at the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden, Colorado,
the DiMAGE X produced a sharp, contrasty colorful image
of this patriotic locomotive using the Fine option.
With a little judicious use of Adobe Photoshop and the
printer driver settings on my Epson Stylus Photo 1280
I was able to make stunning prints up to 5x7 with images
captured at this setting.
© 2002, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved
The best thing a point-and-shoot
digital camera can do is be ready when you want to make a picture and
Minolta's DiMAGE X (www.minoltausa.com)
delivers the goods in style with a tiny but elegant digicam that gives
you no excuse for missing a photographic opportunity. And at 2 megapixels
the image quality is pretty darn good, too.
In The Field
The first thing I did with the DiMAGE X is toss out the Minolta wrist
strap, attach a Hakuba neck strap (www.hakubausa.com),
and hang the camera around my neck. The Hakuba strap has a quick release
that lets you remove the digicam when you want, but is long enough so
no decisive moments are lost while you're fumbling for the camera.
If you prefer a wrist strap, the DiMAGE X's compact design makes
it easy enough to carry in your pocket. With its tiny dimensions (3.3x2.8x0.8")
and weight (just 4.8 oz), the DiMAGE X is smaller, lighter, and thinner
than most other digital cameras (that are capable of delivering high
quality image output). It's also as pretty as a pixel, featuring
a stylish stainless steel design that will please the most fashion-conscious
While the DiMAGE X is small, its ergonomics work well within its compact
form factor, but that doesn't mean it's not without a few
quirks and initially you have to be careful not to poke a finger in
front of the lens or built-in flash. With a zoom lens that delivers
a 35mm equivalent of 37-111mm, it's ideal for general snapshooting
and even modest close-ups. (You can get a little closer than 10"
from the front of the lens.) The lens is an f/2.8-f/3.6 with three aspheric
elements and there's a 2x digital zoom available when you absolutely
positively need that extra reach, although quality-conscious photographers
will only use it as a last resort. The zoom control is an odd little
rocker switch that you click up and down to zoom in and out, but you'll
quickly get the hang of it.
Cranking up the DiMAGE X is a joy; not only does it emit some melodic
musical notes but only takes 1.8 seconds from pushing the shiny button
on top before you're ready to shoot. I've used more expensive
digicams that take much longer to get ready to actually make a picture
and many times that fleeting photo opp is lost. The DiMAGE X is ready
when you are.
tended to shoot 1600x1200 images using the Fine option,
which gave me the ability to capture up to six images,
but even at the Standard option (13 shoots) the image
quality produced by the DiMAGE X was impressive. This
shot of old milk cans made at the Colorado Railroad Museum
in Golden, Colorado, reveals both subtle detail in tone
as well as sharp surface and texture details.
High Quality Images
Image quality is surprisingly good; Minolta has wrung the best possible
quality from both the camera's optical design and electronics.
The DiMAGE X has 12-bit A/D conversion that provides fine tonal gradation,
with deep shadows, sparkling highlights, and more than 68 billion colors.
The camera features Minolta's proprietary CxProcess that controls
sharpness, color, tonal gradations, and noise, but what all this really
means is that you can create some amazingly high quality images from
not a lot of megapixels. Its maximum 1600x1200 resolution allows images
to be captured in Super Fine, Fine, Standard, and Economy modes depending
on the amount of JPEG compression that's applied. Using the TIFF
option, you can make 5.3x4" 300dpi files at 5.49MB, but the image
quality is good enough to make much larger prints by a little cheating
and setting the Image Size in Adobe Photoshop (Image>Image Size)
to 240dpi. If that isn't big enough, use Photoshop's Print
with Preview command to crank up the scale to 120 percent and the images
still look great. You can also record up to 35 seconds of digital video
with audio and a 15-second audio recording can be attached to a still
image, as well as up to 90 seconds of audio without an image.
The built-in flash is adequate for a camera this tiny but you might
see some light falloff at the wide angle setting in light colored rooms.
When capturing the kind of fun, candid photographs the DiMAGE X was
born to make, it delivers correct exposures and great color at ISO equivalent
settings of 100 and 200. I found that I kept it permanently set at 200,
A Folding Zoom?
Minolta's lens design for the DiMAGE X has produced a compact
folded 3x optical zoom lens that has a physical depth of only 0.8".
By using a prism to fold the optical path, Minolta's designers
positioned the optical zoom lens vertically within the slender body.
This efficient optical design only requires a small motor, allowing
for quiet zooming, too.
The menu structure looks nice and is relatively easy to understand as
these things go, but there's no "trash can" button
to let you erase a single photograph. Instead you have to go through
three or four menu pulls using two different controls (the zoom rocker
switch doubles in controlling menu selections) before you can erase
one picture. Since being able to edit as you shoot is an important consideration
you quickly get used to it but you'll never grow to love the process.
This photograph made in 1600x1200 but in Standard mode reveals
the subtle texture of this museum in Delray Beach, Florida.
The DiMAGE X's built-in flash was used to illuminate
the sculpture in the left to bring the tones of foreground
and background closer together.
Since the camera is so small,
it's no surprise that images are stored on a postage stamp-sized
Secure Digital (SD) card and Minolta includes an 8MB card that gives you
many less photos than you might like if you really want to capture images
at their highest quality. You'll only get one TIFF file on the bundled
SD card, so it's a good idea to invest in a higher capacity card
as soon as you can. SD cards are available up to 128MB but you could probably
get by with a 64MB card for under $70. Nevertheless, I was able to get
superb 5x7 ink jet prints from images made in the camera's Standard
mode using the previously mentioned techniques with an Epson Stylus Photo
1280. Also, 4x6 prints made at Adorama (www.adorama.com)
using Fuji's Frontier lab equipment that accepts digital media were
superb from this same small 200K+ file size.
Plug It In
The DiMAGE X uses a proprietary lithium ion battery that fits in the same
compartment that holds the SD card. Just slide the door down and you can
pop out the battery and insert it into the bundled charger and it doesn't
take long before the battery is fully charged and ready to be used. I
just charged it from completely dry and it took less than an hour. This
is a good thing because if you leave the 1.5" LCD screen on too
long it makes a lunch of this compact battery. Get into the habit of tapping
the Monitor button twice to turn it off and you'll be able to go
all day making images before running out of battery power.
The digicam is bundled with a cable that connects from a mini USB port
on the opposite edge from the battery/SD door to your computer. When downloading
images, no software is necessary with most newer computers: When connecting
to all of the Mac OS and Windows XP computers I tried, the DiMAGE X showed
up on the desktop as an external drive, so you can simply drag and copy
the files onto your hard disk. This works great in the field for downloading
images into a laptop, but in the office I use a Dazzle 6-in-1 Universal
Card Reader (www.dazzle.com)
to transfer images directly from the SD card to the hard drive and open
the files into Adobe Photoshop 7 using its File Browser function.
Once basic shooting parameters are set, the DiMAGE X is as easy to use
as a single-use film camera. In short, it's the perfect party camera.
The Minolta DiMAGE X packs more fun and image quality in an under-$400
digital camera than anything else available in its price range.
For more information, contact Minolta Corporation, (201) 825-4000; fax:
(201) 423-0590; www.minoltausa.com.
Number Of Effective Pixels:
Sensitivity: Auto (between ISO 100-200 equivalent)
Focal Length: 5.7-17.1mm (equivalent to 37-111mm in 35mm)
Maximum Aperture: f/2.8-3.6
Minimum Focus Distance: Approximately 9.8" from front of
Shutter Speeds: 2 sec to 1/1000 sec
Metering: 256 multi-segment
Exposure Modes: Programmed autoexposure (AE)
Flash Range: Wide: approximately 0.8-9.5 ft; Telephoto: approximately
0.8-7.5 ft at ISO 200 equivalent
Flash Modes: Autoflash, autoflash with redeye reduction, fill flash,
flash cancel, night portrait
Video Recording: Maximum: 35 seconds with monaural audio. Frame
rate: 15 fps.
White Balance: Automatic, Preset (Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, and
Digital Zoom: 1.25-2x
Image Compression Mode: Super Fine, Fine, Standard, Economy
File Formats: JPEG (Exif 2.1), TIFF, Motion JPEG (MOV), DCF 1.0-compliant,
DPOF-compliant, WAVE, Epson PRINT Image Matching
Recording Medium: SD (Secure Digital) Memory Cards, MultiMedia
Interface: USB Version 1.1
Power: One rechargeable lithium ion battery (NP-200)
Weight: 4.8 oz, without batteries and recording media