Review: Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi
Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Saturday, November 2, 2002
Monday, December 9, 2002
DiMAGE 7Hi ($1299) was announced just a few months after the
DiMAGE 7i, much to the dismay of the folks who had just bought a
7i. Where the 7i was an improved version of the original DiMAGE
7, the 7Hi improves on the already excellent 7i model even more
(confused yet?). The new features in the 7Hi include:
image-quality settings – extra fine, fine, and standard
(no more economy setting). RAW and TIFF modes also available
new built-in flash synchronization terminal allows the DiMAGE
7Hi to be connected to professional studio and location flash
7Hi has a dynamic shutter-speed range from a maximum of 15 seconds
to a fast 1/4000 second
high-speed continuous-advance drive mode makes it possible to
record at a rate of approximately 3 frames per second with full-size
images at any quality setting including high quality TIFF or RAW
data files. UHS (Ultra High Speed) continuous-advance can capture
SXGA size images (1280 X 960 pixels) at approximately 7 frames
per second. The standard continuous-advance mode can capture images
of all sizes from full-size (2560 X 1920) to VGA (640 X 480) images
at a maximum of two frames per second.
white balance settings: five preset, three custom, and one auto.
color space (Adobe RGB or sRGB); ICC profile embedded in images.
filter setting to control the overall color of the image. When
taking color images, the filter can affect the mood of the picture
by making the color cooler or warmer in seven levels
magnesium-alloy body with a professional black finish.
DiMAGE 7i was an impressive camera. Is the 7Hi even better? Find
and since this camera is so similar to its predecessor, I will be
reusing a whole lot of text.
in the Box?
DiMAGE 7Hi has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
4.95 effective Megapixel Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi camera
1850 mAh NiMH rechargeable batteries
featuring DiMAGE Image Viewer Utility and drivers
page camera manual + software manual (both printed)
the exception of the way-too-small memory card, Minolta has gotten
their act together in the bundle department. But you will need a
bigger memory card, as a 16MB one on a 5 Megapixel camera just does
not cut it. I recommend a 128MB card at the very minimum. The DiMAGE
7Hi supports the IBM Microdrive, as well.
7Hi includes four very powerful Sanyo NiMH rechargeables, a welcome
change from the throwaway alkalines of the original DiMAGE 7. Minolta
estimates that you'll be able to get about 120 minutes / 220 shots
per charge, which is an improvement over the 7i.
you need more juice, Minolta offers the EBP-100 external battery
pack (about $260).
you can see, a battery charger is also included. The 7Hi also includes
a lens hood (useful for shooting outdoors) plus a lens cap (with
retaining strap) and shoulder strap. There's also a removable cover
on the hot shoe.
of accessories, the D7Hi can use an external flash, including macro
ring and wireless flashes. Minolta's 3600HS ($250) and 5600HS ($450)
are the "regular" external flashes that work right out
of the box. A close-up diffuser is also available.
can also attach filters to the lens. I'm not aware of any conversion
lens adapters for the 7Hi. Two other accessories of note are an
external power pack, and an AC adapter.
with the camera is the Minolta DiMAGE Viewer Utility software, v2.1.
The good news is that it's now Mac OS X compatible. The bad news
is that it doesn't actually work -- it just crashed when I try to
use it. On Windows or in OS 9, it's pretty good, and improved over
the original version. It's certainly not a substitute for something
like Photoshop Elements though.
complex camera requires a good manual, and Minolta again delivers.
There are even sections on photography basics and Minolta's history.
There's lots of text to read, and not too many "notes"
in small print.
7Hi is looking quite professional now, with it's black metal body.
I still don't think it feels like a $1300 camera, though. But it
should be able to take whatever you throw at it. The new rubber
grip is a nice addition as well.
D7Hi is a large-sized camera and will not be finding its way into
your pockets anytime soon. It is easy to hold, with plenty of room
for your left and right hands.
official dimensions of the D7Hi are 4.6 x 3.6 x 4.4 inches (W x
H x D), and it weighs in at 530 grams (18.7 oz.) empty.
start our tour of the DiMAGE 7Hi now, beginning with the front of
7Hi has the same F2.8, 7X optical zoom Minolta GT lens as the other
7-series models. 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 electronic, powered zoom like on the majority
of digicams. In addition, there is a switch which locks the camera
into macro mode, at either full wide-angle or full telephoto.
the back of the lens barrel (not seen here), there's a wheel for
manual focus. This is an electronic, rather than mechanical dial.
It tells the camera to adjust the focus, rather than physically
moving the lens parts itself.
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).
DiMAGE 7Hi 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 actually lights up the
subject for the picture. There camera also uses info from the autofocus
system (Advanced Distance Integration, or ADI) to ensure "optimum
flash exposure". All of this happens in a fraction of a second!
you want to add your own flash, there's a hot shoe (proprietary)
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. For non-Minolta flashes, you can use the
flash sync terminal (which you'll see in a moment) to do so.
D7Hi doesn't have an AF illuminator lamp. That red circle with the
holes in it is the microphone.
back of the camera shows the numerous buttons and switches available,
and there's more where that came from.
1.8" LCD is sharper and smoother than on the original D7. It's
bright and fluid when you pan around a scene. It's also positioned
so that nose smear won't be a problem when you use the electronic
of which, here's more about that electronic viewfinder (EVF). The
EVF is like a little LCD that you look into, in place of a regular
optical rangefinder. The advantages are that you can see 100% of
the frame (no parallax error) and all the exposure info is shown.
The disadvantages are difficulty in viewing in bright or dim light
and increased power consumption. While the EVF here is bright and
fluid like the main LCD, it's also lower resolution. You can tilt
the EVF up to 90 degrees, so you can look straight down into it
-- a nice touch. (By the way, if your sunglasses are polarized like
mine are, you possibly will not be able to use the EVF with them
light levels in a room get low, the image on the LCD and EVF turns
to black & white. This leads to a much more visible image than
it would be if it were in color. The camera also uses this B&W
mode to help focus in lower light. Don't worry, though -- the image
is still recorded in color.
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.
The i+ button in the middle of that switch toggles what is shown
on the LCD/EVF.
items to the right of the LCD include the Menu button, four-way
switch, and the Quickview/Delete and Magnification buttons.
Quickview feature will quickly put you in playback mode. The magnification
button (it's that square, poorly-labeled black button at the lower
right) 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 cross hairs
around the LCD to the area that you want the camera to focus on.
the top right is the Spot AE metering button. Pressing this will
let you choose something in the frame to use to set the exposure.
This button is customizable via the menu system.
More on that later.
below the LCD is the compartment for the 4 AA batteries. To the
lower right of that, under rubber covers, are the ports for DC in,
A/V out, and the optional wired remote control.
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. The backlight turns
on when the scene is dark -- no button needs to be pressed.
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 (which Minolta calls
the Pro-Auto 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.
dumb think about the PC Connect option on the mode wheel -- you
have to then use the four-way switch to "start USB", before
your computer recognizes the camera.
one side of the camera, covered with even more dials and buttons.
To operate these controls, you first select what option you want.
Let's use Drive as an example. You then hold the button down, while
using that dial I just pointed out on top of the camera, to change
can also get a better look at the manual focus ring in this shot.
top dial has the following options:
(Memory 1, 2, 3, Store Memory) - you can store three different
sets of settings for easy retrieval
(Multi-segment, center-weighted, spot)
Mode (Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Full Manual)
(Single Frame, Bracketing, Continuous Advance, High-speed continuous
advance, UHS continuous advance, Self-timer, Interval Shooting
Balance (Auto, Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Cloudy, Custom)
(Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800)
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" (by halfway pressing
the shutter release and turning the dial) to try other shutter/aperture
combinations as well. The shutter speed range in program mode is
8 - 1/4000 secs. Note that this is the only mode in which you can
shoot at 1/4000.
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 15 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 full manual mode, which lets you keep the
shutter open for as long as the shutter release button is held down
(up to 30 seconds). A tripod and remote shutter release cable is
basically a requirement for bulb mode.
Drive selections of note are continuous shooting (three types!),
bracketing, and interval shooting.
regular continuous shooting mode, you can take up to give full size,
Fine quality images, as fast as 2 frames/sec, depending on what
settings you're using. You can take anywhere from 3 - 84 pictures
per "burst", depending on the quality/resolution setting.
You can also do continuous shooting in RAW mode (up to 5 shots).
High speed continuous will do the same as I just described, but
at 3 frames/sec.
(ultra high speed) continuous advance will take anywhere from 32
- 100 frames at a rate of 7 frames/second. The catch (there always
is one) is that images are saved at 1280 x 960. You can also have
these frames turned into a 640 x 480 movie, with sound, by turning
on the UHS movie function in the setup menu.
are an incredible four types of bracketing on the DiMAGE 7Hi: exposure,
contrast, color-saturation, and filter (more on these in a second).
The camera will shoot three photos at different settings, so you
can take the best shot possible. (You use the digital effects control
dial to select which type of bracketing you want.) It will take
one step up and one setup down from the current setting.
interval shooting mode lets you take photo(s) at an interval of
your choosing. The choices range from 1 minute to 60 minutes. You
also choose the number of frames, from 2-99. You'll want an AC adapter
to pull this off, as the batteries won't last long enough to do
any good. Like in UHS continuous mode, you can also make a movie
of the interval shots taken. It will be played back at 4 frames/second.
usual white balance choices are available, as well as a custom white
balance for those occasions when the presets don't work.
back to our tour of the camera now, the next dial is the digital
effects control. Here you can change exposure, flash, contrast,
and color-saturation compensation, plus change the "filter".
and flash compensation are both the same item on the digital effects
dial. You use the dial on the top of the camera to change exposure
compensation, and up/down on the four-way switch for flash compensation.
Both are -2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV increments.
and color-saturation compensation are fairly self-explanatory Here
you can choose from -3EV to +3EV in 1EV increments.
Illustration of filter feature (from manual)
more about the filter feature, which was first seen on the D7i.
When in color mode, you can use it to tweak how "warm"
or "cool" an image's colors look. In black and white mode,
you can change the tone. The image above should make all of this
easier to understand.
the far right of the camera is the new flash sync port. This will
let you use non-Minolta external flashes via a standard PC sync
cable. Just below that is the AF/MF button, which toggles between
auto and manual focus mode. This button could be better located,
is it's too easy to bump accidentally.
an angled look at the back and one side of the 7Hi. You can see
the CF slot, USB port, and the included CF card.
a closed look at the side of the camera. The door covering the CF
slot and USB port is very cheap feeling, especially for a $1300
camera. Also, that darn ring for the camera strap gets in the way
of closing the door. Minolta's on their third revision of this body
and they still haven't fixed this!
CF slot itself is Type II, so you can use your IBM Microdrive with
the background, you can see the speaker.
but not least, here is the bottom of the camera. The only thing
down here is a metal tripod mount, located right in the middle of
the camera (not in line with the lens).
the Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi
it doesn't have to extend its lens, the DiMAGE 7Hi starts up in
under three seconds.
7Hi has the same AF system as the 7i, which was a major improvement
over the original D7. Press the shutter release halfway, and the
camera locks focus in under a second. Low light focusing is not
great, but I've seen worse. You can use manual focus point selection
(using the four-way switch) to choose the area of the frame that
you want the camera to focus on, as well.
you fully press the shutter release button, the photo is taken without
delay. You can take another shot almost instantly, thanks to the
D7Hi's whopping 64MB of buffer memory. Photos in RAW or TIFF format
don't lock up the camera like on old the older models, either. You
can also review your photos for 2 or 10 seconds, and delete them
before they are saved to the memory card.
The D7Hi has a histogram in record mode
changed the image quality choices a bit on the 7Hi. They got rid
of the Economy quality, and added an Extra Fine mode. Here's a look:
on 16MB card
why I recommended a larger memory card? RAW image mode saves the
raw CCD data, which 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.
file numbering system is simple. It's PICTxxxx.JPG, where xxxx =
0001 - 9999. The numbering is maintained when you erase or replace
a memory card.
most of the controls on the DiMAGE 7Hi are dials on the camera body,
there are still many options available via the menu system. These
mode (single, continuous) - whether camera is always trying
to focus, or just when you press shutter release halfway
size (2560 x 1920, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480)
(RAW, Super fine, Extra Fine, Fine, Standard)
mode (fill, red-eye, rear flash sync, wireless)
channel (1-4) - for those using wireless remote flashes
control (ADI, pre-flash TTL only, manual) - in manual mode,
you can set the flash power to full, 1/4, or 1/16
AF/AEL (AF/AE hold, AF/AE toggle, AE hold, AE toggle) - customize
the function of the Spot AE button
button (digital zoom, electronic magnification) - a fancy
way of turning the digital zoom on/off
(1-10, 15, 20, 30, 45, 60 mins) - chooses the interval for
(2-99) - chooses the total number of frames that will be taken
in interval mode
mode (Still image, movie) - whether the interval mode saves
images as separate photos or as one movie
movie (on/off) - if this is on, the camera will put those
pictures taken in UHS mode into a movie
imprint - print the date or any text on your photos. This
is a rare feature!
mode (Vivid [sRGB], Natural [sRGB], Adobe RGB, B&W, solarization)
- this has changed from the D7i.
(hard, normal, soft)
bracketing (0.3, 0.5, 1.0EV) - sets the increment for bracketing
playback (Off, 2 sec, 10 sec) - amount of time that images
are shown on the LCD after they are taken
memo (Off, 2 sec, 15 sec) - turns on ability to attach sound
clips with photos
usual setup items are also available by switching the camera's mode
wheel to "setup". Some of the interesting items include:
and EVF brightness (1-5)
sound settings (beep, phony shutter sound)
naming (Standard, date-based)
mode (Standard, focus frame, histogram, grid, scale, image only)
- choose what shows up on the LCD/EVF when you press the Display
MF (on/off) - when this is on, you can make manual focus adjustments
after the camera has locked focus (only works in single AF mode)
dial [M] (shutter speed, aperture) - choose what is controlled
by the control dial in manual mode
shift (on/off) - when turned on, you can move through sets of
shutter speed and aperture combos while in manual mode
(DEC control, exposure) - if DEC control is chosen, bracketing
will be for whatever is selected on the digital-effects switch.
Otherwise it'll always be exposure bracketing.
profile (Not embedded, embed) - a new feature on the 7Hi. Embeds
the color profile in the image, which is saved with a .JPE extension.
Must be processed in DiMAGE Image Viewer.
don't know about you, but I'm tired of talking about menus. Let's
talk about photo quality instead.
mode on the DiMAGE is a bit different than on most cameras. You
must set the focal length at either full telephoto, or full wide-angle.
At the telephoto end, you have a bit of "play" in the
focal length. The focusing range is 30 - 60 cm at wide-angle, and
25 - 60 cm at telephoto.
shot above was taken at the wide-angle setting. The image turned
out nicely, with perfect color and good sharpness.
7Hi did a good job with the night shot test. It was a long exposure
(6 seconds) and the noise levels are still pretty low. I didn't
notice any bad pixels either.
only red in the redeye test comes from me being sick! There's none
of the annoying phenomenon that plagues flash shots on many other
cameras. The redeye reduction feature did the trick!
image quality on the 7Hi is much like it was on the 7i: very good,
but noisier than the Sony DSC-F717, which I still think is the best
5 Megapixel camera in terms of resolution. The Minolta GT lens produces
sharp images, with little-to-no chromatic aberrations (purple fringing).
Colors look nice as well. Have a look at the photo
gallery and judge for yourself.
addition to two interval and continuous shooting movie features,
there's a standard movie mode on the 7Hi as well. You can record
up to 60 seconds of video, with sound.
They are saved in QuickTime format at 320 x 240.
can use the zoom lens during filming, as you'd expect since it's
manually controlled. If you're using continuous autofocus mode,
sound will not be recorded. Sound is recorded in single AF mode.
D7Hi has a unique "night movie" feature as well. In this
mode, the movie will be in black & white, but you will be able
to get video in very low light levels.
a somewhat exciting sample movie for you.
to play movie (1.4MB, QuickTime format)
play it? Download QuickTime.
it's not fancy, the DiMAGE 7Hi's playback mode does its job well.
The basic features we're all used to by now are here: slide shows,
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 in
the enlarged area.
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, including a histogram.
camera moves through the images on the LCD very quickly, especially
considering their size.
Does it Compare?
have two main complaints about the Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi. The first
is that there's still a bit too much noise in the sky and shadows.
I'm sure DiMAGE 7i owners would agree with my second issue: Minolta
should've skipped the 7i and gone straight to the 7Hi, considering
how close they were released. Aside from that, the 7Hi is a very
good camera, offering high resolution, sharp photos. It has a sharp
7X zoom lens, tons of manual controls, support for external flashes
via hot shoe, wireless, or PC sync cable, and robust performance.
The new extra fine compression mode is nice as well. I would've
also liked to see some kind of low light AF-assist system -- the
Sony F717 does a whole lot better in that regard. I'd strongly consider
the 7Hi against the F717 and Nikon Coolpix 5700. I hope this helps
in your decision!
good photo quality
manual control imaginable
performance in AF, shot-to-shot, and playback mode areas
7X zoom lens
LCD info display
continuous shooting modes
for lens filters and external flashes
1850 mAh NiMH batteries
in movie mode
I didn't care for:
a bit noisier than competition
slot area still cheesy
16MB CompactFlash card included
AF illuminator would really help
mode could use a few more features (image rotation, resizing)
cameras to check out include the Canon
PowerShot G3 (a 4MP camera), Nikon Coolpix
5000 and 5700,
E-20N, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F707
and the Fuji
FinePix S602 Zoom (uses 3.3MP SuperCCD).
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the DiMAGE 7Hi and its competitors before you buy!