Konica KD-510 Zoom review

Started Aug 7, 2003 | User reviews
Jim Cockfield
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Konica KD-510 Zoom review
Aug 7, 2003

I purchased the Japanese Konica Version of this Camera (Konica Revio KD-510z) recently, after returning a Sony DSC-P10 that I was not satisfied with.

Thanks to the merger between Konica and Minolta, this fine camera is also being introduced as the Minolta DiMAGE G500 in the U.S. (identical except for cosmetics/logo).. The Minolta Version will also ship with the Minolta DiMAGE Viewer Sofware. My Japanese Konica did not include software (only USB Drivers and Manuals on CD).

I was looking for a "pocketable" digicam capable of taking great photos, and I have not been disappointed. This is my 7th Digital Camera (preceded by the Nikon Coolpix 950, Nikon Coolpix 990, Olympus C-2500L, Sony DSC-F505, Epson PhotoPC 3000z, and recently returned Sony DSC-P10).

Ergonomics:

This camera's ergonomics are great for a pocketable camera (I like it much better than the Sony DSC-P10 that I returned), and it's extremely easy to use. It's also built very well, with the lens mechanism protected by a sliding cover.. The controls are easy to reach and use, and the camera feels natural in your hands (much better than I expected from such a small camera). It's very well designed.

Menu System:

I find the menu system to work wonderfully for my needs.

Also, this camera has the ability to customize the 4 way controller, so that you can quickly access frequently used features, without using the menu system. My thanks to dpreview.com forum poster "psurfer" for asking the right questions about this camera, helping me discover these somewhat "hidden" features (the manual needs some improvement). LOL

I have my camera setup so that it works as follows:

Left: switches between landscape, macro, self timer modes

Right: switches between different flash modes

Up: allows you to set Exposure Compensation

Down: allows you to change White Balance Settings.

This seems to work best for me (giving me quick access to exposure compensation, white balance, flash modes, without using the menus).

Also, the camera "remembers" where you were in setup last. I've started leaving mine on the AE menu choice (which allows you to change between Center Weighted and Spot Metering). So, when I want to change metering, I just press the Setup Button, and I'm already at that menu choice.

Note: the 4 way controller can be customized even further if desired.

As for the left and right arrow keys, you've got some more customization available there. You can allow or deny specific flash modes from appearing as a choice when using the right arrow key to toggle between them.

Also, for the left arrow, you can allow or deny specific self timer/focus combinations from appearing -- even including (or excluding) macro, landscape, 1m, 2m, 4m from appearing as a toggle choice when the left controller key is pressed.

You can also setup the camera to allow Autoexposure Lock with a half press of the shutter, and a press of the up arrow, or Autofocus lock, with a half press of the shutter and a press of the left arrow.

It's a very nice design, while keeping the control layout simple.

Media:

This camera is capable of using both Memory Sticks and Secure Digital Media, and you can have both types in the camera at the same time. When one is full (and you can select which memory card is used first), the camera automatically switches to the other card. I'm using a 128mb x 2 Memory Stick, as well as the 32mb Secure Digital Card that shipped with the camera. Now that larger 512mb SD Cards are available, you can have up to 640mb of memory space avalable in the camera (128mb Memory Stick + 512mb Secure Digital).

Startup Time:

Another great feature of the camera is it's rapid startup time (1.3 seconds). This allows me to quickly pull the camera out of my pants pocket and take a photo "on a moments notice", catching photo opportunities that slower cameras may miss.

Speed of Operation:

This camera is very responsive, both feelng and sounding like a 35mm SLR. Regardless of whether or not you are using the Memory Stick (I've got a 128mb x 2 Lexar Memory Stick), or the Secure Digital Card (I'm using the Toshiba 32mb SD card that shipped with the camera).

I see no difference in speed between media, although I have not tested larger capacity SD cards.

I have tested the tested cycle times in the camera, and was able to take 1 photo approximately every 1.27 seconds - continuously -- just by holding down the shutter button (you must allow continuous photos, by turning on continuous in the custom menu).

Once your camera is setup, there is no need to change it back. I love this feature. With many other cameras, you have a special "burst mode", limited to a preset number of frames before the camera must pause. With this camera, there is no limit. It will maintain 1 photo every 1.27 seconds until your memory cards fill up! No changing to a special burst mode, no buffers filling up, no pauses. It's great.

If you do not press and hold the shutter button, cycle times will be longer, because the camera momentarily displays each photo after you release the shutter button. Also, the camera refocuses and a remeters again, upon another shutter button press. I have no way of accurately measuring autofocus times, but the camera feels quite responsive. I would estimate total lag time to be around 1 second indoors in low light (although it "feels" much faster). I don’t perceive any lag time at all, if prefocus is used (half shutter button press).

Tactile feedback is also very good

The camera's responsiveness was a very pleasant surprise. This camera feels much faster indoors compared to the Sony DSC-P10 that I returned (even though the Sony had a focus assist lamp, and this camera does not).

Autofocus:

I have been astonished at well this camera is able to focus. I even took one photo of a dog in almost total darkness (outside late at night at a friends house, with an overcast sky and no street lights in view). The camera focused as quickly as ever, , and the focus was perfect, even though it was so dark that I could barely find the dog in the viewfinder (and couldn't see it at all in the LCD). See the photo I'm talking about at this link:

http://www.pbase.com/image/19295367

I don't know how they managed it, but this cameras autofocus system works terrific in every lighting situation I've tried to use the camera in, despite it's lack of a focus assist lamp.

Update: Some Konica users have indicated that the KD-500z automatically defaults to a fixed autofocus distance in totally dark conditons, allowing you to take a photo a full shutter button press, fixing the focus at 1.5 meters when using flash.

I don't know if this is also the case with the newer KD-510z, but it still works great for most flash photos -- even in total darkness.

I suspect that the better depth of field of the 1/1.8" (.55") CCD lends itself better to this approach (as compared to earlier 2/3" CCD equipped cameras), but I think that the new KD-510z may use a more intelligent approach to focus distances (perhaps even when there is insufficient light for the camera to indicate correct focus), in low light versus total darkness surroundings.

I've taken quite a few low light photos (not quite in total darkness), with the camera appearing to focus accurately. Take a look at the food photos in my album for examples. Note: all photos of food from various restaurants, were taken without using the Macro Mode (Normal Autofocus, Autoexposure, etc.).

So, I suspect that in darker surroundings, where a TTL based autofocus system with no focus assist lamp may not work, that the Konica is looking for some other area in the frame for a clue of where to set the focus (perhaps not in the center, where it would focus is good lighting conditions, but choosing from a list of pre-defined focus points if it can find any area of contrast within the frame).

This is pure speculation on my part. I do not know how the autofocus system works. But, I do know that I love the responsiveness (and photo quality) from this camera, in the lighting conditions/subject distances I've encountered with my photos.

Flash Range:

This camera's flash range is also very good (much better than most subcompact digicams), and I've found it to be much better than the specifications would indicate (especially if you set the camera to use a slower shutter speed and higher ISO).

Konica rated this camera's flash range at 11.4 feet (at full wide angle). This rating appears to have been made with the default settings, using a fixed 1/60th shutter speed, and ISO 100 for flash.

As a result, I've been able to get well exposed indoor photos with flash at 16 feet from the subject when setting the camera to ISO 200 with a 1/30 second shutter speed (versus using the defaults).

For Konica KD-510z (or Minolta G500) owners, if you set your "Slow Shutter" choice for Flash to 1/30 second, the the camera will prefer using this speed with autoexposure. This allows for better range compared to the default 1/60. It also means that you will have less glare in your flash photos, because the camera is throttling down the flash, to compensate for the slower shutter speed. Recharge times will also be faster w/the slower shutter.

Of course, the tradeoff is more blur if your subject is moving, but I've found a 1/30 second shutter to work best for me.

Flash recharge time is also much better than the specifications would indicate. This camera "throttles" down the flash strength at closer distances. For example: when shooting at around 4 feet, I've been able to take flash photos every 2.1 seconds with this camera (even though the specs show a 5 second recycle time for the flash). Again, the ratings are conservative (which is a nice surprise -- especially compared to many other manufacturers specifications which tend to be overly optimistic. LOL

Optics:

The lens is obviously very well made. This camera is able to capture more detail than any other digicam I've owned. You do have some barrel distortion (as to be expected with such a tiny lens) at full wide angle, but it's a perfectly acceptable level to me. Ditto for Chromatic Aberrations. There is some mild purple fringing in extreme lighting conditions with high contrast subjects, but these are rare. I'm quite pleased with the lens performance on this camera (and it's probably a much better lens than you'll find on most other subcompacts).

Macro:

This camera is capable of capturing an image with a field of view as small as 2 inches. I took a photo in macro mode to demonstrate how well the camera is able to focus at close distances, and placed it in an album here:.

http://www.pbase.com/jcockfield/konicamacro

Photo Quality:

I am VERY PLEASED with the Photo Quality from this camera. It manages to capture an amazing level of detail, with great contrast and saturation (not to mention very accurate colors) using camera defaults in the vast majority of lighting conditions. Also, you can change these settings if you want to.

Noise levels are probably going to be typical for this cameras 1/1.8" (.55") CCD, which seems to be the trend in subcompact 5 Megapixel Cameras.

Apparently, a lot of work went into the image processing portion of this camera, and the results are nothing liess than outstanding.

Manual Exposure

There is no aperture or shutter priority -- only full manual setting of shutter speed (range of 15 seconds to 1/1000 second in manual -- up to 1/2000 second in auto), and two apertures (which will vary, depending on the amount of zoom used).

For example: at full wide angle, you have a choice of F2.8 or F4.7; and at full zoom you have a choice of F4.9 or F8.3.

The aperture selected will automatically change as zoom is used (in or out). For example: if you decide to select F4.7 at full wide angle, when you use zoom, the value will change from F4.7 to F4.9 to F5.5 to F6.1 to F6.8, etc.

So, you really only have a choice of whether the aperture is set to the lowest or highest value within the zoom range.

This is not the first camera I've had with only two aperture choices. For example: an Olympus C-2500L I owned only gave you a choice of two apertures. This camera is the same -- only two choices - letting you decide if you're looking for more or less depth of field for the shot you're setting up.

Shutter Speed settings are much more flexible, with very fine steps between 15 seconds and 1/1000 second in manual mode.

What's great about the Konica, is that the LCD shows you if your settings will result in an underexposed or overexposed photo (with the amount shown in 0.3 EV Increments from –2.0 to +2.0 -- allowing you to adjust the aperture/shutter speed combination selected for best results. It's like having a build in light meter. It's a great design!

Image Adjustments/Features:

The original Konica subcompact models sharing this body design (KD-310z, KD-400z, KD-410z, KD-500z) were basically "point and shoot" cameras. In contrast, the new Konica Revio KD-510z (a.k.a. Minolta Dimage G500) gives you a lot more control of the camera's image processing.

New features include Variable ISO Speeds (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400), User Adjustable Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation, and Color (Red, Green Blue), Manual Exposure, and Longer Exposures (up to 15 seconds) with Noise Reduction.

What's really nice is the level of adjustment you get with most of these settings (5 levels for most adjustments: -2, -1, Normal, +1, +2 for things like Contrast, Saturation, Sharpness and Color). You even have separate adjustments for Red, Green and Blue. In contrast, the Sony DSC-P10 that I returned only had 3 levels for Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness -- with no adjustments for color.

You can also quickly switch between defaults, user1 and user2. So, if you want to setup a user profile with specfic settings (for example: ISO 200, Contrast +1, Saturation +1, and Flash Strength +1) you can quickly change from camera defaults to this user setting (without the need to adjust each parameter individually).

Conclusion:

This camera has a wonderful balance between size, ease of use, photo quality, flash strength, and manual control of parameters you want to use most often.

I was afraid that I'd have to go with a larger camera to find everything that I wanted (especially things like flash range), but I have been pleasantly surprised with this camera.

It's small size allows me to carry a camera with me everywhere (I carry mine in my front pants pocket), yet I can still take photos that rival any other consumer digicam.

Even better, this camera's default settings work wonderfully in most shooting situations, which means that I don't need to bother with changing contrast, saturation, shaprness, color, etc.

Bottom Line: I'm impressed (and I tend to be more critical than most).

See some photos from this camera here:

http://www.pbase.com/jcockfield/konica_kd510z

Problems:

No problems, but here's a short "wish list" for future upgrades:

* Slow down the zoom some for finer control. I realize that most people would not complain about this, but a slightly slower zoom would make it easier for me (it's a real speed demon). A few more "steps" would make it even better (there are 7 steps in the zoom range).

* For some unknown reason, the camera uses a faster (versus slower) shutter speed when you are using zoom with flash (which is the opposite of what you'd expect, since the aperture changes from F2.8 at full wide angle to F4.9 at full zoom). Despite this, the flash exposure is fine at most ranges (because the camera is increasing the flash strength when it increases shutter speed).

However, if you exceed the flash range, a slower (versus faster) shutter would be better to keep you from underexposing photos outside of the flash range. Note: at full wide angle, I've been able to take well exposed flash photos at up to 16 feet from the camera (well beyond the stated flash range), when shooting at ISO 200 and 1/30 second shutter. But, changing the firmware to slow down the shutter when using zoom with auto exposure would increase the usability even more.

* Modify the firmware to allow automatically changing the ISO Speed in low light conditions. With the current firmware, the camera always uses ISO 100 in Auto Mode (although you can set a specific ISO Speed to use).

* An aperture priority mode (or at least two scene modes addressing aperture preferences) would be nice. Then, you could tell the camera to use either a smaller or larger aperture to have better control over depth of field, without resorting to using the manual exposure mode. This way, the camera could be set to prefer a greater depth of field with slower shutter speeds, or less depth of field with faster shutter speeds. Of course, I'm getting pretty picky here - the camera defaults work great for the vast majority of shots anyway.

Also, the brilliant implementation of it's manual exposure mode (using the camera's metering to help you pick the best settings), works great without an aperture priority mode.

Konica Japan (now Konica-Minolta) has a history of providing user upgradeable firmware for their cameras (they've provided multiple updates to previous models like the KD-310, KD-400z, KD-410z and KD-500z), improving many things like focus times, white balance, exposure, etc.

So, I'd also expect firmware refinements for this camera (Konica KD-510z / Minolta Dimage G500) in the future (making this camera even better).

Some photos from my new camera are here:

http://www.pbase.com/jcockfield/konica_kd510z

Jim Cockfield's score
4.9
Average community score
4.5
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