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Konica Minolta Dimage X31 Digital Camera Review
Introduction: The Konica Minolta Dimage X31 is an ultra compact 3MP digital camera with a non-protruding 3x Konica Minolta folding optical zoom lens (4.7 - 14.1mm equivalent to 36mm - 108mm on a 35mm camera), and a 1.5" Colour TFT screen. The camera comes with a 16mb SD memory card, and can be upgraded with an additional SD card. The camera takes two AA batteries. The camera also records unlimited 320x240 videos at 15fps without sound. The camera can be bought for 117 from amazon.co.uk in the UK, and $169 from amazon.com in the US. The camera is very compact with a size and weight as follows: Dimensions: 86 x 67 x 24.5 mm. Weight: 115g (without batteries or recording media).

The camera offers excellent value for money for an ultra compact digital camera, currently one of the cheapest ultra compact digital cameras available. The camera was announced June 2004.

Konica Minolta have this to say about the camera:

"The new Konica Minolta DiMAGE X31 is a user-friendly, compact digital camera equipped with Konica Minolta's proprietary non-protruding 3x optical zoom that keeps the camera thin, even when the zoom is activated. This new digital camera features 3.2-megapixel high picture quality and is one of the slimmest and lightest cameras in its class. In addition, the camera features a versatile 4x digital zoom in combination with the 3x optical zoom to take pictures at up to 12x total zoom, as well as the ability to take photos as close as 3.9 inches to the subject without having to switch to a separate macro mode."

You can find out more about the Konica Minolta Dimage X31 at Konica Minolta's website.

The Camera: It's very compact and made out of shiney silver plastic. (some parts appear to be made out of metal)


Front - Camera off. Built in lens-cover - Flash, self-timer lamp, reflective self-portrait mirror in the middle at the top, the bottom left circle is an extra grip.


Front - Camera on, lens stays inside the camera.


Back - the 1.5" TFT screen, Menu button, 4-way controller (acts as a zoom controller), push button in the middle, playback button. Plus the beeper hole.


Top - on/off, shutter release, photo or video switch.


Bottom, under the camera is the tripod mount which is in the middle of the camera.


Left Side (from back) - This shows how the lens system works.


On this side is the battery compartment, memory slot, usb connection and DC in.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic, this camera is quite a lot smaller than the Pentax, although the same height.


There is no optical viewfinder.


Size comparison next to the Nikon Coolpix 2200.


Size comparison

Specifications / Features:

  • Compact size and lightweight body
  • 3.2 Megapixels
  • 3x optical Zoom folded lens
  • 4x Digital zoom
  • 320x240 15fps video mode without sound
  • 1.5" Colour TFT screen
  • Ultra fast startup time (1 second)
  • Compatible with various types of rechargeable and disposable batteries (takes AA batteries)
  • Noise Reduction

Full Specifications can be found on the Konica Minolta site.

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Two AA alkaline batteries,
  • Hand Strap (HS-DG120),
  • USB Cable (USB-500),
  • SD Memory Card (16MB),
  • DiMAGE Viewer CD-ROM

Average box contents - A case, some rechargable batteries and a charger, and a larger memory card would have been nice.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the play button - this switches between photo mode and playback mode. In photo mode you can select between photo and video mode. The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown below:

The options are: Colour (Colour, Black and White, Sepia, Posterization, Soft Focus), Portrait (on/off), Special Effects (off, frame1, frame2, border1, side by side), Flash, Self-Timer/Drive mode, White balance, EV compensation, Image settings.

Pressing the middle button will bring up advanced settings such as: Left/Right 4-way control function, auto reset, date imprint, digital zoom, file memory, folder name.

You can also access the setup menu, which has 3 menus: LCD brightness, Format, Reset default, language, audio signals, focus signals, shutter signal, power off, date/time set, date format, transfer mode.

The video mode has the following options: White balance, Colour mode, Image size, and EV Exposure compensation.

In playback mode the options are: Slideshow, Favourites Play, Protect, Rotate, Delete, DPOF/Print, Add (copies the image to favourites, which is built in memory in the camera), Email.

Pressing the middle button will bring up: the playback setup menu, the options in here are: Delete, Lock, DPOF set, Date print, index print. You can also access the same setup menu as discussed above.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures / and the following number of images will fit on the 16mb memory card: (an extra memory card is recommended)

Size: Number of Photos Stored / Quality / (Average file size)
    Fine Standard
3mp (2048 x 1536)   9 (1mb) 16 (700kb)
2mp (1600 x 1200)   - 25 (500kb)
1mp (1280 x 960)   - 37 (400kb)
VGA (640 x 480)   - 94 (150kb)
Movie 320x240/15fps   47seconds  

You can't fit very many images on the provided 16mb memory card - a larger memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower megapixel settings and higher compression levels. There is a average choice of image size and compression levels available, although no RAW or TIFF mode.

Speed, ease of use: The camera is easy to use, very quick to switch on and quick to take photos, the control on the back of the camera takes a while to get used to. The screen updates are quick and smooth. The camera speed in use, seems quick when taking a photo, and shot to shot time is quite good, even when using flash. The camera is quite compact, and very easily fits into pockets, due to the non-protruding lens. The menus are fairly easy to pick up and use, and the modes are easy to access (due to there only being photo/video/playback), the menus seem quick enough. The continuous shooting mode is fairly quick as well.

Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are easy to use when you get used to them, and they are in a good position. There don't really seem to be enough buttons, for example a delete button would be nice in playback mode, and a dedicated flash button in photo mode - luckily you can assign the left and right directions on the 4-way controller to do specific things, such as change the flash setting. The buttons feel good, they are also labelled well.

The buttons on the back of the camera quickly give you access to: the menu, and the playback mode. It is a very minimilistic approach to buttons, as discussed above. The space on the back of the camera seems quite empty and isn't very consistant with the other Dimage X digital cameras such as the XG and X50.

Battery usage: Battery life seems quite good - but as with all digital cameras high power rechargable batteries such as 2000+ mAh Ni-MH are highly recommended. It's very handy that the camera takes AA batteries, and quite unusual for an ultra compact digital camera to take them.

LCD Display (Photo mode / Playback mode):


LCD display in photo mode: Mode, Flash, Focusing lock (appears bottom right), Image size (top right) and compression level ("FINE"), battery level, pictures remaining (bottom right).

LCD display in photo mode: The screen is quite clear, and updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate. The screen shows how many remaining photos you can take with the available memory, as well as current mode etc, although unfortunately the camera does not show aperture / shutter speed and there is no live histogram.

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is very quick. The zoom can be used up to 6x. The playback zoom is very quick. Playback menu options are discussed above.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Full size (and medium size) versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower 2 people Group photo

Inside: The camera has quite a powerful flash, and copes well with group photos. Red eye was noticable on some photos of people - Good colours and details - although occasionally skin tones seemed a bit pink or sometimes yellowy. Some of the images are slightly soft - but this isn't a major issue on this camera. Inside photos occasionally were not correctly focused, sometimes the camera failed to focus completely. There were also problems with noisy images.

Noise: Noise generally is a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise.

The camera simply has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, meaning that you can not choose the ISO setting, and in low-light conditions the camera will automatically choose the most appropriate ISO setting. The camera seems to automatically choose ISO200 when taking photos with the flash on, and ISO50 when taking photos outdoor. I wasn't able to take the normal noise test picture due to not having control over the iso setting, so have simply shown the noise levels from the photos in the gallery.

ISO50 - 100% ISO200 - 100%

Noise levels at ISO50 are low - which means you get smooth images. ISO200 can be quite noisy unfortunately.

Outside:

Sugi Unisys Building Lexus

Outside the camera had very good colour, they are accurate colours with low noise, I didn't notice jpeg artifacts in the images. Some of the images were a bit soft, and could do with a sharpen / better focusing. The first two photos were taken at the same time / day as the photos of the same subject in the Nikon Coolpix 2200 Review / Gallery.

Zoom: This camera has a 3x Optical zoom and a built in 4x Digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below simply to show what these features do.

Wide-angle 3x Optical zoom Full 3x Optical + 4x Digital

The digital zoom shows you on screen how much magnification you are using numerically. It is quite quick. When using the optical zoom, it's quite quiet, and fairly quick, it has about 5 or 6 steps between wide and telephoto. The amount of optical zoom isn't displayed on screen numerically, the amount is simply displayed with a bar. The digital zoom can be switched on or off.

Other Image Quality issues: Chromatic Aberrations / Purple Fringing was noticable in some of the photos. Another issue was poor low-light focusing, and focusing errors. There was also some auto white balance inconsistancies, especially when taking photos indoors, even when using the flash (you would think, that by using the flash the camera would get the white balance correct).

Purple fringing 3rd attempt still not in focus
Yellowy Pink (a couple of seconds later)

Macro: When this camera is in macro mode, the lens starts at full wide angle, but you can zoom in without having to move the camera away from the subject - This camera can focus down to roughly 10cm in macro mode, even zoomed in.

Macro - Timex Watch Actual Pixels (100%)
Macro - Printed Text Actual Pixels (100%)

The macro mode is very good. You can use the flash in macro mode - the camera does a very good job of toning down the flash. Colour and detail is very good - the only problem seems to be in poor lighting where noise can become a problem.

Movie: 320x240 / 160x120 - 15fps without sound - you can use the digital zoom whilst recording a video, you can also zoom in using the optical / digital zoom before you start recording. The movie is recorded as a .MOV file. Length is limited only by the size of the memory card.


Rainbow - Download 320x240/15fps movie
Click here. (right click, save target as, 1.25mb MOV) (saved as Zip file)

The quality of the movie(s) is okay - 320 x 240 is average, unfortunately the camera doesn't record sound with the videos.

Conclusion

Image: When outside image quality is good - the images have accurate and pleasing colour, and good detail although images could do with a slight sharpen, unfortunately there is no option to increase sharpness in camera. Images have fairly low noise. There is some purple fringing, but it doesn't appear to be a major problem. Image compression doesn't seem to cause jpeg artifacts, and there is an okay range of image sizes and compression options. The macro mode is very good. The flash didn't cause problems when the subject was close. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be fairly good. The movie mode is good although limited by not being able to record sound. When inside, it's a diferent story as the camera struggles to get the automatic white balance correct, the camera struggles to focus, and images tend to be much noisier.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is very compact, stylish and pocketable due to the internal lens. The screen updates smoothly and is clear. The camera is easy to use, the menu systems being easy to use. The 3x optical zoom is good. Camera handling, button layout and design are okay, the camera could do with some more buttons. The camera speed is good in use and has a quick zoom, shot to shot time is also quick, and the camera has an especially quick switch on time. Unfortunately there is no custom white balance, or manual ISO settings.

Alternative ultra compact digital cameras: Olympus Mju Mini Digital (£199 - read my preview), Canon IXUS i (£172), IXUS 30/40 (£230), IXUS IIs (£172), Nikon Coolpix 3200 (125), Konica Minolta Dimage XG (160), Konica Minolta Dimage X50 (£236), Sony Cybershot DSC-U40 (£99), L1 (£196), T1 (£299), T3 (£313), Casio Exilim EX-Z30 (£192), EX-Z40 (£215), Panasonic Lumix FX2, FX7 (£289 - read my review), Pentax Optio S4i, S5i (£256). Check amazon.co.uk / kelkoo.co.uk or amazon.com for the latest prices.

Summary: If you want an ultra compact digital camera on a budget, and will be using the camera outside or for macro photos then this camera could be for you, but if you take a lot of indoor photos and want sound on your videos then you may end up quite frustrated with this camera, especially if it struggles to focus. For around 117 (UK) $169 (US) from Amazon this camera offers excellent value for money for an ultra compact 3mp, 3x optical zoom digital camera - unfortunately compromises seem to have been made in order to bring the price down. This camera is worth considering depending on your needs - have a look at the gallery photos and try the camera out before making your decision is my advice.

What I like:

  • Low price for an ultra compact
  • Excellent macro mode (providing there is enough light)
  • Internal lens doesn't stick out the front of the camera
  • Quick switch on time
  • Decent images when outside
  • Takes AA batteries

What I don't like:

  • No ISO settings / Noisy inside pictures
  • No Custom white balance
  • Inconsistant auto white balance (especially indoors)
  • Low-light focusing problems
  • Too few buttons
  • No sound on videos

Remember to have a look at the full size (and medium size) versions of these photos in the gallery!