Conclusion - Pros

  • Delivers good, sharp, well balanced images with average (5 mp) resolution
  • Use of colour space closer to sRGB means images are now good straight from the camera
  • Big 7x optical zoom provides a lot of flexibility, especially useful 28 mm wide angle
  • Lens is good quality, very little chromatics, little distortion, fast (F2.8 - F3.5) for its reach
  • Fairly fast operation, fairly good startup and shot to shot times
  • Improved burst speed (up to 3 fps, average 2.4 fps)
  • Vastly improved auto focus speed
  • Good selection of manual controls
  • Great levels of control over in-camera image processing algorithms
  • Well implemented manual focus (nice live view zoom button, focus ring)
  • Extremely 'feature rich'
  • Interesting new time-lapse movie clip option
  • Automatic switching EVF
  • EVF and LCD provide 100% frame view
  • LCD anti-reflective coating and set back from rear of camera (avoids 'nose smear')
  • Most camera controls / settings on exterior case of camera
  • Good long exposures (although camera is capable of more than Bulb maximum of 30 sec)
  • Browsing images in play mode is very fast
  • Program AE has "program shift"
  • Relatively good macro ability (considering the lens zoom)
  • RAW file format (DiMAGE Viewer still missing digital exposure compensation option)
  • External flash support
  • USB connectivity
  • Battery life much improved

Conclusion - Cons

  • Image noise levels higher than other 5 megapixel digital cameras
  • RAW/TIFF files lock camera during write operation
  • Can accidentally knock the barrel side AF/MF button
  • Controls can at first seem complex
  • EVF appears unsharp in corners
  • Strap eyelet blocks CF door (should be stiff)
  • Batteries on left side make the camera feel left-side heavy
  • Grip is improved but the fake rubber look is disappointing
  • Can not magnify a RAW / TIFF files
  • Dot artifacts in converted RAW images (DiMAGE Viewer software)
  • Larger than expected RAW file size
  • No blinking highlights in histogram playback mode
  • Poorly positioned tripod mount
  • No AF assist lamp (although not essential with the this AF system)

Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Minolta DiMAGE 7i: (5 megapixel prosumer)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 7.5
Features 9.5
Image quality 8
Lens / CCD combination 8
Ease of use 7.5
Value for money 8

The DiMAGE 7i has a lot going for it, a big zoom lens which starts at a wide 28 mm, a five megapixel sensor and a feature set to rival any other digital camera in this 'market group'. The improvements made since the DiMAGE 7 are welcome and noticeable. From a shooting point of view the improvement in auto focus speed is probably the first thing which you will notice.

Minolta has clearly monitored feedback from reviewers and owners alike, improvements including the colour space issue, battery life, build finish quality, burst frame rate, shutter release locking problem, histogram in record mode, browsing with histogram displayed were all cons listed in my DiMAGE 7 review. In the last couple of days Minolta has also announced a firmware update kit for the DiMAGE 7 to implement some of the 7i's new features and fixes.

Niggles would include the higher than expected ISO 100 noise, disappointing non-rubber hand grip, unexciting RAW format (oversized and no real advantage in image quality) and the (IMHO) unimproved EVF.

Despite being almost a year old in design the updated 7i does manage to hold its own against the new competition. It has a very wide feature set including some unique features we've not seen elsewhere (timelapse movies for example). Minolta has proved itself capable of taking feedback and improving, something many other manfuacturers could learn from.

Highly 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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