Minolta DiMAGE F100Minolta builds a compact, stylish 4 Megapixel model with sophisticated autofocus.
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Page 3:DesignReview First Posted: 04/18/2002, Updated: 05/29/2003
The Dimage F100 features a very compact body design, with a long and relatively thin profile. The matte-silver metal body has a modern look, accentuated by minimal external ornamentation. Don't let the F100's size fool you though. The camera has a wealth of exposure features, including full manual exposure control and several nifty automatic features for better focusing and exposure. The 4.0-megapixel CCD delivers sharp, high quality images, great for printing as large as 8x10 inches or more. The F100 also features a high-quality Minolta GT 3x lens, with new Subject Tracking AF and Area AF features carried over from Minolta's film cameras.
Measuring 4.33 x 2.06 x 1.26 inches (111 x 52.3 x 32 millimeters) and weighing just 8.2 ounces (235 grams) with batteries, the F100 will easily fit into a standard shirt pocket. The small size is perfect for travel, as you can just stash the camera in a pocket and go (though I'd recommend a small, padded camera bag for added protection on long excursions). The built-in lens cover slides out of the as soon as you power up the camera, making it quick on the draw, although it does take a few seconds for the lens to extend. (I'd really like to see startup and shutdown happen more quickly.) A wrist strap accompanies the camera, for added security when shooting in precarious situations.
The front of the F100 is virtually flat as long when the lens is retracted, with only a few slight protrusions. The shutter-like lens cover protects the lens when not in use, and pops open as the lens extends from the camera body. Once extended, the lens protrudes about two inches from the camera front. Also on the front panel are the flash, optical viewfinder window, remote-control receiver window (just to the left of the flash), and self-timer LED lamp. In an effort to preserve the front panel's smooth face, a small, raised bump on the lower left corner of the front panel provides a minimal grip for your middle finger as you grip the right-hand side of the camera. A slight edge on the bottom of the bump provides a little extra traction to strengthen your grip. Overall, this isn't the most secure camera grip I've seen, but the elongated body helps somewhat.
The memory card and battery compartments take up the entire right side of the camera (as viewed from the back). Lined up side by side, both compartments feature flat, plastic doors. The SD compartment door simply pops open, and is hinged at the top so that the door can swing upward. By contrast, you have to slide the battery compartment door down first before opening it. The pressure of the closed compartment door keeps the battery engaged. I felt that the battery compartment door didn't latch very well, as it was easy to dislodge it (and kill power to the camera) when handling the camera, particularly when putting it on or off of a tripod. Not a show-stopper problem, but a design issue I'd like to see Minolta correct on future models. Also on this side of the camera, above both compartments, is an eyelet for attaching the wrist strap.
The opposite side of the F100 has only a small bump on the side of the lens barrel.
On top of the camera is a good-sized status display panel, as well as the camera's microphone, speaker, Shutter button, and Mode dial. The status display panel reports enough of the camera's basic settings to let you to shoot without the LCD monitor active (and thus save on battery power) much of the time.
The remaining camera controls share the back panel with the 1.5-inch LCD monitor and optical viewfinder eyepiece (which is very tiny). The optical viewfinder does not have a diopter adjustment, but has a very high eyepoint. I could actually hold it some distance away from my eyeglasses and see the entire frame just fine, so even people with very thick eyeglass lenses should have no problem using it. Just beside the viewfinder eyepiece are two LEDs that serve as indicators for various camera status information, such as when focus is set or the flash is charging. A series of control buttons line the right side of the LCD monitor, and control Digital Subject Program, Menu, Quickview/Erase, and Display functions. Two more control buttons (Flash/Information and Exposure Compensation buttons) angle down from the top panel. A Four Way Arrow pad in the top right corner controls zoom and navigates through settings menus, with a single button in the center that confirms menu selections. Just adjacent to this arrow pad is a small LED, which lights whenever the camera is accessing the memory card. Finally, a connector compartment in the lower right corner holds the DC In and A/V Out / USB jacks, protected by a flexible plastic flap.
The F100's bottom panel is nice and flat, and features only the metal tripod mount. (Bonus points to Minolta for using a metal tripod socket, rather than common but much less rugged plastic.) You can also see the bottom of the memory card compartment door. I'm glad to see that both the battery and memory card compartments are accessible while the camera is mounted to a tripod, which makes studio shooting a little easier. (Not a concern for average users, but something I'm always painfully aware of. ;-)
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