Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2Konica Minolta updates their top-end electronic SLR with a higher resolution sensor, much-improved electronic viewfinder, a faster 3D autofocusing system, and high-speed USB 2.0 connectivity, among other improvements.
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A2 Sample ImagesReview First Posted: 07/13/2004
Digital Cameras - Konica Minolta Dimage A2 Test Images
|I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISOsetting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all*that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested inthe information need wade through it!|
NOTE: These "Outdoor Portrait" images are from an early production model, that had an image noise problem, and so need to be reshot. (Color and tonality are as on full-spec units, it's just that there are some odd noise artifacts present.) I didn't have time to do this before I left for a (badly needed) vacation, but wanted to (finally) get this review posted, so have left them in here with the caveat to ignore any oddities you might see, noise-wise. - The full-production unit I received to replace this one shows no sign of the odd noise pattern. When I come back, I'll reshoot these using my new "solar simulator" light source, which will become the new standard for these shots. (I hope to get the replacement images up by the beginning of the last week of July.)
The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Dimage A2 performed moderately well.
The shot at right was taken with a -0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, quite unusual for this shot, which requires a fair bit of positive exposure compensation with most cameras. (The default exposure was much too bright.) Midtones on this shot are in the right range, albeit at the expense of highlight detail, despite the fact that I shot with the contrast adjustment dialed down a couple of notches. (In hindsight, I should probably have set the contrast adjustment all the way to its lowest value.) The most troubling part of this shot though, was that the results obtained with the exposure compensation adjustment were highly variable: The jump in exposure from shot to shot, separate by only 0.3 EV of adjustment was often quite large, and some shots at -0.7 EV were brighter than those at -0.3EV. As noted above though, I'll be reshooting this test when I return from vacation, with my new solar-simulator light source, and see if the replacement camera does better in terms of exposure consistency with it. I chose the Auto white balance as the most accurate overall, though the Daylight and Manual settings also produced similar results.
Marti's skin tones look pretty good, although a little less saturated than I'd prefer, and the blue flowers in the bouquet are pretty close to their real-world color. (Many digicams have trouble with this blue.) Color is slightly muted throughout the rest of the frame, but still pretty natural looking. Resolution is high, and detail is strong throughout the frame, even in the shadows. Image noise is moderately low, but the noise that's there has an unusual diagonal pattern to it - the artifact I mentioned above that led me to return the camera these were shot with to Minolta. Overall, a decent performance, but I wish the camera had handled the harsh lighting a little better.
To view the entire exposure series from -0.7 to +0.3 EV, see files A2OUTAM2.HTM through A2OUTAP1.HTM, as well as the corresponding A2OUTDxxx and A2OUTMxxx series for daylight and manual white balance, on the thumbnail index page.
NOTE: These "Closer Portrait" images are from an early production model, that had an image noise problem, and so need to be reshot. (Color and tonality are as on full-spec units, it's just that there are some odd noise artifacts present.) I didn't have time to do this before I left for a (badly needed) vacation, but wanted to (finally) get this review posted, so have left them in here with the caveat to ignore any oddities you might see, noise-wise. - The full-production unit I received to replace this one shows no sign of the odd noise pattern. When I come back, I'll reshoot these using my new "solar simulator" light source, which will become the new standard for these shots. (I hope to get the replacement images up by the beginning of the last week of July.)
Excellent resolution and detail, still somewhat harsh contrast.
Color and exposure are similar to the wider shot above, and the A2's 7x optical zoom lens does a nice job of preventing any strong distortion. Although the shot at right was taken with no exposure compensation adjustment, it was actually a little darker than the shot I took at -0.3EV. While midtones are about right, the highlights are again very bright and shadows are a little dark. Detail is outstanding though, with sharp details in Marti's face and hair (probably quite a bit more than she would care to see on-screen). You can even see a little of the weave of the fabric in the blue flower petals. Detail in the shadows is again very good, this time with little or no sign of the odd diagonal noise pattern in the darkest areas that I saw in the shot above. An excellent job overall.
To view the entire exposure series from -0.3 to +0.3 EV, see files A2FACAM1.HTM
through A2FACAP1.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Good intensity and coverage with the built-in flash, though best results in Slow-Sync mode.
The A2's built-in flash illuminated the subject well, but required a +1.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment. (The default exposure was just a bit dim, most cameras seem to need this much or slightly less exposure boost on this shot.) Color is pretty good, quite accurate and appropriately saturated. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode produced more pleasing results, since the longer exposure allowed more ambient light in to soften the image. I chose 0 EV exposure compensation adjustment for the slow-sync example, which is unusual for this shot. (Most cameras require some positive exposure compensation for it.) Though the background incandescent lighting results in a slight orange cast, color still looks surprisingly good, and is more natural than with the straight flash shot. (The A2's flash also appears to be color balanced to match the incandescent lighting better than most, so there are none of the cold blue highlights that we sometimes see in the slow-sync versions of this shot with other cameras.) A very good performance all around.
To view the entire exposure series from -0.3 to +1.7 EV in the normal flash mode, see files A2INFM1.HTM through A2INFP5.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
To view the exposure series from -0.7 to +1.7 EV
in the Slow-Sync flash mode, see files A2INFSM2.HTM through A2INFSP5.HTM
on the thumbnail index page.
Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Good color with the Incandescent and Manual white balance settings, higher than average exposure compensation. Noise is moderate, but develops a strong grain pattern at the higher ISO settings.
This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. The A2's Auto white balance fell for the trap and produced a strong warm cast. The Incandescent and Manual settings, however, both produced good results, with only a hint of a warm cast. I chose a +1.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which is higher than average for this shot. Overall color looks very good, with nearly accurate skin tones and a pretty good white value on Marti's shirt. The blue flowers are dark and purplish, but that's pretty much to be expected with this light source. While both the Incandescent and Manual options produced very good-looking results, I preferred the slightly more neutral-looking results Manual option. (A toss-up really, the slight warmth of the Incandescent shot is a little more evocative of the original scene lighting.) Detail is excellent, though some image noise is visible in the midtones and shadows (albeit with a small, tight grain pattern). The shots at right were captured at ISO 100, the standard I've settled on for this test. (Noise would be somewhat lower at ISO 64, but the exposure times get unreasonably long at ISOs lower than 100. - Even in this series, the Incandescent example is slightly blurred due to subject movement during the 1/4 second exposure.)
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.7 EV, see files A2INMP0.HTM through A2INMP5.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Lots of resolution with a lot of visible fine detail, although a slightly soft look to the image overall. Accurate color balance with the Manual setting.
The A2's Manual white balance did a great
job here, producing good color and an accurate white value on the house
trim. The Auto setting resulted in a slight
warm cast, while the Daylight setting had
a stronger, more yellow cast. Resolution is very high, evidenced by the
excellent detail visible in the tree limbs against the sky and shrubbery
in front of the house. The A2's eight-megapixel CCD really captures just
about all of the detail that this poster has to offer, even though it
was created from a 500MB scan of a 4x5 negative shot with a tack-sharp
lens. Comparing the A2's performance here to that of other cameras on
the market, its image here is noticeably softer-looking than those of
most of the other 8-megapixel cameras currently on the market, but there's
close to the same amount of absolute detail captured, when the image is
optimally sharpened in an imaging application like Adobe Photoshop. (I'd
rank it a little lower in terms of absolute detail than most of the other
8 MP digicams, but not by a great amount.) There's also a little softness
and chromatic aberration in the corners of the frame, about equal to what
I saw in this shot from the Olympus 8080, more than from the Canon Pro1
and Sony F828.) Overall, a good but not excellent performance.
Excellent resolution and detail, pretty good dynamic range, but odd noise in the shadows.
This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.
This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the A2 does an excellent job with it. The tree limbs over the roof and fine foliage in front of the house show very strong detail, with excellent definition in the tree bark, leaf patterns, and even in the subtle tonal differences of the foliage. As we've seen in the other images above, the A2's images tend to look a little soft if they're left unsharpened. In this image, I don't see the same softening in the corners that I did in the studio test above, details are pretty close to as sharp in the corners as in the center of the frame. The A2 seems to pick up about as much absolute detail here as the Olympus C-8080, a bit less than the Sony F828 and Canon Pro1. - But differences are relatively slight. The camera just barely holds onto details in the bright white paint surrounding the bay window, a trouble spot for many digicams. Detail is also strong in the shadow area above the front door, evidence of a good dynamic range, but the odd striped noise pattern we saw in some of the shots above once again rears its head, limiting the useful shadow detail. Overall color looks good, hue-accurate and appropriately saturated. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by ISO, sharpness, saturation, filter, color, and white balance series.
White Balance Series:
Lens Zoom Range
An excellent 7x zoom range.
I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (7x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The A2's lens is equivalent to a 28-200mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a pretty wide angle to a pretty substantial telephoto. Following are the results at each zoom setting.
Good color with the Manual white balance setting, and excellent detail and resolution.
This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue
in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing
a warm color balance. Though slightly cool, I chose the Manual
white balance setting as the most accurate for this shot, as the Auto
and Daylight settings produced warmer color
balances. Though skin tones are slightly pale, I felt the overall color
looked best with the Manual adjustment. The blue robe looks pretty accurate,
with only faint purplish tints in the deep shadows. Resolution is excellent,
with strong detail in the embroidered birds of the blue robe, the wood
grain of the instruments, and the shiny reflections in the bracelets.
(The original data file for this poster was only 20MB though, so cameras
like the eight-megapixel A2 are definitely capable of showing more detail
than the poster has in it.)
Excellent macro performance, a small macro area with excellent detail. Flash throttles down for the macro area, but is overcompensates a little.
The A2 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum
area of only 1.94 x 1.46 inches (49 x 37 millimeters). Resolution is very
high, and detail is very strong in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch.
Though the coins and brooch are soft due to the close shooting range and
the resulting shallow depth of field (not the camera's fault, a simple
fact of optics), detail is still very good. (The tiny dust particles on
the smaller coin are even visible.) There's surprisingly little softness
in the corners of the frame here, making this one of the better digicam
macro modes I've seen. Color balance is slightly warm and reddish with
the Auto white balance setting, but exposure is good. The A2's flash
throttles down a little too much for the macro area, resulting in a slightly
dim shot, but it's quite surprising to see a digicam flash that's usable
at all for macro shots this close.
"Davebox" Test Target
A slightly bright exposure due to my own adjustment of the exposure, but good tonal differentiation, and accurate color.
The A2's Manual white balance setting was the
clear winner here, producing the best overall color and white value. The
Auto and Daylight
settings both resulted in slightly warm images. Exposure is a little bright,
but the A2 distinguishes the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target
well. Though just slightly desaturated from the bright exposure, the large
color blocks are quite accurate, rendered very well. The shadow area of
the charcoal briquettes shows moderate detail, though with a moderate
noise level as well. (The diagonal pattern of the noise grain again slightly
obscures detail here.)
(I won't comment on the rest of the DaveBox samples here, the results are pretty much the same as we've seen above.)
Very good low-light performance, with accurate color. High image noise at the higher ISO settings, noise-reduction system works well, but doesn't completely remove "hot pixels." Excellent low-light focusing, and the EVF works down to amazingly low light levels as well.
The A2's maximum exposure time of 30 seconds and full manual exposure control give the camera excellent low-light shooting capabilities. In my testing, the A2 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all five ISO settings. The A2 offers a Noise Reduction option to decrease the amount of image noise, which did indeed reduce noise levels pretty dramatically, but which did still leave some "hot pixels" here and there. In addition to its excellent low-light capture ability, the A2's electronic viewfinder is usable at light levels down to and even somewhat below the 1/16 foot-candle limit of my test, and its autofocus system can actually focus at light levels that low, despite the camera's lack of an autofocus-assist light. (NOTE though, that with any digicam capable of really low-light focusing like this, you need to have the camera absolutely rigidly mounted, as any camera shake will keep the camera from focusing altogether.) The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. The last column labeled "No NR" shows results at the lowest light level, with the noise reduction turned off. Images in this table (like all sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.
(Note: If you'd like to use a light meter to check light levels for subjects you might be interested in shooting, a light level of one foot-candle corresponds to a normal exposure of two seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100.)
Flash Range Test
A powerful flash, without any strong falloff at the furthest test distances.
Minolta rates the A2's flash as effective to a maximum of 12.5 feet (3.8 meters), at the normal intensity setting. In my testing, the flash illuminated the test target quite well all the way out to 14 feet, with little or no decrease in intensity, even at the A2's minimum ISO setting of 64. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.
Very high resolution, 1,600-1,650 lines of "strong detail." Higher than average barrel distortion, moderate pincushion, moderate chromatic aberration. Excellent corner sharpness.
The A2 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,600 lines vertically (although there are enough artifacts at that point that I question whether I should drop back to something like 1,500 lines, per my own, fairly conservative criteria - see my added comments below), 1,650 ins horizontally. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until 1,900-2,000 lines, but even there there's some detail faintly visible in the vertical direction.
A note on "resolution:" Some reviewers would doubtless report the resolution as higher here, but I tend to be conservative in these numbers, feeling that you shouldn't rate a camera as resolving a level of detail if the artifacts and aliasing are as strong as the primary subject detail. -- Hence my somewhat lower figures. Also worth noting that I've found the resolution of all five 8-megapixel digicams I've tested thus far (the A2, the Canon Pro1, the Olympus C-8080, the Sony DSC-F828, and the Nikon Coolpix 8700) to be more or less the same, in terms of the number of lines they can resolve on the test charts. There are quite visible differences between their res-chart images though, in terms of how crisp the images appear, and also in terms of the artifacts that they display. This has as much to do with the cameras' image processing though, as it does with their actual optical resolution, so I don't try to slant my figures here to acknowledge that. (For what it's worth though, I found the Sony F828 to be the most crisp looking, the Pro1 and C-8080 next in a near-tie, and the 8700 and A2 tied for being the softest of the lot, although not by a great amount.) In the case of the A2, I also saw some aliasing artifacts in the res target lines that weren't evident with the other models, although in fairness they're pretty subtle and unlikely to cause problems with real-world subjects.
Geometric distortion on the A2 is higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.07 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I found only 0.3 percent pincushion distortion there. Chromatic aberration is higher than I'd like, but seemingly average for its class, showing about seven pixels of moderate coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) - Compared to the other 8 megapixel models I've tested, this amount of chromatic aberration seems fairly common, more or less matching what I saw with the Canon Pro1 and Nikon 8700. The Sony F828 had somewhat less, and the Olympus C-8080 the least of all. The big plus with the A2's lens though, is that there's very little of the softening I'm accustomed to seeing in the corners of the frame, particularly with long-ratio zoom optics.
Resolution Series, ~50mm focal length
Resolution Test, Wide Angle
Resolution Test, Telephoto
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
Excellent accuracy from the electronic viewfinder.
The A2's electronic "optical" viewfinder (EVF) is very accurate, showing about 100 percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto zoom settings. (Just a tiny fringe of the target lines are cut off at the bottom of the frame.) The LCD monitor is also very accurate, since it shows the same view, just on a larger screen. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the A2's LCD monitor is essentially perfect in this regard. Flash distribution is fairly even at wide angle, with just a little falloff at the corners of the frame. There's one big catch though: The A2's long lens gets in the way of the flash at wide angles, casting a shadow at the bottom of the frame. I also saw the slight underexposure and yellowish color cast in the wide angle shots (captured at close range) that I saw in the closer shots of my flash range series.. At telephoto, flash distribution is very uniform, with better intensity and color.
Top 3 photos this month win:
1 Canon PIXMA PRO-100
2 Canon PIXMA MG6320
3 Canon PIXMA MG5420