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We first heard of the two new Minolta DiMAGE 5 and 7 digital cameras at PMA on 11th February this year (although there had been leaked information earlier). Both cameras are based on the same functionality, body and 7x optical zoom lens, the DiMAGE 5 has a 3.3 megapixel CCD and 32 - 250 mm equiv. focal length range, the DiMAGE 7 a 5.2 megapixel CCD with a 28 - 200 mm equiv. focal length range. On 23rd May I had an opportunity get a hands on with the DiMAGE 7 at Minolta UK, and was able to turn this into a brief preview article.

The DiMAGE 7 is aimed at the prosumer level of the market, it sports all the features you'd expect of a camera in this sector, full manual controls, pre-programmed scene exposures, selectable ISO sensitivities, a RAW mode and control over in-camera image processing algorithms. It also has a very "long" 7x optical zoom lens which gives it a very attractive 28 - 200 mm equiv. focal length range (this covers almost everything even the most pro-prosumer should need). Lastly comes the resolution, the DiMAGE 7 is currently (at the time of writing this review) the only non-professional digital camera to offer almost 5 megapixels of resolution (4.92 megapixels effective).

It has also, to be fair, drawn quite a few sharp breaths over its design, of which we'll cover later in the review but I'll try not to linger...

* UPDATED August 2001: I have now updated this review with results from a production DiMAGE 7 with firmware version v021e. The following sections have either been completely re-written, updated or simply verified. (In some cases parts of the review remain unchanged from that posted initially).

  • Timings & Size
  • Features
  • Image Quality
  • Compared to...
  • Conclusion

The camera originally used for product shots and some of the more straight forward 'features' samples was running firmware v014e (Japan release production).

The DiMAGE 5, 7 and S304 (announced at the same time) mark a "new generation" of digital cameras for Minolta who had before this time been through a slightly dry time for new digital camera products.

Here's a quick breakdown of the DIFFERENCES between the DiMAGE 5 and 7 (you'll find full specifications for the DiMAGE 7 on the next page):

Minolta DiMAGE 7

Minolta DiMAGE 5
Street Price   US: $1500
UK: £999
US: $900
UK: £799
Expected Availability   June 2001 August 2001
CCD pixels Click for help 5.24 megapixels 3.3 megapixels
CCD effective output Click for help 4.92 megapixels 3.14 megapixels
CCD size** Click for help 2/3" 1/1.8"
CCD Colour Filter Array Click for help G - R - G - B G - R - G - B
Max resolution   2560 x 1920 2048 x 1536
Zoom wide (W) Click for help 28 mm 35 mm
Zoom tele (T) Click for help 200 mm (7x) 250 mm (7x)
Metering Click for help

• 300 Segment Metering
• Center-Weighted Average
• Spot

• 256 Segment Metering
• Center-Weighted Average
• Spot

4.92 megapixels

There are two main things which differentiate the DiMAGE 7 from its competition. They are the 7x optical zoom lens (with its wide 28 mm bottom end) and even more interesting the new 2/3" 5.24 megapixel CCD (with a 4.92 megapixel effective resolution; 2560 x 1920). While we've had no confirmation from Minolta we suspect this is the Sony ICX282 which is a 2/3" 5.24 mp type with all the right characteristics).

The additional resolution offered by the DiMAGE 7 is attractive, the diagram below gives a scale representation of how much larger the 4.92 megapixel image is:

As you can see the step from 3.1 megapixels to 4.92 megapixels is larger than the last (from 1.92 to 3.1 mp).

Here are a few other ways of thinking about the increase in resolution (compared to a 3.1 megapixel image):

  • The image is 512 pixels wider and 384 pixels taller
  • The image has 1,769,472 more pixels
  • For every 4 x 4 group of pixels on a 3.1 mp image the 4.92 mp has 5 x 5 pixels
  • Prints at 150 dpi would cover an extra 3.4 inches horizontally and 2.6 inches vertically
  • Down-sampling the 4.92 mp image to 1280 x 960 would use a 2 x 2 group of pixels for each pixel produced, compared to 1.6 x 1.6 pixels for each pixel from a 3.1 mp image

Here are other things to consider about this new 5.24 megapixel sensor:

  • This sensor is a year advanced in development from the 3.3 megapixel sensor
  • Bigger sensor = more data = higher processing requirements
  • Bigger images = larger files = more storage