Just when you thought a 2 megapixel, 3x optical zoom digital camera couldn't get any smaller Minolta turn things on their heads (literally) and produce the diminutive DiMAGE X. This shirt-pocket sized digital camera is just 20 mm thin (0.8 in) and 84 x 72 mm (3.3 x 2.8 in) from the front and weighs in (fully loaded) at just 155 g (5.5 oz). With specs like that you'd be expecting a fixed focal length lens, but no Minolta have innovated, the zoom mechanism is actually on its side within the body of the camera with a prism reflecting the image seen through the first lens element (Minolta dub this 'Folded Optics').
As you can see from the optics diagram on the left and the cutaway diagram on the right the DiMAGE X has one lens element facing forwards, then a 90 degree prism and then seven further elements before the image reaches the CCD which is mounted vertically at the bottom of the camera case. Zooming and focusing takes places inside the camera with no protruding zoom lens. The advantages are several; no startup delay (other than opening the lens cover), less chance of lens damage because there's no protrusion, fully sealed lens system (when not in use). The unknown is of course what effect the prism will have on image quality...
Other enabling technologies
Of course the folded optics aren't the end of the story, clearly there is more to producing an ultra-compact digital camera than this. Notably the new ultra-slim Lithium-Ion battery and use of the tiny MMC/SD storage cards will be two of the major enablers to the DiMAGE X's super-slim body design.
Review update (April 2002)
This review was originally based on a pre-production DiMAGE X. I have now completed updating this review with results from a full production DiMAGE X. As well as fully verifying the review text I have also re-shot a lot of samples and updated test results etc. For those who read the review before this update here's a log of changes:
|Introduction||Review update||Add||Added this item|
|Timings & Sizes||Performance||Verify||Fractionally faster startup (1.8 sec)|
|Timings & Sizes||Battery Life||Verify||Confirmed|
|Features||Image Size & Qual.||Re-shoot|
|Photo Tests||White Balance||Re-shoot|
|Photo Tests||Low Light Focus||Verify|
|Photo Tests||Image Quality||Re-write||Added note about Vignetting|
|Compared to..||Colour patches||Re-shoot||Updated results|
|Compared to..||Resolution chart||Re-shoot||Updated results|
|Samples||New Gallery||Replace||Replaced gallery with production gallery|