KONICA MINOLTA DiMAGE Z20
the minds of Minolta (that‚s one advertising slogan I‚ll apparently
never forget) comes another very consumer-friendly big-zoom camera,
the 5-megapixel DiMAGE Z20 that replaces last year‚s 3.2 megapixel
Z10 model. The Z20 is one of those cameras that at first sight looks
like a small SLR: no viewfinder, fairly big body with a big lens
barrel, and then a „power bulgeš handle on the right. The Z20, however,
is not a SLR, it just looks that way because the big barrel contains
a massive 11 elements/9 groups 8X Konica Minolta Zoom lens. You
can‚t see a viewfinder from the front because the Z20 doesn‚t have
an optical one like most digicams, but an electronic one that actually
does let you see through the lens, just like with a SLR.
its press release, Minolta positions the DiMAGE Z20 as „the ideal
solution for both first-time digital photographers and those consumers
upgrading from earlier generations of digital cameras.š I‚d qualify
that statement by saying the Z20 is a great digital camera for first-timers
who want or need a big optical zoom because that is what determines
the rather bulky design of this camera. Its dimensions are modest
(4.3 x 3.2 x 3.7) and it weighs just 12.6 ounces fully loaded with
four AA batteries. However, its design with the long lens barrel
is what makes it large and difficult to stow away. The Z20 is not
a camera you can stick into a pocket, or even an attaché case. If
you take it with you, you need to plan for it and reserve a space
for it. What you get in return is a fast, modern 5-megapixel camera
that is pleasure to use and lets you get as close as you want both
via its superb macro as well as its massive 8X optical/4X digital
zoom. See the pictures on the right that show no zoom, 8X zoom,
and then digital zoom magnification, all without tripod.
are many aspects of this camera that warrant commentary. Let‚s start
with ergonomics and design. Most of the plastic body of the Z20
has a matte-silver powder finish. The design of the body is functional
rather than beautiful. Whatever is there serves a purpose. There
aren‚t any unnecessary styling elements. As a result, the Z20 looks
a bit bare and you feel you need a case to protect that vast expanse
of powder-coated plastic. The ergonomics, however, are first rate.
You can hold the camera in your right hand where the powerbulge
with its rubber coating fits nicely into your palm. The shutter
is located in the perfect spot, and the zoom rocker also is exactly
where you expect it to be. For extra stabilization you want use
your left hand, and the rounded left side of the Z20, also with
a pad of rubber coating, fits perfectly into your handųsort of like
you might hold a small camcorder. These ergonomics are actually
quite important with a big-zoom where you want to hold the camera
as steady as you can, especially since for cost reasons Minolta
did not give this model its excellent „anti-shakeš feature.
far as controls go, everything is large and clearly marked with
the possible exception of the mode dial that squeezes 11 symbols
onto a small wheel that must be aligned to an easily overlooked
marker. It isn‚t always immediately clear which mode is selected.
The traditional 5-way navigation pad is ergonomically located and
works well. The remaining three buttons (Menu, Quick View and Information)
are also located within easy reach of your right thumb, as is the
on/off button with its record/playback ring around it. Someone gave
this a lot of thought, and as a result the Z20 is one of the few
designs where you can reach every single control with your thumb
while you hold the camera.
stated, the Z20 has an electronic instead of an optical viewfinder.
It also has a smallish 1.5-inch LCD. You use either the LCD or the
electronic viewfinder by toggling between them. Minolta calls it
a „switchfinderš because you‚re actually looking at the same LCD.
Toggling is weird: when you push the switch into viewfinder mode
the camera makes a flapping noise like when you push the shutter
on a SLR, and the LCD disappears behind two plastic flaps. The electronic
viewfinder is a mixed blessing. It has a diopter adjustment and
does allow you to see what‚s going on in full 32X total magnification,
which wouldn‚t be possible with a regular optical viewfinder. But
it‚s a low resolution affair that reminded me of one of those old-fashioned
camcorders where everything looks grainy and unsharp. This choice
of looking at a very small low-res LCD or a viewfinder that uses
the same LCD to let you view the world through what looks like a
grainy honeycomb grid are among the few weak points of the Z20.
Minolta‚s positioning of the Z20 as a camera for those new to digital
photography or folks who are trading up from lower-res digicams,
and despite the basic, uninitimdating looks of the Z20, there is
more to this camera than meets the eye. It is, for example, deceptively
fast. Push the „onš button and the DiMAGE springs to life instantly.
No waiting at all. There is also very little shutter lag, and Minolta‚s
proprietary CxProcess III image processing technology assists in
making pictures come out just the way you see them by applying edge
enhancement, adjusting the tone curves and slightly boosting color
saturation. A neat little trick that really works.
main attraction of the Z20, however, is its ultra-flexible lens.
The macro is nothing short of incredible. You can get within 0.4
inches of a subject for close-ups that very few other cameras can
take, or you can bring the world as close as you want with the powerful
8X optical zoom. Multiply that with an amazingly good 4X digital
zoom and nothing is ever too close or too far away for this camera.
You have to experience this vast range to truly appreciate it. Get
used to it and it‚s hard to switch back to the standard 3X or 4X
zoom you get with your average digicam.
mode is a mixed blessing. On the one hand you can zoom while shooting
movies, and you get a full 30 frames per second in the standard
320x240 mode. And there is a night-movie mode and you can also capture
individual frames from a movie. On the other hand, that frame rate
drops to 15 in 640 x 480 mode, and neither mode has sound. In fact,
there isn‚t any sound in this camera, so no voice annotations for
Z20 is powered by either four standard alkaline AA batteries, or
any kind of AA-size rechargeables. It‚s pretty energy-efficient,
too. My older digicams drain four AAs almost immediately. The Z20
is supposed to get 450 shots out of a set, and that sounds about
right. I‚ve always preferred cameras that use standard batteries
because you find them wherever you go. On the storage side, the
Z20 offers a nice surprise with an internal 14.5MB. Not much, but
it can tide you over while uploading pics from the SD/MMC card which
the Z20 uses. No SD Card card is included.
|Model-Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z20
List price-US$275 (web)
Sensor res-5.0 megapixels
Image dimensions-2560x1920 down
Lens-F:3.2-3.4 8X opt./4X digital
Lens focal length-6-48 mm (36-290mm
Shutter-1/2000 to 15 seconds
Exposure compensation-+/- 2.0 EV
in 1/3 EV steps
Storage-SD Card (plus 14.5MB internal)
LCD screen-1.5 inch color TFT (113k)
Flash modes-4 modes
Battery-4 AA or rechargeables
Weight-10.6 ounce w/o batteries
Dimensions-4.3 x 3.2 x 3.7 inches
Included-DiMAGE Viewer, cables,
the Z20‚s operation is pretty much self-explanatory, there are times
when you want to consult the manual, especially when you seek to
assume more control via its manual, shutter, or aperture priority
modes. The manual looks nice and hefty, like it might hold the answer
to all your questions. Sadly it‚s just a quick reference guide that,
in six languages, covers basics but mostly refers to the appropriate
page in the much larger pdf version of the real manual that comes
on a CD. Not much love either in the software section. You get the
DiMAGE ImageViewer, which is a basic file browser with some rudimentary
image correction and manipulation functionality. But that doesn‚t
matter as anyone interested in digital imaging has his or her own
favorite application anyway.
anyone looking for a competent, easy-to-use camera with an exceptionally
flexible lens, the Konia Minolta DiMAGE Z20‚s report card is overwhelmingly
positive. If you can live with the bulky and somewhat plain body
and small, low-res „switchfinder,š the Z20 rewards you with superb
ergonomics, speed, great battery life, and the ability to take excellent
pictures of subjects that can be as close as less than an inch and
far, far away thanks to the excellent 8X optical zoom. This is one
of those rare cameras that can do it all.