DCRP Review: Konica Minolta DiMAGE G400
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: February 11, 2004
Last Updated: February 14, 2004

Printer Friendly Version

The Konica Minolta DiMAGE G400 ($349) is an ultra-compact, metal camera with a 4 Megapixel CCD and 3X optical zoom lens. Its most unique feature is a dual memory card compartment, supporting both SD/MMC and Memory Stick cards. Although it says Minolta on the front, this was originally a Konica camera (the two companies merged last year). So if you're familiar with Minolta cameras, this one's a little different. That's not necessarily a bad thing, though!

There are quite a few cameras in this class. How does the G400 stack up against the competition? FInd out now in our review!

What's in the Box?

The DiMAGE G400 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 4.0 (effective) Megapixel DiMAGE G400 camera
  • 16MB Secure Digital card
  • NP-600 lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • Camera manual + software manual (both on CD!)
  • DiMAGE Viewer Utility + DiMAGE Software CDs

The included 16MB Secure Digital (SD) memory card won't hold many 4 Megapixel photos, so I recommend buying a larger card right away. The G400 is somewhat unique in that it has both SD/MMC and Memory Stick card slots. In addition to regular Memory Sticks, the camera can use the new Memory Stick Pro cards as well (256MB, 512MB, and 1GB cards have been tested by Minolta).

As is the case with most ultra-compact cameras, the G400 uses a proprietary lithium-ion battery. The included NP-600 battery has 3.2 Wh of energy, which isn't much, but competitive to other cameras in its class. Minolta estimates that you can take about 185 pictures with 50% flash and the LCD on, or you can spend 200 minutes in playback mode.

Proprietary batteries are pretty hard to avoid on cameras this small. Keep in mind that an extra battery (a recommended purchase) will set you back $40.

When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. This isn't one of those cool "plug right into the wall" chargers -- you must use a power cord. It takes 2 hours to fully charge the battery.

A sliding lens cover is part of the design of the G400. This is also the main power switch for the camera. As you can see, this is one small camera.

Accessories for the G400 are fairly limited. You can pick up an extra battery, an AC adapter, or a carrying case.

Included with the camera is version 2.2.2 of the Minolta 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 it's Windows XP and OS X compatible -- and you probably won't have to install any drivers.

Since this is really a Konica camera, you won't get the nice printed manual normally associated with Minolta cameras. In fact, you won't get a printed manual at all -- it's a PDF file on a CD-ROM (boo!). The manual itself is about average in terms of quality.

Look and Feel

The G400 is a compact, attractive all-metal camera. Build quality is quite good, though be aware that metal cameras scratch very easily. The important controls are easy-to-reach, though the user interface is a little confusing (more on that later).

Here's a look at how the G400 compares with the competition in terms of size:

  Dimensions (WxHxD) Volume (bulk) Mass
Canon PowerShot S410/S500 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1 in. 8.2 cu. in. 185 g
Casio QV-R40 3.5 x 2.4 x 1.3 in. 10.9 cu. in. 160 g
Minolta DiMAGE G400 3.7 x 2.2 x 0.9 in. 7.3 cu. in. 145 g
Minolta DiMAGE G500 3.7 x 2.2 x 1.2 in. 9.8 cu. in. 200 g
Nikon Coolpix 4200/5200 3.5 x 2.3 x 1.4 in. 11.3 cu in. 155 g
Olympus Stylus 400 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.3 in. 10.9 cu. in. 165 g
Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC43 3.8 x 2.6 x 1.3 in. 13.2 cu. in. 218 g
Pentax Optio S40 3.5 x 2.3 x 1.0 in. 8.1 cu. in. 125 g
Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T1 3.6 x 2.4 x 0.8 in. 6.9 cu. in. 180 g

As you can see, the G400 is the smallest camera out there, except for the super-thin Sony DSC-T1.

Let's take a deeper look at this camera now.

The DiMAGE G400 has an F2.8-4.9, 3X GT Hexanon zoom lens. The lens has a focal range of 5.6 - 16.8 mm, which is equivalent to 34 - 102 mm. Conversion lenses are not available for this camera.

At the top-right of the photo is the built-in flash. The flash has a working range of 0.5 - 2.3 m at wide-angle, and 0.8 - 1.3 m at telephoto. The flash has a relatively short recharging time of 4 seconds (it seemed even shorter than that). An external flash isn't supported on the G400.

Directly below the flash is the front side of the optical viewfinder. To the left of those are the passive AF sensors, which greatly improve focusing speeds. It doesn't work in the same way as an AF-assist lamp, but the end result is the same.

To the right of the flash (under the Minolta logo) is the microphone, with the self-timer lamp below that.

The back of the G400 is where all of the "action" is.

The 1.5" LCD is average-sized for a compact camera, and it has a relatively low resolution of 77k pixels. The screen is bright and movement is smooth, though. Not only can you adjust the screen's brightness, but you can adjust the color (for red, green, and blue) as well. That's not something you see everyday!

Above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is a little small. There's no diopter correction feature, which you would use to focus what you're looking at through the viewfinder.

To the right of the viewfinder are two buttons: one for entering playback mode, and the other for deleting a photo. Next, we find the four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation, selecting manual settings, and adjusting the macro, flash (auto, flash on, flash off), exposure compensation, and white balance.

The next buttons over are for controlling the zoom lens. The lens moves from wide-angle to telephoto very quickly -- in about a second. The zoom has about 8 positions, so being precise isn't easy.

To the right of the LCD are three buttons:

  • Mode - switches between the following:
    • Auto - point-and-shoot, most menu items locked up
    • Scene select - choose one of the scenes below, camera uses proper settings
      • Portrait
      • Scenery
      • Night
      • Snap
      • Sports
      • Angel
    • Movie/Voice mode - take movies (more on this later), add voice captions, or record audio only; there's no limit on how much audio you can record (aside from available space on the memory card)
    • Manual mode - full access to settings, plus shutter speed and aperture control
  • Menu - opens the menu
  • Set / display - in menus it's the "ok" button; when shooting, it turns the LCD on and off.

Some of those need some further explanation. First, what are those two bizarre scenes (snap and angel) all about? The snap scene focuses in the 0.8 - 2.5 m range, so you can just fire away without worrying about autofocus. This feature works best at wide-angle, according to the manual. The angel feature gives priority to a fast shutter release, so you can capture your little angels who rarely sit still.

Manual mode unlocks all the menu items on the camera, and it also gives you program, aperture priority, and full manual modes. In aperture priority mode, you can choose from two (yes, just two) apertures. At wide-angle, they're F2.8 and F4.7, while at telephoto they're F4.9 and F8.3. In the middle, there are other options. There's no shutter priority mode on the G400, so if you want to play with the shutter speed, you'll need to use full manual mode. Here you set both the aperture (same ranges as above), plus the shutter speed (range of 15 - 1/1000 sec). I'll list all of the options available in manual mode later in this review. Now, back to the tour.

The only things worth mentioning on the top of the camera are the microphone and the shutter release button.

Nothing to see here.

On this side of the camera, you can see the sole I/O port on the camera. It's a USB (1.1) port. The G400 lacks a video out port. There's no DC-in port either -- the AC adapter kit uses what is called a DC coupler, which is basically a battery with a wire coming out of it.

Finally, here is the bottom of the DiMAGE G400. You can see the plastic (boo!) tripod mount, battery compartment, and dual memory card slots. As I mentioned earlier, the G400 can read SD, MultiMedia, and Memory Stick formats. Memory Stick Pro cards are supported. The plastic door covering all this is quite flimsy.

Using the Minolta DiMAGE G400

Record Mode

No histogram to be found

The G400 has the fastest startup time of any zoom camera (that must extend its lens) that I've tested. Slide open that lens cover and it's ready to go, instantly.

Despite having that passive AF system, focusing speeds were average. Typically it took around one second for the camera to lock focus -- sometimes a little longer. I was not impressed with the low light focusing ability of the G400. Along those lines, the LCD was too dark to be usable in low light conditions.

Shutter lag was not an issue when the shutter speed was fast, but there was a noticeable delay at slower speeds.

Shot-to-shot speed is excellent. If you turn off the Quick View feature, you can take another shot in about a second.

To delete a photo after it is taken, you just press the "trash" button.

Now, here's a look at the resolution and quality choices on the DiMAGE G400. There aren't many, as you can see:

Resolution Quality Approx. file size # images on 16MB card (included)
2272 x 1704 Fine 1.7 MB 8
Normal 860 KB 16
1600 x 1200 Normal 432 KB 33
640 x 480 Normal 108 KB 133

To find out how many pictures a larger card can hold, just do some multiplication (e.g. a 256MB card holds 16 times as many photos as a 16MB, so multiply by 16).

The G400 does not have a TIFF or RAW mode.

The G400 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.

I'm not a huge fan of the overlay-style menu system on the G400. A more traditional hierarchical menu system would've been easier to use, in my opinion. Anyhow, here are the options in the menu system (assuming you're in manual mode):

  • Shooting mode (Program, aperture priority, manual) - described earlier
  • Continuous shooting / bracketing (Single shutter, continuous, super continuous, exposure bracketing, focus bracketing) - see below
  • Image size (see chart)
  • Memory priority (SD, MS) - choose which slot is used if you have cards in both of them
  • Self-timer (Off, 3, 10 sec)
  • Color (Standard, black & white, sepia, warm color, cold color)
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, fluorescent, tungsten) - no custom setting to be found
  • ISO (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
  • Fixed focus (AF, infinity, 2.5, 1.2, 0.8 m)
  • Custom - hides a ton of settings, which will be added to your menu if you turn them on; you can have two sets of custom settings; these options include:
    • Flash brightness (-1EV to +1EV, 1/2EV increments)
    • Saturation (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
    • Contrast (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
    • Sharpness (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
    • Color (-2 to +2, 1-step increments) - you can do this separately for red, green, and blue
    • Slow shutter speed - choose the slowest shutter speed the camera will use for both flash and non-flash situations

A quick note about the continuous shooting modes. Standard continuous mode will take an infinite number of shots consecutively, but the interval between shots is very long. Super continuous is much better; you can take three shots in a row at 2.5 frames/sec. Exposure bracketing takes three shots in a row, each with a different exposure setting (you cannot choose the interval here). Focus bracketing does the same: three shots in a row, each with a different focus distance.

There's also a setup menu, which has the following options:

  • Format (SD, MS)
  • Monitor
    • Quick view (on/off) - post-shot review
    • Information (on/off) - show or hide info on the LCD during shooting
    • Monitor (on/off) - decide whether LCD is on or off by default
    • Blue LED (on/off) - turn on/off the blue light on the front of the camera (which flashes when you turn the camera on and off)
    • Monitor color - adjust the brightness and color of the LCD
  • Rec. settings
    • Redeye reduction (on/off)
    • Digital zoom (on/off)
    • Number reset (on/off) - maintain file numbering
    • Metering (Center, spot)
    • Focus (exo-AF on, exo-AF off) - turn the passive AF sensor on and off
  • Sound
    • Shutter sound (on/off)
    • Sound effects (on/off)
    • Beep (on/off)
  • Basic setup
    • Date set
    • Language (Japanese, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese)
    • Auto power off (Off, 10 min)
    • Custom - activate the custom functions that I listed above
    • Default - reset the camera to factory settings

With that stuff out of the way, now we can move on to photo quality.

Notice anything funny about the macro test shot? Everything has a reddish cast to it -- and that's due to bad white balance. I have two 600W quartz lamps which the G400 just couldn't handle. Since there's no custom WB option, I had to adjust the color in Photoshop:

Much better! What does all this mean to you? If you're shooting in non-standard lighting (like I do for these shots), you may want to find a camera with a custom white balance option -- or get used to Photoshop.

I should add that aside from the WB issue, the photo was quite good.

The G400 did a nice job with the night shot test. With manual shutter speed control, you can take shots just like this. There was a hint of purple fringing, but nothing too terrible. I also spotted a couple of dead pixels.

Much to my surprise, there wasn't a whole lot of redeye on this ultra-compact camera. I'm not sure exactly why, but your results may vary. Since the flash doesn't have a long range, I had to set the ISO to auto to get a decently-exposed shot.

The distortion test shows mild barrel distortion (at wide-angle), and no vignetting or blurring in the corners.

Overall, photo quality on the G400 was very good. If I had one complaint, it's that noise levels were a little higher than I would've liked. But images were sharp, well-exposed, and colorful. Purple fringing was not a major problem, either. Don't just take my word for it -- have a look at the gallery and decide for yourself!

Movie Mode

The G400 lets you record 320 x 240 movies, with sound, until the memory card is full. If you're using a MMC card, the limit is 30 seconds.

Getting to movie mode is a little odd -- it's an item in the record menu.

As is typical with zoom cameras, you cannot use the optical zoom during filming. Digital zoom cannot be used either, which is unusual.

Movies are saved in AVI format, using the M-JPEG codec.

Here's a sample movie for you:

Click to play movie (3.3MB, AVI format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The G400 has a very complete playback mode. Basic features include slide shows, voice annotations, thumbnail mode, image protection, DPOF print marking, and zoom and scroll.

The zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom into your image by as much as 14.2X (wow), and then scroll around. This feature is well-implemented on the G400.

Some of the nice "bonus features" include image resizing (to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240) and the ability to copy or move photos between memory cards. One other feature that I also appreciate is the ability to delete a group of photos, instead of just one or all of them.

At first glance, it appears that the G400 doesn't show any exposure information about your photos. But press "up" on the four-way controller and you'll see the info shown in the above-right photo.

The camera moves through photos quickly, with a one second delay between high-res photos.

How Does it Compare?

While not my favorite camera of the bunch, the Konica Minolta DiMAGE G400 is a solid performer. Probably its most impressive trick is the ultra-fast startup time -- really amazing. It also takes very good photos, though they're slightly noisy. The camera did surprisingly well in our redeye test, as well. While the G400 starts up quickly, the autofocus performance wasn't as impressive -- especially in low light. The camera features quite a few manual controls, including shutter speed, aperture, and color. The one control I would've liked to have seen is manual white balance, with the macro shot being a prime example of why its a useful feature. The dual memory card slots are a nice bonus, especially if you've already got an investment in Memory Sticks or SD cards. The G400's movie mode is about average, and I'm not a huge fan of the clumsy user interface, either. All-in-all, a nice camera -- be sure to check out the competition closely, though!

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality
  • Ultra fast startup time
  • Compact, all-metal body
  • Quite a few manual controls
  • Dual memory card slots support Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro + SD/MMC cards
  • Endless continuous shooting mode (though at a sluggish 1 frame/sec)
  • Decent redeye test performance
  • Doubles as a voice recorder

What I didn't care for:

  • Clumsy menu system; no organization, hard to navigate
  • Images are a little noisy
  • Manual white balance would've been nice
  • Average AF speeds, poor low light focusing, despite the external focus sensor
  • Plastic tripod mount, flimsy plastic door over memory card / battery compartment
  • No video out
  • No histogram in record or playback mode
  • Manual on CD

Other ultra-compact 4 and 5 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot S410 and S500, Casio QV-R40 and QV-R51, Fuji FinePix F700 (I suppose), Kyocera Finecam S5R, Minolta DiMAGE G500, Nikon Coolpix 4200 and 5200, Olympus Stylus 400, Pentax Optio S40 and S4i, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P73, DSC-P93, DSC-P100, and DSC-W1. A long list, I know, but the competition in this arena is fierce!

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the DiMAGE G400 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Want to see how the photo quality turned on? Check out our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion?

Get another review over at 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.

All content is © 1997 - 2004 The Digital Camera Resource Page. All Rights Reserved.
Reviews and images from this site may NEVER be re-posted on your website or online auction.
All trademarks are property of their respective owners.

Comments about this site should be directed to Jeff Keller.