Minolta DiMAGE 7i Review
Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)
The DiMAGE 7i uses the same 'Ferroelectric LCD' we saw on the DiMAGE 7. This new type of display is interesting because it is capable of displaying a full 24-bit colour at each square pixel location. However, the EVF still only has 71,000 pixels which means that it has lower resolution than EVF LCD's used on other digital cameras. One of the best EVF LCD's I've used to date is on Fujifilm's S602 Zoom which has 180,000 pixels.
The DiMAGE 7i's EVF also has two other features, firstly it can be tilted through 90 degrees, so it can be used as a 'waist level viewfinder'. Secondly it has a proximity sensor which allows the camera to automatically switch from the LCD to the EVF when your eye meets the viewfinder eyepiece. The viewfinder has a diopter which can be adjusted between -5.0 to +0.5.
The display does seem very 'smooth' with better continuous (pixel to pixel) colour than other EVF's. However, it does not have as much absolute resolution as some others.
Another note is that I found that looking through the viewfinder it was difficult to get the whole frame of the small LCD to be sharply in focus, certainly it was fairly easy to get the center portion in focus (by adjusting the dioptre dial on the left side) but the corners were always blurred.
One thing the DiMAGE 7i does very well is maintain an image on either the LCD monitor or EVF in low light situations. It automatically increases CCD sensitivity to continue to provide a bright image, in extremely low light it will push sensitivity one more step and switch to a black and white view to provide an image in almost completely dark situations.
Because the main rear LCD and EVF use different display technologies there was a noticeable difference in the colour and gamma of the view provided by each, the EVF always seeming to produce more vivid colours, though sometimes with a slight yellow cast which wasn't apparent on the rear LCD nor in the final images.
The battery compartment is mounted horizontally on the left side of the camera directly below the CCD imager and LCD. The compartment is held closed by a latch, flip it up and the door pops open to reveal four AA battery slots. The compartment door and latch are made of plastic. After poor battery life complaints from DiMAGE 7 owners Minolta has decided to supply the 7i with a Sanyo branded AA battery charger and four 1850 mAh batteries.
Compact Flash Compartment
The Compact Flash compartment is located in the side of the hand grip, the door is magnetically latched and made of a lightweight plastic (with a slightly stiffer hinge). Inside you'll find a CF Type II slot which is compatible with Type I and Type II Compact Flash cards (including the IBM Microdrive). Also in here is the USB terminal for direction to your PC / Mac.
Minolta has apparently done nothing to solve the problem of the strap eyelet ring getting caught in the CF compartment door. It's best to either leave the strap on the camera all the time or remove the eyelet ring altogether.
The DiMAGE 7i didn't get as hot as the DiMAGE 7 during long shooting sessions, however it did still get warm and does still have a huge appetite for batteries.
The DiMAGE 7i's connectors are found in two locations. First on the back of the camera behind a couple of rubber flange covers are the DC-IN (6V DC), Video Out (cable supplied) and the Remote Control terminal which is compatible with Minolta remote cable RC-1000L/S. Secondly behind the Compact Flash compartment door is the USB terminal to be used with the supplied USB cable.
The D7i uses the same 7x optical zoom "GT lens" we first saw on the DiMAGE 5/7. Note that the only difference on the D7i is the additional macro position at full wide angle. The lens provides a 35mm equivalent focal length range of 28 to 200 mm. It is constructed from 16 glass elements in 13 groups, 2 AD elements and 2 aspherical elements. Maximum aperture is F2.8 - F3.5. The pictures below show the lens without and then with the supplied DLS-7 hood and also a 'transparency diagram' of the length of the lens at full telephoto.