At first glance, the Konica
Minolta Maxxum 7D ($1599, body only) looks like just another
digital SLR. But look inside and you'll find a feature
that makes it stand out from the crowd. That feature
is KM's exclusive Anti-shake system, which has also
been seen on several of their consumer cameras. This
system puts the CCD sensor on a movable plane that
can shift to compensate for motion. Other companies
offer stabilized lenses, but since the Anti-shake system
is on the sensor, it works with every lens you attach
to the camera. Stabilizers like this help reduce the
blurring effects of "camera shake", often
seen in low light situations or when shooting at long
telephoto distances. It won't work miracles, but it
Other features on the Maxxum 7D include
a 6.1 Megapixel CCD, full manual controls (most of
which activated by dials on the camera), a hot shoe,
and the type of performance and quality that you'd
expect from a digital SLR.
If you're ready to learn more about
the Maxxum 7D (also called the Dynax 7D outside North
America), I'm ready to tell you. Read on!
What's in the Box?
The Maxxum 7D has a typical (average)
digital SLR bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 6.1 effective Megapixel Konica
Minolta Maxxum 7D camera body
- NP-400 Li-ion rechargeable battery
- Battery charger
- Neck strap
- LCD protection panel
- Wireless remote control
- USB cable
- Video cable
- CD-ROMs featuring DiMAGE Viewer
- 147 page camera manual + separate
software manual (both printed)
As with most digital SLRs, you're
going to need to buy more than just the basic package
before you can use the camera. The first thing to get
is a lens. The Maxxum 7D can work with any Minolta
Maxxum AF lens, though the Anti-shake feature will
not work on certain macro lenses. Also keep in mind
that there is a 1.5X crop factor on the 7D: thus, a
17 - 35 mm lens has the same field-of-view that a 25.5
- 52 mm lens would have on a 35 mm camera.
Something else you'll need to buy
is a memory card, as Minolta doesn't give you one.
The Maxxum uses CompactFlash Type I and II cards, and
I'd suggest 512MB as a good starting point. More serious
photographers should start with 1GB. The Microdrive
(and its equivalents) also work, though I haven't had
great experiences with those.
The Maxxum uses the same NP-400 lithium-ion
battery as the DiMAGE A2. This battery packs a whopping
11.1 Wh of energy, which translates into 600 photos
per charge using the CIPA battery life standard (400
photos with 50% flash use). The similarly-priced, but
Anti-shakeless Canon EOS-20D lasts for 67% longer.
Even so, 600 photos is way more than you'll get with
any fixed-lens digicam.
The usual negatives about proprietary
batteries apply here. For one, they're expensive --
an extra battery (which I recommend) 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 SLR is the Pentax
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.
grip / Image courtesy of Konica Minolta
If you want more battery power, consider
the VC-7D Vertical Control Grip ($200). This takes
two NP-400 or six NiMH AA batteries, for double the
battery life. You also get duplicate controls for shooting
Digital SLRs allow for nearly infinite
accessories. First, there's lenses... as I said, any
Maxxum AF lens will work with the 7D. Second, there
are flashes: the camera works with Minolta flashes
via the hot shoe (or even wirelessly) or third-party
flashes via the flash sync port or hot shoe w/adapter.
To power your camera without using the battery, you
can pick up the AC-11 AC adapter ($60). To take pictures
without putting a hand on the camera, there's the RC-1000S
and RC-1000L (one's short, one's long) remote cable
releases for under $40. Other options include various
focusing screens and an angled viewfinder ($120).
for Mac OS X
Included with the camera is version
2.3.7 of Minolta's DiMAGE Viewer software for Mac (including
OS X) and Windows. It's certainly not a substitute
for something like Adobe Photoshop, but it does basic
editing fairly well. A handy "variations" tool
shows you how different adjustments will effect your
DiMAGE Viewer RAW
conversion for Mac OS X
The software can also be used to process
RAW images (I'll tell you why RAW is cool later in
the review). As you can see, you can adjust all sorts
of image properties using DiMAGE Viewer.
DiMAGE Master for
Mac OS X
An optional software package known
as DiMAGE Master is also available for under $150.
This is pretty hardcore RAW conversion software that
really deserves its own review (though that's not going
to happen, at least not on this site). Instead of going
on and on about it, I'll just do a laundry list of
things it can do:
- Browser window with thumbnails
and photo info
- Side-by-side comparison between
images; you can compare exposure, histogram, white
balance and focus
- RAW editing: you can adjust tone
curve and exposure, white balance, sharpness, color
space, saturation and contrast, and more; extra features
include dust removal and filter/color effects
- Super-accurate color reproduction
thanks to 3D Color Lookup table
- Focus checker lets you get a close-up
of the image by mousing over the desired area; this
was a little slow
- Can show overexposed areas of the
image (by turning them red)
- Batch RAW processing
Here's one thing DiMAGE Master doesn't
do very well: RAW conversion. I was shocked to see
some horrid artifacts in my photos when I converted
them. More on this later.
Along with the camera you'll find
full, printed manuals for both the camera and the accompanying
software. Minolta's manuals continue to be well above
average, with lengthy explanations and a minimum of
Look and Feel
The Maxxum 7D is a pretty standard-looking
digital SLR, and quite a change from the Olympus EVOLT
E-300 that I just looked at. Build quality is excellent,
with a metal frame underneath metal and high-grade
plastic panels. There's a large, rubberized grip for
your right hand which makes the camera easy to hold
The 7D is a button and dial-lovers
dream -- it's covered with them. While I like how it's
easy to change all these things, it can be intimidating
to newcomers. Also, some of the dials are easy to bump
accidentally, as I learned when I shot a full set of
images in spot metering mode.
Now, here's a look at how the Maxxum
7D compares to some other cameras in terms of size
(W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
|Canon Digital Rebel
|| 5.6 x
3.9 x 2.9 in.
|| 5.7 x
4.2 x 2.8 in.
|Konica Minolta Maxxum
x 4.2 x 3.1 in.
|| 5.5 x
4.4 x 3.1 in.
4.1 x 3.2 in.
|Olympus EVOLT E-300
3.4 x 2.5 in.
|Pentax *ist DS
|| 4.9 x
3.6 x 2.6 in.
While not quite the biggest of the
bunch, the 7D is the heaviest. It never felt like a
Now let's take a tour of the Maxxum
7D, beginning with the front.
As I said in the previous section,
the Maxxum 7D supports all Maxxum AF lenses. Just remember
the 1.5X crop factor when shopping for lenses!
Behind the lens is an APS-C-sized,
6.1 Megapixel CCD mounted on Konica Minolta's Anti-shake
system. I've already told you how it works, so let
me show you how well it works:
Anti-shake on, 1/3 sec shutter speed
Anti-shake off, 1/3 sec shutter speed
This is just one example. If you take
a lot of flashless indoor photos, it'll definitely
help out. Unfortunately I didn't have a telephoto lens
to use, so I can't really say how well it helps at
long telephoto distances. Remember, Anti-shake doesn't
work miracles -- it's just something to give you a
little more flexibility (like 2-3 stops worth).
To the right of the lens mount is
the lens release button. To the lower-right of that
is the focus mode switch, with available options of:
- Single-shot AF - standard autofocus;
press the shutter release halfway to lock focus
- Automatic AF - switches automatically
between single-shot and continuous AF, depending
on the movement of the subject
- Continuous AF - camera keeps focusing,
even while the shutter release is halfway-pressed
- Manual focus - do-it-yourself focusing
To the lower-left of the lens mount
(hard to see here) is the depth-of-field preview button.
The red panel above that is the self-timer lamp.
Directly above the lens mount is the
7D's built-in flash. This flash has a working range
of 1.0 - 4.3 m at ISO 100 and F2.8. For more flash
power, you can use the hot shoe or flash sync port
to attach an external flash -- but more on that later.
The built-in flash is also used as
an AF-assist lamp. When the flash is up, the camera
will fire the flash rapidly to help it lock focus.
The catch is that if you do this, you'll get a flash
picture too -- I can't figure out how to use the AF-assist
function without taking a flash photo as well.
If you're using an external flash,
the AF illuminator on the flash will be used instead.
The Maxxum 7D has an unusually large
2.5" LCD display. With 207,000 pixels, the screen
is quite sharp. In case you're new to digital SLRs,
the LCD is only used for menus and reviewing shots
-- you cannot do a "live preview" on the
screen before the shot is taken.
One cool feature on the 7D is that
current camera settings are shown on the LCD when you're
shooting. This is due to the fact that there's no LCD
info display on the top of the camera. When you put
your eye against the viewfinder, the screen turns off.
As an added bonus, when you're shooting vertically
the information on the screen rotates too.
Directly above the LCD is a large
optical viewfinder, which shows 95% of the frame. You
can change the focus screen inside if you desire, and
a useful angle finder is also available for purchase.
Below 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 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 five buttons:
- Display - toggles what is shown
on the LCD
- Magnification - for "zoom
and scroll" feature in playback mode
- Delete photo
- Playback mode
Moving to the opposite side of the
LCD, you'll find two more buttons. The MSET button
is used for storing your favorite camera settings into
memory, and it can also be a custom button if you desire.
The ISO button adjusts the sensitivity, with a range
of 100 - 3200. An Auto option is also available.
To the right of those two buttons
is the Anti-shake switch. Why would you want to turn
it off? One example is when you're using a tripod --
it's not needed in those situations.
The four-way controller above all
that is used for several things. As you'd expect, it's
used for menu navigation. In addition to that it's
also used for setting the focus point. You can switch
between wide focusing or you can choose one of nine
focus points yourself. When you're happy just rotate
the ring around the controller to the lock position.
Next up is the metering dial, with
the AE lock button inside it. The metering options
are standard: multi-segment, center-weighted, and spot.
This is the dial that I accidentally bumped -- I sure
wish it had a lock of some sort.
The AF/MF button does just as it sounds
-- it allows you to switch between auto and manual
The final item on the back of the
camera is the command dial, which is used for adjusting
If you think we're done with buttons
and dials, I have bad news. We're just getting started!
The dial on the left side of the
photo is for adjusting exposure compensation. The dial
actually supports two different EV intervals. If you
turn toward the yellow half, you're moving in 1/2EV
steps. On the gray half, it's 1/3EV steps. Sounds like
overkill to me, but I'm sure somebody appreciates this.
A ring underneath the exp. compensation knob (not easily
seen here) adjusts the flash exposure compensation
from -2EV to +2EV in 1/2EV increments.
In the center of things is the Maxxum's
hot shoe. By default this supports only Minolta's flashes,
though there are some ways around that. You can purchase
an off-shoe adapter which turns the hot shoe into a
flash sync port, or another adapter which converts
the Minolta-only shoe into a standard one. There is
also a flash sync port on the side of the camera that
you'll see a bit later. The camera can sync with the
flash as fast as 1/125 with Anti-shake and 1/160 sec
If you want to shoot without cables
or hot shoes then you'll appreciate the ability to
use wireless flashes with the 7D. This only works with
the 3600HS and 5600HS flashes, though. The manual explains
in detail how to set it all up. I should add that the
camera also supports high speed flash sync -- as fast
as 1/4000 sec.
The item to the right of the hot shoe
is the mode dial, which has the following options:
|Full Auto Program mode
||Fully automatic, some settings locked
||Camera chooses shutter speed and aperture.
All menu options are unlocked. A Program
Shift feature lets you choose between several
predetermined aperture/shutter speed combinations.
The shutter speed and aperture can be adjusted
|Aperture Priority mode
||You pick the aperture and the camera picks
the appropriate shutter speed. The choices
will depend on lens you're using. For the
17-35 lens I used, the range was F2.8 - F32.
|Shutter Priority mode
||You choose the shutter speed and the camera
picks the correct aperture. You can choose
from a number of speeds ranging from 30 -
|Full Manual mode
||You pick the aperture and shutter speed,
same values as above. A bulb mode is also
available with support for exposures as long
as 30 seconds.
|Memory registers 1-3
||Quick access to three sets of your favorite
As you can see, you can put your favorite
camera settings right on the mode dial. Underneath
the mode dial is another "ring", which adjusts
the drive modes. You can choose from the following:
- Single-frame advance bracketing
- take photos (one at a time) with different exposure
or flash exposure compensation settings
- Continuous advance bracketing -
same as above but the whole sequence is taken at
- Single-frame advance - normal shooting
- Continuous advance
- 10 sec self-timer
- 2 sec self-timer
The continuous advance mode lets you
take up to 12 extra fine JPEG or 9 RAW/RAW+JPEG shots
in a row at 3.1 frames/second -- pretty nice. Lowering
the image resolution or quality will allow you to take
a few more photos sequentially. One thing that wasn't
so impressive were the write times after each burst
sequence. It took nearly two minutes to write nine
RAW+JPEG images to my SanDisk Extreme II CompactFlash
The bracketing feature will take 3
or 5 shots in a row, each with a different exposure
or flash exposure compensation setting.
The next item on the top of the camera
is the white balance dial. The options are auto, preset
(sunlight, shade, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, flash),
custom, or color temperature. For the preset options
you can fine-tune the color: fluorescent allows for
-2 to +4, while everything else is -3 to +3. The custom
option lets you use a white or gray card as a baseline
for white, allowing for perfect color in any lighting.
If that's not enough, you can manually set the color
temperature between 2500K and 9900K.
The final items on the top of the
camera are the shutter release button and secondary
On this side of the 7D you'll find
the I/O ports. These include (from top to bottom):
- External flash sync port
- DC-in port (for optional AC adapter)
- Remote control port
On the opposite side is where you'll
find the CompactFlash slot and USB + A/V port (one
port serves both functions). Both of those are behind
a plastic door of average quality, and you can slide
open a smaller door for easier access to the USB +
The USB connection is a little weird.
My PowerMac reports the connection as USB 2.0 High
Speed, but as originally reported by
Digital Photography Review, things aren't quite what
they seem. It took 76 seconds to transfer about 71.7
MB worth of files from camera to computer, which works
out to 0.9 MB/sec. I then repeated the same test using
my USB 2.0 card reader and it took just 9 seconds to
do the same thing -- or 8MB/second. All-in-all, a little
disappointing for such an expensive camera.
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 sturdy.
The included NP-400 battery is shown
Using the Konica Minolta
It takes a little over one second
after hitting the power switch before the Maxxum 7D
can take a photo -- not bad at all.
Autofocus speeds were excellent, at
least with the 17-35 lens that I had. Focusing times
were typically 0.3 - 0.5 seconds, and slightly longer
if the camera has to hunt to lock focus. Low light
focusing was also very good, since the built-in flash
is used as the AF-assist lamp.
Shutter lag was not a problem, even
at slower shutter speeds, just as you'd expect from
Shot-to-shot speed is also excellent,
with a delay of roughly one second between shots. Unless
you're superman, the camera will probably be ready
to take the next shot before you are.
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 7D:
||Approx. file size
||# images on 512MB card
3008 x 2000
2256 x 1496
1540 x 1000
As you'd expect on a camera of this
caliber, the 7D supports the RAW image format. RAW
images contain unprocessed image data that is as close
to perfect as you'll get out of the camera. As an added
bonus, you can edit many properties of the image (such
as white balance, sharpness, and color saturation)
after the photo is taken without any loss in quality.
The catch is that you must process each RAW image on
your computer before you can convert them to other
formats and share them with friends.
The Maxxum can shoot RAW images alone,
or a RAW image plus a separate "fine" quality
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
Okay, now we can move on to the menus!
The Maxxum 7D uses a slightly revised
version of the usual Konica Minolta menu system. It's
a nice change from the confusing menu systems found
on some other D-SLRs. There are four submenus: record,
playback, custom, and setup. I'll cover three of the
four here, starting with the record menu:
- Image size (see chart)
- Quality (see chart)
- Color mode (Natural color, natural
plus, embedded Adobe RGB) - the first two items use
sRGB: natural plus has higher contrast and sharpness
- Digital FX
- Contrast (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
- Saturation (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
- Sharpness (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
- Hue (-2 to +2, 1-step increments)
- Reset - back to camera defaults
- Flash mode (Fill flash, redeye
reduction, rear flash sync, wireless/remote flash
- Flash control (ADI, pre-flash TTL,
manual flash control) - ADI uses data from the lens
as well as a preflash to measure exposure; the second
one just uses the preflash data; the third one lets
you adjust the flash strength manually using the
- Power ratio (Full, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/16)
- AE bracketing setup (0.3EV/3 frames,
0.3EV/5 frames, 0.5EV/3 frames, 0.5EV/5 frames)
- Flash bracketing setup (0.3EV/3
frames, 0.3EV/5 frames, 0.5EV/3 frames, 0.5EV/5 frames)
- Bracket order (Normal -> underexpose
-> overexpose, underexpose -> normal -> overexpose)
- Instant playback (Off, 2, 5, 10
sec) - post-shot review
- Setup (Image only, image & info, image & histogram)
- what is shown on the LCD during post-shot
- Noise reduction (on/off) for long
- Interval shooting - you really
need the AC adapter for this
- Interval (30 sec - 60 min)
- Number of frames (2 - 240)
- Start time (0 - 24 hrs)
Hopefully everything up there makes
The next submenu is the custom menu,
which has four tabs worth of options. And here they
- Priority setup (AF, release) -
whether the camera requires focus lock before the
shutter is released
- Focus hold button (Focus hold,
DOF preview) - what this button does on certain KM
- AF/MF button (Hold, toggle) - define
how this button works: you can hold it down to activate
manual focus, or just press it once to toggle between
AF and MF
- AEL button (AE hold, AE toggle,
spot AE hold, spot AE toggle)
- AF w/shutter (on/off) - whether
the camera focuses when the shutter release button
- Auto AF setup (Auto AF, DMF) -
the former switches between single-shot and continuous
AF depending on subject movement; the latter option
activates direct manual focus, which lets you focus
manually after the AF has done its business
- Control dial setup (Front-SS /
rear-aperture, front-aperture / rear-shutter speed)
- Control dial exposure compensation
(Off, front dial, rear dial) - if one of the dials
is used for adjusting exp. compensation
- Control dial lock (on/off) - keeps
you from accidentally changing settings
- Exposure compensation setup (Ambient & flash,
ambient only) - whether exposure compensation affects
the flash exposure as well as the regular exposure
- AF illuminator (on/off)
- Shutter lock (on/off) - keeps the
shutter from opening when there's no lens on the
- AF area setup (0.3 sec, 0.6 sec,
display off) - how long the focus point is shown
in the viewfinder
- Monitor display (Automatic, manual)
- whether the eye sensor is used to turn the "info
display" screen on and off
- Recording display (Auto rotate,
horizontal) - whether the info display rotates when
you're shooting vertically
- Anti-shake viewfinder display (on/off)
- whether the "shake meter" is shown in
- ISO button set (ISO, zone matching)
- zone matching locks the ISO at 250 for "high
key" (light tones/colors) scenes or at 100 for "low
key" (dark tones/colors) scenes
- ISO menu setup (100-1600, 100-3200)
- M set button (Memory, menu shortcut)
- whether this button saves settings to memory or
is used as a custom button
- Custom setting reset
The last menu I'm going to cover is
the setup menu, which thankfully doesn't have too many
options. They include:
- LCD brightness (-5 to +5 in 1-step
- Transfer mode (Data storage, PTP)
- Video output (NTSC, PAL)
- Audio signals (on/off)
- Language (Japanese, English, German,
French, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Swedish)
- Date/time set
- File # memory (on/off)
- Folder name (Standard, date) -
choose the naming system for folders
- Select/New folder
- LCD backlight (5, 10, 30 sec, 1
min) - how long the backlight stays on for
- Power save (1, 3, 5, 10, 30 mins)
- how long until camera goes to sleep
- Menu section memory (on/off) -
whether camera remembers what section of the menu
it was last in
- Delete conf. (Yes, no) - reduces
the steps for deleting a photo
- Clean CCD - flips back to the mirror
so you can clean the sensor
- Reset defaults
Well that's just about enough menus
for one day. Let's move on to photo quality now. Before
we do that I should mention that photos were taken
at the default settings -- this becomes important later.
The Maxxum 7D and the 17 - 35 mm lens
I was using did a great job with our macro test shot.
The colors look good and the subject is nice and sharp
(which is in contrast to most of the photos I took
with the camera). The minimum focus distance will depend
on the lens you are using. For the 17-35, it's roughly
30 cm. Minolta offers dedicated macro lenses if that's
what you're into.
The night shot wasn't quite as good,
but is still nice overall. The camera took in plenty
of light, as you'd expect, and there was no purple
fringing to be seen. In what will be a recurring theme,
the photo is on the soft side. The wide-angle lens
only adds to this, as the edges are a little blurry.
In a minute I'll show you some solutions to the soft
Using that same scene, let's take
a look at how adjusting the ISO sensitivity affects
the noise levels in images. You can click on the thumbnail
to see the full size images.
As you'd expect from a D-SLR, you'll
get usable images all the way up through ISO 1600.
As it turns out there is an ISO 3200 mode, but I didn't
know about it until it was too late.
Since there's no kit lens included
with the 7D, there will be no distortion test.
There was no redeye to be found in
our flash test -- just a little flash reflection.
When I first started shooting with
the Maxxum 7D, I was disappointed with just how soft
the images turned out. Now, there are many people who
like them like this -- they prefer to do the sharpening
themselves. I'm not one of those people <grin>.
I like my photos a little sharper straight out of the
camera, hence my disappointment. So I did a little
investigating and found some ways to sharpen things
up a bit.
This, as you may recognize, is a standard
photo that I put in all my galleries. When I shot it
the first time and saw the results, I figured it must've
been a focusing error because it was just too soft.
So I went back weeks later and got the same result.
But then I turned up the sharpness one stop and was
a happy man. See the difference yourself (these were
taken at the same time):
Default sharpness -- too soft!
View Original Image
+1 Sharpness -- much better!
View Original Image
I don't know about you, but I find
photo #2 to be much more appealing. I have another
example as well, which expands on this:
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
As my previous example showed, shooting with
+1 sharpness makes a noticeable difference (view
the full size images for the best comparison).
vs. RAW (times two)
Default sharpness, original JPEG
View Full Size Image
Default sharpness, RAW converted to JPEG with DiMAGE Viewer
View Full Size Image
Default sharpness, RAW converted to JPEG with DiMAGE Master
View Full Size
No noticeable difference between JPEG and RAW
converted with DiMAGE Master; DiMAGE Viewer produces
very soft RAW conversions; DiMAGE Master introduces
jaggies; There are some color differences as
well (the master conversion seems too green).
There's just one more thing that I
want to touch on regarding RAW conversion, and I hinted
at it way back at the start of the review. You already
saw that DiMAGE Viewer's RAW conversions are very soft.
Well, DiMAGE Master doesn't have that problem, instead
exchanging for another issue. Let's call this issue "what
did you do to my lawn?!"
This is your lawn in JPEG mode (with default sharpness, so it's pretty
View Full Size Image
And this is your lawn after being converted from RAW using DiMAGE Master
View Full Size
As you can see, DiMAGE Master will
destroy your front lawn, and quite possibly other details
in your photos. My advice is to stay away from it until
there's a software update.
Okay, bottom line: shoot in JPEG mode
with the sharpness turned up a notch (again, my recommendation,
your mileage may vary). The RAW processors KM offers
each leave something to be desired, so you may want
to give Adobe's Camera
Raw plug-in a spin. Based on some brief fooling
around that I did with the plug-in, it provides sharp
images without any compromises. If you want to play
with the original RAW images yourself, here they are: Default
Okay, enough about all that -- I hope
it was useful for some people. Other image quality
things to mention are all positive: the camera exposes
images well, there's very little purple fringing, and
noise is well under control.
Now, view our photo
gallery and print the photos as if they were
your own, and decide if the quality meets your expectations.
Remember that all the photos in there were taken
at default settings, and hence default sharpness,
so they're going to be soft.
No digital SLRs have movie modes.
The Maxxum 7D 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 mode, and zoom and scroll. The camera is
PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to a compatible
The zoom and scroll feature isn't
terribly impressive. You cannot zoom into RAW images,
and JPEGs can be blown up by 2.4 - 4.7 times, depending
on the image resolution.
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 virtually
How Does it Compare?
There's a lot to like about the Konica
Minolta Maxxum 7D, and I'm not quite sure where to
begin, so I'll start with its design. The 7D is extremely
well-built and offers plenty of dials and switches,
as well as a large 2.5" LCD display. At first
all those knobs seem a little intimidating, but I like
how easy it is to change things in this way. At the
same time, I wish some of them had locks, as I screwed
up the metering on more than one occasion. The 7D is
sturdy and easy to hold, thanks to a large, rubberized
right hand grip. The camera enjoys full compatibility
with all Maxxum AF lenses. But the real bonus here
is the Anti-shake system: almost any lens you attach
to the camera will have image stabilization, since
it's the CCD that's stabilized and not the lens. And
this system will help reduce the effects of camera
shake when you're taking pictures indoors without the
flash, or outdoors with a telephoto lens (though I
didn't get the chance to test the latter).
Speaking of taking pictures, the photo
quality was a bit of a weak point at first, but I quickly
found a workaround for that issue. While some will
disagree with my assessment that the 7D's images were
too soft, I found that bumping up the in-camera sharpening
by one stop made things a lot more tolerable. Otherwise
image quality was just as you'd expect from a digital
SLR: smooth and noise-free, even at high ISOs. And,
as expected, camera performance is excellent in all
areas, including in burst mode. The one exception is
the speed at which the 7D reads and writes to the memory
card -- it takes quite a while. Along those lines,
real USB 2.0 High Speed support would've been nice.
The Maxxum has all the usual manual
controls plus a few other nice things like time-lapse
shooting and white balance by color temperature options.
RAW and RAW+JPEG modes are supported, and you can choose
from the sRGB or Adobe RGB color spaces. Finally, I
like the info display on the LCD, and how it rotates
when you turn the camera, and shuts off when you're
using the viewfinder.
There are a few negatives to note,
though. The 7D's weakest point (besides the soft images
at default settings) is its price. With the body alone
costing $1600, the Maxxum is expensive compared to
other 6 Megapixel D-SLRs (you can buy the 8MP Canon
EOS-20D for the same price). At the same time, none
of the competition offers image stabilization built
into the camera -- the question is, does that make
it worth the extra dollars? I leave that question to
you and your wallet. Another negative are the RAW conversion
options provided by Konica Minolta, free and otherwise.
The included DiMAGE Viewer Utility produces RAW images
that are very soft, while the optional DiMAGE Master
software destroys fine detail like grass. Your best
option for RAW conversion at this point is Adobe's
Camera Raw plug-in for Photoshop CS. Another possible
negative to some folks is that using the AF illuminator
requires you to take a flash picture.
All things considered, the Maxxum
7D gets my enthusiastic recommendation. It was a real
joy to use, and I was satisfied with its photo quality
after increasing the sharpness a notch. If you've got
a collection of Maxxum lenses laying around, you probably
already have a Maxxum 7D. If you're new to D-SLRs the
decision is more difficult, as the competition is fierce
in this area. There are cameras that are just as good
or better in this class, and some cost hundreds of
dollars less. None of them offer anything like the
Anti-shake system, though.
What I liked:
- Excellent photo quality (with sharpness
up a notch), even at high ISO sensitivity
- Anti-shake system adds stabilization
to nearly all Maxxum AF lenses
- Built like a tank
- Superb performance (save for CF
- Large 2.5" LCD display
- Useful info screen on LCD; rotates
when you shoot vertically; shuts off when you use
- Handy dials on body make changing
settings easy (though some locks would be nice)
- Hot shoe + flash sync port for
external flashes; wireless flashes supported
- RAW, RAW+JPEG mode
- Can save three sets of camera settings
to mode dial
- AF-assist lamp (though requires
that you take a flash picture)
- Color temperature can be set manually
- No redeye
What I didn't care for:
- Soft images at default settings
- Minolta's RAW conversion tools
leave much to be desired
- Slow USB connection
- Long read/write times to CF card
(especially after a burst of photos)
- Limited "zoom and scroll" feature
Other digital SLRs to consider include
the Canon Digital
Rebel and EOS-20D, Nikon
D70, Olympus E-1 and EVOLT
E-300, and the Pentax
As always, I recommend a trip down
to your local reseller to try out the Maxxum 7D and
its competitors before you buy!
See how the photo quality turned out
in our gallery!
Want a second opinion?
Read other reviews at Steve's
Photography Review, and Luminous
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