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Konica Minolta DiMAGE G400 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
8/17/2004
User Level
Novice
Product Uses
Family / Travel / Special Events
Digicam Design
Compact Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
High, 4.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6, 5x7, 8x10 and larger
Availability
April, 2004
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)
$299

 

Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures
Specifications
Conclusion

The Konica Minolta DiMAGE G400 follows on the heels of the earlier DiMAGE G500, and is one of the more compact cameras in the DiMAGE line (though not as tiny as members of the diminutive X series). The DiMAGE G400 offers 4.0 megapixels, a 3x optical zoom lens, and a very compact, all-metal body with a fully retracting lens, perfect for travel. The availability of either automatic or full manual exposure control ought to please users with a range of experience levels, and the flexibility of image color, sharpness, and a range of exposure adjustments will satisfy the needs of more experienced users.

 

Camera Overview

Don't let its small size fool you, Konica Minolta's DiMAGE 400 digicam packs a lot of features into its tiny body. Boasting an all-metal, very compact body and full assortment of exposure options (including full manual exposure control and a nice range of color adjustments), the G400 should be a good fit for a wide range of users. The dual-slot memory system accepts both SD memory cards and Sony Memory Sticks (a feature that first debuted on the Konica KD-400, the G400 extends compatibility to the Memory Stick Pro format), a feature that helps ease some of the hassle of incompatible memory formats. Adding to the G400's attractions are its tiny size and all-metal body, as well as a high-resolution, four-megapixel CCD and super-fast startup time (according to my tests, 1.2 seconds from power up to the first shot captured, very fast indeed). Compact and rugged, the G400 should stand up to its share of knocks and jostles, another bonus when traveling. The sliding lens cover design eliminates the need for a lens cap, and keeps the camera front smooth and pocket-friendly. Small enough for the average shirt pocket, the G400 comes with a wrist strap for easy toting. The 3x zoom lens and 4.0-megapixel CCD capture high resolution, print quality images, with great color and detail.

Equipped with a telescoping, 3x, 5.6-16.8mm Hexanon lens (34-102mm 35mm equivalent), the G400's tiny size doesn't compromise its optics, as the lens produces sharper images than those of many full-sized cameras. Focus remains under automatic control, and ranges from 1.64 feet (0.5 meters) to infinity in normal mode, and from 2.36 inches (six centimeters) to infinity in Macro mode. The record menu also offers three fixed focus settings. The G400 employs a Rapid AF system to quickly determine focus, much faster than the previous G500. Rapid AF estimates the distance between the subject and the CCD, but you can turn this option off in the Setup menu if desired. Another useful focus tool is the Auto Bracketing feature, which will actually bracket focus in three steps. (This could be useful when shooting multiple subjects or when you're trying to achieve a particular effect with the focus.) The G400's lens has two aperture options, the first ranging from f/2.8 to f/4.9, and the second from f/4.7 to f/8.3, as the lens is zoomed from wide to telephoto focal lengths. In addition to the camera's 3x optical zoom, as much as 2x digital zoom is also available, effectively increasing the G400's zoom capabilities to 6x. (I always remind readers though, that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality in direct proportion to the zoom achieved, because it simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD image. Resulting images are softer and the image noise is more apparent.) Both a real-image optical viewfinder and 1.5-inch color LCD monitor are available for composing images. As is typically the case, the optical viewfinder is rather tight, showing only about 82% of the final image area, but the LCD is thankfully quite accurate. The LCD monitor features an information display that reports limited camera settings information, including the shutter speed and aperture settings, depending on the camera mode.

The G400 offers Automatic, Program AE, Aperture Priority, and Manual exposure modes, plus a few preset Scene modes, including Portrait, Scenery, Night, Snap, Sports, and Angel settings. (While most of these are obvious in their operation, Snap and Angel modes may be unclear. Snap mode is for snapshots, setting up the camera for someone else to take a picture of you without fiddling with focus or exposure options. Angel mode enhances skin tones and uses faster shutter speeds, for capturing good portraits of fleeting expressions.) A handful of external camera controls activate most of the basic camera functions, but the G400's LCD menus are fairly straightforward and uncomplicated when you have to delve into them. The multi-functional Four-Way Arrow pad on the rear panel handles a lot of exposure options, which I always appreciate. The sliding lens cover serves as the power switch, triggering the lens to extend forward when opened. By default, the G400 employs a TTL center-weighted metering system, but a Spot metering option is available through the Record menu. An Exposure Compensation adjustment lightens or darkens the overall image from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to one second in normal shooting mode, but the Manual exposure mode offers maximum exposure times as long as 15 seconds. The camera's White Balance adjustment offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, and Tungsten options, for shooting under different light sources. You can also opt to record images in Black-and-White or Sepia monotones, or in Cool or Warm color modes. The G400's built-in flash operates in Auto, Forced, Red-Eye Reduction, Suppressed, and Slow-Sync modes. A menu option lets you control flash power, from -1 to +1 exposure equivalents (EV) in half-step increments.

The G400 also features a Movie mode, activated through the Record menu. The camera captures moving images with sound for as long as the memory card has space available, at 320 x 240 pixels. As with most cameras offering sound recording with their movie options, you can set the G400's lens to whatever zoom position you like prior to the start of recording, but once recording has begun, the focal length is fixed. This prevents the noise of the zoom motor from affecting the audio track. You can also record short sound clips to accompany images, or longer sessions of pure audio for as long as the memory card has available space. Audio clips can be recorded when an image is captured, or anytime afterwards. The G400 offers two Continuous shooting modes: Super and Standard. Standard mode captures a series of images at approximately 0.8 frames per second, for as long as the Shutter button is held down, although the camera slows somewhat after the first six frames are captured. (Actual number of images and frame rate is determined by the memory card space, exposure, and resolution.) In Super Continuous mode, the camera captures a maximum of three images at about 2.5 frames per second. (With an odd but consistent variation in the delay between the shots, see the Picky Details page.) An Auto Bracketing feature lets you bracket either exposure or focus (as mentioned above), in three steps. The camera's Self-Timer mode offers a short delay (either three or 10 seconds) between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the shutter actually opens, giving you time to zip around in front of the camera for a self-portrait. Through the Record menu, the G400 also offers an ISO adjustment, with equivalent settings of 50, 100, 200, and 400. Contrast, Sharpness, and Saturation can also be adjusted, as well as the individual red, blue, and green levels. You can also save specific exposure settings for up to two users, through the Custom option of the record menu.

The G400 stores images either on Sony Memory Sticks (either the original format, or the new "Pro" units) or on SD/MMC memory cards, both available separately in a variety of storage capacities. A 16MB SD card ships with the camera, but I highly recommend picking up a higher-capacity card, especially given the camera's maximum 2,272 x 1,704-pixel resolution and its resulting large file sizes. The camera uses a rechargeable NP-600 lithium battery pack for power, which comes with the camera, along with a battery charger. (An AC adapter is available as a separate accessory, and uses a "dummy" battery to plug into the camera.) Battery life is fairly good, with a worst-case run time of 97 minutes on a fully-charged battery, but I always recommend buying a second battery right along with the camera, so you won't run out. The G400 features a USB jack and cable for downloading images to a computer. A CD-ROM loaded with DiMAGE Viewer software also comes with the camera, for downloading and organizing images. (The necessary USB drivers are also provided.)

Basic Features

  • 4.0-megapixel CCD delivering maximum 2,272 x 1,704-pixel resolution images.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.5-inch color LCD monitor.
  • Glass, 3x 5.6-16.8mm Hexanon lens (equivalent to a 34-101mm lens on a 35mm camera).
  • 2x digital zoom.
  • Automatic, Program AE, Aperture Priority, and Manual exposure modes.
  • Aperture range from f/2.8 to f/8.3.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds.
  • Built-in flash with five modes, and an adjustable intensity setting.
  • SD/MMC and Sony Memory Stick card storage, 16MB SD card included.
  • Power supplied by lithium-ion battery pack or optional AC adapter (battery and charger included).
  • DiMAGE Viewer imaging application included, for Windows and Macintosh platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie with sound recording mode. (320x240 pixel resolution)
  • Movie duration limited only by memory card capacity
  • Three or ten-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Standard and Super Continuous Shooting modes.
  • Autoexposure Bracketing mode.
  • Sepia, Black-and-White, Cool, and Warm color modes.
  • Adjustable ISO setting.
  • Contrast, Saturation, and Sharpness settings, as well as individual Red, Blue, and Green adjustments.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with five modes.
  • Voice caption recording.
  • Spot metering option.
  • Portrait, Scenery, Night, Snap, Sports, and Angel scene settings.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).


Recommendation
With its dual-format memory card slot, tiny size, and variable exposure control, Minolta's DiMAGE G400 is a rugged, portable option for techno-savvy consumers. I was pleasantly surprised by its color rendition and general image quality, although it loses detail rapidly when you increase the ISO setting for faster shutter speeds, or to accommodate low light conditions. Accepting both SD/MMC cards and Sony Memory Sticks, the G400 is geared toward those consumers who want to make the most of their techno-gadgets by throwing a very compact digicam into the mix, sharing memory cards between them. The camera's sturdy, metal body is perfect for travel, as is its small size and pocket-friendly design. The 4.0-megapixel CCD and 3x optical zoom are enough to satisfy advanced pros looking for a general-purpose camera with great image quality, and the option for automatic or full manual exposure control welcomes a range of experience levels. Overall, a very nice, very compact little camera, ideal as a take-anywhere point & shoot.

 

Design

Trim, compact, and light weight, the pocket-friendly Dimage G400 is ready to hit the road to just about any destination. Its metal body is sturdy, tough, and a perfect size for slipping into a shirt or pants pocket. The sliding lens cover keeps the front panel reasonably smooth whenever the camera is shut off, so it won't hang on pockets, and you don't have to worry about the lens accidentally extending when it's in your pocket. Measuring 3.68 x 2.19 x 0.91 inches (94 x 56 x 23 millimeters), the G400 is definitely one of the more portable digicams on the market, and should find accommodation even in small purses. Despite its metal body, the camera remains light weight at just 6.1 ounces (173 grams) with the battery and memory card loaded. A wrist strap secures the camera while in-hand. Those wanting to maintain its attractive sheen should get a soft case though.

The G400's front panel is fairly smooth with the lens cover closed, with the exception of some very small protrusions. Sliding open the lens cover triggers the 3x zoom lens to telescope outward into its shooting position. The lens comes out very quickly, in under one second, and the camera can capture its first shot in as little as 1.2 seconds after being turned on. (Konica Minolta claims 0.7 seconds, but 1.2 was the best I measured. Still very fast though.) In addition to the lens, the camera's flash, optical viewfinder window, autofocus sensors, Self-Timer LED, and a small microphone are also beneath the sliding cover. A blue LED hidden in the inside curve of the sliding lens cover lights up playfully whenever the camera is powered on. Though the camera doesn't have much of a hand grip, a sculpted, curving ridge on the front panel serves as a finger grip, reinforced by a slight thumb rest on the back panel.

On the right side of the camera is an eyelet for attaching the wrist strap, as well as the USB jack. Just below the USB jack is a small, removable section of the battery compartment. This provides an opening for the AC adapter cord, which attaches to a "dummy" battery.

The opposite side of the camera is smooth and flat.

A smooth, flat Shutter button and the camera's speaker are the only features on the top panel, which is also very flat.

The remaining camera controls are on the rear panel, along with the LCD monitor and optical viewfinder. The tiny optical viewfinder eyepiece doesn't have a diopter adjustment, but does have a moderately high eyepoint. I could just about see the full view without actually touching my eyeglass lens to the eyepiece, so most eyeglass wearers should find it comfortable. A single LED lamp on the right side of the eyepiece lights or blinks to indicate camera status, such as when focus is set or the flash is charging. The Playback, Erase, Four-Way Arrow pad, and Zoom buttons extend from the eyepiece and line the top of the panel. The 1.5-inch color LCD monitor dominates the left side of the back panel, and directly to the right of it are the Mode, Menu, and Set/Display buttons.

The G400's bottom panel is also smooth and flat. A plastic threaded tripod mount sits to the far left (when looking from the back), which may encourage the camera to sit slightly tilted on a tripod head. (This is easily remedied by tilting the tripod head itself, but I thought it worth mentioning.) Also on the bottom panel is the battery and memory card slot, covered by a sliding, hinged door. The slot houses both Sony Memory Sticks and SD/MMC memory cards, as well as a lithium-ion battery pack.

 

Camera Operation

The G400's limited external controls make it less daunting to approach than more complicated control layouts, but also mean that you'll need to access the LCD menu system to change even some fairly common camera settings. Still, the external controls offer basic image erase, flash mode, and capture mode functions, most of what the typical point-and-shoot user will need for normal operation. A definite plus is the Four-Way Arrow pad, which lets you adjust exposure, exposure compensation, white balance, flash mode, and macro settings, without the LCD menu display. The LCD menu system is fairly straightforward, with option tabs lining the bottom of the display. The arrow keys scroll through menu items, and you can easily exit the menus by pressing the Menu button a second time. Because of the camera's mainly point-and-shoot nature, you'll likely spend more time shooting than sifting through menu items. The user interface is slightly tricky at first, as you'll need to get accustomed to the varied role of the Four-Way Arrow pad, but a quick read through the manual should set things right.

Record Mode Display: In Record mode, the G400's LCD reports the type of memory card in use, date and time, level of battery power, number of available images, and the file resolution and quality settings (as well as any exposure settings when manually selected). When the Shutter button is halfway pressed, the display also reports the selected aperture and shutter speed settings (if not already displayed in Manual mode). Pressing the Display button once cancels the information display, while a second turns off the LCD monitor entirely. A third press restores the default display.


Playback Mode Display: In Playback mode, the LCD reports the file name, series number, date and time, type of memory card, and the resolution and quality settings. Pressing the Display button simply dismisses and recalls the information display. A Playback zoom feature is available using the Zoom controls, as is a nine-image index display.

 

External Controls


Sliding Lens Cover
: Sliding from left to right across the front of the camera, the lens cover acts as the power switch and enables the lens to telescope forward when slid fully open. Closing the cover signals the lens to retract, and shuts off the camera. - I like sliding covers like this, because they both protect the lens, and also avoid the problem of the lens accidentally extending while the camera is in your pocket or purse, potentially damaging it.


Shutter Button
: Located on the far right side of the top panel, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.


Wide and Tele Zoom Buttons
: Positioned in the top right corner of the camera's rear panel, these buttons control the optical and digital zoom in Record mode.

In Playback mode, these buttons control the digital enlargement of captured images, and access the index display.


Four Way Arrow Pad
: Just to the left of the Zoom buttons, this rocker-style arrow pad has four arrows, one in each direction. In any settings menu, these arrows navigate through menu selections.

In Record mode, the operation of the Arrow Pad is a little cryptic, but convenient, once you get the hang of it. Pressing the up-arrow toggles the Arrow Pad's operation between its labeled functions (macro and flash modes), and exposure control. Normally, the left arrow toggles between Macro and normal capture modes, while the right arrow key controls the flash mode, cycling through Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Slow-Sync, and Suppressed modes. When you switch to exposure-control mode though, the right and left arrow keys set the exposure compensation adjustment. In Manual exposure mode, pressing the up arrow enables you to change the aperture and/or shutter speed settings using the left and right arrow keys. In Aperture Priority mode, pressing the up arrow lets you adjust the aperture setting with the up and down arrows, or change the exposure compensation with the left and right arrows. Pressing the down arrow cycles through the available white balance settings.

In Playback mode, the left and right keys scroll through captured images on the memory card. When an image has been enlarged, all four arrow keys move around within the enlarged view. In normal display mode, the up arrow displays exposure information, such as shutter speed, lens aperture, flash mode, and file size.


Erase Button
: Directly to the left of the Four-Way Arrow pad, this button displays the Erase menu in Playback mode. If pressed in Record mode, the most recently captured image is displayed with the Erase menu overlay.


Playback Button
: The far left control on the camera's back panel, this button activates Playback mode while the camera is in Record mode. (You can return to Record mode by pressing the button again, or half-pressing the Shutter button.) If the camera is powered off, pressing and holding this button activates the camera in Playback mode. A second press shuts the camera off.


Mode Button
: The first button in a series lining the right side of the LCD monitor, this button controls the camera's operating mode, offering Auto, Scene Select, Movie / Voice, Manual, and Setup options (described below).


Menu Button
: Directly below the Mode button, this button activates the LCD menu in any mode, as well as disables the menu display.


Display / Set Button
: The final button in the series along the right side of the LCD display, this button controls the LCD display mode in Record and Playback modes, cycling through information displays and disabling the LCD itself. It also acts as the Set button, confirming any menu settings.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Auto Record Mode: This mode places the camera under Automatic exposure control, with limited options available through the LCD menu. Pressing the Menu button displays the following.

  • Color: Records images in Standard color, or in Sepia, Black-and-White, Warm, or Cool color options.
  • Drive: Sets the drive mode to Single Shutter, Continuous, or Super Continuous.
  • Quality/Resolution: Sets the image size and JPEG compression. Options are 4M Fine (2,272 x 1,704 pixels), 4M Normal (2,272 x 1,704 pixels), 2M (1,600 x 1,200 pixels), or VGA (640 x 480 pixels).
  • Memory Priority: Specifies which memory card to access first, SD or Memory Stick, if both are inserted into the camera. When the selected card gets filled up, the camera will automatically switch to the other card.
  • Self-Timer: Turns the Self-Timer Off, or sets the timer to three or 10 seconds.


Scene Select: Offers a range of preset scene modes to choose from, in addition to the basic record menu options. Menu choices are as follows:

  • Scene: Sets the scene mode to Portrait, Scenery, Night, Snap, Sports, or Angel.
  • Drive: Sets the drive mode to Single Shutter, Continuous, or Super Continuous.
  • Quality/Resolution: Designates the resolution setting and JPEG compression. Options are 4M Fine (2,272 x 1,704 pixels), 4M Normal (2,272 x 1,704 pixels), 2M (1,600 x 1,200 pixels), or VGA (640 x 480 pixels).
  • Memory Priority: Specifies which memory card to access first, SD or Memory Stick, if both are inserted into the camera.
  • Self-Timer: Turns the Self-Timer Off, or sets the timer to three or 10 seconds.


Movie / Voice: Allows you to record moving images with sound, voice captions, or audio. Menu options include:

  • Mode: Sets the recording mode to Voice, Movie, or Add Recording (voice caption).
  • Exposure: Adjusts the exposure compensation for movie files, from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments.
  • White Balance: Places color balance under Auto control, or sets it for Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, or Incandescent light sources.
  • Memory Priority: Specifies which memory card to access first, SD or Memory Stick, if both are inserted into the camera.
  • Self-Timer: Turns the Self-Timer Off, or sets the timer to three or 10 seconds.


Manual Record Mode: Accesses a larger range of exposure options, as well as variable exposure control. The expanded record menu offers the following options:

  • Exposure Mode: Sets the exposure mode to Program, Manual, or Aperture Priority.
  • Drive: Sets the drive mode to Single Shutter, Continuous, Super Continuous, Auto Bracket Exposure, or Auto Bracket Focus.
  • Quality/Resolution: Sets the file size and JPEG compression. Options are 4M Fine (2,272 x 1,704 pixels), 4M Normal (2,272 x 1,704 pixels), 2M (1,600 x 1,200 pixels), or VGA (640 x 480 pixels).
  • Memory Priority: Specifies which memory card to access first, SD or Memory Stick, if both are inserted into the camera.
  • Self-Timer: Turns the Self-Timer Off, or sets the timer to three or 10 seconds.


  • Color: Records images in Standard color, or in Sepia, Black-and-White, Warm, or Cool color options.
  • Exposure: Increases or decreases the exposure over a range of -2 to +2 EV, in one-third-step increments.
  • White Balance: Lets the camera adjust the color balance automatically, or sets it for Daylight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, or Incandescent light sources.
  • ISO: Sets the camera's sensitivity to Auto, or to 50, 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents.
  • Auto Focus: Controls the camera's focus mode. Choices are standard AF, MF 0.8 meters, MF 1.2 meters, MF 2.5 meters, or Infinity.


  • Custom: Accesses Custom 1 or 2 selections, or turns the Custom setting off. (NOTE: All of the settings from this point down are only accessible if Custom 1 or 2 is selected.)
  • Flash Compensation: Controls the flash power, from -1 to +1 EV in half-step increments.
  • Saturation: Adjusts the overall color saturation in five levels.
  • Contrast: Adjusts the overall image contrast in five levels.
  • Sharpness: Controls the amount of in-camera sharpening, with five adjustment levels.


  • Color R: Boosts or cuts the sensitivity of the red channel.
  • Color G: Boosts or cuts the sensitivity of the green channel.
  • Color B: Boosts or cuts the sensitivity of the blue channel.
  • Slow Shutter Flash: Sets the minimum shutter speed when shooting with a flash. Choices are 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, and 1/125 second.
  • Slow Shutter without Flash: Sets the minimum shutter speed when shooting without a flash. Options are 1/12.5, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, and 1/200.

Setup Mode: Setup mode displays a menu with the following choices as soon as you select it. (You scroll horizontally to select the sub-menus indicated by the boldfaced type below, then scroll vertically to access options within each sub-menu.):

  • Format: Formats the specified memory card, erasing all files, even protected ones.
  • Monitor:
    • Quick View: Enables or disables a short post-capture display.
    • Information: Turns the LCD information display on or off.
    • Monitor: Turns the LCD monitor on or off.
    • Blue LED: Activates or deactivates the blue LED on the front of the camera.
    • Monitor Color: Adjusts the color of the LCD display.

  • Record Settings:
    • Red-Eye Reduction: Turns the Red-Eye Reduction flash setting on or off.
    • Digital Zoom: Turns the 2x digital zoom on or off.
    • Number Reset: Determines whether the camera resets file numbering with each new memory card, or continues number in sequence, regardless of card.
    • AE: Sets the camera's metering mode to Spot or Center.
    • Exo AF Sensor: If set to on, the camera uses both the external (infrared) autofocus, as well as contrast detection with the data from the CCD to set focus. If off, the camera bases focus only on data coming from the CCD.

  • Sound:
    • Beep: Turns the camera's beep on or off.
    • Sound Effect: Turns the camera's sound effects on or off.
    • Sound Shutter: Enables (or disables) the shutter sound.

  • Basic Setup:
    • Date Set: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.
    • Language: Changes the camera's menu language.
    • Auto Power Off: Turns the camera's auto shut-down feature on or off, and sets the shutoff time period to 3 or 10 minutes.
    • Custom: Lets you assign what menu functions appear in the record menu in Manual mode.
    • Default: Resets menu settings to their defaults.

Playback Mode: This mode lets you review captured images on the memory card, erase them, protect them, set them up for printing, etc. The Playback button on the back panel enables the mode, whether the camera is powered on or off. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Copy and Move: Copies an image file from one memory card to another.
  • DPOF: Accesses the camera's DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) settings, which setup images for printing. You can specify individual images or all images, as well as the number of copies to print.
  • Protect: Write-protects the currently-displayed image, or removes protection. You can also mark selected images or all images for protection.
  • Resize: Reduces the current image size.
  • Slide Show: Plays back all images on the selected memory card automatically, with short intervals in between.

In the Box

The following items are included in the box:

  • Minolta DiMAGE G400 digital camera.
  • Neck strap.
  • 16MB SD/MMC card.
  • Lithium battery pack.
  • Battery charger with AC cord.
  • USB cable.
  • CD-ROM containing Dimage Viewer.
  • Manual and registration card.

 

Recommended Accessories

Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

 

Specifications

See camera specifications here.

 

Picky Details

Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.

 

Test Images and Photo Gallery

See our test images and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of our test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo. For a set of more pictorial sample photos from the G400, visit our Konica Minolta G400 photo gallery.

Outdoor
Indoor
Indoor Flash

House
Musicians
Macro

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy



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 G400'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 G400's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the DiMAGE G400 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

  • Color: Good to very good color, good but not excellent handling of incandescent lighting. The G400 had a tendency to leave a bit of a warm cast in its images, with both the Auto and Daylight white balance options, and in a variety of settings. Outdoors, the effect wasn't too pronounced, but the camera had a little trouble with incandescent lighting. (Less than most, though, I'd say.) The slight warm cast aside though, colors were generally hue-accurate and appropriately saturated, and skin tones were pleasing.

  • Exposure: Average exposure accuracy. High contrast, but an effective contrast adjustment option. The G400's exposure system delivered average exposure accuracy overall. It had somewhat high contrast with its default settings, but its contrast adjustment option worked pretty well to help it hold onto color in my Outdoor Portrait test. (Although I have to say that its ISO, contrast, and saturation adjustments are pretty thoroughly buried in the depths of the menu system.) A fairly short maximum shutter time required that I shoot the Indoor Portrait test at ISO 200, which boosted the image noise more than would have been the case at ISO 100. While the G400 managed to hold onto highlights in the harshly lit Outdoor Portrait test, its dynamic range was limited on the dark end of the tone scale, where it "plugged" the shadows and lost detail.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Good resolution for its 4-megapixel class, 1,100 lines of "strong detail.". The G400 performed pretty well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. t 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 1,100 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred at between 1,350 and 1,400 lines. In shots of more "natural" subjects, the G400's images looked a little soft, but they seemed to take sharpening in Photoshop(tm) pretty well.

  • Image Noise Better than average noise characteristics for its class. I was generally fairly pleased by the G400's noise performance. Its images start out fairly "clean" at ISO 50, and the noise levels increase fairly gradually with increasing ISO. At ISO 400, the noise is very evident, but I'd say that it's not the worst that I've seen from a camera in its price/performance class.

  • Closeups: A small macro area with good detail in the dollar bill. Flash actually throttles down a bit too much, underexposing slightly. The G400 performed well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 2.74 x 2.06 inches (70 x 52 millimeters). Resolution was very high, and detail was strong in the coins, brooch, and dollar bill. Details were sharp, with only a little softness in the corners, this latter amounting to a better performance than I'm accustomed to seeing from mid-range digicams. Color balance was warm and yellowish from the Auto white balance setting, but exposure was about right. The G400's flash throttled down a bit too much for the macro area, underexposing the shot. (I'm guessing that the flash exposure sensor was fooled by a glint off a coin or the brooch, so don't hold the underexposure too much against the camera.)

  • Night Shots: Pretty good low-light performance, with good color and exposure down to the lowest light level at the higher ISO settings. Limited low-light autofocus capability though. The G400 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test at the higher (200 and 400) ISO settings. At ISO 100, images were bright as low as 1/8 foot-candle (1.4 lux), and at ISO 50, images were bright only as low as 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux). Color balance was good, if slightly warm. Image noise was low (barely perceptible) at the ISO 50 setting, but as always, increased steadily with increasing ISO, becoming quite strong at ISO 400. The biggest weakness of the G400 for low light shooting is its autofocus system. It was a little hard telling what the low light focus limit was, as the camera actually seemed to do better than it "thought" it did. - It would blink its AF-warning icon in the LCD viewfinder at light levels even higher than the 1 foot-candle my test starts at. Despite this, it seemed to achieve accurate focus down to levels below 1 foot-candle. My recommendation though, would be to not rely on it for accurate autofocusing in any sort of dim lighting, instead using one of the fixed-focus settings available in Manual mode.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: A tight optical viewfinder, but pretty accurate LCD monitor. The G400's optical viewfinder was quite tight, showing only about 82 percent of the final image area at both wide angle and telephoto zoom settings. The LCD monitor fared much better, showing approximately 98 percent frame accuracy at both zoom settings. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the G400's LCD monitor does very well indeed. - But I'd really like to see a more accurate optical viewfinder.

  • Optical Distortion: Lower than average distortion all around. - A fairly high-quality lens. Geometric distortion on the G400 is a bit lower than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.6 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end did better yet, as I measured approximately 0.2 percent pincushion distortion there. Chromatic aberration is good to moderate, showing just a few pixels of coloration that ranges from faint to moderately bright 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.) Corner to corner sharpness is also a good bit better than average, with less of the softness I've become so accustomed to seeing in he corners of the frame. Taken together, these results point to a fairly high quality lens on the G400, consistent with the results of my other test images.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time Average shutter delay and shot to shot cycle times. The G400's shutter response in full autofocus mode is slightly on the fast side of average, with a range of 0.78 to 0.90 seconds, and the same is true of its cycle time for maximum-quality images, at just under 3 seconds between shots. The one surprise though, was its exceptional speed when you "prefocus" it, by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the actual moment of the exposure. In this mode, the shutter delay was a blazing 0.056 second (56 milliseconds), competing with digital SLRs in that mode.

  • Battery Life: Better than average battery life for a compact model, but plan on buying a second battery anyway. With a worst-case run time (capture mode, with the LCD turned on) of 97 minutes, the G400's battery life is on the good side of average. As always though, I strongly recommend purchasing a second battery along with the camera.

Conclusion

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Compact, feature-laden, and stylish, the DiMAGE G400 offers point-and-shoot simplicity for beginners and full manual exposure control for more advanced consumers. While it's a little prone to image noise and/or reduced detail at higher ISO settings, I was quite favorably impressed with its image quality on my test shots. The rugged, stainless steel body can withstand heavy usage, and the small size is great for pockets. The 4.0-megapixel CCD and true, 3x optical zoom lens ensure high quality images with great color and detail, while multi-functional control buttons ensure less reliance on the LCD menu system and quicker shooting on the fly. The multi-tabbed menu bars are somewhat odd, and their reliance on the poorly-placed Four-Way Arrow Pad are the camera's minor weak point. Were this controller just right of the screen, and closer to the Set button, it would be a little more comfortable to use. Still, anyone buying this camera will have time to get used to the interface, and at least it's clear and relatively easy to navigate, with words to accompany most icons. All in all, a surprising little digicam with features that earned it "Dave's Pick" status. If you're in the market for a rugged, stylish, compact digicam, the Konica Minolta DiMAGE G400 deserves your attention.

 

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