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Minolta announces sweeping firmware upgrade for DiMAGE 7 owners
(Wednesday, July 31, 2002 - 13:19 EDT)

Firmware upgrade brings many of the features and functions of the DiMAGE 7i to DiMAGE 7 owners.

I think Minolta deserves big kudos for this one: They've just announced US availability of a firmware upgrade for the Dimage 7 that gives that model many of the enhanced features found in the upgraded Dimage 7i. While digicam manufacturers have sometimes come out with limited firmware upgrades to patch bugs of various sorts, its very rare to find such a sweeping range of enhancements being made to an older model. (Of course, it's also rare to find a new model camera based on the same body and electronics as an older one, as with the Dimage 7/7i line, but I think Minolta still deserves a pat on the corporate back for this one.)

There is a charge for the upgrade: $49.95 for the firmware alone, $79.95 for the firmware plus an upgraded version of Minolta's DiMAGE Viewer software utility. Considering the range of enhancements offered though, I think the charge is justified.

See the copy of Minolta's own decription of the upgrade below, there's far too much info there for me to want to edit it into my own words. There are a LOT of goodies there though: Faster autofocus (!), faster motor-drive modes, some nifty viewfinder enhancements, including histogram and alignment grid modes, etc, etc.

Click here to order the upgrade!

Original Source Press Release:

Ramsey, NJ (June 17, 2002) Minolta Corporation introduces the new Minolta DiMAGE 7 Upgrade Kit (DG7-UGK). Comprised of Minolta's new firmware upgrade and new DiMAGE Viewer software, this upgrade kit transforms the award-winning Minolta DiMAGE 7 into an even easier to use and more responsive digital camera. Significant improvements include increased autofocus (AF) speed, faster continuous drive rate, Direct Manual Focus (DMF) mode, and a real-time histogram for enhanced picture-taking. The upgrade also provides a new and enhanced image processing capability and editing tools for both Macintosh and PC computer users with the new DiMAGE Viewer.

"Minolta remains committed to providing our customers with the most cutting edge digital imaging technology available today," said Jon Sienkiewicz, vice president of marketing for Minolta Corporation's Consumer Products Group. "Photography in the digital age permits consumers to buy products such as the DiMAGE 7 with the added confidence of knowing that they will benefit from improvements in technology as they develop."

The firmware upgrade increases the DiMAGE 7's AF speed by up to 50% depending on the subject and focal length in use. The continuous-advance drive rate steps up from 1.1 frames per second to 1.5 frames per second. And for catching action, the new Ultra High Speed (UHS) continuous-advance drive mode captures five 1280 x 960 (SXGA) frames per second � a rate comparable to high-end film cameras.

For immediate manual control over the DiMAGE 7's AF system, the upgrade incorporates DMF. DMF is found in professional-level film cameras like the award-winning Minolta Maxxum 7. After the AF system has locked on the subject, the focus can be fine-tuned manually allowing the photographer to take full control of even the most critical focusing situations.

Three new display settings assist DiMAGE 7 users in proper exposure evaluation and composition: real-time histogram, grid, and scale. The real-time histogram shows the luminance distribution of the image before it is captured. Displayed with the live image, the histogram allows subject brightness and contrast to be evaluated to optimize the camera's exposure and contrast controls. Usually found in large-format view cameras, the grid is used to align the camera with vertical or horizontal elements within the image � confirming that the horizon in an image is straight and benefiting architectural photography. The scale can be used as an aid in composing close-up photographs to judge the relative proportions of the subject.

The Minolta DiMAGE 7 firmware upgrade provides three new movie modes � Time-lapse movie, Night movie, and UHS continuous-advance movie. To complement the standard color movies of the DiMAGE 7, the new night-movie mode records monochrome QVGA (320 x 240) movie clips under extreme low-light conditions. Depending on the ambient lighting conditions, these movie modes can be selected automatically or manually. The interval drive mode is supplemented by time-lapse movies. This movie function combines captured images of an interval series into a single movie file at any of the image size settings on the camera. The time-lapse movie is played back at four frames per second so that normally imperceptible motion springs to life such as the blossoming of a flower or the setting of the sun. The UHS continuous advance function can create a VGA (640 x 480) movie file of an unfolding event in addition to a series of still images.

The sophisticated flash metering system of the DiMAGE 7 is further enhanced with the addition of manual flash control. Flash output can be set in three levels: full power, 1/4 power, and 1/16 power. As well as allowing creative flash techniques, the manual flash can be used to trigger standard slave units.

A new folder-name function and an expanded electronic keyboard simplify record keeping and image file organization. The folder-name function allows images to be stored in standard folders or in folders designated by the date of capture. The date format creates a new folder automatically to store images recorded on a particular day. And, the electronic keyboard used for naming folders and data imprinting offers expanded character settings.

This upgrade also improves the playback operations of the DiMAGE 7 camera. Enlarged playback can be used in Quick View as well as the playback mode. Images can be enlarged between 2x to a maximum of 4x in 0.4x increments. And in the Quick View and playback modes, it is possible to scroll between histogram displays.

The Minolta DiMAGE Viewer

The new Minolta DiMAGE Viewer is a software application developed to support the latest generation of Minolta digital cameras, including the new Minolta DiMAGE 7i and DiMAGE F100 in addition to the DiMAGE 7, 5, S304, S404 and X. As the successor to the original DiMAGE Image Viewer Utility this new viewer (DIV2) includes more sophisticated tools for editing and processing still and movie images on a Macintosh or PC computer.

The new DiMAGE Viewer is designed to be easy to use. The opening window displays the folders, applications, and locations in the computer system in a tree configuration. Image files can be displayed as thumbnails, icons, or in a file list containing file type and size, and the when the file was updated. The thumbnails can be displayed in three sizes with or without shooting data. The DiMAGE Viewer can be linked to other applications with an alias displayed in the opening window.

Editing single and multiple images in the opening window is as simple as using a mouse. Images or folders can be copied or moved to any location in the computer. Multiple files can be renamed with a serial number. Exif information recorded when an image was captured, date, shutter speed, focal length, etc., can be displayed and the information to be displayed can be edited. The Viewer is not limited to images captured with Minolta digital cameras, but can edit and process numerous common image-file formats.

For sophisticated users wanting to achieve the finest control of their digital images, the DiMAGE Viewer will process Minolta RAW files � high-resolution image files generated by high-end digital cameras such as the DiMAGE 7, DiMAGE 5 and DiMAGE 7i. With this upgrade the DiMAGE Viewer's RAW image-processing palette has been expanded for greater control over image quality. Color balance can still be set automatically by either the camera white balance setting used to capture the image or by the color temperature of standard light sources. Color balance can also be set manually by calibrating the image from a neutral point within the image area or by entering the color temperature and CC index values recorded with a Minolta color meter at the scene.

The new Minolta Viewer also allows users to adjust the color mode to change the image between color and monochrome, as well as adjust saturation, contrast, and sharpness controls. In addition, a digital filter effect can be applied to make the image warmer or cooler. The settings used for one RAW image can be saved as a Job and applied to other images either singularly or during batch processing.

The DiMAGE Viewer has a new editing interface to sort, move, and copy images within the computer system. Color matching has been refined to include the use of printer ICC profiles. This helps to accurately communicate color between the computer and the image displayed on the monitor or the output on a printer. And a new Movie Enhancer has been added to edit and process digital video. Movie clips can be spliced together and unwanted scenes can be cut. The Movie Enhancer can reduce or eliminate the affects of generalized or localized flicker as well as improving image quality. Basic and advanced image correction palettes allow adjustments to color, contrast, saturation, sharpness, and brightness.

Pricing for the Minolta DiMAGE 7 Upgrade Kit (including firmware upgrade and DiMAGE Viewer) is $79.95; Firmware upgrade only is $49.95; DiMAGE Viewer only is $49.95. All will be available late summer 2002 on CD-ROM through Minolta Corporation's homepage eStore (www.minoltausa.com).

DiMAGE 7 Upgrade Kit (DG7-UGK) Product Compatibility

- DiMAGE 7 Upgrade Firmware (DG7-UG) -- DiMAGE 7 only

- DiMAGE Viewer (DIV2) -- DiMAGE X, DiMAGE S304, DiMAGE S404, DiMAGE F100*, DiMAGE 5, DiMAGE 7, DiMAGE 7i*

*The DiMAGE Viewer is provided with the camera.

DiMAGE Viewer (DIV2)

- DiMAGE 7 Upgrade Firmware (DG7-UG) must be transferred to a CompactFlash card either with the camera or a CF card drive.

Major features and changes in the firmware upgrade

  • AF speed increased by up to 50% depending on the subject and the focal length in use.
  • Continuous advance drive rate increases from 1.1 frames per second to 1.5 frames per second (with full-size images in manual focus and manual-exposure modes).
  • UHS continuous-advance drive mode added.
  • Direct Manual Focus (DMF) added.
  • Real-time histogram added.

Other features and changes

  • Two new recording mode displays � grid and scale.
  • Three new movie modes � Time-lapse movie, Night movie, and UHS continuous-advance movie.
  • Letters with common European accents added to the electronic keyboard.
  • Folders can have standard and date names.
  • Manual flash control in three levels: full power, 1/4 power, and 1/16 power.
  • Able to scroll between histogram displays of recorded images.
  • Enlarged playback available in Quick View and playback modes. Images can be magnified from 2x to a maximum of 4x in 0.4x increments.
  • Exif Print compliant

Minolta Corporation

Minolta Corporation, headquartered in Ramsey, New Jersey, is the largest subsidiary of Minolta Co. Ltd. of Osaka, Japan, a leading manufacturer of cameras, business equipment, radiometric instruments and planetariums. Minolta Corporation's Consumer Products Group (CPG) markets 35mm film and Advanced Photo System cameras, digital cameras, binoculars, accessory lenses, photographic light meters, 35mm and Advanced Photo System film scanners and other consumer products.

The corporation's Business Products Group (BPG) markets digital and analog office equipment. Products include black-and-white copiers, digital black and white printer/copiers, plain-paper laser facsimile machines, digital color printer/copiers, micrographic systems, document management software, and related office equipment. For more information, visit Minolta's Web site located at www.minoltausa.com.

All brand names are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective companies.

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