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Minolta DiMAGE X20 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
9/26/2003
User Level
Novice - Amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
Good, 2.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6 to 5x7 inches
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
(At introduction)
$249


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

The Minolta DiMAGE X20 is the latest in Minolta's line of subcompact DiMAGE X models, using a unique "folded" lens design to achieve a remarkably compact form factor and very fast startup times. Minolta really turned heads when they first introduced the DiMAGE X, now nearly two years ago. A two-megapixel camera in the form of a square block of metal, just barely over three-quarters of an inch thick, the DiMAGE X was an immediate hit, as popular as a fashion statement as it was for its status as a go-anywhere, shoot-anytime digital camera. While Minolta has since extended their "X" line of DiMAGE cameras to 3.2 megapixel resolution and added features, the new Minolta DiMAGE X20 takes the same clever lens design, and drops it into a plastic body to dramatically lower the cost. In addition to the lower cost, the DiMAGE X20 increases its appeal to beginners with a slightly redesigned user interface that employs a shortcut menu screen to improve ease of use. If you're in the market for a super-compact digicam on a budget, read on for all the details the new Minolta DiMAGE X20!

Camera Overview
Continuing with the vertical, "folded" lens design that made Minolta's DiMAGE Xt and X so popular, the DiMAGE X20 features the same tiny, extraordinarily thin body that's proven so portable. This newest addition at the low end of the DiMAGE X line sports an all-plastic body for lighter weight and lower cost, as well as a smaller CCD to help hit the lower price point. It also features a redesigned menu system that's a bit more user-friendly for novices. (Although I personally prefer the menu layout used in the other members of the "X" line.). Measuring 3.4 x 2.6 x 0.9 inches (86 x 67 x 24 millimeters) and weighing just 6.0 ounces (171 grams) with the battery and SD memory card, the DiMAGE X20 remains one of the smallest digicams on the market. With the extremely compact design and lack of significant case protrusions, there's no excuse for leaving it behind, as it can tag along in even the smallest shirt pocket, or be quickly tucked into an evening bag or pants pocket. The unique "folded" optical design means that there's no wait for a lens to telescope out of the body when the camera is powered up, resulting in very fast startup and shutdown times. The sleek design includes a built-in lens cover which conveniently slides out of the way whenever the camera is powered on, eliminating any concern over misplacing a lens cap. The 3x zoom lens and fully automatic exposure control makes the camera easy to use yet versatile enough for most common applications. The 2.0-megapixel CCD produces enough resolution images for making sharp prints as large as 5x7 inches, or slightly softer ones as large as 8x10, as well as lower resolution images better suited for email and other electronic use.

The DiMAGE X20 has a 3x, 4.8-14.4mm lens, the equivalent of a 37-111mm lens on a 35mm camera. The autofocus covers a range from 3.9 inches (10 centimeters) to infinity. There's no separate macro mode, but the 3.9-inch close-focusing combined with a telephoto lens setting produces really excellent macro performance. Depending on the lens zoom position, the maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/3.7. In addition to the optical zoom, the DiMAGE X20offers a 1.1 to 4.0x digital zoom, in increments of 0.1x. (Although I always remind readers that digital zoom always decreases the overall image quality because it simply enlarges the central pixels of the CCD's image.) The 1.6-inch, color TFT LCD monitor has an anti-reflection coating, and features an information display. In Playback mode, images can be enlarged up to 6x, as an aid to checking critical focus and framing.

Exposure is automatically controlled at all times, with only a few exposure options available. An On/Off button on top of the camera powers the camera on, and a Mode switch lets you select between Record and Movie modes, with a Playback button for quick image review. Thanks to the all-internal lens design, there's no need to wait for the lens to extend before you can shoot, so startup times are very short. Most exposure options are controlled through the LCD's on-screen menu system, which offers very straightforward navigation and a new interface to make it even more user-friendly than previous models. (Although I have to say that I personally preferred the standard tabbed-menu layout of the earlier user interface design.) That said, you can program the rear-panel left and right arrow keys to control flash mode, exposure compensation, white balance, etc, without needing to enter the menu system to do so. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to four seconds, although the chosen value is not reported to the user. Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments. Sensitivity is adjustable to values of 64, 100, 200, or 400, with an Auto setting as well, that varies the ISO between 64 and 200, depending on the current light level. White Balance is adjustable through the settings menu, with options for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent light sources. The DiMAGE X20's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, or Slow Sync modes.

In addition to the basic exposure options, the DiMAGE X20 also offers a few extra shooting modes, accessed through the settings menu. A Self-Portrait mode adjusts the focus so that it doesn't exceed 3.3 feet, enough room for you to hold the camera directly in front of you and capture a well-focused self-portrait. Additionally, the DiMAGE X20 features a Portrait mode, which selects larger lens apertures to reduce the camera's "depth of field" so the subject appears in focus in front of a slightly blurred background, placing more emphasis on the subject. In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures either 320 x 240-pixel or 160 x 240-pixel resolution moving images with sound, with duration limited only by the size of the memory card. A Self-Timer mode provides a 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and when the camera actually takes the picture, allowing you to get into your own shots. For shooting fast action subjects, the DiMAGE X20's Continuous Advance mode captures a rapid series of images when you hold down the Shutter button, much like a motor drive on a traditional 35mm camera. Provided that there's enough space remaining on the memory card, the camera can capture up to three large/fine images, or up to 22 small/economy mode ones before having to pause to write the image data to the memory card. Details like image size and shutter speed can affect the shooting interval, but it averages approximately 1.5 frames per second. A Multi Frame mode captures a series of nine thumbnail images, which are then arrayed in a single image in a 3x3 format. Finally, a Voice Memo option records short sound clips to accompany recorded images.

The DiMAGE X20 stores its images on an SD memory card, and an 8MB card accompanies the camera. (The camera also works with the slightly less expensive MMC cards.) New on the X20 is a Favorites option for saving favorite images, and an Image Pasting tool which lets you insert a portion of a live frame over a captured image. Connection to a host computer for image download is via USB. The DiMAGE X20 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 two AA-type batteries for power, either alkaline or NiMH. A set of alkaline batteries comes with the camera, but I highly recommend picking up a set or rechargeable NiMH batteries and keeping a spare set freshly charged at all times. See my Battery Shootout page to see which batteries currently on the market are best, read my review of the Maha C-204F charger, to see why it's my longtime favorite. 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.

Basic Features

  • 2.0-megapixel CCD.
  • 1.6-inch color TFT LCD monitor with anti-reflection coating.
  • Glass, 3x, 4.8-14.4mm lens, equivalent to a 37-111mm lens on a 35mm camera.
  • As much as 4.0x digital zoom.
  • Automatic exposure control.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to four seconds.
  • Maximum aperture f/2.8 to f/3.7, depending on lens zoom position.
  • Built-in flash.
  • SD/MMC memory card storage, 8MB card included.
  • Images saved as JPEG files.
  • Power supplied by two AA-type batteries or optional AC adapter.
  • DiMAGE software and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie mode with sound.
  • Continuous Advance and Multi Frame shooting modes.
  • Portrait and Self-Portrait modes.
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Voice Memo mode for recording captions.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with five modes.
  • Adjustable ISO.
  • Five color adjustment settings.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • Video cable for connection to a television set.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).


Recommendation
The DiMAGE X20 is very small and compact. Its fully automatic exposure control will suit novices and others interested in point-and-shoot operation, although the user does have a few options for brightening or darkening the image, or adjusting the color balance. The 2.0-megapixel CCD delivers good quality images, with enough resolution to make sharp 5x7 prints or slightly softer 8x10 ones, and lower resolution options for email purposes. The DiMAGE X20's tiny size makes it a natural for "anywhere/anytime" photography. With its point-and-shoot appeal and ease of use, the DiMAGE X20 is perfect for novice users who simply want to take good pictures without getting too involved in the technicalities. Even sophisticated users will appreciate its exceptional portability and good picture-taking capabilities though. It'd thus do well as a "second camera" for enthusiasts, too.

 

Design
Like the DiMAGE X and Xt before it, the DiMAGE X20 has an amazingly thin, tiny case. Its sleek, rectangular body shape and lack of protrusions make the DiMAGE X20 one of the most portable cameras on the market. Measuring just 3.4 x 2.6 x 0.9 inches (86 x 67 x 24 millimeters), the DiMAGE X20 fits just about anywhere, including the smallest of shirt pockets. Matching its diminutive size, the DiMAGE X20 is also very light weight at just 6.0 ounces (171 grams) with the batteries and SD memory card installed. The secret to the DiMAGE X20's compact design is its internally-mounted lens, which stretches vertically up the side of the camera rather than protruding from the camera's front. An internal prism reflects light from the subject down into the lens itself, almost like a periscope. The internal lens mounting also means that there's no wait for the lens barrel to extend when you power up the camera, making startup times very quick.

The front of the camera holds the lens window, flash, self-portrait mirror, and self-timer lamp. A shutter-like, retractable lens cover protects the lens window whenever the camera is powered off, sliding quickly out of the way when the camera is turned on. A circular, slightly raised finger grip provides a more substantial grip than on previous models. Also visible on the front of the camera is the microphone, indicated by a series of tiny holes to the left of the flash.

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) is the exposed SD memory card slot, lining up beside the DC In power and AV/Digital jacks. An indicator light just below the SD card slot lights whenever the camera accesses the card, letting you know not to remove the card. Below these is the battery compartment, protected by a sliding door.

The opposite side of the camera is featureless, with no connectors or controls on it at all. This view of the camera shows the decal that illustrates the clever lens design Minolta is so justifiably proud of, as well as a small indention marked with the maximum optical plus digital zoom. Be reassured though, that the label can be easily removed after purchase, to result in a very sleek, elegant case design.

The DiMAGE X20's top panel is sleek and smooth, with only a minor protrusion from the Shutter and Power buttons. A sliding switch is just behind both buttons, and places the camera into Record or Movie modes.

The remaining camera controls are on the back panel, along with the 1.6-inch color LCD monitor. At the top left and right corners are the neck strap attachment eyelets, which fold outward for easy loading, then flip back inward to hold the strap in place. The Four-Way Arrow pad is in the top right corner, and consists to two arrow keys on either side, and a two-way up/down rocker button in the center that controls optical and digital zoom. (The left and right arrow keys can be programmed to control one of a handful of exposure options as well.) To the left of arrow pad is the Menu button, which calls up and dismisses the LCD menu display. Just below it is the Playback button, which places the camera in Playback mode. The camera's speaker is also on the rear panel, just to the right of the LCD monitor.

The bottom panel of the DiMAGE X20 reveals only the plastic, threaded tripod mount.

 

Camera Operation
The DiMAGE X20's user interface is very straightforward, as the camera employs automatic exposure at all times. New to the X20 is a simplified menu screen, with a 3x3 array of menu options displayed like virtual buttons. The center "button" accesses the main mode menu, which is laid out more like a traditional list menu screen. The X20 has very few external controls, meaning you must call up the LCD menu to adjust most camera settings. This is somewhat cumbersome, but you can customize the right and left arrow keys to control either exposure compensation, flash, or one of a handful of other settings, reducing your dependence on the menu system. In both capture and playback modes, the camera's main menu is divided into three pages, delineated by subject tabs at the top of the screen. The Mode switch lets you quickly switch between Movie and Record modes, while an external button accesses Playback mode. Considering the camera's automatic exposure control and limited user options, most users should be able to become familiar with the camera's operation in half an hour or less. (And experienced users may not even need to crack the manual.)

Record-Mode Display
In Record mode, the LCD monitor displays the subject with a minor amount of overlaid information, indicating flash, white balance, ISO setting, the current size/quality setting, and number of images that can be stored on the remaining memory card space at the current size/quality. Pressing and holding the center OK button (up and down arrow key) cancels and recalls the information display. When you half-press the Shutter button, a small dot appears in the lower right-hand corner of the LCD indicating whether the camera is focused (white dot) or not (red dot), and a "shaking hand" symbol appears above the focus dot if the shutter speed is slow enough that you'll need to be careful not to jiggle the camera during the exposure.


Playback-Mode Display
In Playback mode, the default image display shows the most recently captured image, with an information overlay showing the resolution and quality setting used, the date and time of capture, the file number, and the sequence number of the image among those currently stored in the memory card. With an image displayed full-screen, pressing the zoom control in the "T" direction zooms in on the image in steps of 0.2x, up to a maximum magnification of 6x. At any magnification level, pressing the "OK" button (pressing the center of the T/W lever) switches you to scrolling operation, in which the left/right buttons and the T/W control let you scroll around the magnified image. Pressing the center of the T/W lever again returns you to zoom operation. Zooming out all the way from the enlarged view and then pressing the "W" side of the zoom control once more calls up a nine-image index display. The screenshot above right shows all the available display options in playback mode.


External Controls


Power Button: Unobtrusively located to the left of the Shutter button on the top panel, this button turns the camera on and off.


Shutter Button: Directly to the right of the Power button, this button sets focus and exposure when pressed halfway, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.


Mode Switch: Just behind the Power and Shutter buttons, this control puts the camera into Still Record or Movie modes.


Right and Left Arrow Keys: Located in the top right corner of the back panel, these buttons curve around the two-way zoom toggle button. In any settings menu, these buttons navigate through menu choices. They can be programmed to control one of the available exposure functions through the settings menu. In Playback mode, these buttons scroll forward or back through previously captured images. When in scrolling mode during zoomed playback (see the following entry for more info), these buttons move your view right or left in the enlarged playback image.

Zoom Toggle Button (Up and Down Arrow Key): Centered between the Right and Left Arrow keys, this control adjusts the optical and digital zoom in any record mode. It also serves as the up/down control when navigating LCD menu choices. This button also serves as the "OK" button for confirming menu selections when pressed.

In Record mode, pressing and holding this button for a few seconds dismisses and recalls the information overlay.

In Playback mode, this button lets you zoom in on an image, as much as 6x. Once you've zoomed in on an image, pressing the center of this button switches to scrolling operation, after which up/down actuation moves your view up and down in the enlarged image. Pressing the center of the button again returns you to control of the playback zoom level. Pressing the center of the button during normal playback display cancels and recalls the information display. Continuing to hold the button down initiates the playback zoom.


Menu Button: Directly to the left of the Four-Way Arrow pad on the rear panel, this button calls up the settings menu in both Record and Playback modes.


Playback Button: Beneath the Menu button, this button activates Playback mode (or returns to Record mode).


Camera Modes and Menus

Still-Image Record Mode: In normal Record mode, the camera can capture still images. The Record menu is displayed by pressing the Menu button. The main menu screen features nine virtual buttons to access the most commonly-used exposure options, with a central button to access the main mode menu:

  • Initial Menu Screen (items listed from left to right, starting from the top)
    • Toning: Adjusts the camera's color mode. Options are Color, Black and White, Sepia, Mono R (Red), Mono G (Green), and Mono B (Blue).
    • Portrait: Turns the Portrait preset mode on or off.
    • Image Size: Adjusts the image resolution to 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; or 640 x 480 pixels.
    • Flash Mode: Sets the flash to operate in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill Flash, Cancel, or Night Portrait (slow-sync setting) modes.
    • Menu: Displays the main mode menu, described below.
    • Drive Mode: Sets drive mode to Single, Self-Timer, Continuous, Multi Frame, or Self-Portrait.
    • White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the scene. Options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, and Fluorescent.
    • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the overall exposure from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments.
    • Quality level: Sets the image JPEG compression level to Fine, Standard, or Economy.


  • Record Menu 1
    • Key Func: This menu item lets you change the function controlled by the left/right keys on the camera's rear panel. Options include Flash Mode, Exposure Compensation, Drive Mode, White Balance, and Off (default setting).
    • Sensitivity: Lets you set the camera's ISO sensitivity to Auto (the default), 64, 100, 200, or 400.
    • Auto Reset: If enabled, resets most of the camera's settings to their default values whenever the camera is turned off.
    • Voice Memo: Enables the recording of an audio track up to 15 seconds long after the capture of each image. (Default is off.)
    • Date Imprint: Enables the imprinting of the current date or date and time in small white characters, in the lower right-hand corner of each image. Off by default, options include YYYY/MM/DD, or MM/DD/hr:min.


  • Record Menu 2
    • Digital Zoom: Enables or disables the digital zoom function.
    • Inst. Playback: When activated, this function causes the camera to display each image on the LCD for two seconds after capture.
    • File # Memory: If set to On, the camera continues naming files sequentially from memory card to memory card. If Off, the camera resets file numbering with each new card.
    • 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.)




Movie Mode: This mode allows you to record movies with sound. Pressing the menu button displays the following options.

  • Toning: Adjusts the camera's color mode. Options are Color, Black and White, Sepia, Mono R (Red), Mono G (Green), and Mono B (Blue).
  • Image Size: Selects the size of images recorded in movie files. Options are 320 x 240 (the default) or 160 x 120.
  • White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the scene. Options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, and Fluorescent.
  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the exposure from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments.
  • Setup: Accesses the camera's Setup menu, described further on.




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:

  • Initial Menu Screen
    • Slide Show: Initiates a "slide show" of images stored on the X20's memory card.
    • Favorites: Copies the displayed image into the Favorites folder.
    • Lock: Write-protects the displayed image, preventing it from being manipulated or erased (except via card formatting). An option also exists to Unlock images.
    • Rotate: Rotates the image 90 degrees clockwise or counter-clockwise.
    • Menu: Pulls up the main Playback menu, described below.
    • Delete: Erases the current frame from the memory card.
    • Audio Caption: Allows you to record a short sound clip to accompany a recorded image.
    • Image Pasting: Provides a shortcut to the Image Pasting function, using the crop area selected through the Playback 1 menu. (See below).
    • Email Copy: Makes a smaller copy of an image for convenient emailing.

  • Playback 1
    • Delete: Erases the current frame, all frames, or marked frames from the memory card.
    • Lock: Write-protects specific images or all images, preventing them from being manipulated or erased (except via card formatting). An option also exists to Unlock images.
    • Copy to Favorites: Copies a single image or all marked images to the Favorites folder.
    • Rotate: Rotates the image 90 degrees clockwise or counter-clockwise.
    • Image Pasting: This option lets you paste in a small portion of a live image over a previously-captured frame. Nine frame choices are available. When activated, a cut out area appears on the screen so that you can frame the live image over the top of the captured image.


  • Playback 2
    • Slide Show: Initiates a "slide show" of images stored on the X20's memory card.
    • Playback: Determines which images will be displayed in the slide show. Options are all frames or marked frames.
    • Duration: Sets the length of time each image is displayed in the slide show. Times range from one to 60 seconds per image, with five seconds being the default.
    • Repeat: Determines whether the slide show repeats after cycling through all images on the card or not. (Default is to not repeat.)
    • Dissolve: Activates (or deactivates) a graphic dissolve between slideshow images.
  • Playback 3
    • DPOF Set: Sets images for printing on an output device supporting the Digital Print Order Format (DPOF) standard. Options are to mark the current frame, all frames, marked frames, or to cancel the print orders for all images.
    • Index Print: Sets up a DPOF order for an index print showing all images on the memory card.
    • E-mail Copy: Makes a smaller copy of an image for convenient emailing.
    • Image Size: Sets the size for making email copies. Options are 640 x 480 or 160 x 120.




Setup Mode: This mode lets you adjust various camera options and settings. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Setup 1
    • Format: Formats the SD card, erasing all files, including protected ones.
    • Reset Default: Resets the camera settings to their defaults.
    • Language: Changes the menu language to English, Japanese, German, French, or Spanish.








  • Setup 2
    • Audio Signals: Optionally disable the beep sounds that occur whenever a button is pressed.
    • Shutter FX: You can select your choice of two standard shutter sounds, or turn the shutter sound off.
    • Volume: Sets the volume of the camera's audio signals and shutter FX sounds. Playback of recorded audio is not affected.
    • Power Off: Sets the camera to automatically shut off after 1, 3, 5, 10, or 30 minutes of inactivity.





  • Setup 3
    • Date/Time Set: Sets the camera's date and time.
    • Date Format: Choose between three different date formats used for monitor displays and date imprinting. Options are YYYY/MM/DD, MM/DD/YYYY, and DD/MM/YYYY.
    • Video Output: Choose between NTSC or PAL video timing for the video output.
    • Transfer Mode: Through its USB interface, the DiMAGE X20 can appear as either a data storage device or a remote camera. (The remote camera option allows the X20 to be used as a USB-connected webcam.)


In the Box
Packaged with the DiMAGE X20 are the following items:

  • Neck strap.
  • A/V cable.
  • USB cable.
  • 8MB SD memory card.
  • Two AA-type alkaline batteries.
  • DiMAGE software CD.
  • Operating 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, 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...

About Batteries
(Well, not quite "back to our regularly scheduled review..) - I've gotten so many emails about power issues for digicams, that I'm now inserting a standard notice in my reviews of all 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. Check out my Battery Shootout page for the latest in actual, measured performance of various AA batteries. Read. - Read my review of the Maha C-204F charger, to learn why it's my longtime favorite.

Specifications
See the specifications sheet here.

Picky Details
Information on shooting speed, battery life, etc. can be found here.


User Reviews

 

Sample Pictures
See the full set of my sample pictures and detailed analysis here.
The thumbnails below show a subset of my standard test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

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 X20'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 the X20's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Overall, the X20 produced pretty good color throughout my testing, though I often found slight color casts with each white balance option. Still, color was pretty accurate most of the time, as the color casts weren't too pronounced. Skin tones looked pretty good, if not slightly warm, in the outdoor shots, but the blue flowers in the bouquet were darker and slightly more purplish than in real life. On the Davebox target, colors were bright and vibrant, though the large red, blue, and green additive primary color blocks were just slightly oversaturated. All in all though, a good performance.

  • Exposure: The X20's exposure system did a good job assessing my test lighting, and produced a good exposure in just about every case. Outdoors, the exposure was a little contrasty in the bright sunlight, but overall exposure was still pretty good. Indoors, the X20 required a bit more positive exposure compensation on the Indoor Portrait shot than most cameras, but not so much that I'd consider it a problem. The Davebox target came out just a little bright, but the camera captured good detail in the shadows and differentiated subtle tonal differences in the highlights quite well. Dynamic range was a little limited in the outdoor house shot, but the camera still captured good shadow detail there. Overall, good but not spectacular exposure accuracy.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: The X20 turned in about an average performance on the "laboratory" resolution test chart, considering its 2.0-megapixel CCD. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 550~600 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 800 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred at around 1,050 lines.

  • Closeups: The X20 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a tiny minimum area of only 1.13 x 0.85 inches (29 x 22 millimeters). Resolution was high, with a lot of fine detail visible in the dollar bill. (The brooch and coin are soft due to the very short shooting distance.) Corner softness was stronger in this shot, and most noticeable along the left side of the frame. This is a very common failing of digicam lenses in ultra-macro shots, most likely caused by the optical phenomena called "curvature of field." The X20's flash also throttled down very well for the macro area, producing a good, bright exposure.

  • Night Shots: The X20 is a point-and-shoot style digicam, which means that exposure remains under automatic control at all times. Shutter speeds go as long as four seconds, and the camera does have an adjustable ISO setting, which helps in low-light shooting. Still, the X20 produced clear, bright, usable images only down to the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level, at the ISO 400 setting. (You could arguably still use the image shot at 1/16 foot-candles, 0.67 lux, though the image is fairly dim.) At ISO 200, the camera captured images as dark as 1/4 foot-candles (2.7 lux), and at the ISO 64 and 100 settings, only as dark as 1/2 foot-candles (5.5 lux). Since average city street lighting at night corresponds to about one foot-candle (11 lux), the X20 should be able to capture reasonably bright images in slightly darker situations. Though slightly warm, color is pretty good overall. The camera's autofocus system handled the dark conditions pretty well too, though some of the darker shots are slightly soft. The camera also handled image noise fairly well, as even at ISO 400, noise is moderate.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The X20 offers only an LCD monitor for image composition, which is close to 100 percent frame accuracy at both the wide angle and telephoto settings. In both shots, the final image area is shifted upward slightly, cutting off my main line of measurement. So, keep that in mind when tight framing is important, and add slightly more space at the top of the frame. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the X20's LCD monitor does a pretty good job in this respect.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the X20 was about average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.8 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared a little better, as I measured only 0.2 percent pincushion distortion there. Chromatic aberration was a bit higher than I'd like to see, with moderately bright color showing around the target lines in the corners of the frame. (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.) There was also a fair bit of softness visible in the very corners of the frame (particularly the lower right), but it didn't extend too far into the picture area.

  • Image Noise: Thanks no doubt to the larger pixels of its two-megapixel sensor, the X20 showed better than average image noise in my testing.

  • Battery Life: The X20 has surprisingly long battery life for a camera running on only two AA cells. In capture mode, projected run time is just over two hours, with batteries having a true (vs rated) capacity of 1600 mAh. (With current high-capacity cells, the run time would be proportionately longer.) I still strongly recommend at least a couple of sets of high-capacity NiMH cells and a good charger, but the X20 does much better than most compact digicams in this regard. (See my Battery Shootout for the latest ratings of high-power NiMH AA cells, or read my review of the Maha C-204F charger to see why it's my longtime favorite.)

 

Conclusion
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I've been a fan of Minolta's "X" line of subcompact cameras since the original version was first introduced. The DiMAGE X20, while sacrificing a few features to keep the cost down, offers a capable, subcompact digicam at a street price of close to $200. Its compact size, solid feature set, and novice-friendly menu interface make the DiMAGE X20 a great "take anywhere" camera, appealing to non-techies as well as enthusiasts. For the novice user, it's very easy to use and takes nice pictures. For more advanced users (taking myself as an example), it makes a nice "second camera," something that you'd just toss in your pocket without thinking. The 2.0-megapixel CCD takes good quality pictures (apart from some softness in the corners), and its handful of features handle typical shooting situations quite well.

 

Related Links

More Information on this camera from Megapixel.net:
Konica Minolta DiMAGE X20, Konica Minolta Digital Cameras, Digital Cameras


 

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