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Conclusion - Pros

  • Good colour (once converted to sRGB) and tonal balance, metering generally good though occasionally needs compensation
  • Average three megapixel resolution
  • Big 7x optical zoom provides a lot of flexibility, good 250 mm equiv. telephoto reach
  • Lens is good quality, very little chromatics, little distortion, fairly fast (F2.8 - F3.5)
  • Fairly fast operation, fairly good startup and shot to shot times, let down by sometimes slow AF
  • Good selection of manual controls
  • Great levels of control over in-camera image processing algorithms
  • Well implemented manual focus (nice live view zoom button, focus ring)
  • High resolution, bright electronic viewfinder with no visible 'pixel gaps'
  • Automatic switching EVF
  • EVF and LCD provide 100% frame view
  • LCD anti-reflective coating and set back from rear of camera (avoids 'nose smear')
  • Most camera controls / settings on exterior case of camera
  • Browsing images in play mode is very fast
  • Program AE has "program shift"
  • Relatively good macro ability
  • RAW file format (though Image Viewer should be able to do more with them)
  • External flash support
  • Microdrive support
  • USB connectivity


Conclusion - Cons

  • Sometimes slow AF can frustrate (and even miss, incorrectly indicating a good focus)
  • Image noise levels higher than the 3 megapixel competition
  • Power hungry, requires multiple sets of spare batteries
  • Camera can get hot around hand grip (CF compartment area)
  • Burst frame rate (1.2 fps) a bit of a disappointment
  • RAW/TIFF files lock camera during write operation
  • Pressing shutter release immediately after taking a shot is ignored (requires double press)
  • New user may be confused by color space difference, not well documented
  • Easy to accidentally hit the barrel side AF/MF button
  • Controls can at first seem complex
  • EVF appears unsharp in corners
  • Not best finish / build quality (for the price)
  • Strap eyelet blocks CF door
  • Batteries on left side make the camera feel left-side heavy
  • Grip is small and plastic feeling
  • No histogram in record mode, cannot browse with histogram displayed
  • Can not magnify a RAW / TIFF files
  • Poorly positioned tripod mount
  • No AF assist lamp


Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Minolta DiMAGE 5: (3 megapixel prosumer)

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

As you can see I've given the DiMAGE 5 almost the same rating as the DiMAGE 7 (although each in their own resolution segment). I had considered knocking a half point off Image Quality for the rather noisy images, but the overall good colour and tonal balance compensated for this. My advice on flat area / shadow noise is to download a few samples from our gallery and decide for yourself.

The DiMAGE 5 is certainly well featured, it's the only three megapixel with such a wide zoom range (35 - 250 mm), and as such it does offer anyone looking for a three megapixel with a good zoom lens an obvious solution. Colour and tonal balance are good, but you'll have to get used to running the images through the Image Viewer if you want matched colours.

The camera is almost overflowing with manual controls, and this will also be something that those looking for the ultimate camera control should consider. The camera was let down by its less than average auto focus system which needed plenty of light, got progressively worse towards telephoto and would sometimes indicate an AF lock when it wasn't focused. I also wasn't happy with the finish quality (although you may not see this as an issue) and its insatiable appetite for batteries.

My advice, take the cons I've listed, examine them and decide if they're even really an issue to you, go through the review and read it carefully and then download some samples and examine them for yourself. The price isn't that bad, the current average web price is approximately $900, however you don't have to spend that much to get better three megapixel images (although without the zoom).

Recommended

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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