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Conclusion - Pros

  • Good lens with reasonable resolution, decent resolution performance
  • Good colour balance, light cyan can sometimes seem a little too green
  • High ISO noise levels on par with other four megapixel digital cameras
  • Control internal processing algorithms, although more steps would be welcome
  • Full set of manual controls (aperture / shutter priority, manual exposure, manual focus)
  • Logical user interface, simple menu system
  • Wide ISO sensitivity range for a compact (ISO 100 - 800)
  • Good macro performance for a compact, locked focal length is useful (no guesswork req.)
  • Solid build quality, aluminium body
  • Fairly fast processing, respectable shot to shot times
  • Play histogram mode now allows browsing
  • Selectable AF points, reasonable AF speed
  • Tracking AF workings for slow moving high contrast subjects
  • Quick Review mode (shooting priority)
  • Dedicated audio recording mode / voice memo for images
  • Good write speed with the right SD card
  • USB connectivity


Conclusion - Cons

  • Barrel distortion from lens at wide angle
  • Images can seem soft, either from the lens or lack of sharpening in image processing
  • Default tonal balance can sometimes be too contrasty (shadow detail lost, highlights clipped)
  • ISO 100 noise only visible in mid to low greys as red mottling
  • Flash bulb cast faint horizontal bars on a plain wall exposure
  • No noise reduction for night exposures
  • Below average startup time (thanks to the slowly extending lens)
  • Slow zoom, no proportional zoom control
  • Redundant PLAY mode, the shooting-priority QV could be designed to replace it
  • No flash power control
  • No RAW format support, only TIFF


Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Minolta DiMAGE F100: (4 megapixel compact)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 8
Features 8.5
Image quality 8
Lens / CCD combination 8
Ease of use 8.5
Value for money 8

It's not really surprising that not long after the DiMAGE F100 hit the shelves Minolta discontinued the DiMAGE S404. This camera does everything the S404 could but it does so better and is smaller. It's a bit of a misnomer to simply call cameras like this (Canon's S45 too) 'compact', they often deliver as much control and flexibility as their larger 'prosumer' brothers. Indeed, with its wide range of manual control and adjustable image processing parameters the F100 can put some bigger cameras to shame.

That said the F100 is let down by a few unfortunate factors. The lens system is quite slow, it takes longer than most of the competition to power-up (in some cases almost twice as long) and the zoom motor itself feels as though it could do with a turbo charger taking what seems like an eternal 3.7 seconds to zoom from wide to full telephoto. Image quality is on the whole good, although images can be unexpectedly soft. This softness is difficult to nail down, whether it's a slight auto focus problem, the quality of the lens or image processing. Another annoyance was the cameras tendency to blow out (clip) highlights giving images a 'video camera like' look.

Overall though we can't take away the fact that the F100 is a nice, compact and very well featured digital camera which delivers better average image quality and should keep everyone from the absolute amateur to the more seasoned shutterbug happy with its range of controls.

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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