Review: Minolta DiMAGE 7
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, September 17, 2001
Friday, December 14, 2001
of the most anticipated digital cameras of 2001 is the Minolta
DiMAGE 7 ($1499). Not only was it the first 5 Megapixel camera,
but it also has a 7X Minolta GT lens, full manual controls, a hot
shoe, and Microdrive support.
late August, a challenger from Sony arrived: the DSC-F707 (see our
Using the same 5 Megapixel CCD, the Sony has a 5X optical zoom lens,
and it costs $500 less. I would imagine that the DiMAGE 7 will fall
in price to compete, in the near future. So how does the Minolta
stack up by itself, and versus the Sony? Find out in our review.
in the Box?
DiMAGE 7 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
5.25 (4.95 effective) Megapixel Minolta DiMAGE camera
Lexar 8X CompactFlash card
AA alkaline batteries (non-rechargeable)
featuring DiMAGE Image View Utility and drivers
page camera manual + 67 page software manual (both printed)
this spot I usually complain about a camera's use of proprietary
batteries. Well, the good news it is that the DiMAGE 7 uses good
old AA's. The bad news is that you have to buy them yourself, which
is disappointing considering the price of the camera.
include alkaline batteries were dead in (I'm not joking here) maybe
ten minutes of fooling around with the camera. NiMH batteries will
do better, but the DiMAGE 7 on the whole is an incredible power
hog. I don't have any concrete numbers to give you, but I would
highly recommend always carrying a spare set of batteries. (Minolta
claims about 110 minutes in playback mode, or 200 shots in record
comment from Steves Digicams, which I did not notice on my camera,
was that the grip got hot after a while.
other "boo, hiss" points: the included 16MB card is way
too small for a camera with this many pixels. Also, there's no lens
cap strap, so watch out or you may lose the lens cap.
nice touch included in the box is a lens hood/shade, which can be
stored on the lens barrel when not in use. You'll see a photo of
it later in the review.
DiMAGE Image Viewer is something you may end up using more than
you expect, as I'll discuss later. It's pretty mediocre but it gets
the job done in most cases.
manual is surprisingly good, and you'll need it, considering just
how difficult to use this camera is.
for the DiMAGE include an external battery pack (not a bad idea),
close-up diffuser, and various external flashes.
DiMAGE 7 is an SLR-style camera, that you'll have trouble using
until you crack open the manual. It's covered with knobs and buttons
that will be unfamiliar to most people (myself included).
the camera may look professional, it doesn't necessarily feel like
it. I couldn't help but think there was a bit too much plastic on
this $1600 camera, and I'm not sure how well it would hold up over
time. I'm told the frame itself is made of metal.
camera is exceptionally easy to hold, with a large grip for the
right hand, and a large lens barrel for the left. The dimensions
of the DiMAGE 7 are 4.6 x 3.6 x 4.4 inches (W x H x D), and it weighs
505 grams (17.8 oz.). It's not a pocket-sized camera by any means,
but it's not what I'd call "bulky" either.
start our tour of the DiMAGE 7 now, beginning with the front of
of the highlights of the DiMAGE 7 is that F2.8 7X optical zoom Minolta
GT lens. The focal range is 7.2 - 50.8 mm, which is equivalent to
28 - 200 mm. If you're saying "wow, 28 mm is unusually wide
for a digital camera", you're right. The lens is threaded for
49mm attachments, as well.
lens barrel operates the zoom lens mechanically, a nice feature
to have. There is no button to operate it -- just your wrist! There
are markings on the barrel for 28, 35, 50, 100, 150, and 200 mm.
In addition, there is a switch which locks the camera into macro
mode at 200 mm.
the back of the lens barrel (not seen here), there's a wheel for
manual focus. This is an electronic, rather than mechanical dial.
pop-up flash (shown in the photo at the top of this page) is raised
manually. The flash range depends on focal length and ISO setting,
but is roughly 0.5 - 3.8 m (wide-angle) and 0.5 - 3.0m (telephoto).
the Sony DSC-F707, the DiMAGE 7 uses a "double flash"
trick (known as TTL Flash Metering) to ensure proper exposure. The
first flash is used to illuminate the subject, while the camera
judges the correct exposure to use. The second flash is the one
that accompanies the image recording. All this happens in a fraction
of a second!
you want to add your own flash, there's a hot shoe (proprietary,
I believe) on the top of the camera (I'll have a closer look in
a bit). Minolta's Program Flash 3600HS and 5600HS, as well as the
Ring Flash 1200 and 2400 are compatible. I'm not sure about non-Minolta
flashes - my guess is that they will not work.
is no AF assist lamp on this camera, so focusing in low light isn't
going to be great.
back of the camera shows the numerous buttons and switches available,
and there's more where that came from.
1.8" LCD is bright and fluid, but for some reason didn't seem
as sharp as other LCDs. I noticed this with the Electronic Viewfinder
(EVF) as well. It's way better than EVF's seen on other cameras,
but it's still not nearly as good as a real optical viewfinder in
my opinion. The EVF can rotate up to 90 degrees, if you wish. There
is a small diopter adjustment knob on the left side of the EVF,
for those of you without perfect vision.
switch just to the right of the EVF controls whether the EVF or
LCD are used. The default is auto, which uses a nifty sensor (which
detects if you're using the EVF) to switch between the LCD and EVF.
items to the right of the LCD include the Menu button, 4-way switch,
and the Quickview/Delete and Magnification buttons.
Quickview feature will quickly put you in playback mode. The magnification
feature lets you zoom in as much as 4X into photos, in both record
and playback mode. In record mode, this is useful for confirming
four way switch does double duty as the "flex focus point"
controller. When activated, you use the switch to move crosshairs
around the LCD to the area that you want the camera to focus on.
below the LCD is the compartment for the 4 AA batteries. To the
lower right of that, under rubber covers, are the ports for power
in, video out, and a (wired) remote control.
at the top right of the photo is a button to lock the autofocus
and exposure settings.
a look at the top of the camera, with yet more controls. At the
center of the photo, you can see the hot shoe. There's a plastic
cover on it when it's not in use. To the right of that is the LCD
info display. A nice feature with this is that it's backlit -- a
feature not seen enough on digital cameras. Here, it's showing Program
mode, shutter (1/60 sec) and aperture (F3.5) settings, single-shot
mode, Normal quality, and large size.
three items to the right of the info display are the mode wheel,
"digital subject program button" (AKA scene mode), and
a "return to default settings" button.
"scene mode" has the following choices:
mode wheel has the following selections:
the top of the grip, you'll find the shutter release button, as
well as a dial for changing manual settings.
one side of the camera (with lens hood attached), featuring yet
more dials and buttons. The way most of these controls work is similar
to the Olympus E-10. You first select what option you want. Let's
use Size as an example. You then hold the button down, while using
that dial I just pointed out on top of the camera.
top dial has the following options:
(2560 x 1920, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480)
(RAW, Super Fine, Fine, Standard, Economy)
Mode (Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Full Manual)
(Single Frame, Continuous, Self-timer, Bracketing, Interval Shooting)
Balance (Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Custom)
(Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800)
further explanation of some of these is necessary. First, RAW quality
mode is the raw CCD data, and it must be processed in the Image
Viewer first before you can do anything with it. Images recorded
in Super Fine mode are recorded as TIFF files. Of course, the TIFFs
are larger than RAW files, so I don't know why you'd use that. The
chart below shows you all the size/quality combinations, and how
many of them you can expect to store on that skimpy 16MB CompactFlash
on 16MB card
exposure modes include Program, Aperture and Shutter priority, as
well as Full Manual. The Program mode chooses the best settings
for you, and you can use "program shift" to try other
shutter/aperture combinations as well.
Aperture priority mode, you choose from a range of F2.8-F8 in wide-angle,
and F3.5-F9.5 in telephoto. Shutter priority mode gives you a range
of 4 sec - 1/2000 sec speeds to work with. Full manual mode lets
you choose both shutter and aperture settings. There is also a "bulb
mode" available in manual mode, which lets you keep the shutter
open for as long as the shutter release button is held down (up
to 30 seconds).
Drive selections of note are continuous shooting, bracketing, and
interval shooting. In continuous shooting mode, you can take up
to give full size, Fine quality images, at about 1.1 frames/sec.
You cannot do continuous shooting in RAW or Super Fine mode.
are three types of bracketing on the DiMAGE 7: exposure, contrast,
and color-saturation. The camera can shoot a number of photos at
different settings, so you can take the best shot possible. (You
use the digital effects control dial to change these settings.)
interval shooting mode lets you take photo(s) at an interval of
your choosing. The choices range from 1 minute to 60 minutes. You'll
want an AC adapter to pull this off, as the batteries won't last
long enough to do any good.
usual white balance choices are available, as well as a custom white
balance for those times when the presets don't work.
back to the photo of the camera now, the next dial is the digital
effects control. Here you can change exposure (±2), contrast,
and color-saturation compensation (both ±3).
items on this side of the camera is a button to switch between manual
and auto focus, and the macro switch. I found myself accidentally
bumping the AF/MF button a few times... I guess it's not in the
best place on the camera. To use macro on the DiMAGE 7, you must
first put the lens into the telephoto position, and then lock it
in place with the switch. More on macro later in the review.
the other side of the camera, we finally find a moment of quiet!
Over here you'll just fine the CompactFlash Type II slot, and the
USB port. The plastic door covering this slot seems very flimsy
for such an expensive camera. The CF slot does indeed support the
IBM Microdrive, though I would imagine the batteries would be sucked
up even faster if you used one.
the bottom of the camera. Down here the only thing you'll find is
the metal tripod mount.
the Minolta DiMAGE 7
it doesn't have to extend its lens, the DiMAGE 7 starts up in about
three seconds. When you depress the shutter release halfway, the
auto-focus can be very fast, or nonexistent. I had a lot of trouble
taking pictures at the recent San Francisco Grand Prix because the
camera would hunt and hunt for focus lock and never found it, resulting
in blurry pictures. You can switch into manual focus mode if you
wish, and choose from a list of focus distances, or infinity. There
was no noticeable shutter lag on the DiMAGE 7.
speed is pretty good -- about 2 seconds at Standard quality. Taking
a photo in RAW or Super Fine mode will, unfortunately, lock the
camera up for over 20 seconds while it writes the image to the CF
card. One nice feature is the ability to delete a photo right after
it was taken, before it's written. For some reason, this feature
has disappeared from digital cameras in recent years.
of the controls on the DiMAGE 7 are dials on the camera body, but
there are still many options available via the menu system. These
mode (single, continuous)
mode (multi-segment, center-weighted, spot)
mode (fill, red-eye, rear flash sync)
metering (ADI, pre-flash TTL) - ADI stands for Advanced Distance
Integration and uses autofocus and pre-flash data to ensure proper
- stores your favorite camera settings
bracket (choose the increment for bracketing)
(choose the interval for interval mode)
(choose the total number of frames that will be taken in interval
Lock button (AF/AE hold, AF/AE toggle, AE hold, AE toggle) - define
what this button does
button (digital zoom, electronic magnification) - define what
this button does
(hard, normal, soft)
mode (color, B&W)
imprint - print the date or text on your photos
playback (no, 2 sec, 10 sec) - amount of time that images are
shown on the LCD after they are taken
usual setup items are also available by switching the camera's mode
wheel to "setup".
continue onto photo quality tests now.
mode on the DiMAGE 7 is a bit different than on most cameras. You
must set the camera to full telephoto, since at wider angles, your
images may be distorted. This made taking the usual test shot a
bit harder, as you can see. Nevertheless, the shot came out pretty
well. The focal range in macro mode is 0.25 - 0.6 m.
had a heck of a time with the night shot tests at first. I initially
went out and took photos with the ISO set to "Auto". That
was a bad move -- it was noise city. So I went back out and set
it to ISO 100 and got much less noise (though it's still there).
The full manual controls make taking shots like this a breeze --
and the backlit LCD info display helps too!
brings us to the "color space" discussion. The DiMAGE
7 uses it's own proprietary color space (palette) for some reason.
To get the most accurate color, it's been recommended that you run
the images through the DiMAGE Image Viewer Utility and re-save them
with the sRGB color space. To do this, you'll see an option to convert
the color space when you're opening images, then just re-save them.
Of course, this will add even more compression to the JPEG image.
Digital Photography Review explains
all of this far better than I ever could.
all is said and done, I was happy with the photo quality from the
DiMAGE 7. I'm not thrilled about having to run the images through
DiMAGE Image Viewer (you don't HAVE to -- you probably want to though),
but it does make the images more colorful. Take a look at our standard
and SF Grand Prix photo galleries
to judge the quality for yourself.
DiMAGE's movie mode is both good and bad. The good news is that
you can use the zoom lens to your heart's content. The bad news
is that no audio is recorded.
the movies are saved at a resolution of 320 x 240, the actual video
area is only 308 x 240. Movies are saved in the AVI format.
will be able to record approximately 90 seconds of video on the
included 16MB CompactFlash card. Clips are limited to 60 seconds
a sample movie I took back at the SF Grand Prix earlier this month:
to play movie (1.3MB, AVI format)
with movie mode, the playback mode is a mixed bag as well. The basic
features we're all used to now are here: slideshows, DPOF print
marking, image protection, and thumbnail mode. The only real "advanced"
feature is the ability to copy an image from one CF card to another.
There's no rotation or resizing available.
zoom and scroll feature is here, via the magnification button. You
can zoom in as much as 4X into your image and then move around (slowly)
you more information about your image, you can press "up"
on the four-way switch. You can see above the information it will
give you. Too bad you can't browse photos like this -- you have
to move back "down" first, and then choose another image.
camera moves through the images on the LCD very quickly, especially
considering their size. It's almost instantaneous.
Does it Compare?
Minolta DiMAGE 7 is a very intriguing near-professional digital
camera. Its 5 Megapixel CCD, impressive zoom lens, complete set
of manual controls, and support for an external flash make it an
impressive camera. However, the high price, fussy autofocus, complex
controls, color issues, and flimsy body bring it down several notches
for me. If I had never seen the Sony DSC-F707 before I'd probably
be more enthusiastic about the DiMAGE 7. But considering the Sony
can be had for $500 less and is more capable (in my opinion), that
would be where my money would go. If the DiMAGE 7 does come down
in price, I'd give it a serious look, but for now it's too much
money compared to the competition.
The price of the DiMAGE 7 has come down considerably, making it
more appealing. Would I buy it over the Sony F707? Probably not.
But take a look at it, by all means.
photo quality (after a run through DiMAGE Image Viewer)
of manual controls
impressive 7X zoom lens
LCD info display
EVF out there
for lens filters and flashes
AA batteries instead of something proprietary and expensive
I didn't care for:
to learn & use
to run images through Image Viewer for optimum color
focus is poor in many situations
sound in movie mode
cheap for its price
cameras to check out include the Nikon
Coolpix 5000, Olympus
DSC-F707, and the Fuji
FinePix 6900 Zoom (I suppose).
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the DiMAGE 7 and its competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our standard and SF
Grand Prix photo galleries!
a second opinion? How about a third?
definitely want to read reviews of the DiMAGE 7 from Steves
Digicams and Digital
Photography Review. If you want more opinions, check out Imaging
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.