Apart from the detachable lens assembly the Minolta Dimage EX 1500 resembles most other compact digicams. The lens here is shown in it's normal "on" position and retracts only when powered off.
Design is clean and functional if a little bland, buttons are well spaced but small and the three buttons below the LCD are sometimes difficult for big fingers to press (fingernails time). My only critisism of the overall body is that it sometimes feels a little "loose", especially on the camera I had there was about a 0.5mm movement between the lens/CCD assembly and the body. Also the lens when in it's normal extended position could quite easily be moved about 1mm left or right (again, this may have just been the review camera I had).
Weight balance is good and the camera feels comfortable to use, I found myself carrying it switched on with the lens resting between the thumb and finger of my right hand and my thumb over the "display" button (to switch the LCD on and OFF) useful for quickly pressing and getting ready for another shot.
The zoom was fairly quick from wide to tele but NOTICEABLY noisy, especially when switching on and off the noise of the lens extending / retracting is more pronounced.
Minolta should really have fitted a tilting / swivel LCD which can be used from above / below, sometimes you want to take a shot where you're to absolutely behind the camera and of course the characteristics of an LCD change as soon as you move from 90 degrees on.
A quite slow 3 fps refresh rate which means you're always seeing what happened 0.3s ago, this may not seem like much but in operation it can sometimes be annoying. I assume the slow update of the LCD is down to the Digita operating system handling the image display rather than the image being directly streamed to the LCD.
The viewfinder is as per most compact cameras, but it's functional and clear. It has a center target bracket [ ] and parallax marks. (And at least it HAS a viewfinder unlike other digicams I could mention which seem to rely on the LCD - not good design sense for very dark or very bright conditions!).
Below the viewfinder are the Macro
(toggle macro mode) and Display (toggle LCD on and off) buttons.
Connectors and Compartments
Controls and Layout
Directly below the CCD are the Brightness control for the LCD, the Status, Overlay, Menu and Power button (carefully recessed). Note the all important BUSY light which indicates whether the camera is still writing to the CF card. That large internal memory buffer can be deciving, don't pop the battery compartment open until both the BUSY and ON lights have gone out.
The "cursor buttons" at the top right of the camera back (under your thumb) control the zoom (Wide - Tele) and up and down (in record mode) control EV adjustment +/- 1/3EV.
In the menu system these buttons
act as cursor keys.
(Comment: the buttons feel a little cheap when used as zoom controls, also there is a slight delay between pressing the button and the zoom activating).
On the right hand edge of the LCD is the main "mode" control slider, REC indicates record mode, PLAY obviously enough play mode, REV for review and PC for PC communications mode both require you hold down the green safety latch when pushing the slider.
Macro and Display buttons (see viewfinder above) are both positioned below the viewfinder on the lens assembly. I found the position of the Display button to be very convenient when carrying the camera in your hand, lens face down your thumb rests just below the display button which makes for good "quick on" action.
A fairly simple and straightforward
layout which becomes second nature after handling the camera for
a short while.