Written on: 15/06/2003 by LarryS.
Good manual control, (better than automatic). Optics are excellent and gives great picture quality. Controls are easy to use (after you figure out what does what). Excellent color white balance. Digital video clips and versatile shooting controls.
Minimal battery life with NiMH AA batteries, poor viewfinder for manual photography, and slow response on auto-focus. Poor support from Minolta.
I am a retired commercial photographer and wanted to try digital photography. I bought the DiMage 7 as it looked to have the most pro features for the money. I bought mine on eBay at a very attractive price. The manual requires study if you want to learn all the features this camera can perform. If you want a "point and shoot" camera, this is not it! It is feature laden and worth the time to learn them. That said, it is a great camera and allows you to be very creative.
Battery life is horrible especially in the highest quality mode and with the LCD monitor turned on. Thank God it uses NiMH AA's as they are relatively inexpensive. I now have 24 NiMH 1900ma batteries to keep me going. The only way to conserve batteries is to not use the LCD monitor (which is difficult to view in daylight and low light) and use a lower resolution setting for a smaller file size. Since I like large pictures, I shoot accordingly, using medium resolution only for "snapshots"
After I got it and found the power problems, I thought I might have a defective unit. I emailed Minolta with a description of my problem and only got an automatic response and never did hear from a person. After going to the internet, I found everyone had the same complaint.
When taking action photos, I find the auto-focus cannot do an adequate job keeping up with motion. Switching to manual focus is not much better because the viewfinder is not accurate enough to confirm tack-sharp focus. I do like the pivotal viewfinder. With manual focus, the response time for the shutter is more like a conventional 35mm. The zoom range is excellent and I have not found a need for any further lens ranges. Also, the adjustable ASA/ISO setting is wonderful. This allows the experienced photographer more latitude in controls, especially in depth of field. Typical of some 35mm zoom lenses is the focus changes as zoom length changes. You must be sure to check each shot for sharp focus if you are zooming much. One thing I really like is the adjustable diopter. With old age, so go the eyes. My wife's eyes are the opposite of mine. I need a plus 3 and she needs a minus 2. With this system, we can both see well.
The built-in flash unit is totally inadequate and you must buy the Minolta external flash unit if you intend to do serious photography. I wish Minolta would have added a PC connection so I could use my Metz but I had to buy the Minolta 5600HS flash instead. It does have the benefit of auto exposure which is nice but I don't like prism mounted flash units.
I have added a 128 CF, a 512 CF plus a 1 GB IBM Micro-drive. Also, UV, Skylight and polarizer filters. I only use my 128Mb CF card for movies to keep it simple. I can get about 15 1-minute movie clips. This is great for documenting panels, larger items that don't fit a still shot or family functions. It will never replace a camcorder but is a great feature for special situations.
I would prefer a longer neck strap and a little wider also. The camera is light enough that it does not "cut" into your neck but for over the shoulder, it has a tendency to slide off. Also, the strap fastens too close to the media door and I have found I did not get it shut all the way every time. On the subject of the media door, it should have a latch but doesn't.
Overall performance is excellent once you learn to use all the controls available. On a recent trip to the Yucatan, I took 1400 shots at 1600x1200 image size with fine resolution. This combination gave me excellent 11x14 prints on my Epson 2200 printer. The beauty of any digital camera is the ability to preview and delete bad shots on the spot. I didn't take the time and just kept shooting and viewed them when I returned home. Had it not been for six sets of batteries, I would have had to stop shooting most days. The Minolta EBP-100 battery pack is expensive. Fortunately, Radio Shack, Wal-Mart and others sell NiMH batteries with quick chargers at a very nominal charge. I would urge any buyer of this system to at least get one extra set with a quick charger.
I keep a UV filter on at all times to protect the lens unless I am using a polarizer. The included lens hood is a nice touch and definitely would be expensive if it was an accessory. I have tried a little macro photography and it seems to work fine. I did close-ups of jewelry and it is excellent but I found it would only focus close enough to have a watch fill the screen. A ring filled about 50%. Still, in macro mode it was very sharp and the prints were satisfactory. This is a great way to document your possessions for insurance purposes.
On my wish list would be the items I have mentioned in the review with importance on;
. An optical viewfinder and a twist LCD screen for very low angle or over the head photography
. Better power consumption
. A PC connector
. Black or grey body and a better, larger hand grip. I have a large hand and it feels awkward and slippery when handling it
. Of a minor fact is the metric distance markings but rarely do I pre-focus at a given distance but a metric/feet switch would be handy
. Lastly, a depth of field chart or better yet, let the electronics just display it in the viewfinder
I haven't looked at the other DiMage 7 models and they may have some of these items incorporated in them. Am I happy with mine? Absolutely! I am a critic and you asked. It is a fine camera and offers excellent features. When shopping prudently, it is a lot of camera for the money. Perhaps I will buy the Fuji or Kodak full size pro model at a later date but as I age, I find this is plenty of camera for me. Remember the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys.