Minolta Dimage X
One Cool Little Camera
by Vivid Light Stafff
When you review camera equipment for a living its all too easy to become something of a camera snob. Even those that consider themselves serious amateurs often look down upon lowly point and shoot cameras as “mere toys.” Then something like the Dimage X comes along and you just can’t help thinking how cool the little sucker is!
The Dimage X is small enough to fit in a shirt pocket without tearing out the stitching and you’ll scarcely notice it in the front pocket of your jeans. At 3.3”x2.8”x0.8” it’s smaller than a pack of cigarettes or an audio cassette. Oh, and we almost forgot to mention that it takes pretty darned good pictures too.
So how does Minolta fit so much in such a small package? It’s a really innovative design that places the 3x optical zoom lens vertically inside the camera body instead of letting it extend out from the camera body as most portable cameras do (there is a 2x digital zoom as well). This cuts down on the size of the camera dramatically – a feat which required some precision manufacturing and engineering on Minolta’s part. The lens itself is made from optical glass, not plastic, and it’s unique design means it must be manufactured to extremely close tolerances.
We’ve used a lot of digital cameras that suffer from too many small buttons that are difficult to use. Most manufacturers are getting better about this and Minolta is no exception. The diminutive X has only seven buttons. Four are for menu navigation, two for scrolling through images, and a rocker button for zooming in and out. Together they’re used to navigate a simple series of menus. It only takes a couple of minutes to master the basics. If you’re familiar with digital cameras you’ll hardly have to look at a manual. Our only gripe with the menus was that we wished there were a few less button pushes to delete an image.
The internal lens zooms in and out quickly and quietly and produces 2 megapixel images that are sharp for a point and shoot. It’s perfect for family shots and will zoom down to about 11 inches from the camera. The only limitation on the lens seems to be that it won’t do true macro. Perfectly reasonable given the constraints on designing something this small and most likely not a factor for most Dimage X buyers who will likely use the camera for travel and family photos.
We were pleasantly surprised at the Dimage X's ability to hold detail in shadow areas. We've seen a number of small digitals that have problems in this area. But as you can see from the sample images here the Dimage was able to retain good detail even in the dark green paint of this cast iron light fixture.
Things You Should Know
The 8mb card provided with the camera really doesn’t give you enough space. So your first purchase should be a larger memory card. SD/MMC (Secure Digital Multi-Media Card) cards are currently available in sizes up to 128mb with larger sizes due out later this year. These are very tiny memory cards. If you haven’t seen one before you’ll be amazed at how small they are.
We did find a nasty little bug in the camera’s software. When you start taking pictures the camera numbers the images starting at one. Download the images from the camera using the included USB cable, clear the memory card and the camera starts numbering at one again. This is a problem when you go to download the new set of images. If you download them to the same directory all of your previous images will be overwritten because they’ll have the same file name! (PICT0001.JPG for example). It’s not a problem if you’re in the habit of always downloading into new folders each time. But if you have an “image bucket” directory that you dump all of your images into for sorting you’ll get a nasty surprise.
We pointed out at the top of the article that you can drop the Dimage X into your shirt pocket. Just be careful if you do. If you bend down, the weight of the Dimage X will tumble it out of your pocket and onto the concrete. A pair of fast hands was all that kept us from having to explain to Minolta why their new camera was being returned in pieces. So make a mental note: “No shirt pockets for the little X.”
One final grump is the cutesy music that the camera plays when you start it up and the little video game sounds it makes when you go through the menus. It was pretty neat the first few times – then it got old. The good news is that it can be turned off. But all in all we found very little to grump about.Summary
The bottom line is that if you’re looking for a great little camera to take along when you leave the big SLR rig behind the Dimage X is that great little camera. Image quality is great for 4” prints and in high res mode you can get good 8x10s. It’s a fun little camera. It’s cool not just because it’s small, but because it’s small and it works well.
With street prices running around $400 this is no cheapie point and shoot. But for quality in a small package the Dimage X is one heck of a value.