Site search Web search

Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online
The Dimage Xt 
A Cool Little 3.2 Megapixel Camera 
by Vivid Light Staff

It's hard to believe that it's been a year and a half since Minolta introduced the diminutive Dimage X. When we first saw it we were taken by it's small size and surprising image quality.

In this front and back view you can see how simple the controls are.

18 months later Minolta has sent us the new Dimage Xt and after shooting with it for a couple of weeks we found that we like it even more than the original, and that once again we've been surprised by the quality from this tiny camera.

A Unique Lens System 
Unlike most point and shoot digitals the Dimage Xt uses optical glass in it's lens system. To maintain it's small profile the elements of that lens are stacked vertically up the right side of the camera. Internally the elements move up and down as you go through the cameras 3x optical zoom range. The lens itself is a 9 element/8 group formula with one one-sided and two double-sided aspheric elements covering a range equivalent to 37-110mm in 35mm format at an amazing f2.8-f3.6.

That means the lens never protrudes out from the front of the body. Everything is self contained. There's even a lens cover that moves into place and covers the front element when you turn the camera off.

That 3x optical zoom is complimented by a 4x digital zoom (which is enabled through the menu system) for a total zoom capability of 12x. But 12x is a long zoom and it's difficult to get sharp images. At that extreme your best bet is to mount the Xt on a tripod.

Cropped from the previous image and shown at 1 to 1 resolution, this image is sharp enough for four inch prints.

But you'll want to sharpen the image for 5x7 or 8x10 prints. 

That optical glass pays off in the quality of images the Xt produces. Four inch prints are sharp with good color and contrast. Bring the image into Photoshop for a slight sharpening and you can get good quality 8x10 prints.


Auto fill flash on a camera this small? For this shot Joe used Nik Multimedia's Classical Blur plug-in to give a soft dreamy effect to the image.

Frankly I don't expect much from the flash in small cameras. They're tiny, low powered, and too close to the lens, resulting in red-eye. I was pleasantly shocked when, with the flash set to "auto", and shooting a backlit model in open shade, the camera picked auto fill flash and gave me a perfect exposure!

Available shutter speeds range from 1/1000th to 4 seconds with an ISO range of 50 to 400. Noise reduction is available for long exposures. White balance worked well during testing with no false readings.

You can read your images from the camera using the included USB cable. PIM II (Print Image Matching II) is supported. Also included is a cradle charger for the Xt's lithium-ion battery. Minolta says you should get 130 frames from a charge. We didn't do quite that well as almost every shot used the flash, but we didn't find that the battery was dying quickly either. Still if it were our dime and we were traveling with this camera we'd probably pick up a spare battery (around $40) and always keep a spare charged in the case with the camera. A case isn't included, but Minolta sent along their "deluxe case" ($14), which worked great for bopping around with the Xt.

A 16mb SD card is included with the Xt, which will get you started taking a few pictures but you'll soon outgrow it. You'll want to figure at least the cost of a 128mb SD card into the price of the camera.

Using The Xt 
If ever a camera were addictive this is it. If you're used to carrying around a load of heavy pro camera gear this thing is positively enlightening. It will drop in a shirt pocket or the front of your jeans but the belt case is your best bet. Since we received the Xt it goes everywhere with me. It's great for those quick grab shots, family pictures, and even for some "serious" photography. It will focus down to about six inches so you can do impromptu macro shots and it's ideal for informal portrait shots and street shooting. It's so small that no one even notices it in situations where an SLR would get everyone's attention. I even caught myself grabbing shots through the windshield when I was bored and stuck in traffic.

Unlike many digitals it powers up quickly with no fuss and bother. Another pleasant surprise was the clarity of the LCD. It's a bit contrasty but still viewable when conditions are bright. Focus in medium light to bright conditions is quick and accurate. In low light it may take some time to lock focus and we had an image or two where focus was off in low light landscapes. There's even a spot metering mode and exposure compensation accessed through the arrow buttons on the back of the camera.

Gripes and Grumbles 
There's not a lot to dislike with the Xt, but there is one gotcha and one thing we'd wish for.

When you're bored you'll find yourself taking 
pictures of all kinds of things - just because 
you can.

The gotcha is one that we pointed out with the original Dimage X. Each time you reformat your memory card the camera defaults to numbering files from 1 again. If you're in the habit of dumping all of your files into a folder on your hard drive you could easily overwrite existing files. The fix is to go into the setup menu and turn "file # memory" ON. Now all files will be numbered sequentially.

The thing we'd wish for is the ability to control depth of field. Yeah we know it's a point and shoot camera but it does so many things well we find ourselves using it for more than point and shoot shots.

While it's not cheap, this is an incredibly fun little camera that outperforms point and shoot cameras. Because it's so small and light you'll carry it with you when you'd normally never carry a camera, or when an SLR or even point and shoot would be too bulky. That means you'll get shots that you'd never get otherwise. Most importantly it's a hell of a lot of fun.

Street Price around $400

  Subscribe to Vivid Light 
Photography by email 

Tell Us What You Think

Vivid Light Photography, monthly photography magazine online

Site search Web search

Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online