The Imaging Resource
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3 Digital Camera
|11x14s, or 8x10s with some cropping|
Suggested Retail Price
(At time of introduction)
Similar in shape and size to the preceding DiMAGE Z1 and Z2 models, the Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z3 continues with the shrunk-down 35mm "big lens" SLR design aesthetic, although this newest model is elegantly clad in an all-black body. The DiMAGE Z3 offers many of the same excellent features and exposure options as the previous models, though now with an impressive 12x optical zoom lens and an Anti-Shake feature for reducing blurring due to camera movement in slower exposures. Maintaining the full-featured reputation of the Z1 and Z2 models, the Z3 offers full manual exposure control and a host of creative shooting options in a fairly compact, very user-friendly package. Measuring a mere 4.27 x 3.15 x 3.29 inches (108 x 80 x 83 millimeters) and weighing 16 ounces (455 grams) with the cap, batteries, and SD memory card, the DiMAGE Z3 is quite compact for such a long-zoom camera, but still a bit too chunky for a shirt pocket. It should fit into larger coat pockets, purses, and backpacks without trouble though. A neck/shoulder strap comes with the Z3, for more secure portability. Covered in solid black plastic body panels with a matte finish, the Z3's body is built around the large lens barrel. A substantial handgrip provides a solid hold, but the rest of the camera is fairly compact. A plastic lens cap protects the telescoping lens, but tethers to the camera body to prevent it from being accidentally lost. The Z3 features a 4.0-megapixel CCD, which produces high resolution images for making sharp prints as large as 11x14 inches with some cropping, as well as lower resolution images better suited for email distribution. With its range of exposure options, 12x optical zoom, and high resolution CCD, the Z3 is a versatile and capable performer.
The DiMAGE Z3 is generously equipped with a 12x, 5.83-69.9mm lens, the equivalent of a 35-420mm lens on a 35mm camera. This represents a range from a moderate wide-angle to a very substantial telephoto. This lens replaces the 38-380mm equivalent lens used on the Z2 (which, in its own right was an excellent zoom range). Maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/4.5, depending on the lens zoom setting. Focus is specified as ranging from 2.0 feet (0.6 meters) to infinity in normal mode, with a macro setting ranging from 0.3 to 8.2 feet (0.1 to 2.5 meters). There's also a Super Macro setting, which gets as close as 0.39 inches (1 centimeter) for really impressive closeups. In practice, I found that the camera would focus down to close to the "Macro" range even with the Macro option disabled, at least at the wide angle end of the zoom range. At the telephoto end of the lens' range, minimum focusing distance seemed to be about five feet, regardless of the Macro setting. Though the DiMAGE Z3 normally judges focus from a large area in the center of the frame, a Spot AF mode is also available, which determines focus from one of five possible spot-AF hotspots, arranged across the middle of the frame. To activate Spot-AF mode, press and hold down the center button of the arrow pad in any non-movie capture mode. Once Spot-AF mode is selected, you can use the left and right buttons of the arrow pad to select the specific spot area you want to use.
The Z3 offers a manual focus setting, as well as a Full-time AF mode which continuously adjusts focus whether the shutter button is pressed or not. (This may be helpful in tracking moving subjects, but doesn't reduce shutter lag with stationary subjects.) You can also opt for a Continuous AF mode which employs Predictive Focus technology. This option continuously adjusts focus without you having to hold down the shutter button, and attempts to track a moving subject so that it can "predict" where the next focus area will be. In addition to the optical zoom, the DiMAGE Z3 offers as much as 4x digital zoom. (I always remind readers though, that digital zoom inevitably decreases the overall image quality because it simply enlarges the central pixels of the CCD's image.) For composing images, the DiMAGE Z3 offers a 1.5-inch LCD monitor, as well as a smaller, electronic optical viewfinder LCD display. Unlike previous Z-series models, these are two distinct displays (previous models used the same LCD which would pivot between the full LCD and the viewfinder). The Mode switch on the camera's rear panel determines which display is active, and the full information and image displays are available on both (including the LCD menu). The LCD is quite sharp, and during manual focusing, the central portion of the display is magnified by about 3x, as a further aid to determining optimum focus.
For eyeglass wearers, the Z3's eyelevel viewfinder is a bit of a mixed bag. It has a dioptric adjustment with a fairly broad adjustment, at the "nearsighted" end of its range accommodating even my own 20/180 vision. On the downside though, the eyepiece has a fairly low eyepoint, making it hard to use while wearing glasses. (I could see the entire frame with my own glasses on, but had to press the eyeglass lens right up against the eyepiece, something I'd prefer not to do, for fear of scratches.)
When it comes to exposure, the DiMAGE Z3 offers a wide range of options, controlled by the Exposure Mode dial on top of the camera. Main exposure modes include Auto, Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes, with five preset Scene modes and a Movie mode available as well. In Auto mode, the camera handles everything, leaving only the zoom, drive mode, etc., for the user to worry about. Program AE mode keeps the camera in charge of aperture and shutter speed, but allows the user to adjust all other exposure settings. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes provide partial manual control, letting the user adjust one variable while the camera selects the other. Finally, in Manual mode, the user has complete control over the exposure. Aperture settings range from f/2.8 to f/8, with the actual maximum and minimum values depending on the lens zoom position. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 15 seconds in Manual and Shutter Priority modes, with a true time-exposure setting permitting exposures as long as 30 seconds. (Maximum exposure time in Program AE, Aperture Priority, Auto, and the Digital Subject Program modes is four seconds.) The true time-exposure option on the Z3 is a very unusual and welcome feature on a digital camera. Most digicams with long-exposure options have a "Bulb" mode, in which the shutter is kept open as long as you hold down the shutter button. The disadvantage of this approach is the need to keep your finger on the shutter button often causes camera shake that can blur the final images. With a true time-exposure mode though, you press the shutter button once to open the shutter, and then again to close it. With the camera mounted on a tripod, the momentary minor jiggling as you press the shutter button to open the shutter dies away quickly, allowing very sharp images with very long exposures. Kudos to Konica Minolta for implementing this feature, one that I wish other camera makers would adopt.
The Z3's new Anti-Shake option (enabled through the Setup menu) also helps with blurring from camera movement, which is more pronounced when shooting at the full telephoto zoom position. When enabled, the Anti-Shake system turns on whenever the shutter button is pressed. It has two modes of operation though, selected through the camera's Setup menu. In the first mode (Disp+Exp), the anti-shake system actuates whenever the shutter button is half-pressed, so you can see the effect it has through the image that's displayed on the LCD monitor. The second mode (Exp only), it only activates for the exposure itself, so you won't see any stabilization of the viewfinder image. The second mode saves on battery power, but I personally much prefer the visual feedback of the Disp+Exp mode so I can tell it's working. You should note though, that Anti-Shake is only effective for minor movement, and won't counteract the effects of strong movements of the camera. Neither will it reduce blur caused by a moving subject. For longer exposures, the Z3 features a Noise Reduction setting (optionally activated through the Setup menu), which uses dark-frame subtraction to reduce image noise resulting from long exposure times. While this noise reduction helps somewhat, I found in my testing that the Z3 did much better at moderate light levels, down to roughly 1/4 the brightness of typical city street lighting at night.
In addition to the various automatic, semi-automatic, and manual conventional exposure modes, the five Digital Subject Program modes include Night Portrait, Sunset, Landscape, Sports Action, and Portrait modes, for shooting in common, yet sometimes challenging, situations. Night Portrait allows use of the flash in conjunction with longer exposure times for more even illumination; Sunset mode sets white balance to "daylight" and biases the exposure to produce saturated colors in sky shots; Landscape mode uses a small aperture to produce greater depth of field; Sports Action mode biases the exposure system toward faster shutter speeds; and Portrait mode uses a larger aperture to decrease depth of field, slightly blurring the background behind the primary subject.
By default, the Z3 employs a Multi-Segment metering system, which reads multiple areas throughout the frame to determine the exposure. Through the Record menu, however, you can opt for Spot or Center-Weighted metering modes. The right and left arrow keys on the camera's back panel control the Exposure Compensation, adjusting it from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. Light sensitivity is adjustable to ISO values of 50, 100, 200, or 400, with an Auto setting as well. White Balance is also adjustable through the settings menu, with options for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, and Flash light sources, as well as a Custom setting for manually adjusting the color balance with a white card. The Record menu also offers Sharpness and Contrast adjustments, as well as a Color setting with Natural, Vivid, Black and White, and Sepia color options. The DiMAGE Z3 features a built-in, pop-up flash, which operates in Auto, Auto Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-Flash, Fill with Red-Eye Reduction, Suppressed, or Slow-Sync modes. An adjustment in the Record menu lets you control the intensity of the flash, from -2 to +2 EV. You can also attach a more powerful flash unit, via the external flash hot shoe on the camera's top panel. The flash connection is proprietary to Konica Minolta accessories, including the Maxxum Flash 2500, 3600HS, and 5600HS units, but an adapter unit is available (albeit nearly impossible to find at retail) that provides a standard PC-style sync connector.
In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures 640 x 480 or 320 x 240-pixel resolution moving images with sound, with a Fine quality option available at the larger resolution. The recording time per segment varies with the available memory card space, as well as with the resolution, quality, and frame rate selected. (Given a sufficiently fast memory card, the camera is able to record movies of any size or frame rate without pausing, up to the limit of the card's capacity. With slower memory cards though, recording may be limited to shorter intervals. - Look for speed-rated cards of 32x or higher.) You have an option for Standard or Night movie modes, and can set the frame rate to either 15 or 30 frames per second. In movie mode, you can zoom digitally or optically, though keep in mind that the noise from the lens motor will also be recorded. In this case, the zoom is very slow--better for good movies--so you don't hear the zoom motor as much as the zoom control itself when you activate it too vigorously. Finally, another unique feature of the Z3's movie mode is the ability to capture single frames of the movie during playback, and save them as separate still images.
For shooting fast action subjects, the DiMAGE Z3's Standard and Ultra High Speed (UHS) Continuous Advance modes capture a rapid series of images while you hold down the Shutter button, much like a motor drive on a traditional 35mm camera. UHS mode captures up to 15 frames at the 1,280 x 960 resolution at a rate of 10 frames/second, while Standard mode captures frames at about 2.16 frames per second. (Konica Minolta claims 2.2 frames/second, pretty close to what we saw.) The actual frame rate and maximum number of images in a series will depend on the resolution setting, subject matter, and the amount of available memory space. Besides the normal Continuous Advance modes, the Z3 offers a feature called "Progressive Capture," which begins continuously acquiring images when you press and hold down the shutter button, but only saving the last few captured when you finally release the shutter button. At maximum resolution, standard Progressive Capture will save the last six images captured, while UHS Progressive Capture will save up to the last 15 1280 x 960 images captured. Progressive capture is very helpful for capturing fast action, when you don't know exactly when the critical moment will arrive. (Great for those like myself whose reflexes are slowing as we age.) The Z3's action-capture capabilities are further enhanced by its shorter than average shutter lag times, ranging from 0.26 seconds at wide angle to 0.46 seconds at telephoto. (As well as its prefocus shutter delay of 0.13 seconds, just slightly longer than the Z2's 0.09 seconds.) Also available is an Auto Exposure Bracketing mode, which captures three consecutive frames at different exposure settings, varying by 0.3, 0.5, or 1.0 EV steps. The camera's Self-Timer mode provides a two or 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the time that the camera actually takes the picture, allowing you to get into your own shots.
The DiMAGE Z3 stores its images on SD memory cards, and a 16MB card accompanies the camera. (The camera also works with MMC cards, which used to be slightly less expensive, but which have now for the most part disappeared from the market.) I highly recommend picking up a larger capacity card right away, so you don't miss any important shots. (These days, a 128MB card represents a good tradeoff between capacity and cost.) Connection to a host computer for image download is via USB. The DiMAGE Z3 is a "storage-class" device, which means that it doesn't require any separate driver software for Windows 2000 and XP, or for Mac OS 8.6 and later. The camera utilizes four AA-type batteries for power, and a set of single-use alkaline batteries accompanies the camera. While the Z3 offers much better than average battery life, I as always recommend picking up at least two sets of high-capacity rechargeable NiMH batteries and a good charger, and keeping a set freshly charged at all times. See my Battery Shootout page for test results from a variety of batteries, and read my review of the Maha C-204W to see why it's my new favorite AA-cell charger. The optional AC adapter is also useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images, or when viewing images and movies on a television, via the supplied A/V cable. (With a couple of sets of good NiMH batteries and a good charger though, you really won't need an AC adapter.)
Many of our readers will be familiar with the earlier DiMAGE Z1 and Z2 models, so I put together the following comparison of major features between the DiMAGE Z1, DiMAGE Z2, and the DiMAGE Z3.
|Feature||DiMAGE Z3||DiMAGE Z2||DiMAGE Z1|
|Branding||Konica Minolta||Konica Minolta||Minolta|
|Sensor Resolution (total pixels)||4.2 megapixel||4.2 megapixel||3.3 megapixel|
|Sensor Resolution (effective)||4.0 megapixel||4.0 megapixel||3.2 megapixel|
|Maximum Image Size||2,272 x 1,704 pixels||2,272 x 1,704 pixels||2,048 x 1,536 pixels|
|Maximum Movie Size||640 x 480 pixels (two quality levels)||800 x 600 pixels||640 x 480 pixels|
|Movie Clip Length||Limited only by card space, given a fast enough memory card (A 32x Lexar card worked fine for me)||Limited only by card space, given a fast enough memory card (A 32x Lexar card worked fine for me)||30 seconds at 640 x 480, 30fps (other resolutions vary)|
|Movie Optical Zoom||Always enabled||Can be enabled through menu||No|
|Movie Digital Zoom||Available at all resolutions||Available at all resolutions||Available at 320 x 240 pixels or lower only|
|Movie Audio||On at all times||On at all times||Can be disabled via menu|
|Movie Editing||No, but can save a single frame as a new file||Yes, can crop start and end of movie, and save as new file||No|
|Focal Length||5.83 - 69.9mm
|6.3 - 63mm
|5.8 - 58mm
|Maximum Aperture||f/2.8 (wide)
|Lens Branding||APO GT Lens||APO GT Lens||None|
|Focus Modes||Single, Continuous with Predictive Focus, and Manual, Five-Point Adjustable AF Area||Single, Continuous, and Manual, Three-Point Adjustable AF Area||Auto, Manual|
|Focus Lock Signal||Can be changed to one of two sounds or disabled||Can be changed to one of two sounds or disabled||Fixed|
|Anti-Shake Feature||Yes, activated through Setup menu with
two display options
|Self-Timer Duration||Two or 10 Seconds||10 Seconds||10 Seconds|
|DPOF Date Printing||Yes||Yes||No|
Solid black body with blue Konica Minolta logo and silver wording on front of flash housing. DC In port moved to USB compartment, and SD card slot moved to bottom panel. Oblong shutter button with decorative raised element extending down front of handgrip.
|Grey panel with silver Konica Minolta wording on front of flash housing. Konica Minolta logo on top of pop-up flash. DC In port has silk-screened graphic showing connector polarity next to it.||Silver panel with Minolta logo on front of flash housing. DC In port has silk-screened "DC IN" text next to it.|
- 4.0-megapixel CCD.
- Electronic optical viewfinder (EVF).
- 1.5-inch color TFT LCD monitor.
- 12x, 5.83-69.9mm lens, equivalent to a 35-420mm lens on a 35mm camera.
- 4x digital zoom.
- Automatic, Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes, plus five preset Digital Subject Program modes.
- Shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to 15 seconds, with a "Time" setting for exposures as long as 30 seconds.
- Maximum aperture f/2.8 to f/4.5, depending on lens zoom position.
- Built-in flash with five modes.
- External flash hot shoe for Konica Minolta accessory flash units.
- SD/MMC memory card storage, 16MB card included.
- Images saved as JPEG files.
- Power supplied by four AA-type batteries or optional AC adapter.
- DiMAGE Viewer and ArcSoft VideoImpression software, and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.
- Optional Anti-Shake technology reduces blurring from camera movement.
- Movie and Night Movie modes with sound recording.
- Optical zoom can be used in Movie mode (but is clearly audible in recorded movies)
- Standard and Ultra High Speed Continuous Advance shooting modes.
- Progressive Capture mode for capturing images before you release the shutter.
- Auto Exposure Bracketing.
- Two- or 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
- White balance (color) adjustment with seven modes, including a manual setting.
- Adjustable ISO with four sensitivity settings and an Auto mode.
- Noise reduction setting for long exposures.
- Multi-Segment, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering options.
- Spot and Full-time AF modes.
- Single, Continuous with Predictive Focus, and Manual AF modes, with an adjustable AF area.
- Color, Sharpness, and Contrast adjustments.
- USB Direct-Print and PictBridge capability.
- A/V cable for connection to a television set.
- USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).
With its 12x optical zoom lens, full range of exposure control, fairly compact size, and excellent movie- and continuous-capture modes, the DiMAGE Z3 is a full-featured yet surprisingly affordable long-zoom digicam. Though the camera features full manual exposure control, its simplified user interface and available automatic and "scene" modes make it very approachable for less-experienced novices who want to gradually learn more about digital photography. A 4.0-megapixel CCD delivers good quality images, with enough resolution to make sharp 8x10 and 11x14 prints, with lower resolution options available for email and other electronic uses. The Z3 is compact enough for travel, especially for a long-zoom model, and has enough exposure features to handle just about any situation. The Z3 would make a great choice for anyone looking for a long-zoom digicam with ample features, but at an affordable price. It is notable that most everyone here at Imaging Resource has been surprised by how enjoyable it is to shoot with the Z3: When shooting gallery shots, I didn't want to use the other cameras, far preferring the ease, quick performance, long zoom, and excellent anti-shake capability of this nice little digicam. A great choice in the long-zoom category!
Konica Minolta's DiMAGE brand name carries with it a tradition of quality and technological innovation, covering an array of digital cameras designed to suit a wide range of experience levels and price points. The newest addition to the pack is Konica Minolta's DiMAGE Z3. Like the Z1 and Z2 models before it, the Z3 offers a strong feature set, pared down only moderately from those of Konica Minolta's higher-end models like the A2, but still offering a full range of exposure control and a long-ratio 12x zoom lens, with an easy to learn user interface, all at an affordable price. Compared to the DiMAGE Z2, changes in the Z3 include the longer 12x optical zoom lens, a new, and arguably essential Anti-Shake feature, plus a handful of minor design tweaks. Shaped much like a miniaturized 35mm SLR, the Z3's body is similar to that of its predecessor, though with an all-black color scheme highlighted only by silver control labels and charcoal-gray buttons on the rear panel. (Other design changes include the relocation of the SD compartment and DC In socket.) Made up mostly of the lens and a tall, stylized hand grip, the plastic body is understated and sophisticated, and sports only a few external controls. Measuring 4.27 x 3.15 x 3.29 inches (108 x 80 x 83 millimeters), the DiMAGE Z3 is a little too bulky for shirt pockets, but should slip into larger coat pockets and purses without trouble. The camera's plastic body helps keep the weight down, despite the large 12x zoom lens, weighing in at 16 ounces (455 grams) with the batteries and SD memory card. A neck strap accompanies the camera for easy toting, but I'd recommend picking up a small camera case to protect the matte finish of the plastic body panels when traveling.
The front of the Z3 is dominated by the large lens and handgrip. When powered on, the lens extends just under 1.25 inches from the camera front. A plastic lens cap clamps onto the lens for protection, and tethers to the camera body with a small strap. A set of filter threads around the inside lip of the lens barrel on the body of the camera accommodates Konica Minolta's accessory lenses via an accessory adapter. Konica Minolta's optional accessory lenses extend both the camera's wide angle and telephoto capabilities. Also on the front panel are the Self-Timer LED lamp and the sloping, oblong Shutter button which angles down from the top of the handgrip. A substantial handgrip provides a firm hold on the camera, with plenty of room for your fingers to curve around the grip. While it offers plenty to grab onto, the handgrip is also small enough to be comfortable for users with smaller hands.
The right side of the Z3 (as viewed from the rear) is blank apart from one of the neck strap attachment eyelets and a rubbery textured panel that wraps from the rear of the camera.
The opposite side of the camera is curved to echo the shape of the lens barrel, and features the second neck strap eyelet. The camera's USB/AV and DC-In connector terminals are located on this side of the camera, in a compartment protected by a rubbery, flexible flap that remains tethered to the camera.
On the DiMAGE Z3's top panel is the pop-up flash compartment and external flash hot shoe, as well as the Shutter, Macro, and Flash buttons. The pop-up flash does not have a release mechanism. Instead, you simply pull up the flash from both sides (which automatically places the flash into Auto mode). A three-hole speaker grille and tiny microphone are side-by-side behind the Shutter button, which slopes downward toward the front panel. The camera's Exposure Mode dial is also located on top of the camera.
The remaining camera controls are on the rear panel, along with the electronic optical viewfinder (EVF) eyepiece and 1.5-inch color LCD monitor. Right of the LCD monitor are the Four-Way Arrow pad and Menu, Quick View/Erase, and Information buttons. The Power button and Mode dial are just beneath the LCD monitor. At the very top of the right side is the Zoom lever. The EVF is centered above the LCD, and has a diopter correction wheel to the right.
The Z3's bottom panel is fairly flat, with a plastic threaded tripod mount centered under the lens (a good position for people interested in panoramic photography), a battery compartment at the base of the handgrip, and an SD card compartment between the two. The SD compartment door could be a little more secure than the current spring loaded design (with no latch), but it works well enough. The tripod mount is just far enough away from the battery compartment to allow quick battery changes while working on a tripod, but not to allow a card change. While I am glad that the battery slot is accessible while working on a tripod, I would like to maintain access to the SD card slot as well, as I change memory cards more frequently than batteries while working in the studio. The previous Z2 model had this capability, so I'm at a loss as to why the Z3's designers would have moved the SD slot from its previous location on the left side panel. A sliding latch locks and unlocks the battery compartment door, to prevent it from accidentally popping open while shooting.
With only a handful of external camera controls and a well-organized LCD menu system, the DiMAGE Z3's user interface is straightforward and easy to grasp. The Mode dial on the rear panel controls the camera's main operating mode (as well as whether the LCD display's image is routed to the rear panel or the EVF eyepiece, image playback only being possible on the LCD), while the Exposure Mode dial sets the level of exposure control you have. Though only a few exposure options can be controlled externally, the Z3's efficiently laid out LCD menu system is easy to understand and relatively quick to navigate. Each menu is divided up into pages with tabs at the top of the screen, so you can quickly scan each page without scrolling through a long list of options. Given the camera's straightforward setup and user-friendly design, most users should be able to operate the camera right out of the box, referring to the manual only for more complex operations.
Record-Mode Viewfinder Display: In record mode, you can choose to display an information overlay on the LCD screen, or dismiss it for an unobstructed view of your subject. Information shown includes camera mode, exposure mode, flash status, exposure compensation (if a compensation adjustment has been made), white balance setting (if something other than "Auto" is selected), image size and quality setting, drive mode (single, continuous, movie, etc), and number of shots remaining on the memory card. If the information overlay is enabled, aperture and shutter speed are reported when the Shutter button is halfway pressed. The current battery level also appears on-screen, with a graphic to indicate the amount of charge. An optional histogram overlay can be enabled with an additional press on the Info button. In Auto mode, a set of icons appears across the top of the screen, to indicate that automatic scene mode selection is active.
Viewfinder Display: In playback mode, the Information button cycles between
the image display only, the image with a limited information display, and an
index display of the images on the memory card. Image information includes the
file number, image number in the captured series, date and time, battery level,
and the file size and quality settings. Pressing the up-arrow key on the Four-Way
arrow pad calls up a histogram display showing the distribution of brightness
values in the image, along with detailed exposure information. You can also
zoom in up to 6x to check fine details, focus and framing, and can scroll the
enlarged viewing window around the full image using the camera's arrow keys.
Macro Button: Behind the Shutter button on the top panel, this button controls the macro focus mode, cycling between normal AF, Macro, and Super Macro modes.
Flash Button: Alongside the Macro button, this button cycles through the available flash modes in any Record mode. Options include Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill Flash, Suppressed, and Slow-Sync.
Exposure Mode Dial: Sitting atop the back edge of the handgrip, this ribbed dial selects the camera's exposure mode with the following options:
Puts the camera in charge of all the exposure variables, including aperture
and shutter speed. The user controls only flash mode, zoom, macro mode, and
file size and quality settings.
- Movie: Indicated on the Exposure Mode dial by a black film camera icon, this mode records moving images with sound.
- Program AE (P): This mode puts the camera in control of aperture and shutter speed, the user retaining control over all other exposure variables.
- Aperture Priority (A): Here, the user controls the aperture setting, while the camera selects the best corresponding shutter speed.
- Shutter Priority (S): The opposite of Aperture Priority mode, this mode lets the user choose the shutter speed setting while the camera selects the lens aperture.
- Manual (M): This mode provides complete user control over the exposure.
- Night Portrait: Marked on the Exposure Mode dial with an icon of a person with a star above them, this mode sets up the camera for capturing portraits in low-lit situations. Because the camera is using a slower shutter speed here, a tripod is recommended for the best results.
- Sunset: Indicated by a beach scene with a setting sun on the Exposure Mode dial, this mode adjusts the white balance system to preserve the warm colors of a sunset without compensating for them. It also biases the exposure system to produce a slight underexposure, to prevent the sky colors from being washed out.
- Landscape: This mode is indicated by an icon of a pair of mountains with a person in front on the Exposure Mode dial. Here, the camera uses a smaller lens aperture, so that both the background and foreground will be in sharp focus.
- Sports Action: Marked on the Exposure Mode dial by an icon of a running person, this mode uses faster shutter speeds to "freeze" fast-paced action.
- Portrait: An icon of a woman's head indicates this mode on the Exposure Mode dial. In Portrait mode, the camera employs a larger lens aperture setting, which decreases the depth of field. This produces a sharply focused image of the subject, in front of a slightly blurred background.
Zoom Control: Crowning the top right corner of the rear panel, just beneath the Exposure Mode dial, this two-way rocker button controls the optical and digital zoom in Record mode. In Playback mode, this button controls the playback zoom setting, digitally enlarging the image as much as 6x.
Four-Way Arrow Pad and OK Button: Roughly centered on the camera's rear panel, this multi-directional rocker button and center fixed button serve as the camera's main navigational tool. The multi-directional rocker button navigates through settings menus, moving the selection up, down, left, or right. The center button acts as the "OK" button, to confirm any changes. In Manual exposure mode, the right and left keys adjust the aperture setting, while the up and down keys change the shutter speed. In Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, the up and down keys adjust the available exposure variable, while the right and left keys adjust Exposure Compensation. In Program AE mode, the right and left keys adjust the Exposure Compensation as well. In Manual Focus mode, the up/down arrow keys adjust the focal distance of the lens. Since the Manual Focus keys are the same as those used for Shutter speed in Manual exposure mode, in this mode the center button switches back and forth between the up/down arrow keys being used to adjust Manual Focus or Shutter speed.
In Playback mode, the right and left arrow keys scroll through captured images. The up arrow key calls up or dismisses a display screen showing a histogram of brightness values within the image, as well as detailed exposure information. The down arrow rotates the image counter-clockwise in 90-degree increments. When an image has been enlarged, all four keys pan the view. When reviewing a movie file, pressing the center button begins movie playback, displaying a short menu across the bottom of the screen. During playback, the left arrow rewinds, the right arrow fast-forwards, and the up arrow lets you capture a still frame to save as a separate image file.
Menu Button: Directly below the down arrow key and the first in a series curving around the LCD monitor, this button calls up the settings menu in both Record and Playback modes.
QuickView / Erase: Below the Menu button, this button activates the QuickView image display in Record mode, which allows you to check the most recently captured image.
In Playback mode, this button displays the Single Image Erase menu, which lets you erase the currently displayed image.
Display (i+) Button: The final button in the series curving around the LCD monitor, this button controls the LCD display. In Record mode, pressing this button toggles the image information display on and off, and activates a histogram overlay.
In Playback mode, pressing the Display button displays or dismisses a limited information display. A third press switches to an index display of thumbnail images for rapidly reviewing photos in the camera, while a fourth press returns to the normal display.
Power Button: Located in the center of the Mode dial beneath the LCD monitor, this button turns the camera on and off.
Diopter Adjustment Control: Tucked on the side of the viewfinder eyepiece, this tiny, notched dial adjusts the viewfinder display to accommodate near- or farsighted users.
Camera Modes and Menus
Record Mode: In Record mode, the camera can capture still images, with a range of options available through the settings menu. The Exposure Mode dial sets the exposure control mode, while the LCD menu provides the following exposure options (some options are not available in all modes):
- Record 1
- Drive Mode: Sets drive mode to Single, Self-Timer, Continuous, Progressive, or Bracketing.
- Image Size: Adjusts the image resolution to 2,272 x 1,704; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; or 640 x 480 pixels.
- Quality: Specifies the JPEG compression level for still images. Options are Fine, Standard, or Economy. In Movie mode, options are 640 x 480 Fine; 640 x 480 Standard; and 320 x 240 Standard.
- Frame Rate: (Movie mode only.) Sets the movie recording frame rate to 15 or 30 frames per second.
- White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the scene. Options include Auto, Preset (Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent), Custom Set (manual adjustment), and Custom Recall.
- Key Function: Assigns a function to the Flash key. Options are Flash Mode, Drive Mode, White Balance, Focus Mode, Color Mode, and Sensitivity.
- Movie Mode: (Movie mode only.) Sets the movie recording mode to either Standard or Night Movie. (Night Movie mode uses slower shutter speeds to cope with dim lighting conditions, but as a result will produce blurred images of quickly moving objects.)
- Record 2
- Focus Mode: Selects either Single, Continuous, or Manual focus control.
- Color Mode: (Movie mode only.) Chooses whether the camera records images in Natural Color, Vivid (highly saturated) Color, Black and White, or Sepia tones.
- Full time AF: Turns the Full time AF option on or off. If on, the camera adjusts focus continuously whenever the camera is in a capture mode.
- Flash Mode: Sets the flash mode to Auto, Auto Red-Eye Reduction, Fill, Fill with Red-Eye Reduction, or Slow Sync modes.
- Flash Compensation: Adjusts flash power from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in 1/3 increments.
- Metering Mode: Designates how the camera meters the exposure. Options are Multi-Segment, Center-Weighted, and Spot.
- Record 3
- Sensitivity: Sets the camera's sensitivity to Auto, or to 50,100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents.
- Digital Zoom: Turns the 4x digital zoom on and off. (Digital zoom only engages after the lens has been zoomed all the way to its max telephoto.) (In Movie mode, this option appears on page 2.)
- Color Mode: Chooses whether the camera records images in Natural Color, Vivid (highly saturated) Color, Black and White, or Sepia tones.
- Sharpness: Adjusts the in-camera image sharpening. Options are Normal, Hard, and Soft.
- Contrast: Controls the level of image contrast, with choices of Normal, High, and Low.
Playback Mode: This mode allows you to review captured images on the memory card, erase them, protect them, set them up for printing, etc. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:
- Playback 1
- Delete: Erases the current frame, all frames, or marked frames from the memory card.
- Format: Formats the SD/MMC memory card.
- Lock: Write-protects the current image, all marked images or all images, preventing them from being manipulated or erased (except via card formatting). An option also exists to Unlock images.
- Copy: Lets you copy either the current image, or all marked images, from one Secure Digital card to another, via the camera's internal memory. You are prompted to change the card at the appropriate point.
- Playback 2
- Slide Show: Enables an automated slide show of all the images saved on the memory card.
- Slide Show Playback: Specifies which images are played back in the slide show, either All Frames or Marked Frames. (The Marked Frames option lets you "mark" frames for playback.)
- Slide Show Duration: Determines the interval length between images, from one to 60 seconds.
- Slide Show Repeat: Sets whether the slide show repeats after the last image or not.
- Playback 3
- DPOF Set: Allows you to set up images for subsequent printing on a DPOF (Digital Print Order Format)-compliant output device. You can select individual images, marked images, or all images on the card for printing. You can also cancel print settings.
- Date Print: Turns the Date Print function on or off. If on, a DPOF printer will print the date on all images in the current print order.
- Index Print: Turns the Index Print function on or off. If on, a DPOF printer will print an index page of all images on the memory card.
- Email Copy: Makes a low-resolution copy of the selected image. You can make copies of either the current image alone, or of multiple images you've marked separately. Email copy images are stored in a separate "EM" folder on the memory card. (This is a fairly rare and very handy option, although I somewhat prefer Sony's implementation of it, in which the camera can be set to automatically make email-sized copies of all images as they're captured.)
Setup Mode: The following Setup menu options are accessible through both the Record and Playback menu screens, as a separate tab on the far right:
- Setup 1
- LCD Brightness: Adjusts the brightness of the LCD display, with 11 steps of brightness adjustment possible.
- Power Save: Sets the camera to shut itself off after 1, 3, 5, or 10 minutes of inactivity.
- Instant Playback: Turns the Instant Playback function on or off, which displays an image immediately post-capture. If enabled, the review time can be set to two or 10 seconds.
- Lens Accessory: Specifies whether the Wide Converter lens accessory is in use.
- Language: Changes the menu language to Spanish, French, German, French, English, Chinese, or Japanese.
- Setup 2
- File # Memory: Specifies whether file numbering starts over when a card is reformatted, or a new card is inserted, or whether the numbering continues sequentially regardless of card status.
- Folder Name: You can have the camera name the folders it stores its images in on the memory card using either the camera's standard scheme, or by Date. (The latter being a handy way to keep track of photos you've shot over a period of time.)
- Noise Reduction: Turns Noise Reduction on or off. If on, Noise Reduction is automatically enabled at slower shutter speeds.
- Date Time Set: Sets the camera's internal calendar and clock.
- Date Imprint: Turns the date imprint function on or off, overlaying the date on captured images when enabled.
- Setup 3
- Reset Default: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.
- Audio Signals: Turns the camera's beep sounds on or off. You can select between a beep sound or a click sound.
- Focus Signal: Turns the camera's focus sounds on or off. You can select between a long single beep or short double beep sound.
- Shutter FX: Specifies the sound the shutter makes when the Shutter button is pressed, or disables the shutter sound.
- Volume: Sets the playback volume to 1 (low), 2, or 3 (high).
- Setup 4
- Video Output: Selects the video signal timing as either NTSC or PAL.
- Transfer Mode: Selects either Data Storage or PictBridge USB transfer modes.
- Anti-Shake: Enables the Anti-Shake mode, which minimizes blurring due to camera movement when the lens is at full telephoto or during long exposures. You can opt for the effect to appear live in the LCD monitor or enable only in the captured image. You can also turn Anti-Shake off.
- Self-Timer: Sets the Self-Timer duration to two or 10 seconds.
In the Box
Packaged with the DiMAGE Z3 are the following items:
- Neck strap.
- Lens cap with strap.
- Accessory shoe cap.
- AV cable.
- USB cable.
- 16MB SD memory card.
- Four single-use AA alkaline batteries.
- DiMAGE Viewer v2.3.6 (Windows / Machos) CD-ROM.
- ArcSoft VideoImpression V2 (Windows only) CD-ROM
- Operating manual and registration card.
- Large capacity SD memory card. (These days, 128MB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.)
- Two sets of rechargeable AA batteries and battery charger.
- AC adapter.
- Small camera case.
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, nobodies 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...
Over the years, I've gotten so many em ails about power issues for digicams, that I now insert a standard notice in my reviews of AA-powered cameras: Don't even *think* about using alkaline AA batteries in a digicam! Despite their being packed in the box with many cameras, they simply don't have the juice to handle typical digicam demands. Spend the $35-40 or so it takes to get a set (or two) of high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries and a good charger! The few dollars up front will save you literally hundreds of dollars in the long run, not to mention the hassle of wimpy batteries running out in the middle of the action. Buy two sets of batteries too, so one can always be in the charger, ready to go, and so have two sets available for longer excursions. See my Battery Shootout page for test results from a variety of batteries, and read my review of the Maha C-204W to see why it's my new favorite AA-cell charger.
See our sample pictures 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 those readers interested in a set of less "standardized" photos from the Konica Minolta Z3, we've put together a "photo gallery" of more pictorial shots captured with the Z3.
See the specifications sheet here.
Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.
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 Konica Minolta Z3'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 or in our Z3 Photo Gallery, to see how the Z3'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 A95 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: Accurate color, but less saturated than most
consumer cameras. The Z3 produced very nice color overall, with proper
saturation and generally accurate hue in most cases. Where most consumer
digicams artificially pump up their color saturation to produce bright,
snappy-looking prints, the Z3 takes a more conservative and therefore generally
more accurate approach. Whether you like the results or not will be a matter
of personal preference: Most consumers like the artificially bright color
of typical consumer digicams. (That's why the manufacturers make them that
way.) More advanced photographers on the other hand may prefer the less
saturated, more realistic color of the Z3. Besides its lower saturation
though, the Z3 does also have some minor hue errors, shifting purples toward
blue, greens toward yellow, and oranges toward red. Overall though, the
Z3 produced good-looking images throughout my testing.
- Exposure: A slight tendency to underexpose, but generally,
an accurate exposure system. High default contrast, but an effective contrast-adjustment
control. The Z3 had a tendency to underexpose slightly, but required
only a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment in the high-key "Sunlit
Portrait" to get reasonably bright midtones. (This is less compensation
than most cameras require for this shot.) Contrast was typically high, leading
to slightly dark midtones if I adjusted the exposure to preserve the highlights.
That said though, shadow detail was pretty good, and the camera's contrast
adjustment option seemed to work quite well. Indoors, the camera required
an average amount of positive exposure compensation, though the flash tended
to underexpose a bit more than those of most cameras.
- Resolution/Sharpness: Good resolution, fairly typical
for a 4-megapixel camera. The Z3 performed pretty well on the "laboratory"
resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns
at resolutions as low as 900 lines per picture height, in both horizontal
and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to as much
as 1,150 lines horizontally, although only 1,000 lines or so vertically.
"Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,400
- Closeups: A very tiny macro area in Super mode, with
great resolution and detail. Flash has trouble up close though. The
Z3 performed pretty well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area
of only 2.74 x 2.06 inches (70 x 52 millimeters). In Super Macro mode, performance
was even better, with a minimum area of 1.12 x 0.84 inches (28 x 21 millimeters).
Resolution was very high in both shots, with a lot of fine detail in the
dollar bill. In the larger macro shot, the coins and brooch also had a lot
of fine detail, with good clarity and sharpness. Details softened slightly
in the corners of Super Macro shot (a very common failing of digicam macro
modes), but remained sharp through the frame in the normal macro shot. The
Z3's flash had trouble in both macro shots, overexposing the image in the
normal macro mode, and creating strong reflections in the Super Macro shot.
(Plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots with the Z3.)
- Night Shots: Good low-light performance, but a strong
color shift at the lower light levels and high image noise. Good autofocus
performance, even at the darkest levels. The Z3 produced clear, bright,
usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test,
at all four ISO settings. However, color was only good to the 1/4 foot-candle
(2.7 lux) light level, beyond which it picked up a pretty severe orange
cast, though the exposures were still fairly bright. The Z3's Noise Reduction
system did a good job of controlling image noise, which was extremely high
in the shots taken without Noise Reduction enabled. Even with Noise Reduction
enabled though, bright noise pixels appear in the longest exposures, becoming
quite numerous at the lowest light levels of my test. Still though, the
bottom line is that the Z3 will do very well with typical city street lighting
at night, and even a fair bit darker. What's more, the Z3's autofocus system
worked just fine, even at the 1/16 foot-candle limit of my test. (Which
is very dark indeed.)
- Viewfinder Accuracy: Excellent accuracy from the electronic
viewfinder. The Z3's electronic "optical" viewfinder (EVF)
was very accurate, showing 99+ percent of the final image area at wide angle.
At telephoto, frame accuracy was probably close to 99 percent, but the final
image was shifted upward slightly, so that the top measurement lines were
just out of frame. The LCD monitor was 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 Z3's LCD monitor is
essentially perfect in this regard.
- Optical Distortion: High barrel distortion at wide
angle, but low pincushion at telephoto. Good sharpness in the corners, variable
chromatic aberration. Optical distortion on the Z3 was slightly higher
than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.9 percent
barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I found only
0.05 percent pincushion distortion there. (While high at the wide angle
end of its range, this is much less distortion overall than it's common
to find in long-zoom digicam lenses.) Chromatic aberration was low at wide
angle to "normal" focal lengths, but increased to a rather high
level by the time I got to maximum telephoto. (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.) At all focal lengths though, the Z3's
images showed very little softening in the corners, a common digicam lens
- Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Shutter response much faster than
average, very good cycle times as well. With full-autofocus shutter
delays of 0.26 - 0.47 second, the Konica Minolta Z3 is one of the faster
digicams on the market, particularly impressive for a long-zoom model. Its
shot to shot cycle time of just over a second in single-shot mode, or 0.46
second in continuous shooting mode are quite fast as well. For looking at
really fast-breaking action (golf or tennis swings?), its ultra high-speed
mode captures 1280x960 pixel images at 10 frames/second, an unusually rapid
clip. Quite impressive, a good choice for sports and other action shooting.
- Battery Life: Excellent battery life. Powered from four AA batteries, the DiMAGE Z3's battery life is excellent. Worst case run time with "standard" 1600 mAh batteries was just shy of three hours, extending to 3.7 hours in playback mode. With modern high-capacity NiMH cells, your run times could easily be 30% longer. As always though, I highly recommend purchasing two sets of high-capacity NiMH batteries and a good charger. (See my Battery Shootout page for test results from a variety of batteries, and read my review of the Maha C-204W to see why it's my new favorite AA-cell charger.)
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Top 3 photos this month win:
1 Canon PIXMA PRO-100
2 Canon PIXMA MG6320
3 Canon PIXMA MG5420