Z5 ($500) is an update to 2004's DiMAGE Z3 from
Konica Minolta. For the most part, the new features
aren't earthshaking. They include:
- 5.0 Megapixel CCD (versus 4.0 on
- 2.0" LCD display (versus 1.5")
- Improved battery life
- Smaller shutter speed range, no
more bulb mode (okay, so this one's a step backward)
Everything else is the same as the
Z3. That means that there's a 12X optical zoom lens,
Minolta's exclusive Anti-shake image stabilization
system, full manual controls, a hot shoe, and a VGA
Ultra zoom cameras are all the rage
right now. How did the Z5 do in our tests? Find out
now in our review!
Please note that due to the similarities
between the Z5 and the Z3, I will be recycling large
parts of the Z3 review here.
What's in the Box?
The DiMAGE Z5 has an average bundle.
Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 5.0 effective Megapixel Konica
Minolta DiMAGE Z5 camera
- 16MB Secure Digital card
- Four AA alkaline batteries
- Lens cap w/retaining strap
- Neck strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- DiMAGE Viewer Utility CD-ROM
- 131 page camera manual + software
manual (both printed)
You'll find a 16MB Secure Digital
(SD) card in the box with the camera, holds a grand
total of 4 photos at the highest quality setting. That
means that you'll want to buy a larger SD card right
away, with 256MB or even 512MB being good "starter
sizes". The Z5 can use SD or MMC (MultiMediaCard)
formats, though you'll want to use the former due to
its superior capacity and performance. The camera does
take advantage of high speed SD cards (you'll really
notice the difference when the camera saves a sequence
of shots to the card) and one is recommended for the
high quality movie mode.
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. I recommend
buying two sets of NiMH batteries (2300 mAh or greater),
which are better for both the environment and your
pocketbook. Using the CIPA battery life standard, Minolta
says you can get 240 shots using alkaline batteries
and a whopping 420 with 2500 mAh rechargeables. That's
a decent improvement in terms of battery life when
compared to the "old" Z3. Probably the closest
competitors to the DiMAGE Z5 are Panasonic's DMC-FZ5,
which can take 300 shots per charge, and the upcoming
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H1, which can take 260 shots.
Two nice things about cameras that
use AA batteries (like the Z5) is that 1) a set of
NiMH batteries cost much less than a lithium-ion battery
and 2) if you're ever in a jam you can use alkalines
to get you through the day. The Panasonic and Sony
cameras mentioned above use expensive lithium-ion batteries
instead of AAs.
Minolta includes a lens cap and retaining
strap with the DiMAGE Z5.
There are quite a few accessories
available for the Z5, including:
||Why you want it
||Brings the wide end of the lens down by
0.75X to 26.3 mm; includes adapter
|Conversion lens adapter
||For attaching conversion lenses and 52
| External flash
|Get much better flash photos and less redeye
||Power the camera without using your batteries
||Protect your investment
Not bad, not bad...
Included with the camera is version
2.3.7 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
Konica Minolta's manuals continue
to be better than average, with lengthy explanations
and not too much fine print. I still like the little
tidbits about where the phony shutter sound comes from,
as well as the history of the company.
Look and Feel
The DiMAGE Z5 is a midsized, black-colored
camera made mostly of high-grade plastic which looks
a whole lot like its predecessor. It feels very solid
and well-constructed. There's a huge grip for your
right hand and the lens barrel leaves plenty of room
for your left. The important controls are all easy
to reach and are well-designed. Just like with the
Z3, the Z5 shows scratches very easily. Even my fingernails
could scratch the plastic, but thankfully it rubs right
The manual has the same note about
the camera overheating that the Z3 did. Basically the
thing can heat up, resulting in an error which disables
the Anti-shake system until the camera cools down.
For what its worth, I haven't actually heard of this
actually happening to anyone, but it's worth a mention.
Now, let's take a look at the dimensions
of the Z5 and how they compare with the other ultra
(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 3.4 x 3.4 in.
x 3.2 x 3.2 in.
x 3.1 x 2.8 in.
Minolta DiMAGE A200
x 3.2 x 4.5 in.
Minolta DiMAGE Z5
x 3.1 x 3.3 in.
Minolta DiMAGE Z20
x 3.2 x 3.7 in.
x 2.6 x 2.1 in.
C-765 Ultra Zoom
x 2.4 x 2.7 in.
C-770 Ultra Zoom
x 2.7 x 3.3 in.
x 3.4 x 4.2 in.
x 3.3 x 3.1 in.
As you can see, the Z5 fits right
in the middle of the pack! I threw the DiMAGE A200
in there as well, but it's really a different beast
altogether. It has more resolution, more manual controls,
and it costs a lot more too.
Enough numbers -- let's start our
tour of this camera now!
The Z5 has the same F2.8-4.5, 12X
optical zoom Minolta GT lens as the DiMAGE Z3. This
is about the most zoom you'll find on a digital camera
without resorting to conversion lenses. Both Panasonic
and Sony offer similar lenses on their ultra zooms,
with the best one being found on the Panasonic DMC-FZ20
(F2.8 through the whole zoom range). The focal length
of the lens is 5.9 - 69.9 mm, which is equivalent to
35 - 420 mm. You can add a wide-angle conversion lens
as well as filters if you'd like.
Konica Minolta uses a different image
stabilization system than other manufacturers (like
Panasonic and Sony). Instead of shifting an element
in the lens to counteract "camera shake",
the Z5 actually moves the CCD itself. I don't know
if one system is better than the other, but image stabilization
is a great feature no matter how it works. Whether
it's a sharper photo indoors without using the flash
or at full telephoto outdoors, the Anti-shake system
gives you sharper photos at slower shutter speeds than
I've got two examples to demonstrate
how well the system works. First, these photos:
Both photos were taken at 1/20 second,
which is what I normally consider "tripod territory" (unless
you have hands of stone). The shot on the left was
taken with Anti-shake, while the shot on the right
was without it.
I've also compiled a short
movie showing the difference Anti-shake makes.
Remember, it doesn't work miracles -- but it sure
helps. You will notice that image stabilizers tend
to cause a "drifting" effect while taking
Way above the lens is the Z5's pop-up
flash (you have to raise it manually). The flash isn't
as powerful as it was on the Z3, with a working range
of 0.2 - 3.6 m at wide-angle and 1.2 - 2.2 m at telephoto.
The Panasonic FZ5 does considerably better than the
Z5 in this area (no word yet on the Sony DSC-H1). If
you want more zoom power or just less redeye you can
attach an external flash via the hot shoe that you'll
see in a moment.
The only other item worth mentioning
on the front of the camera is the self-timer lamp,
which is to the left of the lens.
There is no AF-assist lamp on the
The back of the Z5 has changed a bit
since the Z3. The biggest change is the new 2.0" LCD
display -- a whole lot larger than the 1.5" screen
on the Z3. The resolution is average, with 114,000
pixels. The screen is sharp, bright, and motion is
Above the LCD is the Z5's electronic
viewfinder, or EVF. The EVF is a tiny LCD that you
use as if it was an optical viewfinder. Unfortunately
EVFs don't come close to a true optical viewfinder
in terms of resolution. You can, however, see everything
that's normally shown on the LCD, and there's no parallax
error to worry about. The EVF also has a resolution
of 114,000 pixels, which isn't great compared to other
EVFs out there these days. A diopter correction knob
will focus the image on the screen.
Low light visibility is better than
average for both the EVF and LCD, though I seem to
recall that other Minolta cameras do a little better
in this area.
Below the LCD you'll find the power
button, and a switch that moves the camera between
playback and record mode (using either the LCD or EVF).
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). By holding down the center
button you can manually select one of five focus points.
The three buttons below that are Menu,
QuickView/delete photo, and info (i+). Pressing QuickView
sends you to 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 final item to talk about is the
zoom controller, located at the top-right of the photo.
It takes just 1.5 seconds to move the lens through
the whole 12X zoom range. You can make precise adjustments
to the focal length by quickly pressing the controller.
The first thing to notice on the top
of the DiMAGE Z5 is its hot shoe. This hot shoe only
supports Minolta external flashes -- other brands will
not work since the contacts are different. Compatible
flashes include the Minolta 2500, 3600HS, and 5600HS.
A plastic cover protects the contacts when there is
no flash attached.
At the lower-right of the photo is
the mode dial, which has the following options:
| Automatic mode
||Point-and-shoot mode, many menu options
||More on this later
||Still automatic but with full menu access
|Aperture Priority mode
||You pick the aperture, the camera picks
the appropriate shutter speed. Choose from
a range of F2.8 - F8
|Shutter Priority mode
||You choose the shutter speed and the camera
picks the correct aperture. You can choose
from a number of speeds ranging from 4 sec
- 1/1000 sec.
|Full Manual mode
||You pick the aperture and shutter speed.
Same values as above.
Pick the situation and the camera uses the
The shutter speed range has changed
since the Z3, and not for the better. Now the slowest
shutter speed available is 4 seconds (versus 15), and
there's no bulb mode anymore, either.
Above the mode dial are three buttons,
which includes the shutter release. Between the macro/flash
buttons and the shutter release are both the microphone
and speaker. Watch those fingers, as they can easily
block one or both of those.
The two buttons just above the mode
- Macro (Off, macro, super macro)
- Flash setting (Auto, auto w/redeye
reduction, fill flash, slow sync, flash cancel)
The flash button's function can be
customized in the record menu to change other camera
settings, if you wish.
On this side of the camera, under
a rubber cover, are the Z5's I/O ports. These include
USB + video out (one port for both) as well as the
DC-in port (for optional AC adapter). The Z5 supports
the USB 2.0 Full Speed protocol, which is just as slow
as the old USB 1.1 from years past.
Nothing to see here. By the way, the
lens is at the full telephoto position here.
Our tour ends with a look at the bottom
of the camera. Here you'll find a metal (I think) tripod
mount, the SD/MMC card slot, and the battery compartment.
While the door covering the battery compartment is
sturdy, the one protected the SD slot could easily
be broken off if you're not careful. You may or may
not be able to swap memory cards while the camera is
on a tripod -- it really depends on the mount on the
Using the Minolta DiMAGE
The Z5 starts up even faster than
its predecessor, making you wait just 2.4 seconds before
you can start snapping pictures.
The Z5 features
a live histogram in record mode
Just like with the DiMAGE Z3, focusing
speeds on the Z5 are excellent in good lighting. The
camera focuses almost as quickly as your finger presses
the shutter release button. Even at the telephoto end
of the lens, the camera still focused in half a second
or so. Panasonic's latest ultra zoom (the FZ5) also
focuses very quickly, though I couldn't tell you which
is faster. The one area in which the Z5 isn't so hot
is in low light: the camera had a lot of trouble locking
Shutter lag was not a problem, even
at slower shutter speeds.
Shot-to-shot speed is very good, with
a delay of about 1.5 seconds before you can take another
shot, assuming the instant playback feature is turned
To delete a photo after it is taken,
you must first enter QuickView mode and then delete
Now, here's a look at the resolution
and quality choices on the DiMAGE Z5:
||Approx. File Size
||# images on
16MB card (included)
See why I recommend buying a larger
The DiMAGE Z5 does not have a RAW
or TIFF mode. The Panasonic cameras offer a 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
The DiMAGE Z5 uses the standard Konica
Minolta menu system, and only a few things have been
moved around since the Z3. The menus still seem a little
slow to me, just like on the old model. Note that most
of the options below are locked up in the auto and
scene modes. The record menu options are:
- Drive mode
- Single-frame - for normal
- Continuous - took four shots
in a row at 2 frames/second at the highest
JPEG quality; lowering the image size and/or
quality will allow for more photos; LCD/EVF
black out very briefly between shots
- UHS continuous advance -
take up to twenty shots at 10 frames/sec at
1024 x 768 resolution
- Progressive capture - takes
pictures at 10 frames/second until you let
go of the shutter release button. When you
do so, the last twenty photos are saved (1024
x 768 only). This is handy when you're waiting
for something to happen.
- Bracketing - camera takes
three shots in a row, each with a different
exposure; you can choose ±0.3, ±0.5,
or ±1.0EV as the bracketing interval
- Image size (see chart)
- Quality (see chart)
- Auto DSP (on/off) - essentially
an automatic scene mode feature; available in auto
record mode only
- White 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 lighting
- Anti-shake (Display + exposure,
exposure only, off) - see below
- Focus mode (Single AF, continuous
AF, manual) - see below
- Full-time AF (on/off) - camera
is constantly trying to focus; puts extra strain
- Flash mode (Auto, auto w/redeye
reduction, fill flash, slow sync, flash cancel) -
for changing the flash mode when you've redefined
the flash button
- Flash compensation (-2EV to +2EV,
1/3EV increments) - adjust the flash strength
- Metering mode (Multi-segment, center-weighted,
- Sensitivity [ISO] (Auto, 50, 100,
- Color mode (Natural, vivid, black
and white, sepia)
- Sharpness (Soft, normal, hard)
- Contrast (Low, normal, high)
- Flash key function (Flash mode,
drive, white balance, focus mode, color mode, sensitivity)
- sets the function of the flash button on the top
of the camera
I should mention those Anti-shake
options since they are important. Display + exposure
activates the system when you halfway press the shutter
release and stays on until the picture is taken.
This helps you frame the photo steadily. The exposure-only
option activates Anti-shake right when the photo
is taken. While Konica Minolta doesn't say anything
about why you'd use this second option, it resulted
in better stabilization on the Panasonic cameras
that I reviewed. You can also turn the whole system
off, which is advisable when you're using a tripod.
There are three (okay, four) focus
modes on the DiMAGE Z5. Single AF will lock the focus
when you halfway press the shutter release button.
Continuous AF will continue focusing, even with the
shutter release pressed. The full-time AF feature will
be focusing even before you press the shutter release
button. This reduces AF lag and is also useful for
those times 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:
- LCD/EVF brightness (-5 to +5 in
1-step increments) - one setting for each
- Power save (1, 3, 5, 10 mins)
- Instant playback (Off, 2, 10 sec)
- how long photo is shown on LCD after it is taken
- Lens accessory (None, wide converter)
- Language (Japanese, English, German,
French, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Swedish)
- File # memory (on/off)
- Folder name (Standard, date) -
choose the naming system for folders
- Noise reduction (on/off) - used
to reduce noise in exposures 1 second or longer
- Date/time set
- Date imprint (on/off) - print the
date on your photos
- Reset defaults
- Audio signals (Off, 1, 2) - menu
- Focus signal (Off, 1, 2) - the
focus confirmation sound
- Shutter FX (Off, 1, 2) - fake shutter
- Volume (Off, 1-3)
- Video output (NTSC, PAL)
- Transfer mode (Data storage, PictBridge)
- Digital zoom (on/off) - it's best
to keep this turned off
- Self-timer (2, 10 secs)
Enough of that, let's move on to our
photo tests now!
The DiMAGE Z5 did a pretty good job
with our usual macro test subject. Colors are accurate,
though the background has a slight yellowish cast (it's
a white wall), which is undoubtedly a white balance
issue (tinkering around some more probably would've
solved that problem). The figurine is nice and smooth,
with just a little "grain" to it.
There are two macro modes on the Z5:
regular and super. In regular macro mode you can get
as close to your subject as 10 cm at wide-angle and
1.2 m at telephoto. Switch to super macro mode and
the minimum distance drops to just 1 cm. The catch
about super macro mode is that the lens is fixed in
one spot (probably 2X or 3X) and cannot be changed.
The Z5 took a "tack sharp" photo
of the famous SF skyline. Playing around with the white
balance might not be a bad idea here either, as the
colors seem a little brown to me. Anyhow, noise levels
are respectable and there is no purple fringing to
be found. The longest shutter speed available on the
Z5 is just 4 seconds -- down from 15 seconds on the
Z3, which is disappointing.
Using that scene, let's see how the
camera does at higher ISO sensitivities The Z5 lacks
an ISO 400 option, instead topping out at ISO 320.
ISO 100 is decent, ISO 200 is usable,
but by ISO 320 details are really starting to get destroyed.
Just like with the DiMAGE Z3, redeye
is not a problem on the Z5. There's just a little flash
reflection to be found here. You have to thank that
pop-up flash for this!
There's mild barrel distortion at
the wide end of the DiMAGE Z5's 12X zoom lens. I don't
see any real evidence of vignetting (dark corners)
Overall, the photo quality on the
DiMAGE Z5 is quite similar to that on the Z3. Photos
are well exposed, with accurate color, and very little
purple fringing. The biggest issue, however, is softness.
At default settings, the photos from the Z5 are much
softer than most people would like to see. Here's a
little crop showing what I mean:
As you can see, that's pretty soft,
and the noise levels aren't great either. Details such
as leaves, grass, branches, and roof tiles look especially
bad because of this.
One workaround that helps quite a
bit is to turn the sharpness up a notch. The same photo
looks like this with hard sharpening:
That's a lot nicer. The bottom line
here is that you can get good images out of the Z5
if you turn the in-camera sharpening up a notch. I
do think the Panasonic cameras have the edge in this
area, and they don't require any tinkering, but for
those folks who are sold on the Z5, it's important
to note this workaround.
With that in mind, have a look at
our photo gallery. Keep
in mind that, as always, the photos in the gallery
were taken at the camera's default settings, so they're
going to be on the soft side.
The DiMAGE Z5 has a first-rate movie
mode that's one of the best on the market. You can
record "fine quality" 640 x 480 video (with
sound) at 30 frames/second until the memory card is
full. A "regular quality" 640 x 480 mode
as well as a smaller 320 x 240 size are also available.
You can choose between 15 or 30 frames/second for any
of those resolutions. The included 16MB memory card
holds just 9 seconds of video at the highest quality
sitting, so consider a larger card a requirement if
you like videos.
The DiMAGE Z5 is one of the very rare
cameras that lets you use the zoom lens during filming.
Konica Minolta has designed the camera's lens to move
very slowly and quietly in movie mode, and the microphone
placement is as far from it as possible. You do need
to keep an eye on your fingers, as the microphone is
close to a comfortable resting post for them.
The Anti-shake system is active during
The Z5 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. And finally, you
can use the movie editing feature to trim unwanted
footage from the beginning or end of your clip -- in
fact, I did this for the sample below.
I have a very exciting sample movie
for you. Here you'll see one of the disadvantages of
continuous autofocus in movie mode: the focus tends
to drift. Enjoy!
to play movie (12.6 MB, 640 x 480, Fine Quality,
30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't play it? Download QuickTime.
The Z5 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 4X (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.
By default, the Z5 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
The camera moves between photos very
quickly, moving from one image to the next virtually
How Does it Compare?
The Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z5 doesn't
really break any new ground when compared to its predecessor,
the DiMAGE Z3. While an extra megapixel of resolution
is always nice, the more useful new features include
a larger LCD display and improved battery life. Something
that changed for the worse is the shutter speed range.
While the Z3 could keep the shutter open for as long
as 15 seconds, the Z5 limits you to 4 seconds. There
are other areas that weren't touched at all, namely
low light focusing and image softness, both of which
are issues on this camera.
The DiMAGE Z5 looks just like the
Z3 -- a futuristic-looking, black-colored ultra zoom
camera. It has the same 12X zoom Minolta GT lens and
useful Anti-shake system as its predecessor, as well.
The lens is nice, though Panasonic still has the edge
in this department, as even their bottom-end ultra
zoom's lens is faster. Camera performance on the Z5
is excellent in all respects, from startup to focusing
to playback. The only performance-related area in which
the Z5 fails is low light focusing, where it is quite
poor. That's too bad, as both the LCD and EVF are visible
in those conditions. The Z5 features a full set of
manual controls, including manual focus, and it also
supports a hot shoe (Minolta brand only) -- the Panasonic
DMC-FZ5 lacks both of those abilities. Another area
in which the Z5 really shines is in the movie mode
department: you can record VGA size videos at 30 frames/second
until the memory card is full. You can even use the
zoom lens while filming!
The Z5 has a few negatives worth mentioning,
though. My biggest complaint (besides those mentioned
earlier) is that the images produced by the camera
are too soft at default settings. An easy workaround
for this is to turn up the sharpening to "hard" in
the record menu. Noise levels are also a bit higher
than I'd like to see. Aside from those two things,
photo quality was good. The camera fared well in our
redeye test, as well. The camera's electronic viewfinder
doesn't pack a lot of pixels when compared to other
ultra zoom cameras out there. The bundle included with
the camera isn't worth writing home about. And finally,
that little plastic door over the memory card slot
is way too easy to open and bust off.
The DiMAGE Z5 gets my recommendation,
though only with the in-camera sharpening turned up
a notch. If Konica Minolta could work on the image
softness and low light focusing on their next ultra
zoom camera, I think they could have a real winner
on their hands. For now, the Panasonic FZ-series cameras
still lead the pack.
What I liked:
- 12X optical zoom lens
- Anti-shake image stabilizer
- Blazing AF performance in good
- Full manual controls
- Supports wide-angle conversion
lens and external flash (Minolta only)
- Large 2" LCD display
- Good redeye test performance
- Excellent macro and movie modes
- Can use optical zoom in movie mode
- Histograms in record and playback
What I didn't care for:
- Soft images at default settings;
noise levels a little above average
- Poor low light focusing; no AF-assist
- Lens is on the "slow" side
compared to competition (read: Panasonic, Sony)
- EVF resolution is lacking
- Smaller shutter speed range (and
no more bulb mode) compared to the DiMAGE Z3
- SD card slot cover ready to break
off at any moment
- Camera bundle is not great
I'm going to break my list of other
cameras to look at into two parts. First, these are
the other cameras with image stabilization: Canon
PowerShot S1, Nikon
Coolpix 8800, Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ4, DMC-FZ5, DMC-FZ15,
and the Sony
Cyber-shot DSC-H1. If you're willing to give up
the very useful stabilization feature, these cameras
are also worth your time: Fuji
FinePix S5100, HP
Photosmart 945, Kodak
EasyShare DX7590, Konica
Minolta DiMAGE Z20, Nikon
Coolpix 4800, and the Olympus
C-770 Ultra Zoom.
As always, I recommend a trip to your
local camera store to try out the DiMAGE Z5 and its
competitors before you buy!
Want to see how the photo quality
turned on? Check out our photo
Want a second opinion?
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
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