|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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Street Price around $400