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Konica Minolta Dynax Maxxum 7D

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 11/27/2004, Updated: 02/01/2005

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 Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D's sample pictures page.

For a collection of more pictorial images from the Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D, check out our Maxxum 7D photo gallery.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Maxxum 7D 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!

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 the Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Very good color, more accurate than most. Overall color was very good on the Maxxum 7D, though the difficult blues in the flower bouquet from the "Sunlit Portrait" test were slightly darker and more purplish than in real life. Skin tones were nice and natural, and the camera's white balance system handled a range of lighting very well. (As is typically the case, the Auto white balance setting had trouble with the strong color cast of the household incandescent lighting on my "Indoor Portrait" test, but both the Incandescent and Manual white balance options did very well with that difficult light source.) Also notable is that the camera's Kelvin white balance settings extend as low as 2,500K, letting the 7D handle even very warm-hued incandescent lighting with aplomb. Color accuracy and saturation on the MacBeth(tm) chart in my Davebox target was quite good: The bright red swatch was oversaturated (as is typical of cameras I test), but other colors were much closer to correct than is generally the case. The accurate color saturation levels may lead some to view the 7D's color as a little understated, but the in-camera saturation adjustment has fine enough steps that you can easily boost saturation a little if that's your preference. Overall, a very good job.

  • Exposure: Average exposure accuracy, slightly high contrast. The Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D handled my test lighting fairly well, though high contrast shots like the "Sunlit" Portrait and outdoor house tended to underexpose a fair bit. That said, an average amount of positive exposure compensation did the trick on the "Sunlit" Portrait, capturing bright midtones with strong detail. Despite a generally effective contrast adjustment control though, the 7D lost significant detail in the deliberately harsh highlights of the Sunlit Portrait shot. (I'd like to see the same size steps on the contrast control, but extending further into the low-contrast realm.) Indoors, the camera required an average amount of positive exposure compensation as well, and the flash exposed subjects well, even at the default exposure setting. The Maxxum 7D had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target of the Davebox, and shadow detail was typically good to very good.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Very high resolution, 1,400 lines of "strong detail." Good in-camera sharpening. The Maxxum 7D performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart for its 6.1-megapixel class. Artifacts didn't appear in the test patterns until resolutions as high as 1,200 lines per picture height in both directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,400 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,650 lines. Using its "MTF 50" numbers, which correlate best with visual sharpness, Imatest showed an average uncorrected resolution of 1293 LW/PH, and a resolution of 1327 LW/PH when normalized to a standard 1-pixel sharpening, both good numbers for a 6-megapixel camera. The Maxxum 7D's default in-camera sharpening does a good job of crisping-up the images, without introducing objectionable artifacts of its own.

  • Image Noise: Very low noise levels, but some subject detail traded away to achieve this, especially at higher ISO settings. The Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D's images showed unusually low levels of image noise, particularly at high ISO settings. BUT, it's clear that the camera is using very aggressive noise-suppression algorithms at high ISOs to achieve the low numbers. Overall, I'd prefer to see a bit less heavy-handed noise suppression, to reduce the amount of lost detail at high ISOs. To its credit though, the 7D's noise pattern is also very tight, making what noise does appear less objectionable than it would be otherwise.

  • Closeups: Macro performance is entirely dependent on the lens used, hence no comment for this category.

  • Night Shots: Excellent low-light performance. Good color and exposure, with low image noise, even at the darkest light levels of this test. Good lowlight autofocus. (1/8 foot-candle without AF-assist, total darkness with AF illuminator.) The Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at the 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1,600 ISO settings. Color was generally quite good, though the lower light levels often resulted in a light pink cast. Noise was quite low at all ISO levels, although it did increase to a noticeable extent at ISO 800 and 1600. As was the case at higher light levels though, the 7D trades away subject detail to achieve its low noise levels at high ISO. There was relatively little difference between the shots taken with and without Noise Reduction enabled, although the noise reduction did remove a few "hot pixels" that crept into the images at the longest exposure times. The 7D's autofocus worked well at low light levels, focusing to a bit below 1/8 foot-candle with the AF-assist light disabled, and on nearby objects in complete darkness with the AF illuminator turned on.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: A very accurate through-the-lens (TTL) viewfinder. The Maxxum 7D's Digital SLR viewfinder is very accurate, showing about 98 percent of the final image area at wide angle, and about 99+ percent at telephoto. Thus, the camera performed very well here.

  • Optical Distortion: Distortion is entirely dependent on the lens used, hence no comment for this category.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Times: Average (good) shutter response and cycle times. The word that comes to mind when thinking about the Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D's speed is "average." - But that's not a bad thing, given the field it's playing in. Full-autofocus shutter lag is actually faster than most d-SLRs, at about 0.27 second, although its manual focus lag is only slightly better than the full-autofocus times. At 0.61 second, shot to shot cycle times are decent and its 14-shot JPEG buffer capacity should be enough for most users. At 2.75 frames/second, continuous-mode shooting speed is also right on par with its primary competitors. Overall, a very workmanlike performance.

  • Battery Life: Excellent battery life (typical for an SLR). Like most digital SLRs, the 7D's battery life is excellent, largely because it doesn't have to keep the CCD and LCD clocking away to frame its shots. With run times of over 6 hours in record mode and better than 2.5 hours in playback, a fully charged NP-400 battery will last most shooters all day. If you plan lots of shooting in continuous mode though, I'd suggest picking up an extra battery pack.

 

Conclusion

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As I noted earlier, the Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D is easily one of the most eagerly-awaited digital cameras in the last year or so. Many thousands (millions?) of Minolta film SLR owners have been waiting and hoping for a digital SLR to use with their extensive collections of (typically excellent) Minolta optics. Now that the Maxxum 7D has arrived, their wait is over, and the obvious quality and features of the new model appear to justify the long wait. While it has the usual "Green zone" full-auto mode for pure "point & shoot" photography, the 7D has an absolute wealth of controls and modes, that could make for a longer learning curve before you become familiar with all its capabilities. That said though, once you do learn its ins and outs, the 7D's user interface is one of the most powerful and fluid we've seen to date. The 7D's "bristling" (Shawn's word, and a good one) collection of controls makes for very easy, intuitive operation once you learn where they all are and what they all do. In our testing, the 7D's body-based anti-shake system worked very well, delivering a good two f-stops of improvement in maximum usable exposure times, at least out to the 135mm limit of our testing. (Its effectiveness does seem to decrease somewhat as you get to longer focal lengths.) Considering that this system effectively turns all your lenses into anti-shake models, the higher cost of the 7D's body relative to competing models seems very well justified. Negative points were relatively minor (depending, of course, on the type of shooting you're looking to do) - A slight tendency to underexpose, particularly when confronted with scenes having strong highlights, an occasionally hesitant AF system, and overly aggressive noise suppression at high ISOs. Overall, a camera that we have no qualms about recommending to loyal Minolta shooters, and one that we're confident will prove to have been well worth the wait.


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