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Minolta DiMAGE A1 Review

November 2003 | By Phil Askey


Review based on a production DiMAGE A1, Firmware v1.00u

The DiMAGE A1 is the successor to the 'DiMAGE 7' series of digital cameras. Minolta has chosen not to use the '7' name on this camera because they believe it to be such a leap forward in functionality and features. The A1 utilizes the same size CCD and 7x optical zoom lens as the DiMAGE 7(Hi/i) however it is now powered by a dedicated Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery, has a tilting LCD monitor, a grip sensor and most importantly image stabilization (called 'Anti Shake') thanks to a CCD which can move on x and y axis. This innovative approach to image stabilization means that you can use a normal lens system and put all the complexity of shake compensation within the camera body (how effective it is we will only be able to report in a full review).

Minolta DiMAGE A1 vs. DiMAGE 7Hi (differences only)

  Minolta DiMAGE A1 Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi
 
List price US: $1,199 US: $1,299
CCD 2/3" type 5.2 megapixel progressive 2/3" type 5.2 megapixel interlaced
Image sizes 2560 x 1920
2080 x 1560
1600 x 1200
640 x 480
2560 x 1920
1600 x 1200
640 x 480
TIFF label TIFF Super-Fine
A/D converter 14 bit 12 bit
Anti-shake CCD stabilized (can be disabled) None
AF Areas 11 points in Wide area focus mode 3 points in Wide area focus mode
Tracking AF Yes No
Manual focus 2x or 8x magnify 4x magnify
Flex Focus Points 124 x 87 15 x 19
Noise reduction Dark frame subtraction for long exposures (can be disabled) Dark fram subtraction for Bulb exposures
Control dials Two (function can be customized) One
Grip sensor Triggers AF in full-time AF mode None
Pa/Ps shift Front dial shifts on aperture
Rear dial shifts on shutter speed
(function of dials can be customized)
Aperture / Shutter speed combined
Apertures Wide: F2.8 - F11 (13 steps)
Tele: F3.5 - F11 (11 steps)
Wide: F2.8 - F8 (7 steps)
Tele: F3.5 - F9.5 (7 steps)
Shutter speeds 30 - 1/16000 sec (58 steps) 15 - 1/2000 sec (31 steps)
(30 sec bulb, 1/4000 sec auto)
Spot metering Center or with Flex Focus point Follows Flex Focus point
Bracket steps 0.3, 0.5 EV 0.3, 0.5, 1.0 EV
AEL Button Can be set to AE lock/hold or Spot AE lock/hold Always Spot meters
Full auto mode Yes No
Exposure mode On mode dial Via function dial
Mode dial Unlocked Locked
Record/play Dedicated switch On mode dial
Power button On record/play switch On mode dial
Scene modes On mode dial Dedicated button
Pro-Auto (reset) No (although now has Auto mode) Yes
Image Params Filter +/- 5
Contrast +/- 5
Saturation +/- 5
Filter +/- 3
Contrast +/- 3
Saturation +/- 3
White Balance

Auto
Daylight
Tungsten
Fluorescent
Cloudy
Shade
Flash
Manual preset 1-3

Auto
Daylight
Tungsten
Fluorescent 1
Fluorescent 2
Cloudy
Manual preset 1-3
One button WB Yes No
WB Fine Tuning Daylight, Tungsten, Shade, Cloudy, Flash, Fluorescent can all be fine tuned in 7 steps No
Continuous High: 2.8 fps, max 3 JPEG frames *
Normal: 2 fps, max 3 JPEG frames *
* max 5 frames in RAW mode
High: 3 fps, max 9 frames
Normal: 2 fps, max 9 frames
UHS: 7 fps @ 1280 x 960
Movie Clips 320 x 240, 24 fps, max 15 mins 320 x 240, 15 fps, max 60 sec
Time-lapse 2 - 240 frames, 30 - 60 mins 2 - 99 frames, 1 - 60 mins
Self-timer 2 or 10 sec 10 sec
Viewfinder 0 to 90° tilting position
0.44" TFT LCD
235,000 pixels
Rectangular eyepiece
0 to 90° tilting position
4.8 mm Ferroelectric LCD
71,000 24-bit colour pixels
Round eyepiece
LCD monitor -20 to 90° Tilting 1.8" TFT LCD
118,000 pixels
Fixed 1.8" TFT LCD
112,000 pixels
Playback magnify 2.0 - 8.0x, scrollable 2.0x, 2.5x, 4.0x, scrollable
Exif data note Yes No
FAT32 support Yes No
Power NP-400 Lithium-Ion rechargeable
1500 mAh 7.4V
Charger included
4 x AA batteries
1850 mAh NiMH included
Charger included
Dimensions 117 x 85 x 114 mm (4.6 x 3.4 x 4.5 in) 117 x 91 x 123 mm (4.6 x 3.6 x 4.8 in)
Weight (inc batt) 643 g (1.4 lb) 639 g (1.4 lb)

Shake that CCD!

Click for a larger image Click for a movie of the Anti-Shake system in action (exaggerated motion) - 2.1 MB

The DiMAGE A1 is (as far as I know) the only digital camera to implement image stabilization (Minolta call it 'Anti-Shake') by mounting the CCD sensor on a movable platform controlled by two actuators (x and y axis). The system works by analyzing input from motion detectors in the camera body and producing an inverse movement in the CCD. The system can be disabled (easily by pressing a very prominent button on the rear of the camera) and can also detect a panning movement and only compensate for movement on the opposite axis. Minolta claim that their system enables shutter speeds of 8 times longer (3 stops) than you would be able to manage without it.

Backgrounder

Click here for a backgrounder document produced by Minolta (PDF, 42 KB)


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this review (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (normally 960 x 720 or smaller if cropped) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2003 Phil Askey and the review in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. For information on reproducing any part of this review (or any images) please contact: Phil Askey.

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