Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)
The EVF on the DiMAGE 7 uses a new type of LCD technology (Ferroelectric LCD) on which Minolta apparently hold some patents. It has 71,000 pixels each of which is capable of reproducing a full colour (rather than just red/green/blue of a normal LCD). It can be swivelled vertically through 90 degrees to give that 'waist level' shooting position.
The EVF on the DiMAGE 7 has an proximity switching feature, when enabled (display mode switch turned to 'A') the display will automatically switch from the rear LCD to the EVF when your eye comes into proximity with the EVF. This technology is based on a similar 'wake up' feature on Minolta SLR's.
In use it's far smoother and more 'continuous' than the image we've seen on other EVF's, it's also bright and refreshes quickly. That doesn't mean however that it's not pixelated, it is, it's just that there's less of a gap between each pixel and that it has more pixels to reproduce the image. In our tests the DiMAGE 7's electronic viewfinder provided a 100% frame view. The viewfinder has a diopter which can be adjusted between -5.0 to +0.5.
I found that looking through the viewfinder it was difficult to get the whole frame of the small LCD to be sharply in focus, certainly it was fairly easy to get the center portion in focus (by adjusting the dioptre dial on the left side) but the corners were always blurred.
One thing the DiMAGE 7 does very well is maintain an image on either the LCD monitor or EVF in low light situations. It automatically increases CCD sensitivity to continue to provide a bright image, in extremely low light it will push sensitivity one more step and switch to a black and white view to provide an image in almost completely dark situations.
Because the main rear LCD and EVF use different display technologies there was a noticeable difference in the colour and gamma of the view provided by each, the EVF always seeming to produce more vivid colours, though sometimes with a slight yellow cast which wasn't apparent on the rear LCD nor in the final images.
The battery compartment is mounted horizontally on the left side of the camera directly below the CCD imager and LCD. The compartment is held closed by a latch, flip it up and the door pops open to reveal four AA battery slots. The compartment door and latch are made of plastic. The camera is supplied with four Alkaline AA batteries (which will last about 15 minutes), my recommendation is to get a decent set of NiMH rechargeable batteries (at least 1500 mAh) and a charger.
Compact Flash Compartment
The Compact Flash compartment is located in the side of the hand grip, behind a magnet latched plastic (and pretty flimsy to be frank) door you'll find a CF Type II slot which is compatible with Type I and Type II Compact Flash cards (including the IBM Microdrive). Also in here is the USB terminal for direction to your PC / Mac. Again, another design boo-boo here (see last image) is the location of the neck strap eyelet which hangs down and blocks the closing CF compartment door if you don't remember to hold it out of the way.
In a active shooting environment (taking four - eight shots per minute) the back of the camera (to the left of the CF door in the above images) tended to get quite hot, removing the CF card during one of these session did confirm that it was getting hot in there.
The DiMAGE 7's connectors are found in two locations. First on the back of the camera behind a couple of rubber flange covers are the DC-IN (6V DC), Video Out (cable supplied) and the Remote Control terminal which is compatible with Minolta remote cable RC-1000L/S. Secondly behind the Compact Flash compartment door is the USB terminal to be used with the supplied USB cable.
Minolta make much of their "GT Lens", it's an all glass design which is derived from their "G lens technology" seen in the professional "G series" SLR lenses. It is constructed of 16 glass elements in 13 groups, 2 AD elements and 2 aspherical elements. Maximum aperture is F2.8 - F3.5. This lens is designed to keep chromatic aberrations and lens distortion to a minimum.
On the DiMAGE 7 this lens offers a wide range of focal lengths from 28 mm to 200 mm (equiv.)
In the last shot here you can see the lens with the supplied DLS-7 hood attached, this helps to avoid lens flare from bright light sources (such as the sun).