronic viewfinders,
I have no idea why they did this. It's just another mechanical
thing that can break.
LCD itself is brilliant, and one of the best I've seen. It's
on the small size (1.5"), but it makes up for it in resolution
(113k pixels) and especially its refresh rate. You haven't seen
a camera LCD until you've seen one running at 60 frames/second
-- it's wonderful. The camera also amplifies the image on the
screen in low light, which is very handy.
LCD brightness can be adjusted in the setup menu.
resume our tour by looking at the back of the camera with the
the LCD is a switch which moves the camera between playback,
record/LCD, and record/viewfinder mode. The power button is in
the middle of all that. Switching between the LCD and viewfinder
is bizarre the first time you do it, with a noticeable "thunk" when
the mirror moves.
the right of the LCD is the four-way controller, which is used
for menu navigation, manual controls, and adjusting exposure
compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments).
three buttons below that are for menu, QuickView/delete photo,
and info. Pressing QuickView shoves you into playback mode, where
you can review photos. The i+ button toggles what is shown on
the screen -- it's basically the same as the display button on
the right of those is the DC-in port, which is where you'll plug
in the optional AC adapter or external battery pack.
final item to talk about is the zoom controller, located at the
top-right of the photo. It takes about 2.9 seconds to move the
lens from wide-angle to telephoto. Precise movements of the lens
can be made by quickly pressing the buttons.
let's cover the top of the Z1. As I discussed back in the first
section of the review, the camera has a proprietary hot shoe.
So don't try to stick your Canon Speedlite on it.
the lower-right of the picture is the Z1's mode wheel. Items
on it include:
- point-and-shoot, most settings locked up
mode - more on this later
mode - still point-and-shoot, but with full access to menu
priority mode - you choose aperture, camera selects appropriate
shutter speed; aperture range is F2.8 - F8, and will vary with
priority mode - you choose shutter speed, camera picks aperture.
shutter speed range of 15 - 1/1000 sec
manual mode - you choose both shutter speed and aperture
portrait - these next five are scene modes
the mode dial are two buttons and the speaker. The buttons are
for macro mode and flash setting (auto, auto w/redeye reduction,
fill-flash, slow sync, flash cancel).
this side of the camera, Minolta has hidden the SD/MMC card slot
and USB port. The sliding plastic door is nice, since you can't
snap it off like on some other cameras. It is a little tight
in there, making it hard to get the card out at times.
to see here... move along.
here is the bottom of the DiMAGE Z1. Here you'll find the battery
compartment as well as a metal tripod mount. The door over the
battery compartment has a lock, so it doesn't accidentally spring
open. The door itself is quite flimsy.
the Minolta DiMAGE Z1
a big zoom camera, the Z1's 2.5 second startup time is impressive.
it wanted to, the camera focused very quickly, in half a second
or less. I wasn't impressed with its low light abilities, even
with that passive AF sensor. The camera could not lock focus
on many objects around the office, even with the lighting at
50%. My first set of night shots all came out blurry, so I had
to reshoot them all with manual focus.
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.
histogram in record mode
speed is excellent, with a little over a second of lag before
you can take another shot (assuming instant playback is turned
off). If you're using instant playback, you can half-press the
shutter release to go back to shooting immediately.
delete a photo after it is taken, you must first enter QuickView
mode. (Updated 10/16/03, 10am)
here's a look at the resolution and quality choices on the DiMAGE
images on 16MB card
DiMAGE Z1 does not have a RAW or TIFF mode.
camera 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.
DiMAGE Z1 uses a pretty standard menu system, that users of other
Minolta cameras will be familiar with. The menu is divided into
three "tabs", each with its own set of options. Note
that most of the options below are locked up in the auto and
scene modes. The menu options are:
mode (Single-frame, self-timer, continuous, UHS continuous,
progressive capture, UHS progressive capture, bracketing) -
size (see chart)
DSP (on/off) - essentially an automatic scene mode feature;
available in auto record mode only
balance (Auto, custom, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent,
flash) - custom mode lets you shoot a white or gray card in
order to get perfect color in any light
key function (Flash mode, drive, white balance, focus mode,
color mode) - redefines the function of the flash button on
the top of the camera
mode (Auto, manual) - see below
AF (on/off) - camera is constantly trying to focus (and you'll
hear it, too)
mode (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, slow sync,
flash cancel) - for changing the flash mode when you've redefined
the flash button
compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments) - adjust the
mode (Multi-segment, center-weighted, spot)
[ISO] (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
zoom (on/off) - using this will reduce the quality of your
mode (Natural, vivid, black and white, sepia)
(Hard, normal, soft)
(Low, normal, high)
things up there need some major explanation. I'll start with
the drive modes. Continuous advance is your standard sequential
shooting mode. The camera takes photos at 1.5 frames/second,
and the maximum number of photos depends on the image quality.
At the highest setting, it's five photos. UHS continuous advance
takes up to ten 1280 x 960 photos at 10 frames/second.
capture works in a different way. You keep the shutter release
button held down, and the camera saves the last images that were
in the buffer at the time you release the button. Standard progressive
capture saves the last six images (which were recorded at 1.5
frames/second), while the UHS progressive mode saves the last
10 images (same 1280 x 960, 10 frames/sec as above).
bracketing takes three shots in a row, each with a different
exposure. You can set the exposure interval using the four-way
controller. All-in-all, the Z1 has one of the most impressive
burst modes out there.
Manual focus (sorry for the crappy picture)
focus mode lets you use the four-way controller to focus the
lens. A guide is shown on the LCD displaying the current focus
distance, and the camera will enlarge the center of the image
so you can verify that your subject is in-focus.
move on to
the setup menu now:
save (1, 3, 5, 10 mins)
playback (Off, 2, 10 sec) - how long photo is shown on LCD
after it is taken
accessory (None, wide converter)
(Japanese, English, German, French, Spanish)
# memory (on/off)
name (Standard, date) - choose the naming system for folders
signals (1, 2, off) - menu beeps
FX (1, 2, off) - fake shutter sound
reduction (on/off) - used to reduce noise in exposures 1 second
imprint (on/off) - print the date on your photos
output (NTSC, PAL)
move on to photo quality now!
Z1 produced a nice, smooth reproduction of our favorite macro
subject. The colors are right on. The Z1 has a regular macro
mode, which lets you get as close to your subject as 10 cm at
wide-angle, and 1.2 m at telephoto. Super macro mode locks the
lens at around the 2X position, and it lets you get as close
as 4 cm to your subject -- very good.
have put in additional hours of work to discuss the purple
fringing (chromatic aberrations, or whatever you want to
call it) issue on the Z1 that caused some controversy when
the review was first posted. Much of the content below was
rewritten on 10/20/03.
before have I had so much difficulty taking my night test shots
with a camera. I went to Treasure Island four times with the
Z1, and then gave up and went to City Hall instead. For whatever
reason, I could never get an image that satisfied me.
is the image included with the review when it was first posted:
you can see, it was purple city. I should mention that I do the
same procedure with each camera I test: shutter priority mode,
self-timer, tripod. In situations like this, the camera will
choose the largest aperture, which means purple fringing (AKA
chromatic aberrations) will be at their worst.
my standard testing methodology, the image taken by the Z1 was
far worse than average. I've taken the shot hundreds of times
before, with ultra zoom cameras, bargain cameras, and digital
SLRs, and have never seen something like the above photo. It's
a shame too, because the Z1 took in plenty of light, and noise
levels were very low.
what causes so much purple in the Z1 image? Well, I don't know
exactly, but I know how to fix it. The first way is what most
people would think of first: close down the aperture. And that
F3.5, 4 sec
View Full Size Image
F4.0, 4 sec
View Full Size Image
it works pretty well. Close down the aperture another stop, and
it gets even better (though the softness stays the same).
there's another trick as well, that I only heard secondhand,
and that is changing the white balance. Changing it to daylight
(and I think fluorescent as well) knocked the purple
right out. Unfortunately, I tossed those samples photo accidentally,
so you'll have to take my word for it. So the auto white balance
is also involved in this.
more weird thing with this image that I still can't nail down
is why the left side of the image is softer and has more purple
fringing than the right side. Just open any of the samples above
to see what I mean.
line: the camera performed poorly using my standard test
methodology, but it can be fixed easily. The image softness
was only seen in these images -- which I took on four separate
giving up on Treasure Island, I went to City Hall and got much
better results (though there's still plenty of purple to be had).
The following were taken in aperture priority mode:
you can see, chromatic aberrations were very noticeable until
F4.0, when they started to die down. I would personally choose
F4.5 if I shot this scene again (which I certainly hope I won't
do again for this review).
the first night shot way up there, here's a look at how changing
the ISO sensitivity affects image noise:
levels remain low at ISO 50 and 100, and they start to creep
up at ISO 200. At ISO 400, it's pretty grainy, but really not
to go Minolta -- no redeye!
distortion test shows moderate barrel distortion, and no vignetting
have already discussed purple fringing (chromatic aberrations,
etc) to death a few paragraphs above. I stand by my assertion
that the Z1 has too much of it when compared to other ultra zoom
cameras that I've tested recently (where this problem "goes
with the territory"). Above average purple fringing is not
just in night shots -- but in the regular everyday shots as well
(check the gallery). It can be reduced,
of course, using the methods I've described. I also thought that
colors were a little dull at the default saturation setting (which
can be adjusted in the menu). Aside from those issues, image
quality was comparable to other ultra zoom cameras. I do think
that the image quality on Olympus' latest ultra zooms is a step
above other cameras in this class.
ultimate judge of quality is your eyes -- please visit our photo
gallery and decide if the quality is acceptable to you. You
are also welcome to have the photos printed.
DiMAGE Z1 has one of the most impressive movie modes out there.
You can record VGA quality video (that's 640 x 480) at 30 frames/second
until the memory card is filled up. On the included 16MB memory
card that takes just 13 seconds. Upgrade to a 512MB card and
you can get close to 7 minutes. One way to get more video is
to lower the frame rate down to 15 frames/sec, essentially doubling
your recording time. You can also choose the 320 x 240 resolution
at both 30 and 15 frames/second.
cannot normally use the zoom lens during filming. However, if
you turn off sound recording, you can use it.
Z1 has a unique feature called Night Movie. Basically the camera
boosts the sensitivity so you can film in low light.
that's I've read on the forums out there mentioned that the sound
is out of sync with the video. So I aimed the camera at the television
and took this movie (warning:
11MB). Sounds off to me. Apparently this only happens at the
VGA / 30 fps setting. (Updated 10/20/03)
a large VGA sample movie:
to play movie (12.8MB, 640 x 480, QuickTime format)
play it? Download QuickTime.
Z1 has a pretty standard playback mode. Basic playback options
include slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail
mode, and zoom and scroll.
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.
entering the picture info screen (shown below), you can rotate
photos. You can also downsize images for e-mailing, and copy
images from one memory card to another.
very unique feature that I don't think I've seen before is the
ability to do frame grabs from movies you've recorded.
other feature that I appreciate is the ability to delete a group
of photos, instead of just one or all.
default, the Z1 doesn't give you a lot of information about your
photos. However, press "up" on the four-way controller
and you'll see much more, including a histogram.
camera moves between photos at an amazing pace -- there's virtually
no delay between photos.
Does it Compare?
Minolta DiMAGE Z1 in an interesting ultra zoom camera that, in
the end, did not win me over. While I like its design, hot shoe,
and support for a wide-angle lens, the rattling lens and cheap
plastic doors made me wonder about build quality. The "switch
finder" is an interesting (and perhaps unnecessary) invention,
but I'm concerned about how long this mechanical system will
last. The LCD itself is excellent -- one of the best I've seen
(although it's on the small side). The camera has a full suite
of manual controls, and it performed as well as other cameras
in this class. The multiple burst mode options are a nice bonus.
quality was good in most situations, but the camera had higher
than average purple fringing (chromatic aberrations). This was
most notable in the night test shot, where it was much worse
than normal using my standard test methodology. In that case,
either closing down the aperture or adjusting the white balance
helped resolve that problem. The Z1 has an excellent movie mode,
with unlimited VGA / 30 frames/sec recording, though the sound
seemed to be slightly out of sync with the video (apparently
only at that highest quality setting).
Z1 is certainly an intriguing camera, and if Minolta could try
to reduce the purple fringing (if it's due to image processing,
and not the lens) and fix the movie sound syncing, it would be
more competitive. Right now I feel that it's not the best choice
in its class. I'd rank it below the two Olympus models for sure,
and somewhere between the Kodak DX6490 and Fuji FinePix
optical zoom lens
wide-angle conversion lens
movie mode, 30 frames/second
of the best LCDs I've seen
AF system (though I had trouble focusing in low light)
redeye test performance
burst mode options
I didn't care for:
much purple fringing / chromatic aberrations
seem dull at default saturation
low light focusing (night shots did not come out, difficulties
around the office)
in movie mode appears to be out of sync with video (640 x 480,
30 fps only?)
rattles, plastic battery door is flimsy
about durability of switch finder
other lower priced ultra zoom cameras include the Fuji
FinePix S5000, HP Photosmart 850 and 945, Kodak
EasyShare DX6490, Olympus C-740 and C-750 Ultra
Zooms, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1 and DMC-FZ10,
and the Toshiba PDR-M500 and M700.
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try
out the DiMAGE Z1 and its competitors before you buy!
to see how the photo quality turned on? Check out our photo
a second opinion?
a different opinion over at Steve's
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.