Flash Performance

Minolta appear to have addressed the slight blue cast we saw on S304 flash shots, skin tones and the overall white balance of flash shots appears warmer (towards red). Flash power metering also seemed fairly good. The S404 has no flash power output control.

Images re-saved to sRGB colour space [info]

Skin tone test: Well metered, good flash power. A slight over-compensation on white balance, leaves skin tones looking slightly yellow.

Wide angle white wall: note the slightly odd "bar shadow" straight across the center of the frame. This must be caused by the flash bulb itself.

Color patch test: Not too bad, a little underpowed for my liking. Colour and white balance are all good (after being run through the Minolta Image Viewer)

Night exposures

The S404 allows a maximum exposure of 4 seconds in manual exposure mode, this can be extended to up to 60 seconds in Bulb mode, but of course that means holding the shutter release button down without shaking the camera. The results from the S404 were surprisingly noisey, although we'd expect a little more noise on the move from 3 to 4 megapixels I wasn't ready for this much. To get the most out of night exposures on the S404 you really would have to shoot your own dark frames and perform dark frame subtraction later.

ISO 100, 4 secs, F3,4
ISO 100, Bulb (9 secs), F3.4
ISO 100, Bulb (14 secs), F3.4

Barrel and Pincushion Distortion

Very little barrel distortion at wide angle and no measurable distortion at telephoto, an impressive performance for a compact four times optical zoom lens. The 0.8% barrel distortion is below what we would expect (around 1 - 1.1%). Kudos Minolta.

Barrel Distortion, 0.8% @ wide angle Pincushion Distortion, 0% @ telephoto

Purple Fringing (Chromatic Aberrations)

The S404's lens exhibited hardly any chromatic aberrations, it was possible using our test chart to produce some very mild purple fringing but this really is minimal. Even in circumstances which would produce strong fringing of cameras with lesser lenses the S404 copes well. The shot below was about the only one I could find which had a hint of a purple fringe. More obvious is the white glowing 'blooming' effect.

Images re-saved to sRGB colour space [info]

Very little evidence of chromatic aberrations in "every day" shots
Our now standard chromatic aberration test shot

Overall Image Quality / Specific Issues

Overall the S404 managed to produce very nice, well balanced images. Indeed once you have run the "out of the camera" image through Minolta's Image Viewer Utility (to convert it to sRGB) colour reproduction is excellent, indeed as good as if not better than other cameras in this class. It's just a shame that you can't select sRGB colour space in-camera. Resolution can be described as medium to good, some of the S404's images can look a little soft compared to images from other four megapixel digital cameras.

AF Misses

Unfortunately the S404 suffered from the same AF problem as the S304 (and DiMAGE 5 & 7 before that). This is that sometimes although the camera will claim to have a good AF lock (a solid white AF dot on the LCD monitor) it had actual focused to a very close focus point which left the subject completely out of focus. The two shots below are a perfect example of this, after I took the first shot I noticed on the small LCD screen that it appeared to be soft so I took the shot again. As you can see the first shot was very badly out of focus (despite the fact that the camera had assured me of a good AF lock).

Images re-saved to sRGB colour space [info]

Taken at 12:25:05 Taken at 12:25:09