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Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z10 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
By
Dave Etchells
Review Date
9/8/2004
User Level
Novice to Experienced
Product Uses
Family / Travel
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot, Full Manual Control
Picture Quality
Good, 3.2-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6, 5x7, 8x10 inches
Availability
July, 2004
Suggested Retail Price
(At time of introduction)
$329


Introduction

Konica Minolta Z2 Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Test Images
Specifications
Conclusion
The Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z10 digital camera is the latest in Konica Minolta's highly popular and aggressively priced line of DiMAGE long-zoom digital cameras. The original Minolta Z1 was their first long-zoom digital camera aimed squarely at the consumer market, and was one of the most popular cameras on the Imaging Resource site until it was replaced by the follow-on Konica Minolta Z2 model. Now, Konica Minolta appears to be splitting their "Z" line of digicams, introducing the DiMAGE Z10 at the low end and the DiMAGE Z3 at the high end. - The budget-priced Konica Minolta Z10 is the subject of this review. Read on for all the details!

Camera Overview

Looking something like a smaller version of a 35mm "big lens" SLR, except for the fixed flash perched on top, Konica Minolta's DiMAGE Z10 offers the benefit of an 8x optical zoom and optional full manual exposure control in a reasonably compact, very user-friendly package. Measuring a 4.29 x 3.23 x 3.70 inches (109 x 82 x 94 millimeters) and weighing 14.4 ounces (408 grams) with the batteries and SD memory card, the DiMAGE Z10 is fairly compact for such a long-zoom camera, but a bit too chunky for a pocket. It should fit nicely into larger purses and backpacks or a small case, though. A neck/shoulder strap is included for more secure portability. Covered in silver and charcoal-gray plastic panels, the Z10's body is built around the large, rigid lens barrel. A substantial handgrip provides a solid hold. A plastic lens cap protects the non-telescoping lens, but unlike those on previous DiMAGE Z models, it does not tether to the camera body. The Z10 features a 3.2-megapixel CCD, which produces images that when printed full frame, are suitable for enlargements up to 8x10 inches, as well as lower resolution images better suited for email distribution. With its wide range of exposure options, 8x optical zoom, and good resolution CCD, the Z10 is a capable performer.

The DiMAGE Z10 is equipped with an 8x, 6-48mm lens, the equivalent of a 36-290mm lens on a 35mm camera. This represents a range from a very useful wide-angle to a substantial telephoto. Maximum aperture ranges from f/3.2 to f/3.4, depending on the lens zoom setting. Focus is specified as ranging from 1.87 feet (0.57 meters) to infinity at the wide-angle position, and from 5.15 feet (1.57 meters) to infinity at the telephoto position. This is not near enough for closeups of small objects, but the macro setting fills the gap by allowing focusing from 3.1 - 42.1 inches (8-107cm) at the wide angle lens position, or from 26.3 to 81.5 inches (67-207cm) at telephoto. Though the DiMAGE Z10 normally judges focus from a large area in the center of the frame, a Spot AF mode is also available, which determines focus from a choice of three possible spot-AF hotspots, arranged across the middle of the frame. To activate Spot-AF mode, press and hold down the center button of the arrow pad in any non-movie capture mode until you see the three hotspots. You can then use the left and right buttons of the arrow pad to select the specific hotspot you want to use. If none of the hotspots covers the area you want in focus, you can select a hotspot, place it over the subject, depress the shutter button partway down to lock in focus, then re-position the camera to frame the scene before depressing the button fully to take the picture. In P, A, S, and M exposure modes, the selected hotspot or the large focus area will remain in effect until it is changed. The Z10 also offers a manual focus setting, as well as a Full-time AF mode which continuously adjusts focus whether the shutter button is pressed or not. (This may be helpful in tracking moving subjects, but doesn't reduce shutter lag with stationary subjects.)

In addition to its optical zoom, the DiMAGE Z10 offers a digital zoom up to 4x. (I always remind readers though, that digital zoom inevitably decreases the overall image quality because it simply enlarges the central pixels of the CCD's image.) For composing images, the DiMAGE Z10 offers a 1.5-inch LCD monitor, as well as a smaller, electronic optical viewfinder LCD display that actually uses the same LCD display, flipped up to face the inside of the camera instead of the rear panel. The Mode switch on the camera's rear panel determines which display is active, and the full information and image displays are available on both (including the LCD menu). The LCD is quite sharp, and during manual focusing, the central portion of the display is magnified by about 2.5x, as a further aid to determining optimum focus. For eyeglass wearers, the Z10's eye level viewfinder is a bit of a mixed bag. It has a dioptric adjustment with a fairly broad range. At the "nearsighted" end, it accommodated even my own 20/180vision. On the downside though, the eyepiece has a fairly low eyepoint, making it hard to use while wearing glasses.

When it comes to exposure, the DiMAGE Z10 offers a wide range of options, controlled by the Exposure Mode dial on top of the camera. Main exposure modes include Auto, Program, Aperture Priority,Shutter Priority, and Manual modes, with five preset Scene modes and a Movie mode available as well. In Auto mode, the camera handles everything, including choosing a Digital Subject Program mode that sets the aperture, shutter , and flash capabilities according to subject matter. In the Program mode, the camera sets optimum shutter speeds and apertures for typical subjects, leaving only the zoom, drive mode, flash, etc., for the user to worry about.Aperture and Shutter Priority modes provide partial manual control, letting the user adjust one variable while the camera selects the other. Finally, in Manual mode, the user has complete control over the exposure.

Aperture settings run from f/3.2-3.4 (with the lens at its wide and telephoto settings respectively) to f/8. Shutter speeds range from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds in Manual and Shutter Priority modes, with a true (un-metered) time-exposure setting permitting exposures as long as 30 seconds. (Maximum exposure time in Program and Aperture Priority modes is four seconds, and two seconds in Auto and Digital Subject Program modes.) The true time-exposure option on the Z10 is a very unusual and welcome feature on a digital camera. Most digicams with long-exposure options have a "Bulb" mode, in which the shutter is kept open as long as you hold down the shutter button. The disadvantage of this approach is that the need to keep your finger on the shutter button often causes camera shake that can blur the final images. With a true time-exposure mode though, you press the shutter button once to open the shutter, and then again to close it. With the camera mounted on a tripod, the momentary minor jiggling as you press the shutter button to open the shutter dies away quickly, allowing very sharp images with very long exposures. Kudos to Konica Minolta for implementing this feature, carried over from several of their earlier models. For longer exposures, the Z10 features a Noise Reduction setting (optionally activated through the Setup menu), which uses dark-frame subtraction to reduce image noise resulting from long exposure times.

In addition to the various conventional automatic, semi-automatic, and manual exposure modes, the five Digital Subject Program modes include Night Portrait, Sunset, Landscape, Sports Action, and Portrait modes, for shooting in common, yet sometimes challenging, situations. Night Portrait allows use of the flash in conjunction with longer exposure times for more even illumination, Sunset mode sets the white balance to "daylight" and biases the exposure to produce saturated colors in sky shots, Landscape mode uses a small aperture to produce greater depth of field, Sports Action mode biases the exposure system toward faster shutter speeds, and Portrait mode uses a larger aperture to decrease depth of field, slightly blurring the background behind the primary subject. The camera's Self-Timer mode provides a two or ten-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the time that the camera actually takes the picture, allowing you to get into your own shots.

By default, the Z10 employs a Multi-Segment metering system, which reads multiple areas throughout the frame to determine the exposure. Through the Record menu, however, you can opt for Spot or Center-Weighted metering modes. The right and left arrow keys on the camera's back panel control the Exposure Compensation, adjusting it from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. Light sensitivity is adjustable to ISO values of 64, 100, 200, or 400, with an Auto setting as well. White Balance is also adjustable through the settings menu, with options for Auto, Preset (Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent and Flash), and a Custom setting for manually adjusting the color balance with a white card. The Record menu also offers Sharpness and Contrast adjustments, as well as a Color setting with Natural, Vivid, Black and White and Sepia color options. The DiMAGE Z10 features a built-in flash, which operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-Flash, Suppressed, or Slow-Sync modes. An adjustment in the Record menu lets you control the intensity of the flash, from -2 to +2 EV.

In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures 640 x 480 or 320 x 240-pixel resolution moving images without sound. Frame rate at 640 x 480 is limited to 15 frames/second, but the 320 x 240 size permits recording at either 15 or 30 frames/second. The recording time per segment seems to be limited only by the capacity of the memory card you're using, although it's possible that segment length may be shorter with very slow memory cards. (The only large SD cards I had on hand to test with were fairly fast Lexar units. Cards with slower write speeds may cause the camera's internal buffer memory to fill, terminating the recording before the card capacity has been reached.) You have an option for Standard or Night movie modes, can operate the zoom lens while the camera is recording. (One advantage of recording without sound, since there's no audio track to be affected by the noise of the zoom motor.)

For shooting action subjects, the DiMAGE Z10's Continuous Advance modes capture a rapid series of images while you hold down the Shutter button, much like a motor drive on a traditional 35mm camera. The maximum rate of capture is only about 0.7 frames/second for full-resolution images, or 1.35 frames/second for 640 x 480 ones. The number of images that can be captured will depend on memory card capacity (of course), as well as subject content, and ranges from 5 at the Fine setting at 2048 x 1536 pixel resolution to more than 100 at the Economy setting at 640 x 480. Besides the normal Continuous Advance mode, the Z10 offers a feature called "Progressive Capture," which begins continuously acquiring images when you press and hold down the shutter button, but only saves the last six captured when you finally release the shutter button. Progressive capture is intended to help with capturing fast action, when you don't know exactly when the critical moment will arrive. (Great for those like myself whose reflexes are slowing as we age.) The leisurely capture rate of a bit under one frame/second with full-resolution images in progressive mode unfortunately means that the camera's "reflexes" are on the slow side as well. - For my part, I found I had much better luck capturing critical moments with the Z10 when I just half-pressed and held the shutter button before the actual exposure itself, thereby dramatically reducing the shutter lag. Also available is an Auto Exposure Bracketing mode, which captures three consecutive frames at different exposure settings, varying by 0.3, 0.5, or 1.0 EV steps. Auto Exposure Bracketing disables the flash control.

The DiMAGE Z10 stores its images on SD memory cards, and a 16MB card accompanies the camera. (The camera also works with MMC cards, which used to be slightly less expensive, but which have now for the most part disappeared from the market.) I highly recommend picking up a larger capacity card right away, so you don't miss any important shots. (These days, a 128 MB card represents a good tradeoff between capacity and cost.) Connection to a host computer for image download is via USB. The DiMAGE Z10 is a "storage-class" device, which means that it doesn't require any separate driver software for Windows 2000 and XP, or for Mac OS 8.6 and later. The camera utilizes four AA-type batteries for power, and has really outstanding battery life, with a worst-case run time of over three and a half hours, even with inexpensive 1600 mAh-capacity NiMH cells. I as always recommend picking up at least two sets of high-capacity rechargeable NiMH batteries and a good charger, and keeping a set freshly charged at all times. Click hereto read my "battery shootout" page to see which batteries currently on the market are best, or herefor my review of the Maha C-204F charger, my longtime favorite. The optionalAC adapter is also useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images, or when viewing images and movie son a television, via the supplied A/V cable.

Basic Features

  • 3.2-megapixel CCD.
  • Electronic optical viewfinder (EVF).
  • 1.5-inch color TFT LCD monitor with anti-reflection coating.
  • 8x, 6-48mm lens, equivalent to a 36-290mm lens on a 35mm camera.
  • 4x digital zoom.
  • Automatic, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes, plus five preset Digital Subject Program modes.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to 15 seconds, with a "Time" setting for exposures as long as 30 seconds.
  • Maximum aperture f/3.2 to f/3.4, depending on lens zoom position.
  • Built-in flash with five modes.
  • SD/MMC memory card storage, 16MB card included.
  • Images saved as JPEG files.
  • Power supplied by four AA-type batteries or optional AC adapter.
  • DiMAGE Viewer and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Continuous Advance shooting mode.
  • Progressive Capture mode captures last 6 images before you release the shutter button.
  • Auto Exposure Bracketing.
  • 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • White Balance (color) adjustment with seven modes, including a manual setting
  • Adjustable ISO with four sensitivity settings (50, 100, 200, 400) and an Auto mode.
  • Noise reduction setting for long exposures.
  • Multi-Segment, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering options.
  • Spot and Full-time AF modes.
  • Color, Sharpness, and Contrast adjustments.
  • USB PictBridge direct printing capability.
  • A/V cable for connection to a television set.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).


Recommendation
With its 8x optical zoom lens, full range of exposure control, fairly compact size, and excellent movie- and continuous-capture modes, the DiMAGE Z10 is a full-featured yet surprisingly affordable long-zoom digicam. Though the camera features full manual exposure control, its simplified user interface and available automatic and "scene" modes make it very approachable for less-experienced novices who want to gradually learn more about digital photography. A 3.2-megapixel CCD delivers quality images, with enough resolution to make good 8 x10 prints, with lower resolution options available for email and other electronic uses. The Z10 is compact enough for travel, especially for a long-zoom model, and has enough exposure features to handle just about any situation. The Z10 would make a great choice for anyone looking for a long-zoom digicam with ample features, but at a very affordable price.

 

Design

Konica Minolta's DiMAGE brand name carries with it a tradition of quality and technological innovation, covering an array of digital cameras designed to suit a wide range of experience levels and price points. Konica Minolta's DiMAGE Z10 offers a strong feature set, pared down from those of Konica Minolta's higher-end models, but still offering a full range of exposure control, and a 8x zoom lens, with an easy-to-learn user interface, all at a very affordable price. Made up mostly of the lens, and a tall, stylized hand grip, the two-toned, plastic body is sleek and sophisticated, and sports only a few external controls. Measuring a 4.29 x 3.23 x 3.70 inches (109 x 82 x 94 millimeters) and weighing 14.4 ounces (408 grams) with the batteries and SD memory card, the DiMAGE Z10 is fairly compact for such a long-zoom camera. A neckstrap accompanies the camera for easy toting, but I'd recommend picking up a small camera case to protect the matte-silver finish of the plastic body panels when traveling.

While it undoubtedly contributes to the camera's light weight and low cost, the lightweight plastic body of the Z10 does have a rather "plasticky" feel to it that may turn off some prospective purchasers. While the rubber grip panels on the left and right sides help with this somewhat, and the camera as a whole seems to be rugged enough, the lens barrel in particular feels a little cheap in the hand.

The front of the Z10 is dominated by the large lens and handgrip. The rigid lens extends just over an inch from the camera front. A plastic lens cap clamps onto the lens for protection. A set of filter threads around the inside lip of the lens barrel on the body of the camera accommodate Konica Minolta's accessory lenses via an accessory adapter. Konica Minolta's optional accessory lenses extend both the camera's wide angle and telephoto capabilities. A nice feature of the Z10 is that its lens doesn't telescope out from the body when the camera is turned on. You therefore don't need any special adapters to attach accessory lenses, and needn't worry about the weight of such lenses damaging a delicate telescoping mechanism. Also on the front panel are the infrared autofocus window (just below the fixed flash) and Self-Timer LED lamp. A substantial handgrip provides a firm hold on the camera, with plenty of room for your fingers to curve around the grip. While it offers plenty to grab onto, the handgrip is still small enough to be comfortable for users with smaller hands. The small dark dot on the handgrip below the shutter button is a red LED that winks to count down the self-timer delay.

The right side of the Z10 (as viewed from the rear) has the card slot, a covered USB port, a black decorative plastic strip and one of the neck strap attachment eyelets. (The open card slot leaves me concerned about dirt getting into the card slot in normal handling. The card itself does fill the slot pretty completely, but I'd still rather see a door over the opening.)

The opposite side of the camera is curved to echo the shape of the lens barrel, and features the second neck strap eyelet. The camera's DC 6V port is near the bottom. Also visible on this side of the camera is the diopter adjustment dial for the viewfinder eyepiece.

On the DiMAGE Z10's top panel are the Exposure Mode dial, along with the Shutter, Macro, and Flash buttons.

The remaining camera controls are on the rear panel, along with the electronic optical viewfinder (EVF) eyepiece and 1.5-inch color LCD monitor. Curving around the right side of the LCD monitor are the Four-Way Arrow pad and Menu, Quick View/Erase, and Information buttons. The Power button and Mode dial are just beneath the LCD monitor. At the very top of the right side is the Zoom lever.

Earlier, I mentioned the unusual design of the Z10's EVF, which uses the same LCD screen as for the rear-panel display. Despite its odd design, the scheme seems to work pretty well, as the EVF is bright and has pretty good resolution. My one complaint about it is that the eyepiece optics have a rather low eyepoint, which means that eyeglass wearers will find themselves pressing the viewfinder eyepiece tightly against the lenses of their glasses, in order to see the full frame. The EVF does have a dioptric adjustment knob with a fairly wide range of adjustment though, so you may be able touse the EVF without your eyeglasses on. (I'm quite nearsighted, at 20/180or so, and the dioptric control could just compensate for my uncorrected vision.)

The Z10's bottom panel is fairly flat, with a plastic threaded tripod mount under the lens (a good position for people interested in panoramic photography), and the battery compartment starting at the base of the handgrip and extending under the lens. A sliding latch locks and unlocks the battery compartment door, to prevent it from accidentally popping open while shooting.

 

Camera Operation

With only a handful of external camera controls and a well-organized LCD menu system, the DiMAGE Z10's user interface is straightforward and easy to grasp. The Mode dial on the rear panel controls the camera's main operating mode (as well as whether the LCD display's image is routed to the rear panel or the EVF eyepiece, while the Exposure Mode dial sets the level of exposure control you have. Though only a few exposure options can be controlled externally, the Z10's efficiently laid out LCD menu system is easy to understand and relatively quick to navigate. Each menu is divided into pages with tabs at the top of the screen, so you can quickly scan each page without scrolling through a long list of options. Given the camera's straightforward setup and user-friendly design, most users should be able to operate the camera right out of the box, referring to the manual only for more complex operations.

Record-Mode Viewfinder Display: In record mode, you can choose to display an information overlay on the LCD screen, or dismiss it for an unobstructed view of your subject. Information shown includes camera mode, exposure mode, flash status, exposure compensation (if a compensation adjustment has been made), white balance setting (if something other than "Auto" is selected), image size and quality setting, drive mode (single, continuous, movie, etc.), and number of shots remaining on the memory card. If the information overlay is enabled, aperture and shutter speed are reported when the Shutter button is halfway pressed. An optional histogram overlay can be enabled by pressing "i+" button. In Auto mode, a set of icons appears across the top of the screen, to indicate that automatic scene mode selection is active.


In Manual Focus mode (selected via a record-menu option), the screen display changes to include a vertical bar on the right side of the image that shows an approximate indication of the current focal distance setting. Three different distance scales are shown, to provide better distance accuracy. Depending on the zoom setting, two or three scales will appear, running from 1-10cm (for wide angle focal lengths only), 0.1-1 meter, and 1 meter to infinity. When you press the up or down arrow button to change the focus, the central portion of the LCD image temporarily enlarges 2.5x to help you determine focus accurately. (I actually found that I could set the Z10's focus pretty well based on this enlarged viewfinder display.)


Playback-Mode Viewfinder Display: In playback mode, the Information button cycles between the image display only, the image with a limited information display, and an index display of the images on the memory card. Image information includes the file number, image number in the captured series, date and time, and the file size and quality settings. Pressing the up-arrow key on the Four-Way arrow pad calls up a histogram display showing the distribution of brightness values in the image, along with detailed exposure information. You can also zoom in up to 6x to check fine details, focus and framing, and can scroll the enlarged viewing window around the full image using the camera's arrow keys.


 

External Controls



Shutter Button
: Angled down slightly on the camera's top panel, this button sets focus and exposure when pressed halfway, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.


Macro Button
: Behind the Shutter button and curved around the Exposure Mode dial on the left side, this button controls the macro focus mode, cycling between normal AF and Macro modes.


Flash Button
: Next to the Macro button, this button cycles through the available flash modes in any Record mode, unless Auto Bracketing is engaged.Options include Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill Flash, Suppressed, and Slow-Sync.


Exposure Mode Dial: Sitting atop the back edge of the handgrip, this ribbed dial selects the camera's exposure mode with the following options:

  • Auto: Give the camera control over all the exposure variables, including the choice of a Digital Subject Program. The user controls only flash mode, zoom, macro mode, file size and quality settings.
  • Movie: Indicated on the Exposure Mode dial by a black movie camera icon, this mode records moving images with sound.
  • Program (P): This mode puts the camera in control of aperture and shutter speed, the user retaining control over all other exposure variables.
  • Aperture Priority (A): Here, the user controls the aperture setting, while the camera selects the appropriate corresponding shutter speed.
  • Shutter Priority (S): The opposite of Aperture Priority mode, this mode lets the user choose the shutter speed setting while the camera selects the lens aperture.
  • Manual (M): This mode provides complete user control over the exposure.
  • Night Portrait: Marked on the Exposure Mode dial with an icon of a person with a star above them, this mode sets up the camera for capturing portraits in low-lit situations. Because the camera is using a slower shutter speed here, a tripod is recommended for the best results.
  • Sunset: Indicated by a beach scene with a setting sun on the Exposure Mode dial, this mode adjusts the white balance system to preserve the warm colors of a sunset without compensating for them. It also biases the exposure system to produce a slight underexposure, to prevent the sky colors from being washed out.
  • Landscape: This mode is indicated by an icon of a pair of mountains with a person in front on the Exposure Mode dial. Here, the camera uses a smaller lens aperture, so that both the background and foreground will be in sharp focus.
  • Sports Action: Marked on the Exposure Mode dial by an icon of a running person, this mode uses faster shutter speeds to "freeze" fast-paced action.
  • Portrait: An icon of a woman's head indicates this mode on the Exposure Mode dial. In Portrait mode, the camera employs a larger lens aperture setting, which decreases the depth of field. This produces a sharply focused image of the subject, in front of a slightly blurred background.



Zoom Control
: Crowning the top right corner of the rear panel, just beneath the Exposure Mode dial, this two-way rocker button controls the optical and digital zoom in Record mode. In Playback mode, this button controls the playback zoom setting, digitally enlarging the image as much as 6x.


Four-Way Arrow Pad and OK Button
: A little to the right of center on the camera's rear panel, this set of five buttons serves as the camera's main navigational tool. The four exterior buttons navigate through settings menus, moving the selection up, down, left, or right. The center button acts as the "OK" button, to confirm any changes. In Manual exposure mode, the right and left keys adjust the aperture setting, while the up and down keys change the shutter speed. In Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, the up and down keys adjust the available exposure variable, while the right and left keys adjust Exposure Compensation. In Program mode, the right and left keys adjust the Exposure Compensation as well. In Manual Focus mode, the up/down arrow keys adjust the focal distance of the lens. Since the Manual Focus keys are the same as those used for Shutter speed in Manual exposure mode, in this mode the center button switches back and forth between the up/down arrow keys being used to adjust Manual Focus or Shutter speed.

In Playback mode, the right and left arrow keys scroll through captured images. The Up arrow key calls up or dismisses a display screen showing a histogram of brightness values within the image, as well as detailed exposure information. The Down arrow rotates the image counter-clockwise in 90-degreeincrements. When an image has been enlarged, all four keys pan the view.


Menu Button
: Directly below the down arrow key and the first in a series curving around the LCD monitor, this button calls up the settings menu in both Record and Playback modes.


QuickView / Erase: Below the Menu button ,this button activates the QuickView image display in Record mode, which allows you to check the most recently captured image.

In Playback mode, this button displays the Single Image Erase menu, which lets you erase the currently displayed image.


Display (i+) Button
: The final button in the series curving around theLCD monitor, this button controls the LCD display. In Record mode, pressing this button toggles the image information display on and off.

In Playback mode, pressing the Display button displays or dismisses a limited information display. A third press switches to an index display of thumbnail images for rapidly reviewing photos in the camera, while a fourth press returns to the normal display.


Power Button
: Located in the center of the Mode dial beneath the LCDmonitor, this button turns the camera on and off.

Mode Dial: Encircling the Power button on the rear panel, this dial sets the camera's operating mode and viewfinder display location. Options are Record EVF (electronic viewfinder), Record LCD, and Playback LCD.


Diopter Adjustment Control: Tucked on the side of the viewfinder eyepiece, this tiny, notched knob adjusts the viewfinder display to accommodate near- or farsighted users.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: In Record mode, the camera can capture still images ,with a range of options available through the settings menu. The ExposureMode dial sets the exposure control mode, while the LCD menu provides the following exposure options (some options are not available in all modes):

  • Record 1
    • Drive Mode: (Still modes only) Sets drive mode to Single, Self-Timer, Continuous, Progressive, or Bracketing.
    • Image Size: Adjusts the image resolution to 2048 x 1536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; or 640 x 480 pixels. In Movie mode, resolution options are 640 x 480; 320 x 240.
    • Quality: Specifies the JPEG compression level for still images. Options are Fine, Standard, or Economy.
    • Frame Rate: (Movie mode only.) Sets the movie recording frame rate to 15 or 30 frames per second. (At 640x480, only the 15 fps option is available.)
    • White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the scene. Options include Auto, Preset (Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, and Flash), Custom Set (manual adjustment), and Custom Recall.
    • Key Function: (Still modes only) Assigns a function to the Flash key. Options are Flash Mode, Drive Mode, White Balance, Focus Mode, Color Mode, and Sensitivity.
    • Movie Mode: (Movie mode only.) Sets the movie recording mode to either Standard or Night Movie. (Night Movie mode uses slower shutter speeds to cope with dim lighting conditions, but as a result will produce blurred images of quickly moving objects.)


  • Record 2
    • Focus Mode: Selects either Single, Continuous, or Manual focus control.
    • Color Mode: (Movie mode only.) Chooses whether the camera records images in Natural Color, Vivid (highly saturated) Color, Black and White, or Sepia tones.
    • Full time AF: (Still modes only) Turns the Full time AF option on or off. If on, the camera adjusts focus continuously whenever the camera is in a capture mode.
    • Flash Mode: (Still modes only) Sets the flash mode to Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill, or Slow Sync modes, or Cancel, to disable the flash completely.
    • Flash Compensation: (Still modes only) Adjusts flash power from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV).
    • Metering Mode: (Still modes only) Designates how the camera meters the exposure. Options are Multi-Segment, Center-Weighted, and Spot.


  • Record 3 (Still capture modes only)
    • Sensitivity: Sets the camera's sensitivity to Auto, or to 50,100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents.
    • Digital Zoom: Turns the 4x digital zoom on and off. (Digital zoom only engages after the lens has been zoomed all the way to its max telephoto.)
    • Color Mode: Chooses whether the camera records images in Natural Color, Vivid (highly saturated) Color, Black and White, or Sepia tones.
    • Sharpness: Adjusts the in-camera image sharpening. Options are Normal, Hard, and Soft.
    • Contrast: Controls the level of image contrast, with choices of Normal, High, and Low.


Playback Mode: This mode allows you to review captured images on the memory card, erase them, protect them, set them up for printing, etc. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

  • Playback 1
    • Delete: Erases the current frame, all frames, or marked frames from the memory card. (If you select "Marked Frames", you'll be taken to another screen, where you can mark the frames you want to delete.)
    • Format: Formats the SD/MMC memory card, removing all files, even those which have been locked using the menu option below.
    • Lock: Write-protects the current image, all marked images or all images, preventing them from being manipulated or erased (except via card formatting). An option also exists to Unlock images.
    • Copy: Lets you copy either the current image, or all marked images, from one Secure Digital card to another, via the camera's internal memory. You are prompted to change the card at the appropriate point.


  • Playback 2
    • Slide Show: Enables an automated slide show of all the still images saved on the memory card.
    • Slide Show Playback: Specifies which images are played back in the slide show, either All Frames or Marked Frames. (As in the Delete and Lock options on the first playback screen, the Marked Frames option lets you "mark" frames for playback.)
    • Slide Show Duration: Determines the interval length between images, from one to 60 seconds.
    • Slide Show Repeat: Sets whether the slide show repeats after the last image or not.


  • Playback 3
    • DPOF Set: Allows you to set up images for subsequent printing on a DPOF (Digital Print Order Format)-compliant output device. You can select individual images, marked images, or all images on the card for printing. You can also cancel print settings.
    • Date Print: Turns the Date Print function on or off. If on, a DPOF printer will print the date on all images in the current print order.
    • Index Print: Turns the Index Print function on or off. If on, a DPOF printer will print an index page of all images on the memory card.
    • Email Copy: Makes a low-resolution copy of the selected image. You can make copies of either the current image alone, or of multiple images you've marked separately. Email copy images are stored in a separate "EM" folder on the memory card. (This is a fairly rare and very handy option, although I somewhat prefer Sony's implementation of it, in which the camera will can be set to automatically make email-sized copies of all images as they're captured.)


Setup Mode: The following Setup menu options are accessible through both the Record and Playback menu screens, as a separate tab on the far right:

  • Setup 1
    • LCD Brightness: Adjusts the brightness of the LCD display, with 11 steps of brightness adjustment possible.
    • Power Save: Sets the camera to shut itself off after 1, 3, 5, or 10 minutes of inactivity.
    • Instant Playback: Turns the Instant Playback function on or off, which displays an image immediately post-capture. If enabled, the review time can be set to two or 10 seconds.
    • Lens Accessory: Specifies whether the Wide Converter lens accessory is in use.
    • Language: Changes the menu language to Spanish, French, German, Chinese, English, or Japanese.


  • Setup 2
    • File # Memory: Specifies whether file numbering starts over when a card is reformatted, or a new card is inserted, or whether the numbering continues sequentially regardless of card status.
    • Folder Name: You can have the camera name the folders it stores its images in on the memory card using either the camera's standard scheme, or by Date. (The latter being a handy way to keep track of photos you've shot over a period of time.)
    • Noise Reduction: Turns Noise Reduction on or off. If on, Noise Reduction is automatically enabled at slower shutter speeds.
    • Date Time Set: Sets the camera's internal calendar and clock.
    • Date Imprint: Turns the date imprint function on or off, overlaying the date on captured images when enabled.


  • Setup 3
    • Reset Default: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.
    • Audio Signals: Turns the camera's beep sounds on or off. You can select between a beep sound or a "chirp" sound.
    • Focus Signal: Turns the camera's focus sounds on or off. You can select between a loud or soft double-beep sounds.
    • Shutter FX: Specifies the sound the shutter makes when the Shutter button is pressed, or disables the shutter sound.


  • Setup 4
    • Video Output: Selects the video signal timing as either NTSC or PAL.
    • Transfer Mode: Selects either Data Storage or PictBridge USB transfer modes
    • Self Timer: Sets the Self Time to either 3 or 10 seconds.


In the Box

Packaged with the DiMAGE Z10 are the following items:

  • Neck strap.
  • Lens cap.
  • AV cable.
  • USB cable.
  • 16MB SD memory card.
  • Set of AA alkaline batteries.
  • DiMAGE Viewer (Windows / MacOS) CD-ROM.
  • Operating manual and registration card.

 

Recommended Accessories

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
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...

 

Specifications

See the specifications sheet here.

 

Picky Details

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

 

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.

"Sunlight"
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 DiMAGE Z10'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 Z10's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the DiMAGE Z10 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

  • Color: Variable white balance performance, and somewhat oversaturated color. The Z10's white balance system is something of a mixed bag. IN auto mode, it tended to leave noticeable color casts in its images, such that I often found myself resorting to its manual white balance option to get the best results. On the other hand, it did very well under incandescent lighting (usually the nemesis of digicam white balance system), in Auto, Incandescent, and Manual modes. My biggest complaint about the Z10's color though, is the extent to which it tended to oversaturate colors, particularly shades of pink and red. This wasn't too much of a problem with landscapes and other non-human subjects, but the high saturation produces very reddish, blotchy Caucasian skin tones. It's a shame, because if the color was just dialed down a notch, it would have been very accurate and pleasing.

  • Exposure: A slight tendency toward underexposure, but widely varying results under our "solar simulator." The Z10 had a tendency to underexpose, even under the studio lighting, but the amount of underexposure was fairly slight. While it wasn't repeated in other shots I took, the camera produced wildly varying exposure results under the simulated sunlight of our "Sunlit" portrait shot. This is very odd, something I've never seen with any other camera, particularly surprising given the absolute unvarying nature of the light source there. The Z10's tone curve is also very contrasty, tending to lose detail in strong highlights and deep shadows. An optional contrast adjustment control on the record menu helps somewhat, but the "low" contrast setting is about where I'd like to see the contrast be normally, with further adjustment available below that point.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Moderately high resolution, 1,000 lines of "strong detail." The Z10 performed slightly below average on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 500 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to around 1,000 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred around 1,250 lines. The "MTF 50" results from Imatest show average resolution of 1001 LW/PH uncorrected, or 1265 LW/PH with standard sharpening of radius 1 applied.

  • Image Noise: Better than average image noise. Noise is generally low in the Z10's images, with very low noise at ISO 64 and acceptable levels at the 100 and 200 settings. Noise becomes more evident at ISO 400, with a stronger grain pattern, but even there is lower than I'm accustomed to seeing in the digicams I test.

  • Closeups: A very small macro area with good detail. Flash performed surprisingly well for such close proximity. The Z10 turned in an excellent performance in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 0.99 x 0.75 inches (25 x 19 millimeters). Resolution was very high, with strong detail in the dollar bill. (The coins and brooch were soft due to the very short shooting distance - not the camera's fault.) As is common with digicam ultra-macro modes, the corners were very soft though. Also, exposure was low on the right side from the very short shooting distance, which made it difficult to get enough light onto the subject. The Z10's flash actually performed surprisingly well here, considering the very close range. (Still, for ultra macro shots, plan on using external lighting for the best results.)

  • Night Shots: Good low-light performance, with bright, usable images in almost total darkness, autofocus and EVF both work down to a bit darker than half typical city street lighting. The Z10 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, at all four ISO settings. Color balance was reddish with the Auto white balance setting, and the red cast increased as the light level decreased. At ISO 64, the image was just a little dim at the lowest light level, but still usable. The Z10's Noise Reduction system did a good job of controlling bright-pixel noise, and noise levels were generally lower than average across the board. Although it lacks an autofocus-assist light, the Z10's autofocus system performed quite well, focusing accurately down to a light level between 1/2 and 1/4 foot-candle. This is also the minimum light level that the Z10's viewfinder is usable at though, which means that the camera can capture images at light levels much lower than those at which you can aim it effectively.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: A very accurate electronic optical viewfinder, with good results from the LCD monitor as well. The Z10's electronic "optical" viewfinder (EVF) was pretty accurate, showing about 94 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and approximately 99 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor was also very accurate, showing about 98 percent frame accuracy at wide angle. However, the LCD monitor was a little loose at telephoto, as I couldn't measure my standard lines because they were just outside the frame. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Z10's LCD monitor and EVF are both excellent.

  • Optical Distortion: High barrel and pincushion distortion, but good corner sharpness and very low chromatic aberration. Optical distortion on the Z10 was high at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.0 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared only slightly better, as I measured approximately 0.9 percent pincushion distortion. (The pincushion number in particular is higher than average, as most cameras show quite a bit less pincushion than barrel.) Chromatic aberration was very low, showing only about two or three pixels of faint coloration on either side of the target lines. (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 Z10 also shows better than average sharpness in the corners of the frame, something I've found to be characteristic of Konica Minolta's long zoom lenses.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Times: Slightly better than average shutter lag, average cycle times, but no buffer to fill. With a full-autofocus shutter lag that ranges from 0.73 to 0.79 seconds, the Z10 falls just slightly on the fast side of average. Its lag time when prefocused by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button prior to the shot itself is blazingly fast, at only 0.07 second. Cycle times are a relatively leisurely 2.3 seconds for large/fine images or 1.9 seconds for small/basic ones. Both times are on the slow side of average these days, but there's no buffer memory to fill: All shots you take in sequence will be this quick. Continuous shooting speed is likewise nothing to write home about, at 0.75 seconds/frame for up to five large/fine images or 0.74 seconds for small/basic ones.

  • Battery Life: Really excellent (!) battery life. With a worst-case run time of over 3.5 hours, even with "standard" 1600 mAh batteries, the Z10's battery life is at or near the top of the field. (With modern high-capacity NiMH cells with true capacities of 2000 mAh or more, you could see worst case run times of well over four hours. I do still strongly recommend though, that you purchase at least two sets (a total of four batteries) of high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries though, as well as a good-quality charger. Check out my Battery Shootout page for the latest in actual, measured performance of various AA batteries. - Read my review of the Maha C-204F charger, to learn why it's my longtime favorite.


    For the REAL technoids, Imatest!

    I've recently begun using Norman Koren's excellent "Imatest" analysis program for quantitative, thoroughly objective analysis of digicam test images. For those interested in this sort of extreme detail, I've prepared a page summarizing what Imatest showed me about the Z10's images.


Conclusion

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I've been a big fan of Minolta's "Z" line of long-zoom digicams since the original Z1. They've consistently offered excellent image quality and exceptional value in the long-zoom arena. Unfortunately, the Z10 just misses the greatness of other members of the lineup, due to its oversaturated color and somewhat random exposure behavior (although I only encountered the "random exposure" behavior with a single test subject.) If Konica Minolta could just dial down the contrast and color saturation a notch or two, and tighten up exposure control, the Z10 would be a real winner at the low end of the long-zoom market. In fairness, some people like contrasty images and very saturated color. (And the high color saturation is mainly an issue with Caucasian skin tones - If your human subjects are Black or Asian, you probably wouldn't notice anything other than bright, vibrant color.) - If high contrast and very bright color fit your personal photo preferences, the Z10's excellent lens, exceptional battery life, and low cost could make it your ideal camera. My personal advice though, would be to see if you can afford the slightly more expensive Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z2, which offers an even longer-ratio zoom lens, and has better color and exposure accuracy. (If you shop carefully, the low end of the Z2's street prices aren't that much higher than those of the Z10, at least as of this writing in early September, 2004.)

 

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