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Minolta Image Viewer Utility

Supplied with the camera is the DiMAGE Image Viewer Utility. This application is ESSENTIAL to perform the conversion between the proprietary DiMAGE colour space and also for processing of RAW (.MRW) files. Timings reported on this page were carried out on a dual processor 933 Mhz Pentium III workstation with 1 GB of RAM and SCSI disk subsystem.



As discussed earlier in this review the DiMAGE 7 shoots in its own colour space for both JPEG/TIFF and RAW images. It's therefore important that you run your images through this utility to get them into some standard colour space for either viewing on a standard PC (sRGB), the web (sRGB) or even printing (any of the wider gamut colour spaces; Adobe RGB is a good choice). Remembering also that if you have or intend to get a PIM (Print Image Matching) compatible printer then you will need to hang on to the original image files as they are ready for immediate output on these devices.

WARNING: DO NOT modify the DiMAGE 7 images in any way (lossless rotation in other applications etc.) otherwise the Minolta Image Viewer will not recognise them as DiMAGE 7 images and you will never be able to convert them to the correct colour space.

Interface and basic operation

Open the application and your first task is to select some images to process, you can either do this a single image at a time or (more logically) select an entire folder ("Load images in a folder").

    

You'll note that this is the dialog box which allows you to enable "Color Matching" (recommended!), simply select the required colour space (sRGB if you're unsure, Adobe RGB is recommended for professionals).

The Image Viewer Utility will now display a page of thumbnails for the selected folder, if any of the images are RAW format it will display the RAW settings dialog FOR EACH IMAGE, this gets a bit tedious after a while and should really just be an option. (More detail on RAW files further down this page).

The opening of a page of thumbnails certainly isn't as quick as some of the better browser applications (ACDSEE comes to mind). It doesn't cache thumbnails in any way and took approximately 20 seconds to open a folder of 60 JPEG FINE images (@ 2560 x 1920).

At this stage you can change sorting order, rotate or flip single or multiple images, select a group (or single image) and click on "Save image" and you'll be prompted:

You can now save the selected images as TIFF or JPEG (with a very wide range of compression settings). Images saved from the Image Viewer Utility (assuming you checked the "Color Matching" checkbox) will be converted to the appropriate color space profile and also tagged (so that Photoshop recognises it). Here's what Photoshop sees as the image's profiles when it opens them:


(sRGB colour space)


(Adobe RGB colour space)

Two other options on the toolbar:

Image Size (change size) Image Information

Display / Conversion performance

File type / size Time to load / display thumbnail
(per image)
Time to convert / save image *1
(per image)
2560 x 1920 RAW 28.0 sec 2.7 sec
2560 x 1920 FINE JPEG 0.54 sec 6.6 sec
1280 x 960 FINE JPEG 0.38 sec 2.9 sec

*1 Saved as JPEG 5 (approximately same size as FINE JPEG from the camera). Colour space was set to sRGB. No image manipulation settings (color correction / sharpness) settings applied.

Image manipulation

Clicking on the 'Color Correction' tab switches to this single image view. You can browse through the images using the small film-like counter in the top right of the pane. This part of the utility allows you to carry out a variety of tone and colour adjustments to the image which will be applied before the image is saved. Here's a run-down of the available correction functions:

Tone Curves and Histogram Brightness, Contrast and Color Balance
Variations Hue, Saturation, Lightness

Obviously the advantage of doing these kind of adjustments in the Image Viewer Utility (versus later in Photoshop etc.) is that you're dealing with the entire input colour gamut before it is converted to another colour space. (Clearly if you saved the image to a wide gamut space such as Adobe RGB this is less of an issue).

The Image Viewer has the ability to take 'snapshots' at different adjustment settings so you can back up through them to a preferred setting.

You can also compare the original to the adjusted image, side-by-side:

On the next tab you can apply additional sharpening to the image:

RAW files

Opening a RAW file (.MRW extension) displays the following window:

You can choose to change the white balance, saturation, contrast and sharpness of the RAW image before its placed in the thumbnail view. (For some reason the Saturation and Contrast setting were unavailable on the images I loaded). It would be nice to be able to do this for a selection of files and not have this window pop up for each and every RAW file opened. Saving a RAW file as TIFF saves it as 36-bits per pixel (16-bits per colour) - 28 MB.

RAW files exhibited an EVEN WIDER colour gamut than native JPEG files, take a look at the sample below, the pink crayon (third from the bottom) is far more vivid in the RAW converted image, and is indeed much closer to the real thing.

JPEG converted to sRGB colour space RAW converted to sRGB colour space and saved as JPEG

The image on the right (RAW converted to sRGB saved as JPEG) has the best colour (based on the original scene) I've seen from anything this side of a Fujifilm S1 Pro or Nikon D1x.

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