Introduction

In the DiMAGE V, Minolta combines point-and-shoot simplicity, modular lens design, thoughtful touches such as (literally) flexible storage media and the convenience of AA battery power to create a truly compelling photographic package for photographers of all types. From landscapes to family gatherings, the DiMAGE V is up to the task to help you capture the most of your moments in stunning 0.33MP detail. Younger photographers in particular will appreciate that the lens can swivel back towards you, making selfies just as easy as they are with your smartphone.

Key specifications:

  • 1/3 inch, 0.33MP CCD sensor
  • 34-92mm (35mm film-format equivalent) F5-5.6 manually zoomed detachable lens
  • Smart Media 5v storage (approx. 32 'Fine' images per 4MB card)
  • Zero autofocus points (manual macro engagement)
  • ISO range of 160 to 160
  • 1.8" 71.8k-dot rear screen
  • Powered by four AA batteries, with a battery life rating of 'not good'

Body, handling and controls

The DiMAGE V sits comfortably in the hand, thanks to a ridge on the front of the camera and an indent for your thumb on the rear. The rotating lens does, of course, encourage two-handed operation, and the smooth action of the manual zoom lever is a joy. A small door on the bottom of the camera prevents accidental operation of the 'Format,' 'Date' and 'Self-Timer' options, because we all know that accidentally enabling the self-timer results in many a photographer hurling their camera into the nearest body of water in frustration.

The rear screen does an excellent job of giving you a general idea of what your photo may look like, without giving you enough detail to ruin the 'moment of discovery' when you load it up on (preferably) an old Trinitron CRT.

The '+' and '-' buttons not only control exposure compensation, but also navigating images in 'Play' mode. This door prevents accidental operation, and will never, ever break, just like all of these little types of doors on '90s electronics.

Operation of the camera is as straightforward as can be. The shutter button is in a nice spot, and the plus and minus buttons on the top give you control over exposure compensation and let you scroll through your images in playback mode. The built-in flash will be especially handy for when the light starts to drop, and the camera's 1/30 maximum shutter speed won't quite cut it. And to keep you focused on the actual process of taking pictures, there is no provision for manually selecting exposure settings.

So, does anyone out there have a Smart Media reader compatible with older 5v cards? Asking for a friend.

Lastly, the DiMAGE V runs on easy-to-find AA batteries, a blessing as you'll be going through quite a few of them. It uses Smart Media storage, and will only accept cards up to 4MB - this thoughtful touch keeps you from over-shooting and having far too many images to go through on your OG Pentium-powered machine.


Performance and autofocus

In terms of performance, the DiMAGE V start-up time helpfully gives you plenty of time to think about the shot you're going to take, and whether you really do want to take it. Likewise for shot-to-shot times. This careful slowing-down of the photographic process does, of course, encourage comparisons with Leica's lineup of digital rangefinders, though we think the DiMAGE is the more practical option for most people.

This brings us to autofocus. There isn't any. (Also like a Leica rangefinder!)


Image quality and usability

Ah, the moment I know you've all been waiting for. Unfortunately, this is just a hands-on review. We weren't able to retrieve files from our DiMAGE V, owing to the scant availability of compatible card readers, but we've done the next best thing - we've photographed the rear of the camera so you can get an idea of how effective its screen is. Once we source a card reader, we'll update the story so you can have your own 'moment of discovery' and see the full, glorious 0.33MP files that you crave.

Studio scene

As you can see, the DiMAGE looks like it's exposing the daylight scene fairly well without having to use exposure compensation. Colors look a bit cool, but we can't say for sure whether it's the screen or not - and certainly, there is no provision for custom white balance, to keep things simpler for the user.

Switch over to low light, and... well, perhaps it's best to just not to shoot in low light.

Zoom range, selfies

The DiMAGE's zoom range is fairly flexible, ranging from 34-92mm equivalent. Though the start of its zoom range isn't all that wide, fans of Fujifilm's X100 series - with its fixed 35mm lens - will likely see no problem with this.

And thanks to the unusual design of the lens, you can even use the optical zoom while taking selfies. This is going to be great for those looking to spice up their Instagram feed with some more avant-garde compositions.

Finally, we are big fans of the exposure compensation option on the DiMAGE. It really does give you wide latitude to adjust your exposure to your liking, particularly if you're looking for a more silhouetted look. Though it's difficult to see on the rear screen, it did help to bring back the Seattle wheel through the windows for this shot.

The detachable lens

It does detach, and you can even then use the camera itself as an off camera flash. This is something I was really looking forward to testing, but unfortunately, connector cables from the lens to the camera are harder to find than 5v Smart Media readers.


Conclusion

So, who is the Minolta DiMAGE V for? Well, while it's tempting to say it's great for anyone with fifty bucks and an eBay account, you may actually spend more money on and have a harder time finding the requisite memory card reader. But that said, we have to say we find the concept to be a bit of fresh air, even in 2019. There's no denying that cameras these days are ludicrously more capable and more responsive, but designs are nowhere near as neat as some cameras seen in the early days of digital imaging. Today, the DiMAGE remains a fun-to-use novelty thanks to the detachable / swiveling lens design.

And later in the week, we promise we'll get back to some reviews of, well, modern cameras.

Happy April Fool's day, and H/T to our newest developer for generously loaning me his first ever digital camera.


Editor's note - an earlier version of this article claimed incorrectly that the DiMAGE V has 3.3MP of resolution. It actually has 0.33MP - we regret the error.