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Minolta Dimage e223 Digital Camera Mini-Review.

This camera is a 2mp, 3x Optical Zoom, digital camera priced very competitively (£117 inc vat from ebuyer.com), which includes video recording. The thing that made me choose this camera over a similar spec / price Fuji A203/A204/A205 which can be had for £99 from some places (see www.dealtime.co.uk) was that the Minolta records audio with the video. Check latest price on Amazon.co.uk

I picked this up as it was on special offer for £99 inc vat and the store I bought it from (asda) give you a 28-day no-quibble refund time-period. I thought I'd give it a go even though I have read some unfavourable reviews. (although looking again, there are some favourable reviews out there, just google for them if you want to see them). This camera is also sold as a "Trust 770Z POWERC@M OPTICAL ZOOM"

Useful links for this camera:
minolta specs (minolta europe)
more images of the camera (minolta)
minolta e223 brochure (minolta pdf)
dcviews details / specs etc.
some unfavourable reviews (dpreviews)
dealtime best prices
find more sample images (fotopic.net)

Minolta Front (pic taken with webcam) Comparison picture next to a standard 35mm compact camera. (pic taken with webcam)

Specifications (in brief)

It takes SD memory, but it also has 8mb built in, which is a bit small compared to similar cameras of the same price which tend to come with 16mb cards. 8mb is probably enough room for 10 Fine 2mp (1600x1200) images. The camera also does "2048 x 1536 Super (interpolated)" sized images which is the same as 3MP, but the quality will not be as good as a real 3mp digital camera as this camera has a 2mp CCD.

Back of camera. (webcam picture not taken with minolta)

The back of the camera, features the small ON/OFF button, next to that the delete button. In the top right is the zoom control. The bottom left circle lets you choose between "PC Link" / "SETUP" / Play / Take Picture / Self Timer / Record Video modes. The PC Link mode seems a bit daft, surely the camera should be able to figure out automatically that it is connected to a PC. The camera has a 1.5" LCD screen in the back, which is fairly average, I don't know of any other standard size digital cameras that have a smaller LCD, as most of them have this size or larger.

As you can see the camera is fairly chunky, especially when I saw it next to a Fuji a203 in the shop. (pic taken with webcam) The camera also seems fairly heavy at around 200grams without any batteries or memory card in the camera.

Image quality / ability.

Well, it doesn't really seem to have a macro mode, so that means you can't take photos of small things, which is something I do quite a lot. Although the specifications does say:

"Macro focus range: 0.6 m / 2 ft. from front of lens 40-60 cm / 15.7 - 23.6 in. from front of lens at the 18.6mm focal length"

So perhaps I just have to figure out the optimal distance for macro photographs, so far it seems as though the closest you can be to images is 40 - 60 cm which isn't very close compared to other digital cameras which tend to have between 10 and 20 cm as their macro mode. After some further experimenting the best / closest macro seemed to be with the camera about 40-60cm away from the subject, and the lense zoomed in as far as it would go. Pressing the shutter release half way down until the focus had "locked" (signified by the centre square turning red) seemed to produce the best results. Some examples can be seen below:

Macro 3x Zoom Thumb
(view original 1600x1200 821k image)
Macro 3x Zoom (actual pixels)
Macro no Zoom Thumb
(view original 1600x1200 826k image)
Macro no Zoom (actual pixels)

Taking the "Super (interpolated)" 3MP image resulted in a 760kb image compared to the "Fine" 2MP image which resulted in an 860kb image. I could not notice any improvement in image quality from the 3MP interpolated image - it just tends to give you a bigger, slightly more blurry image.

Oddities / Annoyances

When displaying the pictures on the LCD on the back in "Play" mode, it shows the picture blurred first, and then looks like it applies a harsh/strong sharpen on the image, which seems a bit odd - this can be annoying because it makes you think the images are sharp, yet when you look at them on a computer, you finally realise they aren't and you have to re-take the photos! Another thing slightly un-intuitive is viewing the photos on the LCD - you zoom in using the zoom control for the lense, then you can pan up and down using the up and down arrows - fairly straightforward - but to pan from size to side, you use the delete and copy buttons as though they are left and right buttons!

As is fairly normal for most digital cameras, when you take a set of photos they are named PICT0001.JPG increasing in number each photo you take. After you delete the contents of your camera's memory, the numbers start at PICT0001.JPG again, which means everytime you want to transfer the pictures over, you either have to rename the images or create a new folder. This is only a minor complaint, but if you can only fit 10 images in the 8mb, then you're going to be wasting a lot of time transferring the images accross.

It eats batteries alive! They recommend Lithium or Ni-Mh batteries. You could turn off the LCD which would save battery life, but if you wear glasses like me, then this may not be an option due to digital camera's normally having small optical viewfinders.

Sound / Movies etc

It has a built in speaker (on the right hand side - just visible in picture above), so that if you're on the move, you can play back the movies and hear the sound without having to transfer them to your computer first. The movies are 320 x 240 and record at 15fps - you can fit 23 seconds on the built in memory (8mb) or record a maximum of 60 seconds with additional memory. It doesn't seem as though it's possible to use the optical zoom when recording videos, but the digital zoom can be used.

Sample Images / Videos

Indoor pictures:
Sample images taken with the camera, click the link below to see the original image.

Zoom 3x (thumb)
(full size 1600x1200 843k image)
No Zoom (thumb)
(full size 1600x1200 843k image)
2MP Image (cropped)
(full size 1600x1200 824k image)
"3MP" (interpolated) Image (cropped)
(full size 2048x1536 757k image)
2MP Indoor Mirror.
(full size 1600x1200 978k image)
Indoor Video with Sound AVI 2.8MB
(right click, save target as...)

Outdoor pictures:

Traffic AVI 1.05MB (saved as Zip file)
(right click, save target as...)
3x optical + 3x digital zoom (resized)
(full size 1600x1200 598k image)
Zoom 3x (resized)
(full size 1600x1200 847k image)
No Zoom (resized)
(full size 1600x1200 850k image)
2MP Image (resized as thumb)
(full size 1600x1200 824k image)
2MP Image Detail - same image cropped to show quality - even fairly close this is quite blurry
2MP Image (resized as thumb)
(full size 1600x1200 833k image)
2MP Image Detail - same image cropped to show quality - the trees in the distance turn to mush.

In Conclusion:

The camera seems to take average quality photos, depending on the subject matter and lighting conditions, for example a portrait photo I took in a well lit store turned out quite well (see the Indoor mirror picture above), still not as sharp I would expect from a 2MP camera with a relatively large lense. The price of the camera at £99 is a bargain, considering the features, such as 3x Optical zoom and video with sound. If you want / need audio with your video's and this camera is in your price range then it seems to be the only option, although being limited to 60 seconds means you may be better with a different camera or a digital video-recorder if video is your priority. As long as you don't mind the average quality photos you get from it and you want audio video then this would be okay - but if you don't need audio then I suspect a Fuji A203/204/205 would provide much better images.

8mb is not enough as standard, this is easily filled with 8 2MP images. The camera is fairly slow to switch on, and slow to respond after you have pressed the shutter, meaning you'll easily miss something spontaneous. The camera eats batteries as though they are going out of fashion, so a charger and Ni-Mh batteries are pretty much a must. The "macro" mode is seems to be okay once you have worked out the optimal distance and zoom. Check latest price on Amazon.co.uk