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DCRP Review: Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z10
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: September 22, 2004
Last Updated: February 26, 2008
While it may look like a futuristic spaceship, rest assured that the Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z10 ($329) is just a digital camera. After the DiMAGE Z2 (see our review) started to show its age, Konica Minolta took the Z-series in two different directions: up and down. The chart below compares the Z10 (reviewed here) with the old Z2 and new Z3. Despite its higher model number, the Z10 is the least impressive camera in the group:
Do note that the street price is accurate at the time in which this section was written and is likely to change.
There is a ton of competition in the ultra zoom category so the DiMAGE Z10 has its work cut out for it. Find out how it performs in our review!
What's in the Box?
The DiMAGE Z10 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
You'll find a 16MB Secure Digital (SD) card in the box with the camera, which is barely enough to get started with. I highly recommend buying a larger card right away, with 128MB being a good starter size. The Z10 can use SD or MMC (MultiMediaCard) formats, though you'll want to use the former due to its superior capacity and performance.
You'll also want to buy some rechargeable batteries and a fast charger, since Minolta includes four alkaline batteries with the camera, which will quickly find their way into your trash can (or should I say, recycling bin). I recommend buying two sets of NiMH batteries (2100 mAh or greater), which are better for both the environment and your pocketbook. Using the new CIPA battery life standard, Minolta says you can get 500 shots using alkaline batteries or 550 with 2100 mAh rechargeables, both of which are amazing numbers. For the sake of comparison, Minolta's higher end DiMAGE Z3 takes just 170 shots using alkalines.
I always like to complain about cameras that use proprietary batteries so I should compliment a camera when it doesn't use them. Since the Z10 uses AA batteries, you can stuff a set of alkalines into it when your rechargeables run out, a big plus in my opinion.
Minolta includes a lens cap and retaining strap with the DiMAGE Z10.
There are just a handful of accessories available for the Z10. The most interesting is the ZCW-200 wide-angle conversion lens kit ($100), which lowers the wide end of the lens down to 26.6 mm. The conversion lens adapter is included with the lens so that's one less thing you need to buy. Other accessories include an AC adapter ($50) and soft case ($18).
Included with the camera is version 2.3.6 of Minolta's DiMAGE Viewer software for Mac (including OS X) and Windows. It's certainly not a substitute for something like Adobe Photoshop, but it does basic editing fairly well. A handy "variations" tool shows you how different adjustments will effect your picture.
If you're just looking to connect your camera and transfer files, you'll be pleased to hear that the Z10 is Windows XP and OS X compatible -- and you probably won't have to install any drivers.
Konica Minolta's manuals continue to be better than average, with lengthy explanations and not too much fine print.
Look and Feel
The DiMAGE Z10 is the ultra zoom camera of the future -- or at least that's what it looks like. The body is made entirely of plastic, and while it feels a little "cheap", I'm not concerned about it falling apart. The important controls are all well-placed, though I'm not thrilled with the feel of the zoom controller. It's easy to hold, with a substantial right hand grip and plenty of room for your left hand as well.
Let's take a look at the dimensions of the Z10 and how they compare with the other ultra zoom models:
As you can see, the Z10 fits right in the middle of the pack!
Enough numbers -- let's start our tour of this camera now!
Is this a futuristic-looking camera or what? Cool.
The Z10 has the least amount of zoom in the DiMAGE Z-series, but at 8X it's still no slouch. This F3.2-3.4 lens has a focal range of 6 - 48 mm, which is equivalent to 36 - 290 mm. The lens barrel is threaded for the optional wide-angle adapter and possibly filters as well (though I don't know the thread measurements). The lens never extends out of the body -- it's all internal.
Directly above the lens is what Minolta calls Rapid AF -- basically an external autofocus sensor. This helps the camera focus quickly in good light. I've seen mixed results in terms of low light focusing performance on other cameras with these AF sensors. One thing that always helps with low light focusing is an AF-assist lamp, which the Z10 does not have.
Continuing upward, we find the built-in flash. This flash has an excellent working range of 0.6 - 5.3 m at wide-angle and 1.6 - 5.3 m at telephoto. Unlike the DiMAGE Z2 and Z3, you cannot attach an external flash to the Z10.
The only other thing worth mentioning here is the self-timer lamp, which is located on the grip.
The Z10 has a small (1.5 inch) but beautiful LCD display. The most impressive thing about this screen is the 60 fps refresh rate. The resolution of the screen is 113,000 pixels, so everything is nice and sharp. In low light the screen automatically brightens you can see still see what you're looking at (though it's a bit grainy).
Above the LCD is the Switch FInder, which was also used on the DiMAGE Z1 and Z2. When you activate the Switch Finder, a mirror flips in front of the LCD screen, reflecting it up to the viewfinder. So now you're looking at the LCD as if it was an optical viewfinder. You cannot use the LCD and Switch Finder at the same time, of course -- it's one or the other. A diopter correction knob on the side of the Switch Finder will focus what you're looking at.
Since the Z1 I've been concerned about how the Switch Finder holds up. I have received numerous reports of the Switch Finder failing on those old models, so proceed with caution. The fact that Minolta uses an EVF, rather than the Switch Finder, on their high end DiMAGE Z3 should tell you something.
Below the LCD is a switch which moves the camera between playback, record (LCD), and record (Switch Finder) 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.
To 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).
The three buttons below that are Menu, QuickView/delete photo, and info (i+). Pressing QuickView quickly (ha ha) puts you in 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 other cameras.
The final item to talk about is the zoom controller, located at the top-right of the photo. It takes just 1.8 seconds to move the lens from wide-angle to telephoto. You can make precise adjustments to the focal length by quickly pressing the controller. I should add that I didn't care for the feel of the controller -- there wasn't enough "play" when you pressed the button.
One of the main differences between the DiMAGE Z10 and Z2/Z3 can be found in this photo. Unlike the Z2 and Z3, the Z10 does not have a hot shoe, so you're stuck with the built-in flash.
What you can see is the mode dial and three buttons. The items on the mode dial include:
I should add that there's a feature called Automatic Subject Program Mode which is only used in Automatic mode. This chooses between normal auto shooting and one of five scene modes, depending on the subject. If you want to choose the scene yourself, you can do so on the mode dial.
Above the mode dial are three buttons, including the shutter release button. The two buttons just above the mode dial adjust:
The flash button's function can be customized in the setup menu to change other camera settings, if you wish.
The only thing to mention here is the DC-in port, which surprisingly is not projected by any kind of cover.
On the other side of the camera is the SD/MMC slot as well as the USB + video out port (one for both). One thing that concerns me a bit (and other folks who have seen the Z10) is that the memory card slot doesn't have the traditional door seen on most cameras. Hopefully that little plastic flap will keep dirt, dust, sand, etc. out of the slot.
The included 16MB SD card can also be seen here.
We end this part of the tour with a look at the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find a plastic tripod mount as well as the battery compartment. The battery compartment, which holds four AA batteries, is covered by a fairly sturdy plastic door (with a lock).
Using the Minolta DiMAGE Z10
The Z10 starts up almost instantly, with just a 1.1 second delay before you can start shooting. You can think the self-contained lens for that!
Yay, a live histogram!
Focusing speeds on the Z10 were very good, ranging from about 0.4 seconds for easy subjects at wide-angle to a second for more difficult subjects. Low light focusing performance was poor -- guess that Rapid AF sensor isn't so hot for those conditions.
Shutter lag was not an issue, even at slower shutter speeds where it sometimes appears.
Shot-to-shot speed is excellent, with a delay of a little over a second 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.
To delete a photo after it is taken, you must first enter QuickView mode and then delete it.
Now, here's a look at the resolution and quality choices on the DiMAGE Z10:
The DiMAGE Z10 does not have a RAW or TIFF mode.
The 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.
The DiMAGE Z10 uses the standard Konica Minolta menu system. 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:
There are three focus modes on the DiMAGE Z10. Single AF is your everyday "press the shutter release halfway and then the camera tries to focus" mode. Continuous focus mode will always be focusing the lens, even when you're not halfway pressing the shutter release. This reduces AF lag and is also good when your subject is in motion, at the expense of your batteries. Manual 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.
Let's move on to the setup menu now. The items here include:
Let's move on to photo quality now!
The DiMAGE Z10 took a nice, "smooth" shot of our usual macro subject. Colors are accurate and quite saturated as well. The Z10 has a very impressive macro mode, allowing you to get just 1 cm from your subject at wide-angle (and 60 cm away at the telephoto end).
The night shot test turned out nicely as well. Thanks to its full manual controls, the Z10 easily took in enough light to make this shot look good. There is some purple fringing here, and using a smaller aperture (higher F-number) would certainly reduce that (and probably get rid of those halos as well).
Using that same shot, let's have a look at the effect of the ISO sensitivity on noise levels.
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
As you can see, noise levels stay pretty low all the way through ISO 200. Even ISO 400 isn't bad! I can't say that for the DiMAGE Z3, though... but you'll have to wait for that review to see what I mean.
Minolta has got redeye reduction down on the Z-series cameras. There's very little redeye to see here -- mostly just flash reflection.
The distortion test shows moderate barrel distortion at the wide-end of the lens. You'll notice barrel distortion when you take pictures indoors, or of buildings with straight edges. I see no evidence of vignetting or blurry edges here.
Overall the DiMAGE Z10's photo quality was very good. Images were well-exposed, colorful, and sharp, and noise levels were low. Konica Minolta definitely cranked up the in-camera sharpening as I saw a few "jaggies" on sharp edges at times. Purple fringing is above average, though, which is pretty typical of ultra zoom cameras like this one.
As always, don't let me decide if the Z10's photo quality is satisfactory. Look at our extensive photo gallery and print the photos just as you would if you took them. Then decide if the Z10 meets your expectations!
While the Z10's movie mode is pretty good, I was a bit surprised to see that the 800 x 600 resolution from the DiMAGE Z2 didn't make it to this model (or the Z3 for that matter). On the Z10 you can record at 640 x 480 (15 frames/sec) until the memory card is full. You can also record at 320 x 240, and you can select from 15 or 30 frames/sec at that resolution. You'll want to use 30 fps for smoother video.
The downside? Sound is not recorded. In fact, the Z10 doesn't even have a microphone. You can, however, use the zoom lens during filming.
The included 16MB SD card won't hold many seconds of movies, so if you're serious about movies, buy a larger memory card. Minolta says the 16MB card can hold 26 seconds at 640 x 480 (15 fps) and 21 seconds at 320 x 240 (30 fps).
The Z10 offers a "night movie" mode, which brightens the scene in low light.
Another neat feature is the ability to do a frame grab from a movie. When the movie is paused, just press "up" on the four-way controller and you can save a frame at the same resolution of the movie.
Due to a major screwup on my part, there will be no sample movie in this review. I apologize for this!
The Z10 has a pretty standard playback mode. Basic playback options include slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll. The camera is PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to a compatible photo printer.
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 is useful for checking that your subject is in focus.
By entering the picture info screen (shown below), you can rotate photos (by pressing the "down" button). You can also downsize images for e-mailing, and copy images from one memory card to another.
One other feature that I appreciate is the ability to delete a group of photos, instead of just one or all.
This review is sponsored by Nasarel. No, I'm kidding. By default, the Z10 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.
The camera moves between photos very quickly, switching from one to the next virtually instantly.
How Does it Compare?
For those seeking a real bargain in the ultra zoom category, the Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z10 is it. You'll have to give up a few things compared to the competition, but overall it's a great camera for the money. You won't find too many cameras with a street price well below $300 that have this many features.
While it doesn't have quite as much zoom power as some other models, the DiMAGE Z10's 8X optical zoom lens is more than adequate for most people. If the 36 mm starting point bothers you, then consider the optional wide-angle conversion lens. The lens is contained within the body at all times which speeds up the startup time dramatically. The camera performs very well in all areas except low light focusing. The camera turns out almost instantly, and focus and shutter lag times are very low. The Z10 offers a full suite of manual controls, including shutter speed, aperture, white balance, and focus. Photo quality is very good, though images may be a little over-sharpened. The Z10's 1 cm macro mode and superb battery life are also hard to beat.
The downsides? The Z10's plastic body does feel a little cheesy, but ultimately this is subjective. I'm still concerned about the longevity of the Switch Finder, and I'm not thrilled about the exposed SD card slot either. While the Z10 has a VGA movie mode (albeit at 15 fps), you cannot record sound, which kind of defeats the purpose in my opinion. Finally, you can expect some purple fringing in your images, as is the case with most ultra zoom cameras.
All-in-all, this is a great ultra zoom camera for the money, as long as you don't mind silent movies!
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Other low-cost ultra zooms worth looking at include the Canon PowerShot S1 IS (image stabilizer), Fuji FinePix S5100, HP Photosmart 945 (EVF usable in low light), Kodak EasyShare DX6490 and DX7590, Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3 (image stabilizer), Kyocera Finecam M410R, Nikon Coolpix 4800, Olympus C-765/770 Ultra Zoom, and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ3 and DMC-FZ15 (both have image stabilizers).
As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the DiMAGE Z10 and its competitors before you buy!
Want to see how the photo quality turned on? Check out our photo gallery!
Want a second opinion?
Read a different opinion over at Steve's Digicams.
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.
To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.
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