Conclusion - Pros
- Improved resolution over A2 - especially shooting in RAW mode
- Image stabilization works exactly as advertised
- Mechanically linked zoom ring
- Wide angle seven times zoom lens
- Generally good performance and operational speed
- Low high ISO noise, efficient noise reduction
- Wide range of ISO settings, usable ISO 800
- Selectable color spaces
- Wide range of image parameter adjustment
- Good ergonomics, excellent handling and stability
- Framing assist lines option on live view
- Flash hot shoe
- Five user memories
- Wireless remote included
- Clean, artifact-free results and natural color
- Good value for money
- Much improved movie mode
- New LCD more versatile and higher resolution
Conclusion - Cons
- Soft images (not just as a result of poor AF)
- Autofocus errors in certain shooting conditions are too prevalent
- Lens being stretched past its resolution capabilities?
- Mild vignetting / lens shading
- 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 / Raw
- Fairly poor shot-to-shot speed
- Dynamic range issues with high contrast scenes (better shooting RAW)
- Battery life could be better (spare batteries are cheap, though)
- Included RAW conversion software little better than JPEG - use ACR instead
The DiMAGE A200 takes much of what is appealing about the A2 and repackages it in a more affordable, friendlier and slightly more compact format. There's much to like here - the useful 28-200mm zoom range, the superb mechanical zoom, the wealth of photographic feature, the effective Anti-Shake system and the excellent handling, all at a much more attractive price point than the A2. The obvious conclusion to be drawn from the launch of this camera is that a major upgrade to the A2 must be waiting in the wings - I think this will be the last time we see this lens (originally used around four years ago in the DiMAGE 7) used on a high-end Konica Minolta camera; it simply can't cut the mustard with today's high resolution sensors and high consumer expectations.
Of course corners have been cut - the A200 is lighter and smaller partly due to the more extensive use of plastics in its construction (not that this makes it feel in any way 'cheap'), and some of the features (most notably the stunning electronic viewfinder used in the A2) have been sacrificed to reduce costs. On the other hand it is nice to see just how much of the A2's comprehensive feature set has been retained in the A200, and how well the designers have managed to keep that power easily accessible despite the loss of several major external controls.
Broadly speaking performance is very similar to the A2, with the new image processing circuitry and lower base ISO meaning that the A200 actually manages to produce slightly better detail and slightly more natural color, though to be honest you'd be hard pressed to see the difference in the average print. I felt the focus was slightly less speedy, but you'll only really find this an issue when shooting things that move (something the A2's focus tracking may help with) or when light is low. It was disappointing to see the focus errors and overall softness noted in our A2 review have not been addressed convincingly in this camera, but - unless you shoot in low light a lot at the long end of the zoom - you won't see problems in the great majority of your shots.
Overall however the wide feature set, Anti-Shake, handling and excellent pricing may be enough to convince you that the DiMAGE A200 is the right camera for you. To some extent it will depend on your photographic needs; the clean, 'unprocessed' images, natural color, wide lens and Anti- Shake make it ideal for the landscape photographer on the move, but the poor low light focus makes it a very trying camera for anyone shooting socially with flash - get yourself a little compact for parties and save the A200 for serious shooting.
Finally, it is worth noting that pricing on the A2 is currently very competitive - if you shop around you can pick up a refurb for not much more than the A200, making choosing between the two cameras even more difficult (the average street price of a brand new A2 is still around $200 higher than the A200). I actually found the A200 more rewarding - and easier - to use than the A2, but that just proves how personal choosing - and using - a camera really is.