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Conclusion - Pros

  • Detailed images deliver good resolution
  • Once converted to sRGB colour space images show excellent, vivid colour
  • Big 7x optical zoom provides a lot of flexibility, especially useful 28 mm wide angle
  • Lens is good quality, very little chromatics, little distortion, fast (F2.8 - F3.5) for its reach
  • 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
  • Good long exposures (at least up to 4 seconds)
  • 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
  • Very 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
  • Image noise levels about the same as 3 megapixel prosumer
  • 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 build quality, doesn't feel like $1500 worth
  • 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 7: (5 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 7.5

The whole time I was reviewing the DiMAGE 7 my feelings for it were running hot and cold. It's so nearly the ultimate prosumer digital camera, just reading the specifications it's easy to see why the camera has generated so much interest. A 7x optical zoom lens which starts at 28 mm (something which may be a deciding factor for many). The 5.2 megapixel CCD sensor, the fact that it's loaded up to the hilt with manual controls, a RAW mode, decent electronic viewfinder etc. etc.

Then again, there were details which just let it down, its huge appetite for batteries, the stiff (almost cheap feeling) zoom, the sometimes infuriating AF delays, the times it ignored my second press of the shutter release. Then there's the way it feels, relocated batteries and a larger hand grip (at least for my hands) would have made so much difference to the overall balance of the camera.

Getting down to the nitty gritty the whole colour space issue means you've got an extra step in your regular workflow, that said once you've done it you do get very good colour (hot, cold, again). Then there's the camera's resolution, in our comparisons it definitely showed more than the 3 megapixel prosumer digital camera's of last year, yet wasn't up to the 5 megapixel point I'd really expected. Even more interesting was comparing its performance on our resolution charts to those of Sony's 4 megapixel DSC-S85. And there's no doubt there'll be more 4 and 5 megapixel digital cameras before the end of the year...

I'll give Minolta praise for some of the little touches, lots of Kudos for that low distortion big focal length range lens. The camera is capable of producing some very nice images, but can it really justify its $1500 price tag?

I'd loved to have given the DiMAGE 7 a highly recommended rating, but I just can't ignore its shortcomings and problems, this leaves only one rating it really deserves.

Recommended
(but pricey)

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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