Conclusion - Pros

  • Good image quality, very good colours (after being run through Image Viewer Utility)
  • Good 4x lens, sharp with little distortion (if a little slow; F3.0 - F3.6)
  • Good control over internal processing algorithms (colour, sharpness, contrast)
  • Good set of manual controls (if limited by just two apertures)
  • Solid build quality, aluminium body
  • Fairly fast processing, good shot to shot times
  • Improved buffering means you'll hardly ever find yourself waiting for data to flush
  • Browsing images in play mode is very fast
  • New histogram display in play mode
  • Five selectable AF points, AF is relatively quick, better-than-some low light AF ability
  • Quick Review mode (shooting priority)
  • Good low light LCD brightness, camera boosts ISO to maintain LCD image
  • Voice memo's can be attached to images
  • Good battery life
  • USB connectivity
  • Excellent value for money

Conclusion - Cons

  • Auto Focus system sometimes misses but is convinced of an AF lock
  • Multi-Segment metering can sometimes need negative EV compensation
  • Requirement to run images through Image Viewer Utility to get the best colour
  • Tendancy to send white balance slightly blue in shade
  • Badly desinged / positioned tripod mount
  • Flash skin tone can be a little yellow
  • LCD screen needs an anti-reflective coating

Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Minolta DiMAGE S404: (4 megapixel prosumer)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 8
Features 8.5
Image quality 8.5
Lens / CCD combination 8.5
Ease of use 7.5
Value for money 9

The S404 really is the dark horse of the four megapixel bunch. Yet when you consider its feature set; four megapixels, four times optical zoom lens, well implemented buffering, good control over internal processing etc. You soon see that at $500 the S404 is beginning to look like a bit of a bargain. The S404 isn't just an S304 with a higher resolution CCD either, there are lots of little tweaks and improvements which have helped to make this a better camera.

Delving deeper we find that as long as you are willing to run your images through the Minolta Image Viewer you can get some incredibly accurate and vivid colour from this digital camera. Resolution is good (not as good as the best, but at this price, very good), tonal balance is good, metering was on the whole accurate (sometimes need a little negative EV compensation) and noise was kept under control. The new ISO 64 mode providing an even cleaner alternative for daylight shooting.

Overall the S404 delivers an excellent set of features with very good image quality at an amazingly low price. Its price is what sets it apart from the rest, at $300 less than the Canon G2 and Olympus C-4040Z and $200 less than the Sony DSC-S85 the S404 offers excellent value for money and a digital camera which can deliver very nice results (take a look through the samples gallery).

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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