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Minolta Dimage F300

A compact, stylish camera with a full five-megapixel sensor and clever autofocus system.

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 05/22/2003

Digital Cameras - Minolta DiMAGE F300 Digital Camera Review, Information, Specifications

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the DiMAGE F300's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how F300's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: The F300 did a really nice job with color, producing pleasing, accurate color in most cases. The Manual white balance setting typically produced the best results, although the Auto setting also turned in good results, just slightly reddish at times. The Auto setting actually did the best job under the tough incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait (without flash), leaving just enough of a warm color cast in the image to recall the tone of the original lighting. Skin tones were about right, though occasionally slightly pink, and the blue flowers of the outdoor and indoor portraits just slightly dark with purplish tints, but overall more accurately rendered than by the majority of cameras I test. The large color blocks of the "Davebox" test were nearly accurate, with good saturation, although the red and blue additive primary color blocks were a little hot. Overall, the F300 performed very well here.

  • Exposure: The F300 generally exposed the test shots accurately, though it produced rather high contrast under the deliberately harsh lighting of the Outdoor Portrait test. Shadow detail was typically good, but bright highlight detail was somewhat limited. Midtones were dark in the high-key Outdoor Portrait, but still showed good detail. On my "Davebox" test, the F300 distinguished the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target well. The indoor portraits required an average amount of exposure compensation, the Outdoor Portrait required less adjustment than is usually required.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: The F300 performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,000 lines per picture height vertically, and around 800 lines horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,300 lines vertically, and as high as 1,350 lines in the horizontal direction. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,600 lines.

  • Closeups: The F300 performed exceptionally well in the macro category, capturing a tiny minimum area of only 2.01 x 1.51 inches (51 x 38 millimeters). Resolution was outstanding, with strong detail in the dollar bill and brooch. (the small flecks of dust were even visible.) Details were sharp on the brooch and coins, though the dollar bill and gray background were a touch soft. (Likely due to the shallow depth of field when you're shooting this close.) Color and exposure were both nearly accurate. The F300's flash throttled down nicely for the macro area as well, helped by the fact that the camera can focus to macro distances with the lens set at its full telephoto zoom position.

  • Night Shots: The F300's optional full manual exposure control and maximum exposure time of 15 seconds gives the camera excellent low-light shooting capabilities. Even at ISO 64, the F300 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test. (The ISO 64 shot at that light level is actually just a little dim, but still quite usable.) Though slightly warm, color looked good, and noise was actually quite low. (The F300 added a noise-reduction function that the F100 didn't have.) Even at ISO 400, image noise was only moderately high, with a tight grain pattern that isn't too obtrusive. The auto focus seemed to work quite well down to somewhere between 1/2 and 1/4 foot-candle. Even below that level though, the camera generally delivered sharply-focused images, even though it didn't seem to think that it had achieved a good focus lock (as indicated by the blinking focus indicator in the LCD). - With a little AF-assist illumination, this would be a superb low-light shooter. (Hint, hint, Minolta engineers...)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The F300's optical viewfinder is rather tight, showing approximately 80 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 78 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor proved much more accurate, showing approximately 96 percent accuracy at wide angle, and about 99 percent at telephoto. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the F300's LCD monitor does a good job (particularly at the telephoto setting), but I really don't like seeing an optical viewfinder as tight as this one is.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the F300 is higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured an approximate 1.1 percent barrel distortion. (The average among digicams I've tested seems to be about 0.8 percent barrel distortion, still too much, in my opinion.) The telephoto end fared much better, as I measured only one pixel of pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is quite low, showing almost no color 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.) The image is also very sharp all the way to the corners, with only very slight softening in the upper corners of the frame. - Apart from the higher than average barrel distortion, the F300's lens is one of the best I've seen on a digicam, all the more impressive given the F300's small size.

  • Battery Life:The Dimage F300 is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to power consumption. With the LCD on, battery life is rather short, even when using high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries. (Although a good set of true 2000 mAh cells should give a worst-case run time of just over an hour and a half.) On the other hand, with the LCD off, the F300's power consumption is among the lowest of any camera I've tested. The conclusion? High-capacity rechargeable NiMH AA cells are cheap enough these days that you should buy several sets, and always pack along a couple of sets of spares. Doing that, you'll get reasonable amounts of run time on outings, albeit with the hassle of having to deal with a few sets of spare batteries, and swapping them in and out of the camera. If you can manage to avoid using the LCD except when absolutely necessary though, you'll find that a set of good-quality batteries will easily last you for a full day's shooting. (Read my review of NiMH batteries for current information on which cells have the most capacity, and my review of the Maha C-204 charger for a look at my favorite charger.)


Conclusion

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In almost every parameter, the Minolta DiMAGE F300 is an excellent performer, delivering excellent color with good white balance under a wide range of lighting. Its five megapixels of resolution combine with the excellent "GT" optics in its lens to deliver images that are sharp from corner to corner. The unusually sophisticated Autofocus (AF) modes for the most part worked well (if not infallibly), providing more consistent focusing with off-center subjects than you'd normally experience with the typical single-point digicam AF system. Exposure control is also very versatile, with controls that let you tweak color saturation, brightness, contrast, and sharpness. I thought Minolta hit the size/comfort balance just about right: The F300 is small enough that it could be called "pocket sized," but was big enough that even hamfisted Westerners like myself can hold it and manipulate the controls easily. The very high eyepoint on the viewfinder is a boon to eyeglass wearers too. No product is perfect though, and the F300's Achilles' heel is its shutter response: It's noticeably slower than most competing models, with about a 1.3 second shutter lag in full autofocus mode. (Its prefocused shutter performance is quite good though.) - If your primary interest is sports photography, look elsewhere, but if your applications don't require blazing shutter response, the F300 is one of the best compact five-megapixel models out there, delivering really excellent photos, at an attractive price point.

 

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