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Conclusion - Pros

  • Delivers good, sharp, well balanced images with average (5 mp) resolution
  • Flexible selectable colour space (sRGB, sRGB Vivid, Adobe RGB)
  • Optionally embedded ICC profiles
  • Improved camera appearance (black body), better rubber grip
  • 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
  • Good auto focus speed and low light performance (despite the lack of AF assist lamp)
  • Deeper continuous burst buffer (9 images at 2.0 fps for 2560 x 1920 FINE)
  • New high speed continuous shooting (up to 5 fps)
  • Expanded selection of white balance settings
  • Great levels of control over in-camera image processing algorithms
  • Well implemented manual focus (nice live view zoom button, focus ring)
  • Extremely 'feature rich'
  • Automatic switching EVF
  • EVF and LCD provide 100% frame view
  • Impressive selection of live view overlays (live histogram, grid, scale etc.)
  • 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 (although camera is capable of more than Bulb maximum of 30 sec)
  • Browsing images in play mode is very fast
  • Program AE has "program shift"
  • Relatively good macro ability (considering the lens zoom)
  • RAW file format (DiMAGE Viewer still missing digital exposure compensation option)
  • External flash support, now added PC Sync flash terminal
  • USB connectivity
  • Good battery life considering the use of AA's


Conclusion - Cons

  • Image noise levels higher than other 5 megapixel digital cameras
  • Can accidentally knock the barrel side AF/MF button
  • Controls can at first seem complex
  • EVF appears unsharp in corners
  • Strap eyelet blocks CF door (should be stiff)
  • Batteries on left side make the camera feel left-side heavy
  • Can not magnify a RAW / TIFF files
  • Dot artifacts in converted RAW images (DiMAGE Viewer software)
  • Larger than expected RAW file size
  • No blinking highlights in histogram playback mode
  • Poorly positioned tripod mount
  • No AF assist lamp (although not essential with the this AF system)
  • Price


Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi: (5 megapixel prosumer)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 7.5
Features 9.5
Image quality 8
Lens / CCD combination 8
Ease of use 7.5
Value for money 7

There's no doubting the DiMAGE 7Hi is a very capable digital camera, it is probably the most 'professional' of all the current five megapixel prosumer digital cameras. The addition of in-camera Adobe RGB and embedded colour profiles alone will make this camera more attractive to the higher end of the market. The DiMAGE 7Hi inherits all the flexibility of the 7i and adds some new custom features.

From a purely practical point of view the DiMAGE 7Hi has that great 7x zoom lens with a nice wide angle 28 mm, five megapixels of resolution, a PC Sync flash terminal, Minolta flash hot-shoe, good battery life and big storage capability (CF Type I/II). The improvements which came to the 7i are welcome here, faster startup times, better auto focus and better shot to shot times mean that the 7Hi is nearly always ready to shoot.

There are however still some negatives. The DiMAGE 7Hi doesn't improve image quality, which while good isn't up to the levels of the competition. Colour certainly isn't a problem, but moire at or near the limits of resolution can be, and the single most noticeable problem must be noise levels at low sensitivities (ISO 100) even in good light. The last problem is the price, while only $100 more than Nikon's Coolpix 5700 the camera faces competition from it's stable mate the DiMAGE 7i at $300 less as well as Sony's excellent DSC-F717.

If the price isn't an issue and you feel that the noise levels are acceptable it would be difficult to recommend any other five megapixel prosumer digital camera. However I personally wouldn't be able to justify the additional $300 for the number of improvements over the DiMAGE 7i.

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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