DCRP Review: Minolta DiMAGE Xg
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: April 9, 2004
Last Updated: April 9, 2004

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The Konica Minolta DiMAGE Xg ($299) is a camera that adds a few new features to the compact and stylish DiMAGE Xt. What's the difference between the two models? Here's a chart:

LCD size 1.6" 1.5"
LCD resolution 85,000 pixels 110,000 pixels
Movie mode frame rate 30 fps 15 fps
Video out port No Yes
Camera charger dock No Yes
Image pasting (described later) Yes No
Image cropping Yes No
TIFF support No Yes
Slideshows No Yes
Movie editing Yes No
PictBridge support Yes No

Both are ultra-thin 3.2 Megapixel with a unique 3X optical zoom lens that goes down the length of the body (rather than "into" it).

And with that, let's begin our look at the DiMAGE Xg. Do note that since the cameras are so similar, I will be reusing parts of the DiMAGE Xt review here.

What's in the Box?

The DiMAGE Xg has a good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.2 effective Megapixel DiMAGE Xg camera
  • 16MB Secure Digital card
  • NP-200 Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • DiMAGE Viewer Utility + DiMAGE Software CDs
  • 138 page camera manual + software manual (both printed)

The DiMAGE Xg is bundled with a 16MB Secure Digital (SD) memory card. It'll be a good card to start with, but you'll probably want to buy a larger one soon after your camera purchase. The Xg works with both SD and MultiMedia (MMC) cards (with the former being preferred for capacity and speed reasons).

Like most ultra-small cameras, the Xg uses a small, proprietary battery. Long time readers of this site know that I'm not a huge fan of these expensive batteries ($40 a pop), but they are really unavoidable on cameras like this. This particular lithium-ion battery, known as the NP-200, has 2.8 Watt/hours of energy. Minolta estimates that you can take about 220 photos, or spend 240 minutes in playback mode, on a single charge -- an improvement over the DiMAGE Xt.

The DiMAGE had a unique battery charger that could charge the battery by itself, or while it was in the camera. That has gone the way of the dodo bird and we're left with an external charger. Pop in the battery, wait 90 minutes, and serve. Note that this isn't one of those "plug it right into the wall" chargers -- you must use a power cable.

The Xg has as built-in lens cover, so there is no need to worry about lens caps. As you can see, it's a very small camera.

The DiMAGE Xg uses the same accessories as the Xt, except for the marine case. For the Xg, you'll want the MC-DG300 model ($200), which lets you take the camera up to 30 meters underwater. Cool! Other accessories include an AC adapter ($60), metal camera strap, and various cases.

Included with the camera is version 2.3.1 of the Minolta DiMAGE Viewer software for Mac (including OS X) and Windows.. It's certainly not a substitute for something like Photoshop Elements, but it does basic editing fairly well.

The Xg's manual is pretty good as well, with long explanations and not a lot of fine print. Much better than the average camera manual.

Look and Feel

Aside from a few cosmetic changes to the back of the camera, the DiMAGE Xg looks just like its predecessor. That means that it has an all-metal body, which, as you might imagine, feels pretty solid. Do watch out though, as metal cameras can scratch easily. The Xg fits into your pocket better than almost any camera out there.

The engineering behind the DiMAGE X series is very impressive. Minolta has managed put a 3X optical zoom lens into a camera less than an inch thick. What they've done is put a prism at the back of the lens, and then put all the moving parts and additional optics down the camera body. The CCD sensor is actually on the bottom of the camera, rather than directly behind the lens.

The official dimensions are 3.4 x 2.6 x 0.8 inches (W x H x D) and it weighs just 120 grams empty. My numbers may be off, but I think that the Xg is slightly smaller than the Xt.

Let's begin our tour of this camera now.

The DiMAGE Xg has the same F2.8-3.6, 3X optical zoom as its predecessor. The focal range of the lens is 5.7 - 17.1 mm, which is equivalent to 37 - 111 mm. Obviously, there are no lens accessories available for this camera.

One thing you really have to watch out for with the DiMAGE X-series cameras is your finger. It's very easy to put your finger near the lens, and thus, into the picture.

Moving to the left of the lens, you can see the optical viewfinder, self-time lamp, and the flash. The Xg's flash has a working range of 0.15 - 3.2 m at wide-angle and 0.15 - 2.5 m at telephoto -- same as on the Xt. The recycle time for the flash is approximately 6 seconds. You cannot attach an external flash to the DiMAGE Xg.

Down toward the bottom is the Xg's microphone.

One thing that still has not appeared on an X-series camera is an AF-assist lamp, which helps the camera focus in dim lighting. Too bad.

The back of the camera has changed in two ways since the DiMAGE Xt: the LCD is larger, and the mode dial has been reworked.

The LCD has gone up in size, from 1.5" to 1.6" -- but the resolution has gone down. That didn't bother me, but I did notice "color banding" while reviewing some photos on the screen, which was disappointing. The screen is bright, though, and motion is fluid. You can adjust the screen brightness in the setup menu.

I should also mention that in dim lighting, the camera boosts the gain on the LCD, giving you a brighter (though grainy) view of what you're looking at.

The optical viewfinder, found at the upper-left, is very small, and lacks a diopter correction feature (forgivable on such a small camera).

Above the LCD is the mode dial, which is different than on the Xt. There are just four options on it:

  • Digital Subject Program Mode
  • Record
  • Playback
  • Audio/Movie recording

The Digital Subject Program Mode feature is a fancy way of saying "scene modes". You can let the camera automatically pick the right scene, or you can select one yourself. Choose from portrait, sports action, landscape, sunset, and night portrait, and the camera will use the proper settings for this situations.

I'm not covering the audio recording feature in this review, so here's just a quick summary: you can record up to 3 hours of continuous audio on the Xg, though the 16MB SD card can only hold about 30 minutes. The optional AC adapter is advised if you're planning on making very long audio recordings.

To the right of the mode dial is the four-way switch, which is also used for adjusting exposure compensation (±2EV, 1/3EV increments) and operating the zoom lens. Instead of adjusting exposure compensation, you can choose other functions for the left/right buttons to control in the record menu. The lens moves from wide-angle to telephoto in just two seconds (though it seems slower than that). The zoom was much more responsive than on the DiMAGE Xt.

Below the LCD there are four buttons. They are for:

  • Menu
  • QuickView / Delete Photo - QuickView is a way to review the last shot taken
  • Display - Toggles LCD on/off
  • Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill-flash, flash cancel)

Just to the right of those buttons is the speaker.

The only things to see up here are the power and shutter release buttons.

Nothing at all to see here.

Here's the other side of the camera you'll find the USB port, SD/MMC memory card slot, and battery compartment. The USB port (top) is normally covered with a plastic slider. There is no video out port on the Xg -- the Xt had one. Also, instead of a DC-in port like the Xt had, you now use a DC coupler, which is basically a battery with a power cable coming out of it.

A sturdy plastic door covers the memory card and battery compartments.

Finally, here is the bottom of the DiMAGE Xg. Down here is the plastic tripod mount, located right in the center of the camera.

Using the Minolta DiMAGE Xg

Record Mode

The DiMAGE Xg starts up and is ready to go in under 1.5 seconds -- very snappy.

Sorry these look so bad. No video out makes for bad screenshots!

When you halfway press the shutter release button, the Xg locks focus in about half a second -- slightly longer if it has to "hunt" a bit. The camera did an okay job of focusing in low light, but it would've been a lot better with an AF-assist lamp.

Shutter lag is very low in most cases.

Shot-to-shot speed is very good. If you turn off the instant playback feature, you can take another shot in under 2 seconds. You cannot delete a photo as it's being saved to the memory card. You must wait for it to finish, and then you can use the QuickView feature.

Now, here's a look at the resolution and quality choices on the DiMAGE Xg:

Quality Resolution File Size Images on included 16MB card
Fine 2048 x 1536 1.6 MB 9
1600 x 1200 990 KB 14
1280 x 960 660 KB 22
640 x 480 210 KB 69
Standard 2048 x 1536 820 KB 17
1600 x 1200 520 KB 27
1280 x 960 360 KB 39
640 x 480 130 KB 100
Economy 2048 x 1536 440 KB 32
1600 x 1200 290 KB 47
1280 x 960 210 KB 69
640 x 480 90 KB 150

The Xg has lost the TIFF mode that the Xt had. This is not an issue for the average shooter, in my opinion.

The Xg 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.

The DiMAGE Xg uses the standard Konica Minolta menu system. It's fairly easy to operate, though its broken down into "sections" arbitrarily. The items here include:

  • Drive mode (Single-shot, continuous shooting, self-timer, multi-frame) - see below
  • Image size (see chart)
  • Quality (see chart)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent) - no custom option, unfortunately
  • <> Key function (Exp. compensation, white balance, drive, sensitivity, off) - define what the left/right buttons on the four-way controller do.
  • Sensitivity [ISO] (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
  • Metering mode (Multi-segment, spot)
  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • Noise reduction (on/off) - reduces noise in photos with 1 sec or slower shutter speed
  • Auto reset (on/off) - whether camera saves settings when powered off
  • Color mode (Color, black & white, sepia)
  • Voice memo (on/off) - add a 15 second sound clip to each photo
  • Date imprint (Off, YYYY/MM/DD, MM/DD/hr:min) - prints the date/time on your photos
  • Digital zoom (on/off) - using this will reduce the quality of your photos
  • Instant playback (on/off) - post-shot review

Continuous shooting mode will let you take images consecutively at a maximum rate of 1.5 frames/second. You can take 5-19 shots in a row at 2048 x 1536, depending on the quality setting. The new multi-frame feature will take nine shots in a row and put them into one image (like a collage).

The DiMAGE Xg also has a setup menu, which is accessed from the record or playback menus. The options here include:

  • LCD brightness (variable)
  • Card format
  • File number memory (on/off)
  • Folder name (Standard, date form)
  • Language (Japanese, English, German, French, Spanish)
  • Audio signals (Off, 1, 2) - beeps
  • Shutter FX (Off, 1, 2, custom) - fake shutter sounds
  • Custom record (Shutter FX, focus lock) - record your own sounds for these functions
  • Volume (1-3)
  • Power off (1, 3, 5, 10, 30 mins)
  • Reset default
  • Date/time set
  • Date format
  • Transfer mode (Data storage, remote camera) - see below

The "remote camera" option was first seen on the DiMAGE Xt. It allows people with Windows-based PCs to use the camera for videoconferencing, using software like Microsoft NetMeeting. Being a Mac guy, I could not try it.

Let's move on to photo quality now!

The DiMAGE Xg has an automatic macro mode -- you don't turn it on like with most cameras. You can get as close to your subject as 15 cm. The "sweet spot" for the lens as at the 0.6X position, where you can fill the frame with an object 55.2 x 41.4 mm in size.

The macro test was pretty good overall, but there's a slight blue cast to the image. Since there's no custom white balance option, there wasn't much I could do about it. If you shoot under studio lights like I do, this may be a concern. If you shoot outdoors or under more conventional lighting, it shouldn't be an issue.

The Xg did a nice job with the night shot (though it's a little "yellow" for my taste), capturing plenty of light. Since there's no way to manually select the shutter speed, you're at the mercy of the camera's brain. The slowest shutter speed on the camera is 4 seconds.

If you pardon the crazy eyes, you'll see that the Xg does have a bit of a redeye problem. Not as bad as some other compact cameras, but you can expect to spend some time cleaning it up in software (if it bothers you).

The distortion test shows moderate barrel distortion, vignetting (dark corners), and blurry corners. All three of these issues are the tradeoffs that come with the DiMAGE X series' unique lens design. You can check the gallery to see how these issues look in real world photos.

Speaking of which -- the image quality on the Xg is good for everyday shots. The issues I mentioned above, as well as an overall "soft" look to the photos may turn off some enthusiasts. Color and exposure were both accurate, and I didn't spot any purple fringing. By all means, look at the photo gallery and see if the images meet your expectations. You are encouraged to print them, as well.

Movie Mode

The movie mode on the Xg has improved a bit since the Xt with the addition of a 30 frames/sec mode. You can record movies until the memory card is full -- though the included 16MB card only holds 21 seconds at the highest quality setting. There are two resolutions to choose from: 320 x 240 and 160 x 120. You can choose from 30 or 15 frames/sec, as well. Sound is recorded along with the video.

As with most cameras that record sound with movies, the optical zoom is disabled during filming. You can, however, use the digital zoom.

Here is a sample movie for your enjoyment.

Click to play movie (9.2MB, QuickTime format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The DiMAGE Xg's playback mode has gone through some changes since the Xt. Gone is the slideshow feature, but there's some new stuff as well that I'll explain in a minute. But first, I want to mention the standard playback features that you'll find on the Xg. These include image protection, DPOF print marking, audio captions, thumbnail mode, and zoom and scroll. The camera is PictBridge-enabled.

The zoom and scroll feature (my term) allows you to zoom in as much as 6X into your photo, and then scroll around.

The new image pasting feature lets you superimpose a new image over one currently saved. You can select from nine shapes, position the shape on a previously-taken photo, and you then get your subject (presumably their head or face) into that shape. This is a strange feature that makes more sense if you try it.

Image cropping is another new feature, which does just what its name implies The E-mail copy option lets you create a 640 x 480 or 160 x 120 version of a photo, perfect for sharing.

For movie lovers, the Xg has two new editing features. First, you can capture frames from your movies (albeit at the same, low resolution). The movie editor lets you set new start and end points for a movie, and then save that into a new file. Do note that there is a limit as to how long the new movie can be, depending on the resolution and frame rate.

One thing I continue to appreciate on the DiMAGE Xg is the ability to delete a group of photos, instead of just one or all.

Unfortunately, the Xg doesn't give you any information about exposure settings in playback mode. The camera takes a little over one second to move between photos.

How Does it Compare?

The Konica Minolta DiMAGE Xg is an interesting "upgrade" to the previous model, the DiMAGE Xt. You gain some new features (larger LCD, PictBridge support, movie editing) while losing some others (lower LCD resolution, video out port). With the DiMAGE Xt still available, you'll want to see which has the best feature set for your needs!

That said, the Xg is a very compact and very stylish camera with a unique 3X zoom lens that's quite different than the one on your typical camera. Performance on the camera is very good, though an AF-assist lamp would've greatly helped in the low light focusing department. Speaking of low light, I do like how Minolta boosts the gain on the LCD, so you can still use the screen when it's dark (more or less). One thing I don't like about the new LCD is that it sometimes shows "color banding" -- something I don't think I've seen before on other LCDs.

The Xg is a pure point-and-shoot camera, with no manual controls at all. Photo quality is good, but you can expect vignetting, blurry corners, and an overall "fuzzy" look to your images. With that in mind, I see the Xg fitting in either a "second camera", or for those who are doing small prints or web pictures (as the image quality issues will be apparent at larger sizes). The image quality issues are the price you have to pay for that unique lens design. All-in-all, I do recommend this camera, but do your research carefully before you buy, as there's good competition.

What I liked:

  • Generally good photo quality with accurate color and exposure, no purple fringing
  • Compact, stylish body with a 3X zoom lens
  • Fast performance
  • Improved movie mode: record until card is full, with sound, 30 fps
  • Optional underwater case
  • Can be used for videoconferencing (Windows only)

What I didn't care for:

  • Some vignetting, blurry corners in images; images often have fuzzy, "video capture look"
  • Video out port has disappeared (as have several other features)
  • Color banding while viewing images on LCD
  • Some redeye
  • No manual controls -- not even white balance
  • No AF illuminator
  • No exposure info shown in playback mode

Other ultra-compact cameras worth checking out include the Canon PowerShot S410 and SD110, Casio Exilim EX-Z40, Kyocera Finecam SL300R, Nikon Coolpix 3700, Olympus Stylus 410, Pentax Optio S4i, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-T1.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the DiMAGE Xg 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?

Check out the review of the DiMAGE Xg over at Steves 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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