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Minolta DiMAGE 7i

Minolta updates their revolutionary 5 megapixel electronic SLR with numerous enhancements, keeps the excellent lens.

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D7i Sample Images

Review First Posted: 6/15/2002

I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, I'm posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!

 

Outdoor Portrait:

A bit contrasty, and I had some exposure problems too. Color is pretty good though.

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. The object is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Dimage 7i performed fairly well in that respect. Contrast was a little high, however, though the camera's contrast adjustment did a good job correcting the problem at the lowest setting (see the contrast series below). The shot at right was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, and one notch of negative contrast adjustment. I had some problems with the 7i on this shot, as its exposure seemed to jump wildly between adjacent EV adjustment settings. One result was that after I'd run the exposure series, I found I didn't have any shots that were spot on, exposure-wise. Looking at the photos afterwards, I'm now wondering if I could possibly have had the camera in spot-metering mode, which could have caused significant exposure shifts if Marti moved just a few inches one way or the other. - I'll try to repeat these shots. The result of my exposure travails on this shot is that the photo with the best overall exposure had badly blown highlights. (The default exposure setting was much too dark.) As noted, I'll try to come back shortly and redo these tests, paying closer attention to the metering mode.

Colorwise, I chose the Daylight white balance setting as the most accurate overall, though the Auto setting produced nearly identical results. Manual white balance was surprisingly warm. Skin tones are about right, though just slightly magenta, and the blue flowers are a bit dark and purplish (a common problem with this shot, among many cameras). Resolution is quite high, with good detail in the flowers and model's features. Shadow detail is also good, with moderate image noise.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +0.7 EV, see files D7IOUTDP0s.HTM through D7IOUTDP2s.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

sRGB Conversion
Ever since the original Dimage 7, Minolta's high-end prosumer digicams have used their own proprietary color space, with a wider gamut than the sRGB space used on most computer monitors. As a result, their raw images have been less saturated, and the colors are slightly incorrect unless their color space is converted to standard sRGB. The Minolta image viewing utility does this, either one image at a time or in batches. (Although the Mac version of the software I tested with the D7i was buggy and wouldn't process batches properly. - No such problems on the Windows version though.)

With the Dimage 7i though, Minolta has come back to something much more closely approximating the sRGB color space. The result is that you still need to run the 7i's files through Dimage Viewer to get the absolutely best color possible, but for routine use, many users will be perfectly happy with the color exactly as it comes from the camera. I'll generally show the sRGB-converted images here, but will also include some examples showing the original, unconverted image as well. As you can see from the images below, the differences between the two color spaces are indeed very slight. (But I do think that Marti's skin tones are just a bit more natural looking in the sRGB version.)

 

Original from camera
Converted to sRGB

 

 

Contrast Series:
While its default tone curve is too contrasty for my tastes, one of the great strengths of the Dimage 7i is the degree of control it gives you over contrast, sharpness, color saturation, and hue. As you can see below, dialing the 7i's contrast setting down to its lowest level produces very reasonable detail in the strong highlights of Marti's shirt. Control is also extremely fine grained: There are two steps between each of the levels shown here.

Low Contrast
Normal Contrast
High Contrast

 

Saturation Series:
The Dimage 7i's color saturation control likewise provides both a very useful range of control, and very small steps between settings. As above, there are actually two additional steps of adjustment between each of the ones shown below.

Low Saturation
Normal Saturation
High Saturation
   

Closer Portrait:

Great resolution and detail, though again high contrast.

Overall results are similar to the wider shot above, and the Dimage 7i's 7x zoom lens helps prevent distortion of Marti's features. The contrast is again rather high, which results in less detail in the highlights. The level of fine detail increases in Marti's face and hair, with good definition. Though dark, the shadow areas also show good detail, with moderate noise. The main shot was taken without an exposure compensation adjustment, which is still a little bright in the highlights, but OK in the midtones.

 

 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:

Normal Flash +0.7 EV

Good overall intensity and exposure, but with a visible orange cast.

The Dimage 7i's flash did a good job illuminating the subject, with good intensity. At the default exposure setting, overall flash power was slightly weak, though the exposure was reasonably bright. The background incandescent lighting produces an orange cast on the back wall, which extends onto the model in the darker exposures. I chose an exposure adjustment of +0.7 EV, which produced the best overall exposure.

(Stay tuned for a version of this shot taken with the (excellent!) 5600 HS D flash unit, which just arrived.)

To view the entire exposure series, from zero to +1.0 EV, see files D7IINFP0.HTM through D7IINFP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

 

 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:

Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance
Manual White Balance

Color casts from the lighting, but very good results with Manual white balance.

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 Dimage 7i's Auto white balance setting had some trouble here, producing a strong, orange-magenta color cast. The Incandescent and Manual settings were closer to the mark, though the Incandescent setting was slightly warm and the Manual setting just slightly greenish. I chose the Manual setting for the main shot, with an exposure adjustment of +0.7 EV. Despite the slight greenish cast, the white value of Marti's shirt is pretty good, and skin tones and other colors look very good as well. The blue flowers are dark and purplish, a common problem here, but the rest of the color is surprisingly good, considering the light source. Overall a good performance under this very tough light source.

To view the entire exposure series from +0.3 to +1.0 EV, see files D7IINMP1.HTM through D7IINMP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.

 

 

House Shot:

Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Great resolution and detail, though a bit contrasty.

The Auto white balance setting produced the most accurate color in this shot, though the Manual setting produced good results as well (just a hint warm). Daylight white balance resulted in a warmer, yellow color cast, though it isn't too strong. The camera again produces high contrast, and color saturation looks slightly low as a result. Resolution is high, with a lot of fine detail in the tree limbs above the roof and in the shrubbery in front of the house. Though slightly soft, the fine foliage details are well defined.

 
   

Far-Field Test

A slightly limited dynamic range, but color and detail are great.

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 Dimage 7i captures excellent detail throughout the frame. The tree limbs above the roof and the shrubbery in front of the house are full of fine detail, and the fine foliage in front of the house is well-defined. Details are fairly sharp as well. The camera loses all but the strongest details in the bright white paint around the bay window, tricked by the harsh sunlight. (This could also be due to the camera's tendency to increase contrast.) However, the Dimage 7i picks up nearly all of the brick pattern above the front door. Color looks good with Auto white balance, with nearly accurate saturation. The table below shows a our standard resolution and quality series, followed by a full ISO series, and abbreviated Contrast, Sharpness, Filter, and Saturation series. I also shot sample images with the camera's Black & White, Normal Color, Vivid Color, and Solarized modes. Click here for the camera's RAW format (requires Minolta's Dimage Image Viewer software to interpret).

Resolution Series:

Uncompressed
Large / Fine
Large / Normal
Small / Economy
 
Medium / Fine
   
 
Small / Fine
   
 
Tiny / Fine
   

 

ISO Series:

ISO 100
ISO 200
ISO 400
ISO 800

 

Contrast Series:

Low Contrast
Normal Contrast
High Contrast

 

Sharpness Series:

Soft (-2)
Normal (0)
Hard (+2)

 

Saturation Series:

Low Saturation
Normal Saturation
High Saturation

 

Filter Series:

Full Blue
Normal
Full Yellow

 

Color Options:


Black & White

Normal Color

Vivid Color

Solarized

 

 
   

Lens Zoom Range

A really 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 Dimage 7i's lens is equivalent to a 28-200mm zoom on a 35mm camera. This extends quite a bit further into both the wide angle and telephoto ranges than do most digicam lenses. (The 28mm equivalent wide angle setting will be a boon to real estate folks, and others who have to shoot in tight quarters.) Following are the results at each zoom setting.

 

Wide Angle

 

7x Telephoto

 

2x Digital Telephoto

 

 
 

 

Musicians Poster

Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Manual White Balance

Nearly accurate color with all three white balances.

This shot is typically a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition often tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. It was hard to call here, but I finally decided on the Daylight white balance as the best overall shot. All three white balance settings actually produced good results, but the model's complexions under Auto setting were slightly pale and the Manual setting were slightly magenta. Despite the red tint in the blue background, skin tones look best with the Daylight white balance. The blue robe is a bit greenish, but has the faintest purple tints in the deep shadows (a common problem with this shot). Resolution is high, with great detail in the embroidery of the blue robe.

 

 

Macro Shot

Standard Macro Shot
Macro with Flash

Excellent macro performance, with great detail.

The Dimage 7i performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.01 x 1.51 inches (51.03 x 38.27 millimeters). Resolution is high, with excellent detail in the dollar bill. The coins and brooch are soft due to a limited depth of field, but strong detail is still visible. Color and exposure are both good, though the Auto white balance produces a pinkish cast. The Dimage 7i's flash almost throttles down for the macro area, just barely overexposing the image. Still, a great job. (For really great macro shots, try the 2400 Macro Twinlight.- I hope to have some photos shot with it to post here later.)

 

"Davebox" Test Target

Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
Daylight White Balance

Great color, though slightly overexposed, and contrast is again rather high.

Both the Auto and Manual white balance settings produced nearly accurate shots, though I chose the Manual setting as the best overall. (The Auto setting had a slight warm cast.) The Daylight white balance produced a slightly warmer color balance, but overall color was still pretty good. Exposure is bright, with the Dimage 7i again increasing contrast. Still, the camera picks up the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target fairly well, up to the "B" range. Though saturation is weak from the overexposure, the large color blocks are nearly accurate. Detail is good in the shadow area of the charcoal briquettes, with moderate noise. Following are shortened Saturation and Contrast series.

This is another shot that might be instructive to look at the differences between the 7i's native color space and sRGB. Here's a pair of images showing the two side by side. (It's awfully close, you may have to squint at it a bit. - The bright red and yellow blocks are a little more saturated, the cyan block is a bit deeper-toned. Worth messing with for critical shots, but easy to ignore if you don't want to take the time.):

Original from camera
Converted to sRGB

 

Contrast Series:

Low Contrast
Normal Contrast
High Contrast

 

Saturation Series:

Low Saturation
Normal Saturation
High Saturation

 

 
 

Low-Light Tests

Excellent low-light shooting capabilities, with good color and low noise.

The Dimage 7i's maximum shutter time of 30 seconds (in bulb mode) gives the camera a competitive edge in the low-light category. The camera captured bright, clear images at light levels as low as 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux), at all four ISO settings (100, 200, 400, and 800). The camera's autofocus system did a good job at the lower light levels, though it had a bit of trouble when the ISO was set to 100. Switching to Manual focus took care of that problem, and I was surprised that the camera focused at all, at any ISO setting, at the darker levels of this test. Typical street lighting on a city street is equivalent to about one foot-candle (11 lux), so the Dimage 7i can easily handle much darker situations. Color looks good, though turns warm with the 800 ISO setting. Noise is moderately low at ISO 100 and 200, increases slightly with the 400 setting, and becomes rather high at the 800 ISO setting. The table below shows the best exposure we were able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels, at each ISO setting. Images in this table (like all of our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.

 

  1fc
11lux
1/2fc
5.5lux
1/4fc
2.7lux
1/8fc
1.31lux
1/16fc
0.67lux
ISO
100
Click to see D7ILL103s.JPG

2 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL104s.JPG

4 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL105s.JPG

30 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL106s.JPG

30 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL107s.JPG

30 secs
F2.8

ISO
200
Click to see D7ILL203s.JPG

1/1 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL204s.JPG

2 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL205s.JPG

4 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL206s.JPG

30 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL207s.JPG

30 secs
F2.8

ISO
400

Click to see D7ILL403s.JPG

1/2 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL404s.JPG

1/1 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL405s.JPG

2 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL406s.JPG

4 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL407s.JPG

30 secs
F2.8

ISO
800

Click to see D7ILL803s.JPG

1/4 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL804s.JPG

1/2 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL805s.JPG

1/1 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL806s.JPG

2 secs
F2.8

Click to see D7ILL807s.JPG

4 secs
F2.8

 

Love high ISO photography? Hate noise? Check out Fred Miranda's ISO-R noise-reducing actions for Photoshop. Incredible noise reduction, with *no* loss of subject detail. (Pretty amazing, IMHO.) Check it out!

 

 
 

Flash Range Test

Plenty of power all the way to 14 feet.

The Dimage 7i's flash remained bright all the way to 14 feet from the test target, the limit of my range for this shot. Oddly, I noticed that flash power seemed dimmer at the eight foot setting than the rest of the series. Below is our flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

 

8ft. 9ft. 10ft. 11ft. 12ft. 13ft. 14ft.
Click to see D7IFL08s.JPG

1/180 secs
F3.5

Click to see D7IFL09s.JPG

1/125 secs
F3.5

Click to see D7IFL10s.JPG

1/350 secs
F3.5

Click to see D7IFL11s.JPG

1/125 secs
F3.5

Click to see D7IFL12s.JPG

1/180 secs
F3.5

Click to see D7IFL13s.JPG

1/180 secs
F3.5

Click to see D7IFL14s.JPG

1/90 secs
F3.5

 
 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

Excellent performance, with strong detail to 1,300 lines/picture height.

The Dimage 7i performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart, turning in a virtually identical performance to its predecessor the Dimage 7. (This should come as no surprise, as the 7i uses the same lens and sensor chip.) It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 850 lines per picture height vertically and around 600 lines horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,100 to 1,200 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred at about 1,450 lines vertically and horizontally.

Optical distortion on the Dimage 7i is very low at the wide-angle end, as I measured a 0.1% barrel distortion. I also noticed that the ends of the target lines started out bowing inward slightly (like pincushion distortion), before bowing outward into a barrel distortion at the center. The telephoto end was also low, as I measured a 0.35% pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is moderate, showing about five or six pixels of extremely light 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.) Overall, the performance of the 7i's lens is exemplary, one of the very best I've seen on a "prosumer" digicam.

Resolution Series, Wide Angle

Large / Fine
Large / Normal
Large / Economy
Medium / Fine
Medium / Normal
Medium / Economy
Small / Fine
Small / Normal
Small / Economy
Tiny / Fine
Tiny / Normal
Tiny / Economy

 

Telephoto

Large / Fine

 

Sharpness Series

Soft (-2)
Normal (0)
Hard (2)

 

 
 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

Very accurate EVF.

The Dimage 7i's electronic viewfinder (EVF) is very accurate at wide angle, where I measured an approximate 99 percent frame accuracy. At telephoto, the viewfinder was slightly loose, showing less of the subject area than what was framed. The resulting image was shifted up in the frame, cutting off the top lines of measurement. Just remember to add some extra space at the top of the frame when lining up shots. Given that I generally prefer LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Dimage 7i performs very well in this respect. Flash illumination at wide angle is bright and even, with only a hint of falloff in the corners of the frame. At telephoto, flash distribution is also even, though dim. 

 


Wide Angle

Wide Angle

 

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