Minolta DiMAGE S404 Review
Timings & File Sizes
Overall the S404 was a quick camera. As with most extending lens cameras the S404's slowest action is power on or off. The S404's focus and lag speeds are all very respectable and it's shot to shot time is very impressive once you get used to waiting for the AF bracket to re-appear BEFORE pressing the shutter release (otherwise the camera "locks"). A good buffer implementation means that you can get back to shooting while in the background your last image is still being written to the CF card.
Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. A Viking 256 MB Compact Flash card was used for timings. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 2272 x 1704 FINE JPEG image (approx. 1.6 MB per image).
|Power: Off to Record||Lens always defaults to wide||5.1||Lens takes 1.2 secs *1|
|Power: Off to Play||4.8||Image is displayed|
|Power: Record to Off||Lens at wide angle||4.1||Lens retract *2|
|Power: Play to Off||Lens at wide angle||4.2||Lens retract *2|
|Mode: Record to Play||1.6||Image is displayed|
|Mode: Play to Record||1.6|
|Play: Magnify||To x2.0||3.1||*3|
|Play: Browse delay||Delay between images||~ 0||Virtually zero|
|Rec: Thumbnail view||3 x 3 thumbnails||0.7|
|Auto Focus LAG||Wide focus mode||0.9 - 1.7||Average - Fast *4|
|Auto Focus LAG||Selected AF area mode||0.8 - 1.7||Fast *4|
|Shutter Release LAG||0.1||Fast|
|Total LAG||1.0 - 2.0||Average|
|Off to Shot Taken||5.8||Average to Fast|
|Shot to Shot||2272 x 1704 JPEG FINE||1.8||Very Fast *5|
|*1||There is a 1.5 second delay between turning the power dial to 'ON' and the lens beginning its extension. This delay appears to be dependant on the CF card used.|
|*2||Power off takes 5.2 seconds if lens is at telephoto position.|
|*3||Subsequent zoom levels take approximately half a second each.|
|*4||At either wide angle or telephoto with sufficent light. If auto focus can't lock it may take up to a second longer before the red dot appears.|
|*5||Instant playback disabled, must wait for focus brackets to re-appear before pressing shutter release otherwise shutter release is locked.|
Continuous drive mode
The table below shows the results of our continuous shooting test, indicating the actual frame rate along with maximum number of frames at a selection of image resolution / quality settings and how long you would have to wait after taking the maximum number of frames before you could take the next shot. A Viking 256 MB Compact Flash card was used for this test.
|Image Type||Frames per sec
||Max no. of frames||
|2272 x 1704 FINE||1.4 fps||9||3 sec|
|2272 x 1704 STANDARD||1.3 fps||18||3 sec|
|1600 x 1200 STANDARD||1.2 fps||60||3 sec|
|1280 x 960 STANDARD||1.2 fps||-||-|
|640 x 480 STANDARD||1.2 fps||-||-|
|*1||You can take a frame as soon as there is space in the cameras internal buffer (writing continues "in the background").|
The S404 has probably one of the best buffer use implementations I've seen on any consumer digital camera, once an image has been pushed into the camera's buffer (as soon as the shot is taken) the camera begins writing to the CF card. The write process does not hinder the operation of the camera in any way. In continuous shooting mode the camera will shoot as long as there is space in the buffer, with a good CF card and small enough image file sizes (1280 x 960 STANDARD or lower) you can shoot continuously until the CF card is full. Overall although the continuous shooting speed isn't particularly fast the availability and size of the cameras buffer means that you can shoot in continuous mode almost without restrictions.
Interesting that the same observation made of the S304 is true on the S404, that for smaller image sizes the actual shooting speed (fps) is slower for smaller files (probably because smaller files have to be "downsampled" from the 2272 x 1704 image).
File Flush / Display Timing
Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the Compact Flash card, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed (shutter click was heard) and stopped when activity indicator LED beside the storage compartment went out. This means the timings also include the cameras processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task". A Viking 256 MB Compact Flash card was used for this test.
File size *4
on a 256 MB
Compact Flash card
|2272 x 1704||S.FINE TIFF *2||23.3||-||11,389 KB||21|
|2272 x 1704||FINE||5.8||3.1||~1,700 KB||123|
|2272 x 1704||STANDARD||4.8||2.1||~850 KB||207|
|2272 x 1704||ECONOMY||4.1||1.9||~550 KB||331|
|1600 x 1200||FINE||4.6||1.8||~880 KB||234|
|1280 x 960||FINE||4.2||1.5||~650 KB||346|
|640 x 480||FINE||3.5||0.9||~230 KB||779|
|*1||Instant playback disabled. With instant playback enabled CF writing only starts once the playback image has been displayed, thus either 2 or 10 seconds after the image has been taken and processed.|
|*2||Screen is blank and camera is inoperative during writing period.|
|*3||The S404 displays all images almost instantly in 'browse' mode (pressing the 4-way controller left or right to view images), the only delay (actually reading the image) occurs if you press the magnify button. You can not magnify TIFF images.|
|*4||With JPEG it's difficult to predict the exact size of an image file because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (especially the amount of detail captured). For example, take a photograph of a fairly empty wall and you'll get a small JPEG, take a photograph of a bush with a lot of detail and you'll get a larger image. File sizes here are closer to the later, the larger size of file you should expect.|
We ran the camera through our new battery life test. This test is designed to be fair and comparative to each camera and battery type:
- Take 4 shots without flash
- Wait 2 minutes (50% of the time powering the camera off)
- Take 1 shot with flash
- Wait 1 minute
All batteries had been fully discharged and recharged before the test and all cameras were reset to their factory default settings. Here are the results:
Prosumer / SLR-Like
|Battery||Power||Battery life||Number of shots|
|Minolta DiMAGE 7||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||1 hr 14 mins||125|
|Minolta DiMAGE 5||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||1 hr 56 mins||195|
|Nikon Coolpix 5700||EN-EL1||4.8 Wh||2 hr 08 mins||215|
|Canon PowerShot S40||NB-2L||3.9 Wh||2 hr 13 mins||225|
|Minolta DiMAGE S304||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||2 hr 18 mins||235|
|Canon PowerShot S45||NB-2L||3.9 Wh||2 hr 28 mins||240|
|Nikon Coolpix 4500||EN-EL1||4.8 Wh||2 hr 27 mins||250|
|Fujifilm FinePix 6900Z||NP-80||4.1 Wh||2 hr 29 mins||250|
|Nikon Coolpix 990||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||2 hr 30 mins||255|
|Nikon Coolpix 995||EN-EL1||4.8 Wh||2 hr 30 mins||255|
|Nikon Coolpix 5000||EN-EL1||4.8 Wh||2 hr 32 mins||260|
|Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||2 hr 33 mins||260|
|Canon PowerShot Pro1||BP-511A||10.2 Wh||2 hr 36 mins||265|
|Canon PowerShot S50||NB-2L||3.9 Wh||2 hr 39 mins||270|
|Minolta DiMAGE S404||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||2 hr 39 mins||270|
|Sony DSC-V1||NP-FC11||2.8 Wh||2 hr 39 mins||270|
|Olympus C-7000 Zoom||LI-12B||4.5 Wh||2 hr 44 mins||280|
|Nikon Coolpix 8700||EN-EL1||5.0 Wh||2 hr 45 mins||280|
|Minolta DiMAGE 7i||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||2 hr 46 mins||270|
|Olympus E-20||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||2 hr 48 mins||285|
|Canon PowerShot G1||BP-511||8.1 Wh||3 hr 00 mins||300|
|Nikon Coolpix 5400||EN-EL1||4.8 Wh||3 hr 06 mins||315|
|HP Photosmart 850||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||3 hr 12 mins||325|
|Sony DSC-S75||NP-FM50||8.6 Wh||3 hr 15 mins||330|
|Nikon Coolpix 8800||EN-EL7||8.1 Wh||3 hr 27 mins||350|
|Fujifilm FinePix S602Z||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||3 hr 29 mins||350|
|Canon PowerShot G2||BP-511||8.1 Wh||3 hr 32 mins||355|
|Casio QV-4000||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||3 hr 38 mins||365|
|Olympus C-5050 Zoom||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||3 hr 48 mins||380|
|Casio EXILIM EX-P700||NP-40||4.5 Wh||3 hr 48 mins||385|
|Sony DSC-S85||NP-FM50||8.6 Wh||3 hr 50 mins||400|
|Sony DSC-F717||NP-FM50||8.6 Wh||4 hr 02 mins||405|
|Pentax Optio 750Z||D-LI7||6.6 Wh||4 hr 03 mins||415|
|Sony DSC-V3||NP-FR1||4.4 Wh||4 hr 05 mins||415|
|Nikon Coolpix 8400||EN-EL7||8.1 Wh||4 hr 09 mins||420|
|Sony DSC-F707||NP-FM50||8.6 Wh||4 hr 20 mins||440|
|Fujifilm S7000 Zoom||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||4 hr 23 mins||445|
|Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2||NP-400||11.1 Wh||4 hr 26 mins||450|
|Canon PowerShot G3||BP-511||8.1 Wh||4 hr 32 mins||455|
|Canon PowerShot G5||BP-511||8.1 Wh||4 hr 33 mins||460|
|Pentax Optio 550||D-LI7||6.6 Wh||4 hr 36 mins||465|
|Minolta DiMAGE A1||NP-400||11.1 Wh||5 hr 02 mins||515|
|Leica Digilux 2||BP-DC1-E||10.1 Wh||5 hr 05 mins||515|
|Sony DSC-F828||NP-FM50||8.6 Wh||5 hr 28 mins||540|
|Fujifilm FinePix S5000||4 x AA NiMH 1600 mAh (GP)||7.7 Wh||5 hr 31 mins||555|
|Canon PowerShot G6||BP-511A||10.3 Wh||5 hr 38 mins||570|
|Olympus C-8080 WZ||BLM-1||10.8 Wh||5 hr 52 mins||595|
|Other test notes:|
| LCD monitor is left on during
the battery test
The camera is powered off half of the time and left on half of the time (switch every 10 iterations)
There are now higher capacity AA NiMH batteries available, however in the interests of fair
comparison we will continue to use our 1600 mAh test set
The S404 did noticably better than its older version the S304, perhaps Minolta have tweaked the firmware or other internal components to improve battery life. Overall the camera showed a respectable two and a half hours on a fairly standard set of 1600 mAh NiMH AA batteries.
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