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Conclusion - Pros

  • Image stabilization unique among group
  • Mechanically linked zoom ring
  • Wide angle seven times zoom lens
  • Good performance, startup, AF speed
  • Low high ISO noise, employs noise reduction
  • Wide range of ISO settings
  • Selectable color space (sRGB / Adobe RGB)
  • Wide range of image parameter adjustment
  • Good ergonomics, sticky rubber on hand grip
  • Fast Auto Focus
  • Framing assist lines option on live view
  • Wide range of accessories available
  • Five user memories
  • Very high resolution EVF, best implementation of group
  • Proximity sensor on EVF for auto switch / auto on
  • Programmable Custom button
  • Very good battery life
  • USB 2.0 connectivity


Conclusion - Cons

  • Disappointing resolution, soft images (not just as a result of poor AF)
  • Auto focus confirmation despite being out of focus
  • Lens being stretched past its resolution capabilities?
  • Flash color cast, under exposure
  • Some vignetting / lens shading
  • LCD only tilts upwards, does not twist out
  • Lens not as fast as some others at wide angle (F2.8)
  • Poor automatic white balance in artificial light
  • Moiré visible near resolution limits (especially disruptive of horizontal lines)
  • No AF assist lamp (although still performs quite well)
  • Long CF write times for JPEG Extra-Fine / Fine (7.1 sec / 5.3 sec)


Overall conclusion

The DiMAGE A2 takes the A1 design and increases the resolution to eight megapixels. The A1's primary unique feature (among many other good design features) is the Anti Shake system which works by stabilizing the sensor on a movable platform instead of moving any of the lens elements. This ingenious solution works, and still works on the DiMAGE A2 although I personally didn't find it that useful in 90% of everyday shooting situations (your mileage may vary). Konica Minolta were at pains to stress that the DiMAGE A2 shouldn't be seen as a simple 'drop the sensor in' upgrade and that many things under the hood have been modified, upgraded and fixed.

One thing improved was overall performance, the DiMAGE A2 starts up quickly (if it weren't for the ultra-fast Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom the A2 would be the fastest eight megapixel), and has good shot to shot times. The biggest noticeable improvement is in auto focus speed, the camera just seems to be 'ready' very soon after you've half pressed the shutter release. Or better still just feels more responsive in those point-and-shoot situations. Imagine the disappointment then when we discovered that while fast the AF system seemed a bit hit and miss, showing us the white AF OK indicator dot when in fact the focus was either way out or just slightly out. We also had some issues with randomly soft images (as well as AF misses) and artifacts from moiré - I think the lens is being used beyond it's capabilities.

Overall however the wide feature set, unique Anti Shake, high quality electronic viewfinder and other features may be enough to convince you that the DiMAGE A2 is the right camera for you, and no doubt many existing Minolta owners will be drawn to it automatically. The only way to decide is to take in all of our points, read the review in full and examine the sample images.

Recommended

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 8.5
Features 9
Image quality 7
Lens / CCD combination 7
Ease of use 8
Value for money 7.5

('Recommended' is our second highest rating, a camera has to be good to get this far!)

Digital SLR footnote: If you're considering an eight megapixel prosumer digital camera you should also not rule out a sub-$1000 digital SLR while initially more expensive (certainly if you want to achieve the 28 - 200 mm zoom range) these cameras offer higher quality image processing, cleaner images (virtually noise free up to ISO 1600), faster performance, more flexibility and for all intents and purposes (even large prints) as much resolution. On the downside they're not an 'all in one' solution and they're likely to be larger and need you to buy and carry at least a second lens. By sub-$1000 (at the time of publication of this review) we're talking about the Nikon D70 and Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel).

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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