Minolta DiMAGE Z2 ($450) is an updated version
of the DiMAGE Z1, which I wasn't
a huge fan of. The is pretty much the same camera
as its predecessor, with the following changes:
4 Megapixel CCD (versus 3.2)
apochromatic (APO) Minolta GT lens
SVGA (800 x 600) movie mode
histogram in record mode
are a ton of ultra zoom cameras out there, some of
which are very good. How does the Z2 compare? Find
out in our review!
note that since the cameras are so similar, I will
be reusing a lot of text from the Z1 review here.
in the Box?
DiMAGE Z2 has an average bundle. Inside the box,
4.0 effective Megapixel DiMAGE Z2 camera
Secure Digital card
AA alkaline batteries (not rechargeable)
cap w/retaining strap
Viewer Utility + ArcSoft software CDs
page camera manual + software manual (both printed)
includes a skimpy 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 Z2 can use SD or MMC memory cards,
though I recommend the former for its superior capacity
purchase you'll need to make is for additional 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. Those
are the same numbers that the Z1 had.
nice thing about these AA-based cameras is that you
can use alkalines in emergencies. Try that with a
$40 proprietary battery!
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
Z2. As you can see, this is one of the more compact
ultra zooms on the market.
Z2 supports a couple of accessories, including the
battery pack that I just mentioned. The only lens
accessory available is the 0.75X wide-angle adapter
(model ZCW-100, $120). This brings the wide ends
of the Z2 down to 28 mm. It includes the conversion
lens adapter, so you don't have to buy that separately.
But if you just want to use filters, you can buy
it alone for $13 (model ZCA-100). The adapter is
threaded for 52 mm attachments.
The old DiMAGE Z1 shown with
Program Flash 2500
the DiMAGE Z2 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.
accessories include an AC adapter ($55), camera case
($20), and leather neck strap ($25).
with the camera is version 2.3.3 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 Z2 is Windows XP and OS X compatible --
and you probably won't have to install any drivers.
included is a Windows-only version of ArcSoft VideoImpression
2, which you can use to edit the movie clips you've
recorded with the Z2.
DiMAGE's manual is pretty good as well, with long
explanations and not a lot of fine print. Much better
than the average camera manual.
DiMAGE is a stylish and fairly compact ultra zoom
camera. It's made mostly of plastic, and it's build
quality isn't fabulous. As was the case with the
Z1, the lens seems to rattle in place (which is apparently
normal). The camera is easy to hold, and the important
controls are easy to reach.
the Z2 is almost identical to its predecessor.
take a look at the dimensions of the Z2, and how
they compare with the other ultra zoom models:
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
PowerShot S1 IS
x 3.1 x 2.6 in.
x 3.2 x 3.1 in.
x 3.2 x 3.2 in.
x 3.4 x 3.4 in.
x 3.1 x 3.2 in.
C-765 Ultra Zoom
x 2.4 x 2.7 in.
C-770 Ultra Zoom
x 3.4 x 4.2 in.
x 2.7 x 2.6 in.
it's not the smallest or lightest camera of the bunch,
the Z2 is still right up there.
numbers -- let's start our review of this camera
DiMAGE Z2 has a brand new Minolta GT lens. This F2.8-3.7,
10X optical zoom model has a focal range of 6.3 -
63 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 380 mm. The new
lens is a little slower at the telephoto end (F3.7
vs F3.5), but it's still one of the faster ultra
zoom lenses out there. As I mentioned in the previous
section, the camera supports an optional wide-angle
conversion lens as well as filters. The lens is not
stabilized like the Canon S1 and Panasonic FZ1/FZ10.
This feature comes in real handy with big zoom cameras
above the lens is what Minolta calls Rapid AF --
basically a passive autofocus sensor. This helps
the camera focus quickly in good light. I've seen
mixed results in terms of low light focusing on other
cameras with these AF sensors. One thing that always
helps with low light focusing is an AF-assist lamp,
which the Z2 does not have.
upward, we find the built-in flash. The working range
has changed a bit since the Z1: it's now 0.23 - 6.1
m at wide-angle and 1.3 - 4.6 m at telephoto. As
I mentioned before, the camera supports several Minolta
the upper-left of the lens are the self-timer lamp
Using the LCD
Using the Switch Finder
the Z1, the DiMAGE Z2 has a rather unusual form of
viewfinder. It's not an optical viewfinder, nor is
it an electronic viewfinder. You're actually looking
at the LCD reflected in a mirror. This feature, known
as the Switch
Finder, allows for traditional use of the LCD
(on the back of the camera) and also for viewing
as a viewfinder. As I said in the Z1 review, I don't
like it. It's not the quality of the image that bothers
me -- in fact, it's great. Rather, I worry that the
mechanical nature of this device means that it could
easily fail, leaving you stuck with only an LCD,
only a viewfinder, or even worse, neither. And it
can fail, based on e-mails I've received and forums
I've read. Naturally your mileage may vary, but don't
say I didn't warn you.
other note about the Switch Finder -- there is a
diopter correction knob to focus what you're looking
at on the screen.
LCD itself is excellent -- bright and very fluid.
At 1.5 inches, it's quite small, 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. The
LCD brightness can be adjusted in the setup menu.
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,
three buttons below that are 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 other
the right of those is the DC-in port, which is where
you'll plug in the optional AC adapter or external
final item to talk about is the zoom controller,
located at the top-right of the photo. It takes just
1.6 seconds to move the lens from wide-angle to telephoto.
Though it seemed a little unresponsive, you can make
precise adjustments to the zoom by quickly pressing
the buttons on the controller.
let's cover the top of the Z2. 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 flash on it!
the lower-right of the picture is the Z2'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 options
priority mode - you choose aperture, camera selects
appropriate shutter speed; aperture range is F2.8
- F8, and will vary with focal length
priority mode - you choose shutter speed, camera
picks aperture. shutter speed range of 15 - 1/1000
manual mode - you choose both shutter speed and
portrait - these next five are scene modes
the mode dial are two buttons and the speaker. The
buttons are for macro mode (including super macro)
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.
the Z1, this camera supports USB 2.0 full speed,
which is marketing speak for "just as slow as
USB 1.1". If you don't have USB 2.0, don't worry
-- it'll still work.
included 16MB Secure Digital card is also shown.
to see here... move along.
here is the bottom of the DiMAGE Z2. 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 on the flimsy side.
tripod mount is located inline with the lens.
the Minolta DiMAGE Z2
takes the Z2 about 2.6 seconds to extend its lens
and "warm up" before you can start shooting.
That's about the same as on the DiMAGE Z1.
live histogram is new to the Z2
speeds on the Z2 were good, ranging from about 0.4
seconds for easy subjects at wide-angle to a second
for more difficult subjects. Low light focusing was
not great, so it appears that Rapid AF only helps
in good lighting. At least you can see what you're
shooting at, since the LCD gives you a bright, albeit
grainy, view of the subject.
lag was low, even at slower shutter speeds where
it often occurs
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.
delete a photo after it is taken, you must first
enter QuickView mode.
here's a look at the resolution and quality choices
on the DiMAGE Z2:
images on 16MB card
DiMAGE Z2 does not have a RAW or TIFF mode. Neither
does most of the competition.
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
DiMAGE Z2 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:
- for normal shooting
- takes up to five shots in a row at 2.5
continuous - takes fifteen 1280 x 960 shots
in one second
capture - takes pictures at 2.5 frames/second
until you let go of the shutter release button.
When you do so, the last five photos are
saved. This is handy when you're waiting
for the action to occur.
progressive capture - same as above, but
resolution is 1280 x 960 and camera saves
the last twelve images
- camera takes three shots in a row, each
with a different exposure; you can choose
0.3, 0.5, or 1.0EV as the bracket interval
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;
puts extra strain on batteries
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 flash strength
mode (Multi-segment, center-weighted, spot)
[ISO] (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
zoom (on/off) - using this will reduce the quality
of your photos
mode (Natural, vivid, black and white, sepia)
(Hard, normal, soft)
(Low, normal, high)
focus mode will focus 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.
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. I wish camera companies would
start putting manual focus rings on their cameras!
move on to
the setup menu now. The items here include:
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
reduction (on/off) - used to reduce noise in exposures
1 second or longer
imprint (on/off) - print the date on your photos
signals (Off, 1, 2) - menu beeps
signal (Off, 1, 2) - the focus confirmation sound
FX (Off, 1, 2) - fake shutter sound
output (NTSC, PAL)
mode (Data storage, PictBridge)
move on to photo quality now!
DiMAGE Z2 recorded a very nice and smooth version
of our famous macro subject. My only complaint is
that Mickey's cloak really isn't that fluorescent
in real life. The camera has two macro modes: regular
and super. In regular macro mode, you can get as
close to your subject as 7 cm at wide-angle or 120
cm at telephoto. If that's not close enough for you,
then try super macro mode, which lowers the distance
to an impressive 3 cm. Note that the lens is locked
at the 1.7X zoom position while in super mode.
night shot portion of my DiMAGE Z1 review was controversial,
to say the least. The test photo (using my standard
test methodology) had worse purple fringing than
any camera I had tested in six years. Thankfully
I did find (and publish) some workarounds to the
Minolta has resolved this problem on the Z2. Purple
fringing levels are very low -- light years ahead
of where things were on the Z1. I don't know if its
the new lens or the new CCD, but everyone's happy
Z2 took in plenty of light, thanks to its full control
over shutter speed. You can keep the shutter open
for as long as 15 seconds. The image is a little
soft, but is low on noise.
that same shot, let's have a look at the effect of
the ISO sensitivity on noise levels.
you can see, noise levels are pretty low at ISO 50
and 100. ISO 200 isn't bad, and even ISO 400 could
be usable with noise reduction software.
got the same redeye test results here as I did on
the Z1 -- there's really none to speak of. Just a
little flash reflection!
distortion test shows moderate barrel distortion
at wide-angle, and no vignetting (dark corners).
I'd rank the Z2's image quality as "good, but
not great". It does a fine job with exposure
and color, but there were two things that bothered
me a bit. First was the above average levels of purple
fringing. This phenomenon is fairly common on ultra
zoom cameras, though the Z2 may be a bit worse than
some of the best ones out there. The second issue
was that images seemed a bit soft, with a fuzzy quality
reminiscent of a video frame grab. Obviously this
one is subjective, which is why I encourage you to
view the gallery and
evaluate the photo quality with your own eyes.
should add that things like noise and purple fringing
tend to disappear when you downsize images or print
them at smaller sizes, so if you're doing either
of those, I wouldn't worry too much about my complaints.
DiMAGE Z2 has one of the best movie modes out there.
Konica Minolta has gone beyond 640 x 480: now we've
got 800 x 600! The catch is that the frame rate is
limited to 15 frames/second at that resolution. But
if you go down to 640 x 480, you have access to the
smooth 30 frames/sec frame rate. Sound is recorded
in both cases. You can record for as long as there
is space on your memory card. Lower resolutions (320
x 240 and 160 x 120) are also available at both 15
and 30 frames/second.
Konica Minolta doesn't come right out and say it,
you may need a fast SD card in other to use those
high res movie modes. If recording stops prematurely,
odds are that your memory card is too slow.
included 16MB SD card won't hold many seconds of
movies. K-M says 13 seconds at 800 x 600 (15 fps)
and 640 x 480 (30 fps). Slower frame rates and lower
resolutions will allow for longer movies. The bottom
line: buy a larger memory card!
Z2 is one of very few cameras that actually let you
use the zoom lens during filming. I wouldn't recommend
doing so, unless you like the sound of an eighties-vintage
dot matrix printer as background music for your movies.
Along those lines, if you're filming in a quiet environment
you may also want to turn off continuous autofocus,
as it adds some background noise as well (sounds
like a quite typewriter or something).
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.
a sample movie taken at the 800 x 600 resolution:
to play movie (9.5MB, 800 x 600, 15 fps, QuickTime
play it? Download QuickTime.
Z2 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.
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.
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.
other feature that I appreciate is the ability to
delete a group of photos, instead of just one or
default, the Z2 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 very quickly, with roughly
a 1/2 second delay between photos.
Does it Compare?
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z2 is a good ultra zoom camera,
though definitely not my favorite of the bunch (which
would be the Olympus 765/770 and Panasonic FZ10).
It has a sleek, modern design, though it's got a
real "plastic feel" and the lens rattles.
Along those lines, the interesting Switch Finder
gives you a nice screen to look at, but if the Z1's
track record is any indication, the whole mechanism
quality is generally good, though expect above average
purple fringing and noise which sometimes gives images
a soft, fuzzy look. This won't be an issue if you're
just printing 4 x 6's, though. The horrid night shot
problems I had with the Z1 are thankfully now a thing
of the past. The redeye test performance was just
as good as it was on the Z1.
standout features on the Z2 include a first-rate
movie mode, which offers resolutions of 640 x 480
and 800 x 600, though the latter has a 15 fps frame
rate. The other nice feature is the super macro mode,
which lets you get as close to your subject as 3
cm. The camera also supports a wide-angle conversion
lens and an external flash (though Minolta only).
The Z2 offers a full suite of manual controls for
enthusiasts as well as fully automatic modes for
few other complaints, if I may: the Z2's bundle leaves
something to be desired, with a skimpy memory card
and no rechargeable batteries. Low light focusing
was not very good, though I do like how the LCD is
still viewable. And speaking of the LCD: it's beautiful
to look at, but is a little on the small side.
I said at the start of the section, the Z2 isn't
my favorite ultra zoom camera, but it's good enough
to get my recommendation.
shoe (though limited to Minolta flashes)
wide-angle conversion lens
movie mode: 800 x 600 and 640 x 480!
quality (but small) LCD
still usable in low light situations
redeye test performance
burst mode options
in record and playback mode
grab frames from movies
I didn't care for:
average purple fringing; images seem fuzzy/noisy
light focusing wasn't great; no AF-assist lamp
rattles, plastic body feels a bit cheap
concerns about durability of switch finder
bundle not great
ultra zooms worth a look include the Canon
PowerShot S1 IS (image stabilizer), Fuji
FinePix S5000, HP
Photosmart 945 (EVF usable in low light), Kodak
EasyShare DX6490 (EVF usable in low light), Kyocera
Finecam M410R, Olympus C-765/770 Ultra
Zoom, and the Panasonic
Lumix DMC-FZ10 (image stabilizer).
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store
to try out the DiMAGE Z2 and its competitors before
to see how the photo quality turned on? Check
out our photo gallery!
a second opinion?
a different opinion over at Steve's
Feedback & Discussion
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.
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