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DCRP Review: Konica Minolta Maxxum
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: January 20, 2006
Last Updated: March 25, 2008
The Maxxum 5D is the entry-level digital SLR in Konica Minolta's lineup. Like its big brother, the Maxxum 7D, the 5D has Minolta's exclusive Anti-shake system, making the two the only D-SLRs with image stabilization built into the camera body. Both cameras have 6.1 Megapixel CCDs, full manual controls, and large LCD displays. So what separates the 5D and 7D? Have a look at this:
Ready to learn more about the Maxxum 5D? Our review starts now!
The Maxxum 5D is known as the Dynax 5D in some countries.
What's in the Box?
There are two kits available for the 5D: one with just the body and accessories, and another that includes all that plus a lens. Here they are:
As is the case with all digital SLRs, no memory card is included, so you'll need to buy one of those before you can start taking pictures. The Maxxum 5D uses CompactFlash cards (including the Microdrive), and I'd suggest a 512MB or 1GB as a good place to start. It's probably a good idea to pony up for a high speed memory card (60X or above).
Unless you buy the lens kit or already have some Minolta lenses then you'll need to buy a lens or two as well. Like the 7D, the 5D has a Minolta A-mount, and it's compatible with all autofocus Minolta lenses. Since the camera has image stabilization built right into the body, you get to use this handy feature on every lens that you attach to the camera. I was not able to test the 18 - 70 mm kit lens, so I cannot comment on its quality.
The Maxxum 5D uses the same NP-400 lithium-ion battery as the 7D. This battery packs a whopping 11.1 Wh of energy, which translates into 550 photos per charge using the CIPA battery life standard. The more expensive Maxxum 7D's numbers are actually worse -- 400 shots per charge.
The usual negatives about proprietary batteries apply here. For one, they're expensive -- an extra battery will run you nearly $45. Secondly, if you ever run out of juice, you can't just pop in regular batteries like you can on a AA-based camera. The only AA-based digital SLRs are made by Pentax (and Samsung, I suppose).
When it's time to recharge, just pop the NP-400 into the included external charger. It takes 150 minutes to fully charge the battery. This isn't one of those nice "plug it right into the wall" chargers that I like so much -- you must use a power cable.
Now let's talk about accessories. There are lenses, flashes, and wired remote controls, to start. The 5D's hot shoe is proprietary, so it only works with Minolta flashes. To use a non-Minolta flash you can pick up the PCT-100 flash sync adapter ($90), which turns your hot shoe into a flash sync port. For powering your camera without draining your batteries, there's an AC adapter ($60) available. And finally, to protect your camera Minolta offers the CS-5D carrying case.
One thing that's NOT available is a vertical battery grip -- that's one advantage the 7D has over the 5D.
Minolta includes version 1.01 of their DiMAGE Master Lite software with the 5D. This is sort of an enhanced version of the old DiMAGE Viewer software, and it's pretty good (though a little on the slow side). The main screen has your standard-issue thumbnail view, with EXIF details and a histogram thrown in for good measure.
When you double-click on a photo you'll end up on the edit screen you see above. As you can see, a before/after split-screen view is available. There's an impressive set of tools here, including:
Some of those items are only available when you're viewing RAW images. While some things (like white balance) aren't as robust as I would've liked, DiMAGE Master Lite does let you edit most of the important RAW properties. You can also use Adobe Photoshop CS2's Camera Raw plug-in, which seems to be faster and more powerful.
So what's the deal with RAW, anyway? Simply put, RAW images contain untouched data direct from the camera's sensor. In order to do anything with the photo you must first process the file on your computer. While you're doing that you can adjust various properties of the image (listed above) without affecting the quality of the photo. So if you chose the wrong white balance setting, this is your chance to redeem yourself. Once you've tweaked the image properties you can then save the RAW image into a more common format.
Also included is version 4.0 of Kodak's EasyShare software, which is one of the best packages of its kind on the market. Unfortunately the version included here is pretty ancient, so do yourself a favor and head over to Kodak's website to download version 5.2 instead. For more on EasyShare, check out my Kodak P880 review.
I've always been a fan of Minolta's manuals, and the one included with the 5D is no exception. There are lengthy explanations of the various camera functions without much in the line of fine print. Do note that the software manual (which was once printed) is now on CD-ROM.
Look and Feel
The Maxxum 5D is a midsized digital SLR made of a mixture of metal and plastic. Under the outer skin is a sturdy metal frame, so the camera feels solid (and a bit heavy) when in your hands. The large right hand grip is just the right size for your hands -- not to small like on the Canon Rebel XT. The 5D does suffer a bit from "button clutter" though, with a few too many buttons and dials for my taste.
Now, here's a look at how the Maxxum 5D compares to some other cameras in terms of size and weight:
The Maxxum 5D is in the middle of the pack in terms of size and weight, though that doesn't really bother me, as there is such a thing as a D-SLR that's too small. It is quite a bit smaller and lighter than the 7D, though.
Let's start our tour of the camera now.
Here's the front of the 5D with the lens taken off. As I said at the start of the review, the camera can use any autofocus Minolta A-mount lens. There's a 1.5X focal length conversion factor on the 5D, so the field-of-view of a 50 mm lens is really 75 mm.
Like the 7D, the Maxxum 5D has image stabilization built right into the camera body. The camera's 6.1 Megapixel APS-class CCD is mounted on a plate that can move around to counteract "camera shake". How well does it work? Here's an example:
Both of the above crops were taken at the same shutter speed -- 1/15 sec. The Anti-shake system proved its worth here, as you can see. While it won't miracles, it will let you use slower shutter speeds than a non-stabilized camera. And best of all, it works on every lens that you use!
Just to the right of the lens mount is the lens release button. At the top-left of the photo you'll find the self-timer lamp. While there's no dedicated AF-assist lamp on the 5D, the camera will use the flash as a focusing aid if it's popped up.
Speaking of which, the pop-up flash can be seen at the top of the photo. The working range of the flash, which is popped up manually, will vary depending on what lens you're using, but here's one example: at F2.8, Auto ISO, the range is 1.4 - 8.6 meters.
While the LCD on the Maxxum 5D is the same size (2.5") as on the 7D, the resolution has dropped considerably. The LCD on the 7D had 207,000 pixels, while the one here has just 115,000, which is quite low for a screen of this size. The poor resolution was easy to see when playing back photos, so you'll want to try out the 5D to see if you can deal with that.
Just a reminder for those of you new to D-SLRs: the LCD screen is for menus and post-shot review online: you cannot compose photos using the LCD. (That will soon change on another D-SLR, though.)
One nice thing the LCD does do is show all the camera settings while you're using the optical viewfinder (perhaps to make up for the lack of an LCD info display on the top of the camera). As an added bonus the screen rotates when you are shooting in the vertical (portrait) orientation.
Speaking of the optical viewfinder, you'll find the one on the Maxxum 5D in the usual spot. The viewfinder shows the same amount of the frame as on the 7D (95%), though the magnification is lower here. Underneath the field-of-view is a line of green text showing current camera settings, including flash setting, aperture, shutter speed, exposure, and shots remaining. On the right side of the screen is the "Anti-shake meter", which shows how much the camera is shaking. The more bars it shows, the more likely your photo will be blurry. A diopter correction knob on the side of the viewfinder adjusts the viewfinder focus.
Okay, it's time to start talking about the numerous buttons and dials on the back of the camera. I'll start on the left with the power switch, which does just what it sounds like. To the left of the LCD are four buttons, which do the following:
On the opposite side of the LCD you'll find the four-way controller (used for menu navigation and manually selecting a focus point), the DC-in port (for the optional AC adapter), and a switch for turning the Anti-shake system on and off. Why would you want to turn off a useful feature like image stabilization? Quite simply, there are times when it will do more harm than good, like when the camera is on a tripod.
The last buttons to see in this view of the 5D are to the right of the optical viewfinder. They include:
Pressing the function button opens up the function menu (surprise, surprise). The options here include:
What are those AF modes all about? Single-shot AF is your everyday "press the shutter release halfway to lock focus" mode found on all cameras. Continuous AF mode works in the same way, except that the camera keeps trying to focus while the button is halfway-pressed. This comes in handy for when you want to track a moving subject. The automatic AF mode switches between single and continuous focus depending on the movement of your subject. In Direct Manual Focus mode you can use the manual focus after the autofocus has done its work.
Now onto the top of the camera. On the left side of the photo you'll find the white balance dial. This lets you choose from Auto, preset (daylight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, flash, custom (use a white or gray card to set the WB) or color temperature (2500K - 9900K). For those preset modes you can also fine-tune the color (-3 to +3, except -2 to +4 for fluorescent) for even more accuracy.
In the center of the photo is the 5D's hot shoe. By default this supports only Minolta's flashes, though there is a way around that (use the flash sync port adapter I mentioned earlier). If you're using the Minolta 3600HS or 5600HS models, you can take flash pictures without actually having the flash on the hot shoe -- yes, it's wireless. The 5D can sync with the flash as fast as 1/125 with Anti-shake and 1/160 sec without it.
The item to the right of the hot shoe is the mode dial, which has the following options:
Unlike with the 7D, the Maxxum 5D doesn't have "custom" spots on the mode dial which can store your favorite camera settings.
Back to our tour now. To the right of the mode dial are two more buttons plus the shutter release button and command dial. The buttons are for:
Before we go on I'd like to explain those drive options. In continuous shooting mode the 5D will take up to eight extra fine JPEG or five RAW images at around 2.2 frames/second.
The exposure bracketing feature takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure. The interval between shots is either ±0.3EV or ±0.7EV. White balance bracketing works in much the same way, adjusting the WB instead of the exposure compensation. You can choose between two intervals here: the "low" mode is 10 mired, while the "high" mode is 20 mired.
What are those Lo 80 and Hi 200 options? Low 80 is for "low key" scenes, which are made up of dark tones and colors. High 200 is for just the opposite: scenes with light tones and colors ("high key").
The only things to see on this side of the 5D are the focus switch (auto or manual) and the port for a wired remote control.
On the opposite side is where you'll find the CompactFlash slot and USB + A/V port (one port serves both functions). These items are protected by a plastic door of decent quality. In order to access the USB + A/V ports you must first open the door -- the 7D had a smaller door that opened providing access to the port.
The Maxxum 5D only supports the USB 2.0 Full Speed protocol, which is just as slow as the original USB 1.1.
Finally, here is the bottom of the camera. You can see the metal tripod mount as well as the battery compartment. The tripod mount is located inline with the lens. The door covering the battery compartment is of average quality.
The included NP-400 battery is shown at right.
Using the Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D
After you hit the power switch you'll wait about one second before the 5D can start taking pictures.
Autofocus speeds will vary depending on your choice of lens. I found the 18 - 200 mm lens to be both slow focusing and noisy, and I'd have a hard time recommending it. The 17 - 35 mm lens performs a lot better, though it obviously covers a much smaller range. Low light focusing is assisted by the built-in flash, and it was fast and accurate.
Shutter lag was not a problem, even at slower shutter speeds, just as you'd expect from a D-SLR.
Shot-to-shot speeds are better than on a fixed lens camera, though the 5D seemed a bit slower than the competition in this area. Expect about a one second delay between shots in most situations.
You can delete a photo right after it is taken by pressing the delete photo button.
Now, here's a look at the many image size and quality choices available on the Maxxum 5D:
As you can see, the Maxxum 5D supports the both the RAW and JPEG image formats, (but not TIFF), and I explained the benefits of RAW earlier in the review. The camera can take a RAW image separately, or a RAW and JPEG at the same time (fine quality for the latter). The TIFF format is not supported, though I don't think many people will miss it.
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.
Okay, now we can move on to the menus!
The Maxxum 5D's menu system is much like the one on the 7D. It's divided into several sections: record, playback, custom, and setup. Let's start with the record menu items first:
Next up is the custom menu (I'll cover the playback options later):
The final menu section to cover is the setup menu, which has these options:
Well that's all for menus, let's continue onto sample photos now. I used Minolta's 18 - 200 mm lens for all of the tests below. Since I didn't have the kit lens with my 5D, there is no distortion test in this review.
The 5D did a very nice job with our usual macro test subject. Colors are very saturated, much more so than on your typical D-SLR. The subject has the smooth look that's a trademark of digital SLRs.
The minimum focus distance will depend on what lens you're using. Minolta makes lenses specifically for macro photography.
The night shot was pretty nice as well, though I overexposed it a little bit. The buildings are all sharp and noise levels are low. Purple fringing can be seen here, and I'm sure that the 18-200 lens has a lot to do with that.
Below is the first of two ISO comparisons in the review. This one uses the night scene to see how things look with long exposures and high sensitivities:
I didn't start to notice any loss in details until ISO 400, and even then it was very slight. You don't get major detail loss until ISO 1600 and especially ISO 3200, though you should be able to squeeze smaller-sized prints out of those images with a little help from noise reduction software.
The second ISO test sequence was taken in our studio. Using the test scene you can see above, I took a picture with the 5D and 18-200 lens at each ISO setting. Here are the results (don't forget that you can click the crop to see the original image):
The results in this test are very similar to the previous one. Images look clean through ISO 400, with just some slight detail loss above that. Even after running the noisiest shot of the bunch (ISO 3200) through NeatImage it looked like I could still make a midsized print of the photo.
There was no redeye to be found in our flash test -- just a little flash reflection.
Overall I'd rate the Maxxum 5D's photo quality as "excellent". Photos were generally well-exposed, with colors that really "pop". Minolta has clearly chosen default settings that increase color saturation, as that's more "consumer friendly" these days. As is the case with all D-SLRs, images are very smooth, so if things seem a little too soft for you just remember that you can adjust this in-camera (or later in software). Noise levels were low, and purple fringing was not a major problem either.
Don't just take my word for all this, though. Have a look at our extensive photo gallery, print the photos if you'd like, and then decide if the 5D's photo quality meets your expectations.
No digital SLRs have movie modes.
The Maxxum 5D has a pretty standard playback mode which is not really any different from KM's consumer cameras. Basic playback options include slide shows, DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail view, and zoom and scroll. The camera is PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to a compatible photo printer.
The zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom either 2.4 or 4.7 times into your photo and then move around in the enlarged area.
You can easily rotate photos by pressing the "down" button on the four-way controller. Another feature that I appreciate is the ability to delete a group of photos, instead of just one or all.
By default, the camera 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, moving from one image to the next instantly.
How Does it Compare?
While it's not the perfect digital SLR, the Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D is an excellent value -- and the only entry-level D-SLR with image stabilization built right into the body. Even with a couple of flaws it's still easy to recommend the 5D.
The Maxxum 5D is a midsized digital SLR with a plastic body and metal frame underneath. It feels nice and solid in your hands -- and it's actually a little heavy compared to some of the competition. Build quality is very good, and I found the camera easy to hold. The 5D has its fair share of buttons and dials -- perhaps a few too many. The camera supports any autofocus Minolta lens, and every lens you attach takes advantage of the built-in Anti-shake system. That's right, no more searching for lenses with IS -- every lens has it on the 5D! The 5D features a large 2.5" LCD display, though I found its resolution to be lacking. The camera features a hot shoe for attaching an external flash, though it only supports Minolta flashes straight out of the box.
The 5D has features for both casual and experienced camera users. For the beginner there's an automatic mode and several scene modes as well. Experienced users will enjoy the full manual controls, ranging from exposure to white balance. The camera supports the RAW image format as well, and the included DiMAGE Master Lite software lets you adjust most RAW properties with ease. Minolta also includes Kodak's excellent EasyShare software (which is aimed toward beginners), though do yourself a favor and download the latest version from Kodak's website.
Camera performance was fairly average for a D-SLR. The camera starts up in about a second, which is pretty good. Autofocus speeds will vary depending on what lens you're using, and I was not impressed with the 18 - 200 mm lens in that department. In low light the camera uses its pop-up flash as a focusing aid, and it did the job nicely. While shutter lag was not a problem, shot-to-shot speeds seemed a little slower than average. Battery life was good.
Image quality was a bright spot for the 5D. Photos were well-exposed, with vivid colors and low noise levels. The camera controls noise well at high ISOs, so you'll still be able to get at least a small print out of photos taken at ISO 800 and above.
There are a few negatives to point out. Unlike on the 5D's big brother (the 7D), there's no battery grip supported here. Something else missing is support for the USB 2.0 High Speed protocol, which the 7D also has.
The Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D is an easy digital SLR to recommend. It costs just over $600 (body only) and it has built-in image stabilization and great photo quality. If you already have an investment in lenses from other manufacturers then I probably wouldn't throw them away and start over with the 5D, but If you're just starting out with D-SLRs then I'd take a close look at this camera.
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Some other entry-level D-SLRs worth considering include the Canon Digital Rebel XT, Nikon D50, Olympus EVOLT E-500, and the Pentax *ist DL.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the Maxxum 5D and its competitors before you buy!
See how the photo quality turned out in our gallery!
Want a second opinion?
Read other reviews at Imaging Resource and 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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