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Minolta DiMAGE X50 Digital Camera

 

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
1/13/2005
User Level
Novice - Amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
High, 5.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
Good prints to 11x17 inches
or 8x10 with heavy cropping
Availability
September 2004
Suggested Retail Price
(at introduction)
$399

Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures
Specifications
Conclusion
The Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 is the latest in a long line of subcompact "X-series" digital cameras from that company. Minolta really turned heads almost three years ago, when they first introduced the diminutive DiMAGE X, a two megapixel digital camera in the form of a square block of metal, just barely over three-quarters of an inch thick. The DiMAGE X's clever "folded" optical system not only enabled the super-thin design, but made for rapid startup times, since there was no need to wait for the lens assembly to telescope out when the camera was turned on.

This year, the latest model in the popular "X" line, the Konica Minolta X50. While still closely related to its other X-series siblings, the X50 takes things in a slightly different direction, improving the camera's feature set and usability, at the expense of a slight increase in weight and thickness. With that said, even though there have been a lot of hardware changes made, the Konica Minolta X50 will feel very familiar to owners of earlier X-series models. With each generation, Minolta's "X" series has continued to improve, and the images from the Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 are clearly the highest-resolution of any to date, with good color as well. Read on for all the details, but if you're looking for a super-portable, stylishly different camera, the DiMAGE X50 deserves a close look.

 

Camera Overview

With its unusual prism-folded lens design, Konica Minolta's DiMAGE X50, like the DiMAGE Xg, Xt, Xi and X before it, has a tiny, extraordinarily thin all-metal body. Unlike its predecessors in which the lens was vertically mounted, though, the X50's lens is horizontally mounted inside the camera's body - providing better separation between the front of the lens opening and your fingertips when in use. The new model is slightly smaller overall than the Xg was, and impressively (given the new sliding lens barrier) is only 0.1 inches thicker - measuring a mere 3.3 x 0.9 x 2.4 inches (83.5 x 23.5 x 62 millimeters). The Konica Minolta X50 is about a half ounce heavier than the Xg, though, weighing a light 5.0 ounces (143 grams) without the battery and SD memory card. This still makes the DiMAGE X50 one of the smallest and lightest high-resolution digicams on the market. With the extremely compact design, there's no excuse for leaving it behind, as the camera 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. (It also keeps moving parts to a minimum, and protects the lens inside the camera's body - reducing both power consumption, and the risk of accidental damage). The sleek design includes a built-in sliding lens barrier which doubles as a power switch, eliminating any concern over misplacing a lens cap. The all-metal case is rugged and solid-feeling, and should withstand the wear and tear of daily use better than most cameras. The 2.8x zoom lens, combined with the full automatic exposure control makes the camera suitable for most common shooting conditions. The 5.0-megapixel CCD produces high resolution images for printing, as well as lower resolution images better suited for email.

The DiMAGE X50 has a 2.8x, 6.1-17.1mm lens, the equivalent of a 37-105mm lens on a 35mm camera. The autofocus covers a range from 4 inches (10 cm) to infinity. A Super Macro scene mode reduces this to a minimum of just 2.4 inches (6 cm). Depending on the lens zoom position, the maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/5.0. In addition to the optical zoom, the Konica Minolta X50 offers a 1.1 - 4.3x digital zoom, in increments of 0.1x. (Although I always remind readers that digital zoom decreases the overall image quality because it simply enlarges the central pixels of the CCD's image.) You can choose between the real-image optical viewfinder or the 2.0-inch, color TFT LCD monitor to compose images, although as usual, the LCD monitor provides the most accurate framing. (The optical viewfinder is rather "tight", showing only 78-79% of the final frame area.) 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. The sliding lens barrier on the front of the camera powers the camera on, and a Mode switch lets you select between fully automatic, scene, and movie / sound modes. The Scene Mode function, which customizes exposures for common photographic situations, offers a choice of Automatic Selection, Portrait, Sports Action, Landscape, Sunset, Night Portrait, Text, Super Macro, and Auto settings. 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. (Startup time was claimed to be the fastest in the X50's class as of April 2004, at approximately 0.5 seconds, although in my own tests, the camera consistently took about 1.4 seconds to capture the first picture after power-up. That's still pretty fast, though.) Most exposure options are controlled through the LCD's on-screen menu system, which offers very straightforward navigation. That said, you can control flash mode, lens zoom, wide / spot autofocus, drive mode, and your choice of either exposure compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity or color mode externally, via buttons and controls on the camera's rear panel. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to four seconds, though the chosen value is not reported to the user. The right and left arrow keys on the camera's back panel control either the Exposure Compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity, or color mode, or are disabled in Record mode (depending on a menu setting). Exposure Compensation ranges from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. Sensitivity is adjustable to values of 50, 100, 200, or 400, with an Auto setting as well, that varies the ISO between 50 and 160, 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 Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, Suppressed, or Slow Sync modes (the latter being available only when using the Night Portrait scene mode).

In addition to the basic exposure options, the Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 also offers a few extra shooting modes, controlled through the settings menu. In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures 320 x 240-pixel resolution moving images with sound, with duration limited only by the size of the memory card. Movie frame rate can be selected from a choice of either 15 or 30 frames per second. (The included 16MB SD card should hold approximately 21 seconds worth of movies at the highest frame rate, or 40 seconds at the lower frame rate, larger cards will store proportionately more.) 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 X50's Continuous Shooting 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 6 large/fine images, or over a hundred 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 1.8 frames per second. An Ultra-High Speed mode captures eleven 1280 x 960 pixel images in just under a second, and a Multi-Frame mode captures nine low-res images at a rate of 1.25 frames per second, which are then combined as a single image in a three by three grid. Finally, Audio Recording mode lets you record sound clips as long as 180 minutes (without an image), although the maximum recording time may also be limited by the amount of available memory card space. (A 16 MB memory card can hold about 30 minutes of audio.) The Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 also features a Voice Memo option, for recording short sound clips (up to 15 seconds in length) to accompany recorded images.

The Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 stores its images on an SD memory card, and a 16MB card accompanies the camera. (The camera also works with the slightly less expensive MMC cards.) Connection to a host computer for image download is via USB. The DiMAGE X50 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. (Download speed is also very good, I clocked it at 808 KBytes/second on my Sony VAIO computer, running Windows XP. - That's faster than USB v1.1 can support, so the X50 must in fact have a USB v2.0 interface.) The camera utilizes an NP-700 rechargeable lithium-ion battery for power, one of which is included with the camera, along with the necessary battery charger. While the Konica Minolta X50's battery life is very good with the LCD display turned off, with the display on, a fully-charged battery is only good for about 58 minutes of continuous operation. - My standard recommendation of picking up an additional battery pack and keeping it freshly charged applies doubly for the X50. The optional AC adapter may also be useful for preserving battery power when using the camera as a webcam, for reviewing and downloading images, or when viewing images and movies on a television, via the supplied A/V cable.

Basic Features

  • 5.0-megapixel CCD.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 2.0-inch color TFT LCD monitor.
  • Glass, 2.8x, 5.7-17.1mm lens, equivalent to a 37-105mm lens on a 35mm camera.
  • 1.1-4.0x digital zoom, in 0.1x increments.
  • Automatic exposure control.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to four seconds.
  • Maximum aperture f/2.8 to f/5.0, depending on lens zoom position.
  • Built-in flash.
  • SD/MMC memory card storage, 16MB card included.
  • Images saved as JPEG files.
  • Power supplied by one NP-700 rechargeable lithium-ion battery or optional AC adapter.
  • DiMAGE software and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Movie mode with sound.
  • Continuous and Ultra-High Speed Continuous Shooting modes.
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Voice Memo mode for recording captions.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with five modes.
  • Scene mode with nine presets.
  • Adjustable ISO.
  • Both multisegment and spot metering.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • PictBridge compatibility.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included, can function as a webcam).

Recommendation
The Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 is very small and compact. Its full automatic exposure control provides true point-and-shoot operation, although the user does have a few options for lightening or darkening the image, or adjusting the color balance. The 5.0-megapixel CCD delivers good quality images, with enough resolution to make good-looking prints as large as 11x17, or 8x10 with heavy cropping, and a low resolution option for email purposes. A fast eleven frames per second burst mode (at reduced resolution) is perfect for capturing the finer points of a golf swing or other fast action. The DiMAGE X50's tiny size and rugged case design make it a natural for "anywhere/anytime" photography. With its point-and-shoot appeal and ease of use, the Konica Minolta X50 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, making it a good "second camera" for enthusiasts, too. All in all, a very appealing little camera, with good build quality and surprisingly good image quality for a subcompact model.

 

Design

Like the other DiMAGE X-series cameras before it, the Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 has an amazingly thin, tiny case. Its sleek rectangular body shape and relative lack of protrusions make the DiMAGE X50 one of the most portable cameras on the market. Measuring just 3.3 x 0.93 x 2.4 inches (83.5 x 23.5 x 62 millimeters), the DiMAGE X50 fits just about anywhere, including the smallest of shirt pockets. Matching its diminutive size, the Konica Minolta X50 is also very light weight at just 5.0 ounces (143 grams) without the battery and SD memory card. The secret to the DiMAGE X50's compact design is its internally-mounted lens, which stretches horizontally in the center of the camera rather than protruding from the camera's front. An internal prism reflects light from the subject sideways into the lens itself, almost like a periscope. As well as providing protection for the lens mechanism, the internal lens mounting means that there's no wait for the lens barrel to extend when you power up the camera - making startup times very quick. (Only about 1.4 seconds from power on to the first shot captured.) The design also offers protection for the lens, and reduces the number of moving parts - saving power and potentially offering better reliability.

The front of the camera holds the lens window (normally covered by the sliding lens barrier when the camera is turned off), as well as the flash, optical viewfinder window, and self-timer lamp. The sliding lens barrier also functions as a power switch, bringing the camera quickly to life as it is opened (the Playback button, described later, can also power the camera on and off). A slight ridge at the edge of the lens barrier provides welcome purchase for your fingers when framing a photo. You can also see the horizontal row of four tiny holes, marking the location of the X50's microphone.

The design of the Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 is well suites for either a one- or two-handed grip. The fact that the lens is horizontally mounted in the center of the camera reduces the chance of covering the lens opening with your finger accidentally, something that could catch out a user unfamiliar with past X-series cameras. The new location of the flash means that it can be accidentally covered in much the same fashion with your other hand, however.

On the right side of the camera (as viewed from the rear) are the USB / AV and power terminals, and a wrist strap attachment eyelet. A sliding door protects the USB / AV terminal, with a small plastic ridge on it to make it easier to open.

The opposite side of the camera is mostly featureless, with the exception of a small eight-hole speaker, and the door for the battery compartment, which features a grid of nine small bumps that help your finger gain grip. The door slides towards the front of the camera, and a spring loaded action then opens it outwards. The battery itself is not held in place by any kind of catch, so with the door open you'll want to take care not to let the battery drop out onto the floor.

The Konica Minolta X50's top panel is sleek and smooth, with only a minor protrusion for the Mode switch and Shutter button. The Mode switch offers three settings - Still Image, Scene mode or Movie / Audio mode.

The remaining camera controls are on the back panel, along with the optical viewfinder eyepiece and 2.0-inch color LCD monitor. A single LED lamp next to the optical viewfinder reports the camera's status, such as when focus is set, when the flash is charged, etc. To the right of the LCD are three buttons, which access the Playback mode (even if the sliding lens barrier is closed, if the button is held in), enable / disable the LCD's information overlay or turn it off altogether, and call up the Menu in any mode. A rocker button at the top right corner of the camera's rear controls the optical and digital zoom, while a four-button controller with central OK button navigates through the camera's menu system and selects options.

In record mode, the upper button of this group controls the Flash mode, while the lower button controls the drive mode (Continuous, Ultra-High Speed Continuous, Multi, or Self-Timer). The left and right buttons can be configured to control your choice of either exposure compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity or color mode, or can be disabled altogether. The central button switches between wide and spot focusing. In playback mode, the left and right buttons page through captured images, movies and sounds, while the upper button brings up the Delete menu, and the lower button rotates images counter-clockwise in 90-degree steps. The central button starts playback of movies or sound clips.

The bottom panel of the Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 reveals only the plastic, threaded tripod mount - located off-center near the right hand side of the camera - along with the Secure Digital card slot. The card slot door has two plastic ridges to give your fingers purchase. Unfortunately it is located almost surrounding the tripod mount, which means that if you need to change cards when using a tripod, you'll have to first remove the camera from the tripod. (The X50 is not a camera you're likely to use in a studio, however, so this is realistically only a minor quibble). Upon opening the card door, the Secure Digital card is removed by depressing it slightly, and a spring-loaded mechanism pops it out enough to remove with two fingers.

 

Camera Operation

The Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50's user interface is very straightforward, as the camera employs automatic exposure at all times. While Scene mode, zoom setting, flash mode, drive mode, wide / spot autofocus and your choice of either exposure compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity, or color mode can be adjusted via the top or rear-panel controls, all the other features and functions are controlled through the LCD menu system. In both capture and playback modes, the camera's menu system is divided into three pages, delineated by subject tabs at the top of the screen - very similar to the earlier DiMAGE Xg. To the right of the subject tabs, a "Setup" button takes you from the record or playback menus to the Setup menu. The Playback button lets you quickly switch to Playback mode, even if the sliding lens barrier is closed. 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 30 minutes to an hour. (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 operating mode, flash, white balance, ISO setting, the current size/quality setting, metering area, focusing area, and number of images that can be stored on the remaining memory card space at the current size/quality. Pressing the Display button beneath the LCD once removes the information overlay, pressing it again turns the LCD off entirely, and pressing it a third time restores the default 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, video, or sound file, with an information overlay showing (as applicable) 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. Pressing the Display button once dismisses the information overlay, and pressing it a third time shows a set of six thumbnails. 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 center button of the multi-controller reverts to a full view of the image, while the four arrow buttons let you scroll around the magnified image. The screenshot above right shows all the available display options in playback mode.


External Controls


Sliding Lens Barrier: Serving a dual purpose as the Konica Minolta X50's power control and as protection for the lens opening, the sliding lens barrier on the front of the camera turns it on in record mode when opened, and powers it off from any mode when closed.


Shutter Button: On the right-hand side of the camera's top panel, this button sets focus and exposure when pressed halfway, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.


Mode Switch: Just to the left of the Shutter button on the camera's top panel, this control sets the X50's record mode. Options include scene mode, still capture, and movie/audio capture.


Zoom Rocker
: Located at the top right of the Konica Minolta X50's rear panel, this control adjusts the optical and digital zoom in any record mode. In Playback mode, this control lets you zoom in on an image, as much as 6x.


Playback Button
: Directly below the Zoom rocker, this button switches the camera to playback mode when in record mode. If the lens barrier is closed, briefly holding this button in powers the camera on in playback mode. When in playback mode, pressing this button returns the camera to record mode if the lens barrier is open, or powers it off if the barrier is closed.


Display Button
: Directly below the Playback button, this button controls the LCD display. In Record mode, pressing this button once disables the information overlay. A second press cancels the image display altogether and shuts off the LCD monitor (great for saving battery power), while a third press recalls both the information and image displays.

In Playback mode, pressing the Display button displays or dismisses the information display. A third press switches to a 2x3 display of thumbnail images for rapidly reviewing photos in the camera.


Menu Button
: Directly below the Display button, this button calls up the settings menu in both Record and Playback modes.


Four-Button Controller: Located in the bottom right corner of the back panel, these four buttons serve multiple functions.

In Record mode, the left and right buttons control your choice of either exposure compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity or Color mode. The top button controls the flash mode, and the bottom button controls the drive mode (Continuous, Ultra-High Speed Continuous, Multi or Self-Timer). In any settings menu, these buttons navigate through menu options. In playback mode, the left and right buttons scroll forward or back through previously captured images, videos and sounds. The upper button brings up the Delete menu, while the lower button rotates images counter-clockwise in 90-degree steps. When in zoomed playback, these buttons move your view up, down, left or right in the enlarged playback image. When viewing a movie, the left and right buttons fast-forward or rewind the clip. When viewing a slideshow, the left and right buttons skip through the slideshow.

OK Button (see previous): Located in the center of the Four-Button controller, this button also serves multiple functions. In Record mode, briefly holding this button switches the camera between wide and spot AF modes. In playback mode, this button starts playback of sounds and movie clips. When viewing a slideshow, this button pauses or resumes the slideshow.

 

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, and the following options are available:

  • Menu 1
    • Image Size: Adjusts the image resolution to 2,560 x 1,920; 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; or 640 x 480 pixels.
    • Quality level: Sets the image compression level to Fine, Standard, or Economy (JPEG file format).
    • White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the scene. Options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, and Fluorescent.
    • Key Func: This menu item lets you change the function controlled by the left/right keys on the camera's rear panel. Options include exposure compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity, Color mode, and Off (the default).


  • Menu 2
    • Sensitivity: Lets you set the camera's ISO sensitivity to Auto (the default), 50, 100, 200, or 400.
    • Metering Mode: Select between MultiSegment (the default) or Spot exposure metering.
    • Exp.Comp: Set the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 EV units in 0.3 EV steps.
    • Auto Reset: Resets most of the camera's settings to their default values whenever the camera is turned off.


  • Menu 3
    • Color Mode: Sets the camera's color mode to color (the default), black and white, or sepia.
    • 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.
    • Digital Zoom: Enables or disables (the default) the digital zoom function.
    • Inst. Playback: Off by default, when turned on this causes the camera to display each image on the LCD for two seconds after it's captured.


  • Setup: Accesses the camera's setup menu.

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:

  • Menu 1
    • Delete: Erases the current frame, the audio caption attached to the current frame (if applicable), all frames, or marked frames from the memory card.
    • Audio Caption: Allows you to record a short (15 seconds max.) sound clip to accompany a previously recorded image.
    • Lock: Write-protects the current image, marked images, or all images, preventing them from being manipulated or erased (except via card formatting). An option also exists to Unlock images.
    • Image Pasting: Allows you to superimpose images on each other. The currently-selected image acts as a background, and one of nine templates (vertical rectangle, square, horizontal rectangle, bear, circle, heart, speech bubble, oval and though bubble) can then be selected and overlaid on the image. Three sizes can be chosen for any template, and the template can be positioned where you want it in the image. Finally, the camera superimposes a live viewfinder view in the template, and you can frame and capture another photo to fill the template with. The result is saved as a new image, and the process can be repeated on the resulting image.


  • Menu 2
    • Slide Show: When selected, this menu item triggers a slideshow of all images, sounds and movies on the camera.
    • Dissolve: When enabled, the camera randomly chooses a dissolve effect to use when switching images in a slideshow.
    • Crop frame: Allows you to crop a portion of the image, using the same controls as the digital zoom to select the area to be saved. When satisfied, you press the shutter button to save the resulting cropped image as a new file.
    • Frame Capture: Lets you cue backwards and forwards through a movie frame by frame with the left and right arrow keys, and save a specific frame as an image file. If the arrow keys are held down instead of tapped to cue frame by frame, the movie cues at normal playback speed for a couple of seconds, then switches to a high-speed cue. If desired, the movie audio can be attached to the image (if the movie is longer than fifteen seconds, then the fifteen seconds of audio immediately surrounding the captured frame will be saved).
    • Edit Movie: Allows you to crop a movie, specifying a start and end-point. The resulting movie can be previewed, and then saved as a new file.


  • Menu 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.
    • Date Print: Either on or off, this elects whether the camera should print the date with all images in a DPOF order.
    • 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 images for convenient emailing of them. The original images aren't changed, a smaller copy is made. Options are to make a copy of the current image only, or of all marked images.



Movie/Audio Mode: This mode allows you to record either movies (with sound) or audio-only files. Pressing the menu button displays the following options. (Sorry, no screenshots for this mode.)

  • Menu 1
    • Recording Mode: Sets the camera to capture either movies or audio.
    • Frame Rate: Sets the frame-rate of captured movies to either 15 or 30 frames per second.
    • Movie Mode: Sets the camera's sensitivity when capturing movies. Normal maximizes movie quality, but gives lower sensitivity. Night Movie increases sensitivity, but with a potential decrease in movie quality.

  • Menu 2
    • White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the scene. Options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, and Fluorescent.
    • Exp.Comp: Set the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 EV units in 0.3 EV steps.
    • Color Mode: Sets the camera's color mode to color (the default), black and white, or sepia.



Setup Menu : This mode lets you adjust various camera options and settings. Clicking on the Setup button in any other menu displays the following options:

  • Menu 1
    • LCD Brightness: Adjusts the brightness of the LCD display in eleven steps.
    • Format: Formats the SD card, erasing all files, including protected ones.
    • File # Memory: Specifies whether file numbering starts over with new folders, or continues regardless of folder or memory 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.)
    • Language: Changes the menu language to English, Japanese, German, French, or Spanish.


  • Menu 2
    • Audio Signals: Select from two sets of audio signals that occur whenever a button is pressed, or disable them altogether.
    • Focus Signal: You can select your choice of two standard autofocus lock sounds, or disable this sound altogether.
    • Shutter FX: You can select your choice of two standard shutter sounds, or disable this sound altogether.
    • Volume: Sets the volume of the camera's audio signals and shutter FX sounds. Playback of recorded audio is not affected. Options are 1 (Low), 2, or 3 (High).
    • Power Save: Sets the camera to automatically shut off after 1, 3, 5, 10, or 30 minutes of inactivity.
  • Menu 3
    • Reset Default: Resets most settings to their default values.
    • Date/Time Set: Self explanatory - Sets the date and time.
    • Video Output: Selects whether the Video Out connector should comply with the NTSC (US) or PAL (European) standards.
    • Transfer Mode: Through its USB interface, the DiMAGE X50 can appear as either a data storage device or a remote camera. (The remote camera option allows the X50 to be used as a USB-connected webcam.). This option also allows you to set the camera to PictBridge mode, for printing images on PictBridge-compatible printers over the USB connection, without the need for a computer.

 

In the Box

Packaged with the Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 are the following items:

  • Hand strap.
  • USB and AV cables.
  • 16MB SD memory card.
  • NP-700 lithium-ion battery pack.
  • Battery charger.
  • 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, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

 

Sample Pictures

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

"Sunlit"
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy




Specifications

See the specifications sheet here.

 

Picky Details

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


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 DiMAGE X50's sample pictures page.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the X50 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 X50's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Battery Life: Improved battery life, not bad for a subcompact model. Like most subcompact digicams, the DiMAGE Xt's battery life is a little limited, but it does seem to be significantly improved over the battery life of the Xt. In its worst-case power drain mode (record mode with the LCD enabled), battery life is about 112 minutes, a very good performance indeed for a subcompact digicam. Because the Xg lacks an external power terminal, I wasn't able to conduct my usual power measurements on it, so I don't have numbers for battery life in playback mode, or with the LCD turned off. Minolta claims 240 minutes in playback mode, and I have no reason to dispute that number. (The Xt's power consumption dropped to nearly zero with the LCD off, so I suspect the Xg would behave the same.) As always, despite the Xg's generally good battery life performance, I still strongly advise purchasing a second battery when you buy the camera.

  • Color: Generally good color, slight color casts, but good performance under incandescent lighting. The Konica Minolta X50 produced slight color casts under all of my test lighting, at all of the white balance settings tested, but they were generally fairly minor, the results almost certainly acceptable to most users. Skin tones were slightly reddish in the "Sunlit" Portrait, as well as in the Indoor Portrait (with flash). The X50 did a better than average job with the difficult incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait test. Overall, I'd rate the X50's color as "good."

  • Exposure: High contrast, a slight tendency toward underexposure. The Konica Minolta X50 handled my test lighting fairly well, though contrast was high throughout most of my testing and it tended to underexpose its images just slightly. Most cameras I test underexpose the very high-key "Sunlit" Portrait at their default settings, but the +1.0 EV exposure compensation required by the X50 was slightly higher than average, and the Indoor Portrait shot required +1.3 EV of adjustment, again about 0.3 EV higher than normal. Though contrast was high, the X50 had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target of the Davebox, and shadow detail was often better than I expected.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: High resolution, 1,250 lines of "strong detail." The Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,000 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,250 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,600 lines. These are pretty good numbers for a subcompact 5-megapixel digital camera.

  • Image Noise: Low noise levels at ISO 50 and 100, high at 200, bad at 400. Noise was low (but detectable) at the X50's 50 and 100 ISO settings, but greatly increased at the 200 and 400 equivalent settings. At the higher ISOs, the grain size is large enough that it impacts subject detail, and affects the overall color balance. Overall, the X50 is a camera that works well enough at low ISOs, but that becomes marginal at ISO 200, and nearly unusable (in my opinion, anyway) at ISO 400. (This sadly is a pretty common state of affairs with current 5-megapixel digital cameras, particularly compact models. See my notes below about print quality though...)

  • Closeups: An excellent macro shooter! A tiny macro area with excellent detail. Flash also performs well. The Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 0.99 x 0.74 inches (25 x 19 millimeters). Resolution was very high, and detail was excellent in the dollar bill. (The coin and brooch were soft due to the close shooting range, and likely a limited depth of field as well.) The X50's flash almost throttled down for the macro area, but was just a little bright. However, results were actually pretty good, considering how close the camera was to the subject. Overall, an excellent macro shooter!

  • Night Shots: Somewhat limited low-light capabilities, though the camera is well-suited to shooting under city street lighting at night without a flash. Good low-light autofocus performance. The Konica Minolta X50 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level at the 400 ISO equivalent, though you could arguably use the image captured at the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of the test. At ISO 200, exposures were bright as low as 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux), and at ISOs 50 and 100, exposures were bright only to 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux). Since average city street lighting at night equates to about one foot-candle (11 lux), the X50 ought to be capable of capturing fairly good images at slightly darker light levels. Color was pretty good, though with a slight warm cast that increased as the exposure darkened. Noise appeared under control at the 50 and 100 ISO settings, and wasn't terrible even at ISO 200. However, at ISO 400, noise was very high, and the grain pattern interfered with subject detail. The X50's autofocus system worked surprisingly well at low light levels, able to focus down light levels of less than 1/8 foot-candle.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: A tight optical viewfinder, but very accurate LCD monitor. The X50's optical viewfinder was very tight, showing only about 78 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 79 percent at telephoto. Images framed with the optical viewfinder were also slanted toward the lower left corner, possibly evidence of a shifted CCD chip. The LCD monitor proved much more accurate, and actually a little loose, showing slightly more of the frame than what made it into the final image. At wide angle, I was able to measure frame accuracy at about 99 percent. However, at telephoto, the standard measurement lines were just out of frame. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the X50's LCD monitor is almost perfect.

  • Optical Distortion: High barrel distortion at wide angle, virtually zero at telephoto. Chromatic aberration moderate at wide angle, low at telephoto. Good sharpness from corner to corner. Optical distortion on the Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 was higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.13 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I measured approximately 0.09 percent barrel distortion there. Chromatic aberration was high at wide angle focal lengths, showing several pixels of moderately strong coloration on either side of the target lines, but very low at the telephoto end of the lens' range. (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.) The X50's images were impressively sharp from corner to corner, relatively rare in a subcompact digicam.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Good performance, particularly for a subcompact model. The Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 performed surprisingly well for a subcompact digital camera. It started up very quickly, albeit not quite as fast as the manufacturer claims. (1.4 seconds to the first shot, in my tests.) Its 0.8 second shutter lag (regardless of zoom setting) is on the fast side of average, and its 0.07 second lag when "prefocused" by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button prior to the shot itself is positively blazing. At 2.3 seconds/frame, its shot to shot cycle time is likewise OK, but actually quite good for a subcompact model. Speed in continuous mode is excellent, at 1.83 frames/second, and the Ultra High Speed mode is just that, capturing 11 1280x960 images in less than a second.

  • Battery Life: Rather short battery life when the rear-panel LCD is used. Like most subcompact digital cameras, the Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 has rather short battery life when its rear-panel LCD is used as the viewfinder. At just 58 minutes in this mode, battery life is shorter than most cameras in its class, so you'll definitely want to buy a spare battery right along with the camera. On the other hand, when run with its LCD off, run time stretches to a phenomenal 57 hours. Unfortunately, the rather tight optical viewfinder means that you'll need to rely on the power-hungry LCD screen more often than not

  • Print Quality: Sharp 13x19 prints, high-ISO much less of an issue in 4x6 prints. I've long felt that viewing images onscreen only tells part of the story of a digital camera's performance. That's why I encourage readers to download our images and print them out on their own printers. Now, I'm considering adding a standard section to each of our reviews, discussing print quality, to hopefully save some of you that trouble. Taking the Konica Minolta X50 as a case in point, I printed out some of our test shots from it on the Canon i9900 printer we have in our studio. (An excellent printer, with great color and high resolution.) Looking at prints from the X50, I found its output looked great when printed as large as 13x19 inches. While I found the X50's image noise levels at ISO 400 very objectionable when I viewed its images onscreen, 4x6 prints of my ISO 400 shots by and large looked entirely acceptable, and even 5x7 prints of some subjects looked OK. (The exception would be subjects with large areas of relatively flat tints, such as skies, solid-color walls, etc. In such instances, the colored noise speckles were still quite visible, even in 4x6 prints

 

Conclusion

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I've been a fan of Minolta's (now Konica Minolta's) "X" line of subcompact cameras since the original version was first introduced nearly three years ago. Ultra-compact digital cameras often seem to involve a lot of compromises and tradeoffs, but the DiMAGE X50 takes very nice photos under a wide range of conditions, and offers a decent range of exposure control (exposure compensation and white balance adjustments). With five megapixels of resolution, it also captures a lot of detail, more than most subcompact digital cameras, but it does fall prey to the problem of short battery life that plagues the category. While it runs seemingly forever in capture mode with the LCD turned off, the so-so accuracy of its optical viewfinder means that you'll have to rely upon the LCD to frame any critical shots, thereby cutting into battery life. This means that my standard recommendation of purchasing a second battery right along with the camera applies even more so to the X50 than to some competing models. Overall though, its compact size, solid feature set, and rugged all-metal case make the Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 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 great "second camera", something that you'd just toss in your pocket without thinking. If you want a camera that will satisfy both novice and more advanced users, and that gives you no excuse for leaving it behind, the Konica Minolta DiMAGE X50 is a great choice.


 

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