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Minolta Dimage 7

Minolta unleashes the first 5-megapixel camera, with a tack-sharp 7x zoom lens, and amazingly sensitive electronic viewfinder!

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Dimage 7 Sample Images

Review First Posted: 5/23/2001

Outdoor portrait: (1987 k)
The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why we set it up this way. The object is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Minolta Dimage 7 handles the challenge pretty well. We shot with the daylight white balance setting, as it produced the most accurate skin tones and color balance. This is an early prototype camera, so it doesn't bear to look too closely at the color, but it isn't bad for this early a "beta" unit: Colors are pretty accurate (other than the always-troublesome blue flowers, that so many cameras turn purple, as here), although a bit undersaturated overall. The very fine-grained color saturation adjustment offers the ability to fine-tune the camera for your own preferences: A saturation setting of +1 or +2 would brighten the colors up quite a bit, bringing them more in line with our expectations.

The Dimage 7's 12-bit A/D conversion shows its capabilty here, in the excellent detail which is held in the highlights. Resolution is also extremely high, thanks to the Dimage 7's excellent lens and its 5 megapixel CCD. The shadow areas show a lot of detail as well, with moderate noise. Our main image was taken with a +1.3 EV exposure adjustment, which is a little more of an adjustment than we usually need with this shot, but manages to expose the shadow areas without losing too much detail in the highlights.

Closer portrait: (1923 k)
Eek! That's almost *too* much detail for a tight portrait shot like this! (Dermatologists, this is the camera for you!) The Dimage 7 also does a nice job with the closer portrait shot, thanks to its 7x lens. (Shorter focal length lenses tend to distort facial features in close-up shots like this and the availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting close-up people shots.) We continued with the daylight white balance setting, which again produced a good color balance. Slightly more detail is visible throughout the image, which is normal with this close-up shot. We particularly noticed higher resolution in the strands of the model's hair and in the details of her face. In addition to a sharper wood grain pattern on the house siding, the more subtle surface texture is also visible. Noise is moderately low in the shadow areas, with traces present in the siding. Our main shot was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure adjustment, which is just a little bright. Overall, the image looks very nice.

Indoor Portrait, Flash: (741 k)
The Dimage 7's built-in flash does a very nice job of illuminating the subject while producing a bright exposure with good color. There is a slight orange cast in the background from the fairly bright household incandescent lighting, but it isn't as strong as some we've seen. The white of the model's shirt is very accurate, with the only orange tints visible on her shoulders. Though just a little washed out from the powerful flash, color looks fairly accurate in the skin tones and flower bou

Indoor portrait, no flash: (670 k)
This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting, and the Dimage 7 performs well. We shot samples of this image with the automatic (698 k), incandescent (670 k), and manual (648 k) white balance settings, none of which produced exactly accurate results, but the results from both the incandescent and manual settings looked quite good. The automatic setting resulted in a very warm image with a strong orange cast. The manual setting produced a fairly accurate white value on the model's shirt, but the entire image has a slightly greenish cast. The incandescent setting was a little warmer, without a strong color cast, and overall looked the best, capturing the "Mood" of the lighting, without leaving too heavy a cast behind. Overall color looks fairly accurate, though the blue flowers appear more purple than blue. (We noticed this at all three white balance settings, though the manual setting showed a lesser effect.) Detail is excellent throughout the image, and is crisp and clear as well. We chose an exposure adjustment of +0.7 EV for our main image, though we noticed that the manual white balance setting required an adjustment of +1.0 EV to get a good exposure. Noise is moderate and mainly visible in the darker shadow areas. (NOTE that we deliberately shot these images at the smaller 2 megapixel size, since we were mainly interested in seeing what the color looked like: The full 5 megapixel images might have shown noise more, but we expect noise performance to change in the production models anyway, so there's little point in focusing on that aspect at this point.)

House shot: (3482 k)
Wow, that's resolution! We shot this image with the automatic (3113 k), daylight (3107 k), and manual (3482 k) white balance settings, choosing the manual setting as the most accurate overall. The automatic setting resulted in a slightly cool image, with bluish tints in the white trim. Daylight white balance produced a slightly warm image, with a yellowish cast. The manual setting produced the most accurate white value, though the overall image is a hint warm. Color is very nice throughout the image, with good saturation. Resolution also looks great, with excellent detail visible in the bricks and shrubbery, as well as in the tree limbs above the roof. Details are also very sharp, from corner to corner. (We'll mention it again, the Dimage 7's lens appears to be of unusually high quality: There's very little distortion, and the corners of the images are very sharp, something we seldom see in our camera tests.) In-camera sharpening shows up as a very tiny halo around the light and dark edges of the white trim along the roof line, but is barely noticeable. Noise in the roof shingles is moderate, and some of the grain pattern may actually be film grain from the poster itself.

Far-Field Test (1391 k)
This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

(Did we already say this camera has a lot of resolution? ;-) The big story once again is the high resolution and great detail that is revealed, as well as the excellent sharpness all across the field of view. We shot this image with the automatic white balance setting, which produced an accurate color balance. Overall saturation appears low, but color accuracy is good. This shot is a strong test of detail, given the practically infinite range of fine detail in a natural scene like this, viewed from a distance. Resolution is very high, especially in the tree branches above the house, as well as in the bricks and house front. The tree branches and foliage in the upper lefthand corner is a good place to look to see just how crisp the Dimage 7's lens is in the corners: This is really an uncommonly sharp image, relative to other cameras we've tested. The tree trunks behind the house also show a lot of detail: You can even see the pattern of the bark! We also judge a camera's dynamic range in this shot, comparing how well the camera holds detail in both the shadow and highlight areas. The Dimage 7 is only slightly tricked by the bright white paint of the bay window, as it captures the stronger details of the trim. There also seems to be very little lens flare, as the edges of the bright white window are very crisp against the darker bricks. Likewise, the Dimage 7 does a great job with the shadow area under the porch, picking up the brick pattern, door trim details, and some of the porch light details. We also snapped an image with the camera's uncompressed TIFF (14,439 k) format, which caught slightly more detail. (Be merciful on our server bandwidth, that's a 14.1 megabyte file!)

Saturation Series
We shot with the Dimage 7's adjustable Saturation setting, which offers a nice range of saturation levels. At the highest setting, colors are vivid and bright, but not overdone. In fact, the next to highest saturation level appeared more accurate than the normal setting. At the lowest setting, the image is only a few steps away from becoming monochromatic, looking more like a handtinted black and white photograph than a color image. While we'd like to see the center of the range shifted toward more saturation, the range of control and delicate gradations between successive steps means you can really use the color adjustment to "customize" the Dimage 7 to your own personal shooting style. Kudos!

Saturation -3
(836 k)
Saturation -2
(852 k)
Saturation -1
(869 k)
Normal Saturation
(865 k)
Saturation +1
(877 k)
Saturation +2
(886 k)
Saturation +3
(905 k)

Contrast Series
We also shot with the Dimage 7's Contrast setting, which offers a nice range of adjustments. The lowest setting is just low enough to reduce the image contrast without washing out color or significantly darkening the image. The highest setting increases contrast without producing too bright of an image. Saturation is affected by each adjustment, but we're still pleased with the results. Again, very subtle variations that add up to covering quite a range of modification. Very nice!

Contrast -3
(853 k)
Contrast -2
(863 k)
Contrast -1
(875 k)
Normal Contrast
(888 k)
Contrast +1
(902 k)
Contrast +2
(938 k)
Contrast +3
(959 k)

Lens Zoom Range
We've received a number of requests from readers to take shots showing the lens focal length range of those cameras with zoom lenses. Thus, we're happy to present you here with the following series of shots, showing the field of view with the lens at full wide angle, the lens at full 7x telephoto, and the lens at full telephoto with the 2x digital zoom enabled. The Dimage 7's wide angle setting captures a wider field of view than we see on many digicams, capturing both sides of the street and significant space on either side of the house. Detail is excellent throughout the image, with reasonably distinct details even in the furthest trees. Barrel distortion from the wide angle lens is visible along the curb of the street. Image details soften slightly at the 7x telephoto setting, but not dramatically. Enabling the 2x digital zoom significantly softens the image, losing resolution as well. The digitally enlarged image is also much brighter than the previous two shots. Following are the sample images from each zoom setting.

Wide Angle
(840 k)
7x Telephoto
(648 k)
2x Digital Telephoto
(562 k)

Musicians Poster (3084 k)
For this test, we shot with the automatic (3087 k), daylight (3043 k), and manual (3084 k) white balance settings, choosing the manual setting as the most accurate. The large amount of blue in the image often tricks digicams into overcompensating, but the Dimage 7's white balance system didn't produce any extreme color casts. The automatic setting resulted in a cool image, with bluish skin tones, while the daylight setting resulted in a slightly warm image, with orangish skin tones. The manual setting produced the most neutral color balance, with close to accurate skin tones. The blue of the Oriental model's robe looks very good (this is a difficult blue for digicams to reproduce, so the Dimage 7 does an excellent job). Resolution looks very high, with practically all of the fine detail in the bird wings and silver threads of the model's robe visible. Even the more subtle details of the smaller bird's wings are fairly clear. The violin strings are very sharp, without a moire pattern. Likewise, the beaded necklaces and flower garland are crisp and distinct. Noise is moderate in the background, but most of the larger grain pattern is coming from the film grain in the poster.

Macro Shot (2554 k)
The Dimage 7 performs very well in the macro category, capturing a very tiny minimum area of just 1.92 x 1.44 inches (48.76 x 36.57 millimeters), in the top rank of cameras we've tested. Detail and resolution are excellent, with very sharp details throughout the image. The printing on the dollar bill is very clear, as are the tiniest details of the coins. Color balance is a little warm, giving the gray background a reddish tint. The Dimage 7's built-in flash (1016 k) has a lot of trouble throttling down for this very tiny macro area, completely overexposing the image and washing out the color and details. (Minolta makes a couple of very flexible macro flash systems (a multi-head unit and a ringlight) that the Dimage 7 can use though.)

"Davebox" Test Target (1865 k)
Overall, very good color, particularly for an early prototype-model camera. We shot samples of this target using the automatic (1808 k), daylight (1885 k), and manual (1865 k) white balance settings, again selecting the manual setting as the most accurate. The automatic setting resulted in a nearly accurate image, but the white of the mini-resolution target has a greenish tint. The daylight setting produced a much warmer image, with a yellowish tint. The white of the mini-resolution target and the large white color block both looked very accurate with the manual white balance setting, as does the overall color balance. The large color blocks look accurate in color, though slightly undersaturated (particularly the cyan, magenta, and yellow blocks). The Dimage 7 accurately distinguishes the subtle difference between the red and magenta color blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart (which is a common problem area for many digicams), though both blocks have a very orange tint. Exposure is a little too bright, as the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 chart are just barely visible as far as the "B" range. The tonal gradations of the smaller, vertical gray scales also look good, though the two darkest blocks blend together. The shadow area of the charcoal briquettes shows excellent detail, with moderately low noise. Likewise, the white gauze area also shows a lot of detail, despite being a little overexposed. As we've noticed throughout our testing, resolution is very high, with good detail in the box hinges and silver disk. The black lines of the mini resolution target appear sharp, and the texture of the black tape holding down the targets is visible.

Saturation Series
We again shot with the Dimage 7's adjustable Saturation setting, which produced nice results. The large color blocks regain a good saturation level with the higher saturation settings, though the overall exposure looks a little darker. The lowest saturation settings subdued any vibrant color, but left enough of the original color in the image to produce creative results in some shooting situations.

Saturation -3
(486 k)
Saturation -2
(491 k)
Saturation -1
(467 k)
Normal Saturation
(511 k)
Saturation +1
(514 k)
Saturation +2
(527 k)
Saturation +3
(494 k)

Contrast Series
The Dimage 7's Contrast adjustments again produced good results. With this darker test target, we noticed that the lower contrast settings brightened the image a little. Additionally, overall saturation seemed to be affected.

Contrast -3
(505 k)
Contrast -2
(510 k)
Contrast -1
(513 k)
Normal Contrast
(478 k)
Contrast +1
(488 k)
Contrast +2
(480 k)
Contrast +3
(449 k)

Low-Light Tests
The Dimage 7 performed exceptionally well in the low-light category, as we obtained very bright, useable images at light levels as low as 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) at all four ISO settings (100 (2002 k), 200 (2277 k), 400 (2740 k), and 800 (3336 k)). We noticed a slight magenta cast from the low light level, but all four ISO settings produced good color overall. The 800 ISO setting produced the brightest image, though with a very slight, milky haze and higher noise. Noise remained moderately low at the 100 and 200 ISO settings, increasing to a moderate level at 400 ISO and to a high level at 800 ISO. (We direct readers to Mike Chaney's excellent Qimage Pro program ), for a tool with an amazing ability to remove image noise without significantly affecting detail.) To put the Dimage 7's low-light performance into perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, so the camera should easily handle much darker situations without the flash. We also snapped an image outside at night (1425 k), at ISO 800 using a four second shutter speed. Though the image is somewhat noisy, the level of detail is outstanding. - You also have to realize just how dark this was: The lighting was dim enough that we had to really watch our step walking around, and that bright sky is just a dim glow from distant streetlights against the overcast. Noise levels often decline in production cameras, relative to prototype models, but even at the prototype level, the Dimage 7 is an excellent low-light shooter. (And the EVF was actually usable this dark too! - This is really a remarkable achievement relative to anything else we've seen.) Thus, we were very impressed with the Dimage 7's performance in this category.

Flash Range Test
Coming Soon

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test (1835 k)
Well, probably no surprise that the Dimage 7's resolution is higher than any other camera we've tested to date. It's not a foregone conclusion though, that more pixels automatically translate into more resolution: Optics plays a big part too, and a bigger CCD behind a bad lens will produce no more resolution. Fortunately, the Dimage 7's lens is of unusually high quality, not only delivering the goods at the center of the target, but maintaining excellent sharpness with almost no sign of chromatic aberration all the way to the edges of the frame.

Resolution is indeed very, very good on this shot: We see the barest hints of aliasing occurring at 900 lines per picture height in both horizontal and vertical directions, which is what we use in our (conservative) ratings of resolution. Very strong detail is visible all the way out to 1200 lines though, and "extinction" (an unscientific, but useful measure of resolution) doesn't occur until about 1500 lines. Overall, very impressive.

We've enthused repeatedly about the very low chromatic aberration of this lens: It does exist, but it's much lower than we're accustomed to seeing, only a pixel or two of color around the edges of the target elements. (And outdoors, it doesn't fall prey to the usual purple glow around tree branches against the sky, etc.) Geometric distortion on the Dimage 7 is about average at the wide angle end, where we measured an approximate 0.8 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared a little better, as we measured an approximate 0.3 percent pincushion distortion. These figures aren't as remarkable as the resolution, corner sharpness, and chromatic aberration, but they're still quite good, and we're impressed that Minolta managed to achieve them in a 7x zoom lens design.

Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Note: Download and view in imaging software
(14,440 k)
(1835 k)

Sharpness Series
(2006 k)
(1836 k)
(1690 k)

Resolution Series, Telephoto
(1954 k)

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
We found the Dimage 7's viewfinder to be very accurate, showing approximately 99.42 percent of the final image area at wide angle (538 k). At the telephoto (718 k) setting, we couldn't perform an exact measurement as our standard lines were just outside the frame on the top side of the image. Given that we generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Dimage 7 does an excellent job. Flash distribution is fairly even at the telephoto setting, though very dim, with a slight reflection present at the center of the target. We also noticed a bright, vertical line just right of center. At the wide angle setting, flash distribution is fairly even and bright, with just a little falloff at the corners of the target.


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<<Reference: Datasheet | Print-Friendly Review Version>>

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