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Minolta Dimage RD3000

Unusual 2-CCD design produces a professional-level SLR digicam at an affordable price.

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Dimage RD3000 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 5/23/2000

We've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it! ;)

Please Note: These images were opened and re-saved in
Photoshop to get around file format problems.

 

Outdoor portrait: (1179k) This is a tough shot for many digicams, due to the extreme tonal range (which is why we set it up this way). The trick is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors. We shot this image in both automatic (1201k) and daylight (1157k) white balance settings, choosing daylight because it produced the most accurate overall color balance while the automatic setting resulted in a very cool, bluish image. An overall slightly greenish cast leaves warm tones and the foliage generally looking pretty good, but the blue flowers and pants appear a little muted and almost greenish. On the plus side though, there's none of the purplish tint in the blue flowers here that seems to plague so many of the digicams we test. Overall, the color of the RD-3000 will look rather muted to viewers accustomed to the rather over-saturated images from typical consumer digicams. Actually, while the colors here are a bit undersaturated relative to the originals, they're probably closer than those from many consumer cameras with snappier-looking images. We suspect many practicing pros and studio photographers may prefer the understatement in the RD-3000's color handling.

For our main image, we chose a +1.0 EV adjustment, but we were a little torn between it and the +1.5 adjustment. At +1.0 EV (1179k) , the image seems just a shade dark but the highlight areas look good. Alternatively, at +1.5 EV (1140k) , the highlight areas are definitely too hot and the rest of the image is borderline on being too bright. So, we stuck with +1.0 EV for the main image, keeping the highlight areas in check. Resolution and detail are both excellent, especially in the shadow areas which show great detail and very low noise. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.5 EV in the daylight white balance setting.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
Shutter: 1/500
Aperture: F9.5
(1128k)
+0.5 EV
Shutter: 1/500
Aperture: F9.5
(1157k)
+1.0 EV
Shutter: 1/350
Aperture: F9.5
(1179k)
+1.5 EV
Shutter: 1/250
Aperture: F8
(1140k)


 
Closer portrait: (1048k) The RD-3000 performed very well on this "portrait" shot, thanks in part to the camera's interchangeable lens system which accommodates most of Minolta's Vectis lenses. (Shorter focal length lenses tend to distort facial features in close-up shots like this and the availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting close-up people shots.) For this shot, we used the Minolta V 22 to 80mm lens that accompanied our test camera. We like the color a lot here too: There's a bit of an overall yellow cast, but that's easily dealt with through a little post-exposure tweaking. The RD-3000's understated color is perfect for portraits like this: Over-saturation is deadly in Caucasian skin tones, leading to ruddiness and hot spots. Here, the RD-3000 produced a good gradation of skin tones and nicely controlled color. As usual, our main shot (1048k) needed less exposure compensation than the outdoor portrait, so we snapped this image at +0.5 EV. Resolution and detail again look very good, with an almost microscopic noise level. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.5 EV in the daylight white balance setting.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
Shutter: 1/250
Aperture: F11
(1069k)
+0.5 EV
Shutter: 1/180
Aperture: F9.5
(1048k)
+1.0 EV
Shutter: 1/180
Aperture: F9.5
(998k)
+1.5 EV
Shutter: 1/180
Aperture: F8
(893k)


 
Indoor portrait, flash: (933k) This shot is always tricky because of the potential differences between the color balance of the flash and the bright room lighting. For this shot, we used an external strobe (Sunpack 144), since the RD-3000 does not feature a built-in flash. Because this is an inexpensive unit with limited power, it turned out not to be strong enough for bounce work with the RD-3000. First, we bounced the flash from the ceiling, which produced this (983k) very dim image. Part of the trouble is that the maximum aperture on the lens we received with our test model was only f/6.7, and the flash unit was too weak to work with such a small aperture. Next, we pointed the flash directly at the model and adjusted the ambient exposure setting to -1.0 EV, producing this (933k) much brighter image. Pointing the flash directly at the subject causes some rather harsh shadows, but the highlight areas aren't overexposed and the color balance looks pretty good. For the next shot, we bounced the flash off of the ceiling (in automatic white balance mode) and boosted the ambient exposure setting to +1.5 EV, which produced this (933k) very nicely balanced shot. We were surprised that the different color temperature of the room lighting and bounced flash exposure didn't lead to odd color effects, but for whatever reason, the color balance was unusually good. We chose this image as our main selection for this test. Finally, we set the white balance to the flash setting, but switched over to manual exposure control. We bounced part of the flash off of the ceiling, but the main force of it was bounced off of a white piece of paper held above the flash head, which produced this (983k) image with mostly direct but softer lighting (notice the shadows are a little less harsh). This shot ran a close second for our choice as main selection. More clearly a flash exposure, but clean and well-exposed. A lot of our difficulty in achieving good exposure on this shot was due to our inexpensive, underpowered flash unit: A more powerful strobe would have stood us in good stead. Nonetheless, the RD-3000's manual mode gave us a good ability to tweak the balance between ambient and flash exposure, producing good results.

 
Indoor portrait, no flash: (983k) We were very impressed with the RD-3000's performance on this shot (which is a very tough test of a camera's white balance capabilities, thanks to the strong yellowish cast of the household incandescent lighting it's shot under). We got the best results from the incandescent (983k) white balance setting, which required a +1.5 EV exposure compensation adjustment for the main shot. Automatic (983k) white balance also looked very good, but we preferred the incandescent setting because it left more of the original character of the lighting in the image (the automatic setting also had a slightly magenta tinge). The manual (983k) white balance setting also turned in very nice results, although they were a little cool and neutral. (Depending on personal preferences, some people could easily choose the manual white balance version over the incandescent one.) We also took one shot at the 800 ISO (1333k) setting, which gave us considerably less noise than we expected. The table below shows the results of various exposure compensation settings from zero to +2.0 EV in the incandescent white balance setting.

Exposure Compensation Settings:
0 EV
(933k)
+0.5 EV
(983k)
+1.0 EV
(983k)
+1.5 EV
(983k)
+2.0 EV
(983k)


 
House shot: (1583k) NOTE that this is the "new" house shot, a much higher-resolution poster than we first used in our tests. To compare the C-3030 with previously tested cameras, here's a shot of the original house postertaken with the manual (1733k) white balance setting, and with +1.0 EV of exposure compensation dialed in. (For some reason, the RD-3000's default exposure came out rather dark on this target.)

For this shot, we tested the automatic (633k), daylight (583k) and manual (583k) white balance settings. The daylight setting produced very warm results, while the automatic setting was too cool. Manual white balance gave us the best overall color balance and tone, so we chose it for our main series. As with the outdoor portrait, resolution and detail look exceptionally good. The tree limbs above the house are very crisp and full of detail. Color saturation seems slightly muted, but not bad overall. (See our earlier comments about "professional" color vs "consumer" color.) We found only trace evidence of the in-camera sharpening around the dark and light edges of the house (which appears as a tiny halo effect). - We'd have to say that the RD-3000's sharpening is just about perfect. Again, noise is extremely low. Other than the slightly reduced color saturation, we can find no fault with the RD-3000's images here... We also snapped an image at the camera's 800 ISO (683k) setting, which brightened the image a little and increased the noise moderately (but, considering the high equivalent, the noise level is very good). The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series:
Large/Uncompressed
(7939k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F6.3
(1583k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F6.3
(883k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/45
Aperture: F6.3
(583k)


 
 
Far-Field shot: (1733k) This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

We shot this series with the automatic (933k) and manual (1733k) white balance settings, choosing manual because of its more accurate color balance (the automatic setting actually appeared slightly warm). This test is the strongest test of detail of any we do, because the bright white of the central bay window often tricks digicams into losing detail in that area and the RD-3000 did a nice job of catching most of the details here. Resolution and detail are outstanding. Color balance and saturation look about right, but again we notice that the overall color is a little flat. We snapped an image at the 800 (1983k) ISO setting, which brightened the image somewhat and increased the noise level (but not as much as you might expect with such a high ISO). The table below shows our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series:
Large/Uncompressed
(7939k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/500
Aperture: F8
(1733k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/500
Aperture: F8
(933k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/350
Aperture: F8
(633k)


 
Lens Zoom Range: We've received a number of requests from readers to take shots showing the lens focal length range of those cameras with zoom lenses. The RD-3000 features a standard Minolta Vecits lens mount which should fit most of the Vectis lenses. Our test model was accompanied by a Minolta Vectis 22 to 80mm lens, so we're happy to show you the following views at full wide angle and telephoto for this particular lens. (Obviously, the RD-3000 will exhibit the zoom range of whatever lens is attached to it, so the full range will be a good bit wider than that resulting from this one particular lens.

Wide Angle
(833k)
Shutter: 1/90
Aperture: F16
Telephoto
(933k)
Shutter: 1/250
Aperture: F11


"Musicians" poster: (1383k) We shot this test with the automatic (533k), daylight (493k) and manual (483k) white balance settings. The manual setting seemed slightly cool, as did the automatic setting, so we chose daylight because of the more accurate skin tones. The RD-3000 does a nice job with resolution and detail on this image, particularly noticeable in the subtle detail of the bird's wings and the tiny silver threads on the Oriental model's robe. The flower garland and the beaded necklaces on the other two models also look nice and sharp. We again find the color balance a little flat, which is more forgivable in this image because of the range of tonal variations. We're again very impressed with the noise level, as it's just barely visible. Even the noise from the poster appears relatively subdued. As with our other tests, we shot at the 800 ISO (1683k) setting and found a slightly brighter image with just a moderate level of noise. Great job! Below is our normal resolution and quality series in the daylight white balance setting.

Resolution/Quality series:
Large/Uncompressed
(7939k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F6.7
(1383k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F6.7
(683k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/30
Aperture: F6.7
(483k)


 
Macro shot: (1645k) Our test model's 22 to 80mm lens performs reasonably well in the macro category, although not as well as many digicams we've tested. To use the RD-3000 for macro photography, you'll probably want to attach a macro lens. However, we went ahead and snapped some images with the lens we had, which managed to capture a minimum area of 5.95 x 4.08 inches (151.18 x 103.63 mm). Resolution, detail and color all look nice, although the brooch appears just a hair soft (possibly due to a limited depth of field). We tried shooting at opposing apertures, to see how this affected the depth of field, noticing that at F/22 (1604k), the brooch appears only a little sharper and at F/6.7 (1589k), it appears only a bit softer. Neither setting seemed to affect the depth of field greatly. Our opinion? For the best results, plan on purchasing a macro lens. (One of the extensive lens kits offered with the RD-3000 includes a macro lens.)

 
"Davebox" test target: (883k) With this test target, we shot at the daylight (283k), manual (283k) and automatic (283k) white balance settings. As we found with our other tests, the automatic setting was a little too cool, while the daylight setting was very warm. Thus, we chose the manual setting as the most accurate overall (particularly noticeable in the mini resolution target on the right side of the box). We've noticed throughout our testing that RD-3000's color is somewhat undersaturated, and this is definitely true for the Davebox. Nearly all of the large color blocks on the left side of the box look muted and somewhat weak, particularly in the subtractive primaries of yellow, magenta, and cyan, the magenta most of all. On the bright side (no pun intended ;-), the RD-3000 does a great job separating the red and magenta color blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart, which is a problem area for many digicams. Likewise, the subtle tonal variations in the "B" range of the Q60 chart are completely visible and clearly distinguishable. The shadow area of the briquettes shows a fair amount of detail and the best part is that there again is only a minuscule noise level. We also tested the ISO 800 (433k) setting, which gave us a little brighter exposure with a moderately increased noise level. As we've been saying all along, the comparatively low noise level of the 800 ISO setting is very impressive. Despite the somewhat muted color saturation, everything else looks wonderful. Following is our standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution/Quality series:
Large/Uncompressed
(7939k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/45
Aperture: F6.7
(883k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/45
Aperture: F6.7
(433k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/45
Aperture: F6.7
(283k)


 
 
Low-Light Tests 
Given the RD 3000's excellent shadow detail under normal shooting conditions, we weren't too surprised to see how well it did at low-light shooting. Well, maybe a little surprised at just how good the pictures actually were: It produced excellent, well-exposed images down to a light level of 1/4 of a foot-candle at its default ISO 200 sensitivity setting, and all the way down to 1/16 of a foot-candle at the higher ISO 800 setting. What was most surprising though, was how good the image quality was, even with very long exposures at ISO 800: Noise was very well controlled, and color balance was excellent all the way down. (We used the "daylight" white balance setting on these shots.) We don't have a good way of measuring low-light focusing ability, and in fact used manual focus on all these shots. We were particularly amazed that even the lowest-light samples still showed good detail in the briquettes, a very unusual accomplishment. Overall, an excellent performance!

We've recently changed our test procedure to insure that the cameras we test are at a uniform 70 degrees F (~21 C) when we shoot the low light tests, and we proceed from the lowest light levels to the brightest. This insures that the camera electronics and sensor are at their lowest temperature when we test under the most sensitive conditions (longest exposures, highest ISO settings). CCD noise levels are very sensitive to temperature, doubling every 6-8 degrees C. Thus, if you attempt a low-light shot after running the camera continuously for an hour or two, you'd probably get drastically worse results than those shown here. Likewise, if you were taking pictures on a winter night and the camera had equilibrated to the low air temperature, your results could be substantially better.

8 fc
4 fc
2 fc
1 fc
1/2 fc
1/4 fc
1/8 fc
1/16 fc
ISO 200
8 fc
Shutter: 1/1
Aperture: F6.7
(933k)
4 fc
Shutter: 1/1
Aperture: F6.7
(883k)
2 fc
Shutter: 3
Aperture: F6.7
(933k)
1 fc
Shutter: 10
Aperture: F6.7
(933k)
1/2 fc
Shutter: 15
Aperture: F6.7
(883k)
1/4 fc
Shutter: 30
Aperture: F6.7
(983k)
1/8 fc
Shutter: 30
Aperture: F6.7
(833k)
1/16 fc
Shutter: 30
Aperture: F6.7
(833k)
ISO 800
8 fc
Shutter: 1/6
Aperture: F6.7
(1333k)
4 fc
Shutter: 1/3
Aperture: F6.7
(1383k)
2 fc
Shutter: 1/2
Aperture: F6.7
(1283k)
1 fc
Shutter: 3
Aperture: F6.7
(1333k)
1/2 fc
Shutter: 4
Aperture: F6.7
(1333k)
1/4 fc
Shutter: 10
Aperture: F6.7
(1433k)
1/8 fc
Shutter: 20
Aperture: F6.7
(1483k)
1/16 fc
Shutter: 30
Aperture: F6.7
(1583k)

 

Love high ISO photography? Hate noise? Check out Fred Miranda's ISO-R noise-reducing actions for Photoshop. Incredible noise reduction, with *no* loss of subject detail. (Pretty amazing, IMHO.) Check it out!



 
Flash Range Test
Because the RD-3000 does not have a built-in flash, the results would be entirely dependent on the particular external strobe system you chose to use. We therefore did not perform this test.

ISO 12233 ("WG-18") resolution target: The RD-3000's resolution test target results were rather interesting, in that the camera seemed to fare better in the "real world" subjects against the 3.3 megapixel consumer digicams than it did in this "scientific" test. We were expecting a good performance, due to the excellent detail we saw in some of our "natural" test targets, and in the very delicate in-camera sharpening it applied. We were surprised then, when it performed at a slightly lower level on the laboratory resolution test target. We called the RD-3000's resolution at about 750-800 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and 700 lines per picture height in the vertical direction. As noted in the main review, the RD-3000 uses an unusual optical system, with two CCDs attached to a prism that splits the light from the lens between them. One is entirely composed of green pixels, the other of equal numbers of red and blue pixels. This is a rather different approach from most digicams, where the red, green, and blue pixels are interlaced across the surface of a single CCD. You'd expect the fine structure of an RD-3000 image to look slightly different as a result, so it's no surprise that it does: There's just the slightest checkerboard texture to areas of high detail, different from the sort of artifacts we're accustomed to seeing in more conventionally designed digicams. We found this cross-pattern graininess a bit more noticeable than the interpolation artifacts we're used to seeing, but the plus side is that there appears to be much less color aliasing present. (Color aliasing is the rainbow colors you sometimes see in areas of very fine detail shot with a camera having a conventionally striped CCD array.) Overall, we like the detail rendering of the RD-3000 very much. The tables below show resolution chart samples shot at both Wide Angle and Telephoto zoom settings.

Wide-Angle Resolution/Quality series:
Large/Uncompressed
(7939k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/45
Aperture: F6.7
(1083k)
Large/Normal
Shutter: 1/45
Aperture: F6.7
(583k)
Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/45
Aperture: F6.7
(383k)


Telephoto Resolution/Quality series:
Large/Uncompressed
(7939k)
Note: TIFF format - download and view in imaging program
Large/Fine
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F6.7
(1033k)
Large/Normal

Sorry! This shot is missing.

Large/Economy
Shutter: 1/60
Aperture: F6.7
(333k)


 
Viewfinder accuracy/flash uniformity target: We found the RD-3000's optical viewfinder to be a little tight, showing approximately 85 percent of the final frame at wide angle (283k) and about 87 percent at the telephoto (283k) end. (A recent change in our terminology: We previously would have referred to this inaccuracy as "loose.") We also noticed that the framing of our test unit seemed to be tilted slightly towards the lower right corner. Geometric distortion will be entirely dependent on the lens chosen: On the 28-85mm zoom we received with our test unit, distortion was moderate, spread evenly between a value of 0.41 percent barrel distortion at the wide angle end and 0.52 percent pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. Chromatic aberration was present but very low, we picked up maybe half a pixel's worth of coloration on each side of the black lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) As there is no built-in flash, we did not check flash uniformity on this target.  

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