Minolta DiMAGE S304 Review
While reviewing the DiMAGE 7 I soon discovered that it was in fact recording images in a custom colour space. The same is also true of the DiMAGE S304. To get the optimum colour balance (and accuracy) it is necessary to run images through the supplied DiMAGE Image Viewer Utility with the 'colour space correction' option selected and sRGB or whichever colour space you work in selected as the output colour space.
Most digital cameras are 'set up' (I'd use the word calibrated, but very few are strictly) to give the best results on sRGB devices (such as your computer monitor) we will be using sRGB for our output colour space in this review, this will also ensure the optimum colour viewing the images in your web browser.
|Native DiMAGE S304 image||Converted by Image Viewer to sRGB|
This is both a good and a bad thing, it's good because it means that the S304 is able to capture a much wider colour gamut (depth and range of colours) but that to appreciate these you need to either convert them to sRGB or convert them to another colour space and then view them in an image viewer which understands JPEG colour space tags. I would have preferred that this be an in-camera menu option 'Minolta colour space / sRGB colour space'.
For the record we were the first review to discover and document this fact, it led to an addendum being inserted into the DiMAGE 7 retail box.
Important review notes
From this point onwards in the review if you see the following text: "Image re-saved to sRGB colour space" you will know that the images / crops of images you are viewing have been run through the Minolta Image Viewer application. Note that NO adjustments other than the colour space conversion are made. I noticed no difference in detail (resolution) between the native and converted images. The Minolta Image Viewer appears to maintain EXIF information.
JPEG/TIFF Image Size & Quality
Standard Test Scene
The DiMAGE S304 offers a wide variety of resolution and image format options. You can choose from JPEG (three compression levels) or TIFF. In combination with a resolution of 2048 x 1536 (native CCD), 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960 or 640 x 480. The S304 does not have a RAW capture mode unlike the DiMAGE 5 and 7.
To give an impression of what some of the combinations of image size and quality produce the table below is a cross reference of some of them:
- 2048 x 1536 TIFF ("Super Fine")
- 2048 x 1536 JPEG FINE
- 2048 x 1536 JPEG STANDARD
- 2048 x 1536 JPEG ECONOMY
- 1600 x 1200 JPEG FINE
- 1280 x 960 JPEG FINE
- 640 x 480 JPEG FINE
Images below are cropped 240 x 100 area of the image magnified
200% (nearest neighbour).
|2048 x 1536|
9,272 KB (Not available for download)
|1600 x 1200|
|1280 x 960|
|640 x 480|
Note that because we're looking here at the quality of the S304's JPEG/TIFF encoder none of these images have been run through the Minolta Image Viewer. Overall JPEG FINE very clean being almost identical to TIFF (except that the TIFF image seems to be 'whiter' overall). JPEG artifacts creep in at the STANDARD compression and are clearly visible in ECONOMY mode.
The DiMAGE S304 allows you to control three variables of its internal image processing algorithms, they are colour saturation, contrast and sharpening. This gives the photographer a good range of flexibility in controlling the way the final image will look, or even simply setting up the camera for his preferred balance. Below you'll find samples of the same scene shot with different values for each of these settings.
The S304 provides one level of adjustment 'plus or minus' the normal (3 in total for each parameter), the DiMAGE 5 and 7 offer two levels of adjustment (5 in total for each parameter).
Picture Effects: Saturation
Images re-saved to sRGB colour space [info]
|Saturation Low||Saturation Normal||Saturation High|
It's refreshing to see more manufacturers taking notice that the users of their cameras would prefer control over certain post-processing parameters. Here you have the choice of neutral, strong or very strong colour.
Picture Effects: Contrast
Images re-saved to sRGB colour space [info]
|Contrast Low||Contrast Normal||Contrast High|
Contrast Low provides a nicely balanced image with a well preserved 'bottom end' (shadows) and maintains highlights without clipping so much. Obviously a low contrast does have the side effect of making colours look less saturated.
Picture Effects: Sharpness
|Bald Eagle by anisah|
from Features - lips/mouth
|heron and fish by APenza|
from A Big Year - birds
|Cows Cowering Under Rare California Super Cell by RBFresno|
from -The Old Cows-
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