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Minolta Dimage 5

The "little brother" to the Dimage 7 - same great features, but 3.3 megapixels and a (much) lower price...

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 9/14/2001

Test Results
In keeping with our standard policy, our comments here are rather condensed, summarizing our key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Dimage 5's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the Dimage 5 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

Throughout out testing, the Dimage 5 produced good color and image quality. The default color out of the camera is a little flat, but running the images through the Dimage Image Viewer utility program and converting them to sRGB makes a quite noticeable difference. The camera's White Balance system handled our test lighting very well, with the Manual setting resulting in the best color balance in many cases. Even with our difficult Musicians poster, which often tricks digicams with its overwhelming blue, each of the white balance settings tested produced good results with only slight color casts. Both the Manual and Incandescent white balance settings produced good results under the very tough incandescent lighting of our no-flash Indoor Portrait test. Color balance looked good on our Davebox target, as the Dimage 5 distinguished the subtle tonal variations of the pastels on the Q60 target well, and reproduced the large color blocks of the MacBeth chart with good saturation. Skin tones looked about right in our Outdoor and Indoor portraits, though the camera captured the blue flowers with a strong purple tint in each shot. Overall, however, the Dimage 5 performed quite well. (Actually, we found ourselves preferring the unmodified (albeit sRGB-converted) color out of the Dimage 5 better than that of its big brother the Dimage 7.)

The Dimage 5 performed nicely on our "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 700 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. We found "strong detail" out to at least 950 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,200 lines.

Optical distortion on the Dimage 5 is high at the wide-angle end, where we measured an approximate 0.9 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as we measured an approximate 0.29 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is very low, showing only about two or three faint pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. Apart from the higher-than-average barrel distortion of the lens at wide angle, the very low chromatic aberration and high sharpness indicate that it's a very high quality piece of optics.

With its full manual exposure control, the Dimage 5 had no trouble shooting in our low-light test, but produced rather noisy images at the lowest illumination levels. The Dimage 5 captured clear, bright, usable images down to about 1/16 foot-candle (or 0.67 lux) at all four ISO settings, which is commendable. Color was very nice for the most part, though the Auto white balance setting had some trouble at the 1/16 foot-candle light level, and produced a pink cast. The only major flaw in the Dimage 5's performance was very high noise at the 1/16 foot-candle light level (even though we were careful to insure that the camera was at a low room temperature before shooting). Noise decreased dramatically with the higher light levels, but we were surprised at the camera's lack of a noise reduction system. Even at ISO 100, noise is very high at the 1/16 foot-candle setting. (We refer interested readers to Mike Chaney's Qimage Pro software for a program that does an excellent job of removing noise of this sort without overly disturbing the underlying picture information.) In our opinion, noise at ISO 800 is so high that the setting isn't really very usable at any light level. Despite this drawback, the Dimage 5 performed well here. We would like to see a noise reduction system in place in future generations of Dimage cameras however.

The Dimage 5's electronic optical viewfinder (actually an EVF or Electronic ViewFinder) and LCD monitors produced markedly good accuracy during our testing, showing approximately 98 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and approximately 100 percent accuracy at telephoto. At the telephoto end, however, both viewfinders were actually slightly loose, as the outside edges of our standard lines of measurement were just barely out of the frame. Still, given that we generally prefer LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Dimage 5 did an excellent job.

Also impressive was the Dimage 5's macro capabilities, as the camera captured a very tiny minimum area of just 1.63 x 1.22 inches (41.37 x 31.03 millimeters). Color, resolution, and detail were all excellent. The brooch and coin details were fairly soft due to a limited depth of field, but the details of the dollar bill were outstanding. The Dimage 5's flash also performed surprisingly well at this very close range, illuminating the subject with even distribution. Though the flash exposure was a little too bright, the overall performance was better than many digicams we've seen.

With great color and image quality throughout our testing, we were very pleased with the Dimage 5's performance. Resolution is great, as is color accuracy and exposure. The macro and low-light capabilities of the Dimage 5 are quite impressive, though again, we'd like to see better noise control in the low-light area. Despite this slight drawback, the Dimage 5 came through our testing with flying colors.

We found a great deal to like about the Dimage 5, just as we did with the Dimage 7 that we tested before it. The Dimage 7 has proven to be a somewhat controversial camera, as it seems to polarize people to a fair extent. - People seem to love it or hate it, with little neutral ground. (For more extensive comments on some of the features of the Dimage 5/7 design, see the conclusions section of our Dimage 7 review.) We believe the Dimage 5 will prove to be a very popular camera, although we think Minolta will need to reduce its price somewhat for it to compete adequately in the field - Despite its excellent capabilities, $999 (it's list price when this was written in early September, 2001) will be a very tough price point to hold for it. Assuming that the price comes into line though, we think the Dimage 5 will be a very appealing camera for people who don't need the 5 megapixel resolution of the Dimage 7. It has all the control and flexibility the Dimage 7 offers, the same great optics, and (to our eyes, at least), arguably better color. If you've found yourself yearning for a Dimage 7 but can't quite float the finances for it, the Dimage 5 could be just your cup of tea.

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