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Minolta Dimage F200 Digital Camera Review

Introduction: The Minolta Dimage F200, is the 2003 verson of the Minolta Dimage F100, and the 4MP version of the Minolta Dimage F300. It's a 4MP, 3x Optical zoom compact digital camera with an aluminum body. Some of the main features, are: Unlimited video recording (dependant on size of memory card), Full manual controls such as Aperture priority, Shutter priority, both, plus manual focus etc, good choice of shutter speeds (15 - 1/1000s), plus a full range of automatic modes, Area AF (this follows the subject, refocusing as they move!), small size (111.0(W) x 52.5(H) x 32(D) mm) and weight - only 185g, plus a Minolta GT 7.8 - 23.4mm (35mm equivalent: 38 - 114mm), f/2.8 - f/4.7, 3x Optical zoom lens, and a good macro mode. Check latest price on Amazon.co.uk

The camera also features TV out with sound, a 1.5" TFT screen, 4x Digital zoom, Auto Rotate function, automatic screen brightness, Night Movie mode (not infrared, but simply makes it brighter for you), Noise reduction: "DiMAGE F200 combats this with a selectable noise-reduction function, which automatically activates for exposures of one second or longer."

In automatic mode, the camera can automatically choose from the following modes, or you can choose from them yourself:

"The five subject programs cover common and specialized shooting conditions and can be selected manually:

- Portrait: optimized to reproduce warm, soft skin tones and a slight defocusing of the background.
- Sports action: to make clear, sharp images of fast moving subjects.
- Landscape: optimized to take sharp images of expansive scenes.
- Sunset: optimized to reproduce rich, warm sunsets.
- Night portrait: the flash and ambient exposures are balanced to reveal the night scene behind the subject."

The Manual settings and options are a whole other kettle of fish, so I'll try and talk about them a bit later on.

More information visit: Konica Minolta's F200 pages.

The Camera: It's quite small, but not tiny, it's roughly the same size as the Canon A300 but slightly smaller.


Front Off - Flash, optical viewfinder, red light (for self timer), auto-focus 3x optical lens (closed, with built in cover). The black bit next to the flash on the left is for the optional remote control.


Front On - lens extended.


Back, top left: Optical viewfinder, at the top in between the optical viewfinder and the zoom control are the flash/i+ button and the self-timer/quick-shot button. Menu brings up the menu system, macro button (also lets you choose between the auto modes), QV/Delete - in photo mode, it'll quickly take you to the playback mode, and in playback mode lets you delete pictures. Then there is the 4 way control, with SET in the middle. Display turns the display on/off and changes the amount of information displayed when on. Cover open to show AC in, and USB/AV socket: Picture here.


Top - this camera has a built in LCD display! (currently showing flash (auto), battery life (full), not sure about the square, 1 remaining photo space). On the left is the speaker, next to that the microphone. On the right is the main dial, with the black shutter release in the middle, and under that is the wide/telephoto zoom control.


Bottom, under the camera is the metal tripod mount. (not under the lens unfortunately, but fairly central)


Left Side - under the cover(s) is the SD card slot, and battery compartment, as shown below, and camera strap loop.


Underneath the plastic / rubber cover on the side you'll find: the USB/TV out socket and the DC in. Shown above is the memory slot and the battery compartment.


On this side, nothing here. The lens extends quite a long way.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic

The optical viewfinder is quite small, but still usable, and zooms in when you use the optical zoom on the camera.


On the top of the Minolta is the black two-step shutter release button - in the middle of the control dial, plus the zoom control, as well as the LCD, microphone and speaker.

Specifications:

  • 4 million pixels Picture Resolution (1/1.8-type interline primary-colour CCD)
  • 1.5-in. TFT color monitor (110,000pixels) - Automatic monitor amplification
  • 7.8-23.4mm optical zoom (35mm equivalent: 38 - 114mm)
  • Camera sensitivity: Auto and 100, 200, 400, and 800 ISO equivalents
  • Maximum aperture: f/2.8 - f/4.7
  • Macro focus range: 14.5 - 54.5 cm / 5.7 - 21.5 in. from front of lens (plus undocumented "Super Macro" of 1-2cm in front of lens)
  • Lens construction: 8 elements in 7 groups (includes three elements)
  • Metering: Multi-segment (256 segments), Center-weighted, Spot
  • Exposure modes: Programmed AE, Aperture priority, Shutter priority, Manual
  • Shutter speed range: 4 - 1/1000 s in programmed-AE and aperture-priority modes. 15 - 1/1000 s in shutter-priority and manual exposure modes. Bulb (max. 15 s)
  • Exposure compensation: ± 2 Ev in 1/3 increments
  • Flash range: Wide: 0.5 - 3.4 m /1.6 - 11.2 ft. (approx.) Telephoto: 0.5 - 2 m /1.6- 6.6 ft. (approx.) (Camera sensitivity: auto)
  • Flash modes: Autoflash, Autoflash with red-eye reduction, Fill-flash, Flash cancel
  • Flash compensation: ± 2 Ev in 1/3 increments
  • Movie recording: Recording time dependent on memory card capacity. Frame rate: 15fps Includes sound - includes a Night Movie mode (not infrared, but amplifies the image)
  • Audio: Audio recording: 180 min. (max.) (128MB memory card is required.)
  • White balance control: Automatic, Preset (Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Cloudy), Custom
  • Digital Effects Control: Contrast compensation, Colour saturation compensation, Sharpness, (low/normal/high) Colour modes (Natural Color, Vivid Color, Black and white, Sepia)
  • Digital zoom: 4x (max.) in 0.1x increments
  • Image-quality modes: TIFF, Fine, Standard, Economy
  • Number of recorded pixels (Still images): 2272 x 1704, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480
  • Number of recorded pixels (Movie clips): 320 x 240, 160 x 120

Full Specifications can be found on Minolta site.

Box Contents: ? Not 100% sure, as I bought this second hand, but I think the standard is: Digital Camera, USB Cable, AV Cable, 16mb SD card, Manual, Manual CD, Dimage Viewer CD.

Features / Options:

Can't be used as a webcam (as far as i'm aware), it does have video out so you can view your pictures on your TV - the AV cable connect to the same socket that the USB cable connects to and includes both video and audio so any videos you have recorded will playback on your TV with sound!. The camera takes 2 AA batteries, and includes a metal tripod mount thread.

Dial: Off / Auto / Manual / Play / Video / Audio Memo / Setup

Options accessible by pressing a button: Macro/etc, QV (quickview in photo mode), Display button, i+, Flash settings, Self-timer/etc button, Wide/zoom control, 4 way control, Central "enter" button.

LCD display on top: This displays the current mode you are in, the remaining number of photos you can take, flash settings, battery status etc.

Picture Size: The camera takes the following size pictures / and the following number of images will fit in the 16mb provided SD memory card: (an extra memory card is recommended if you intend to go on holiday or are going to be away from a computer for more than half a day!)

Setting: Number of pictures stored in memory:
4mp 2272x1704 TIFF 1 (av. size: 11mb)
4mp 2272x1704 Fine 12 (av. size: 1250kb)
4mp 2272x1704 Standard 18 (av. size: 770kb)
4mp 2272x1704 Economy 27 (av. size: 500kb)
2mp 1600x1200 TIFF 2 (av. size: 5.6mb)
2mp 1600x1200 Fine 21 (av. size: 645kb)
2mp 1600x1200 Standard 37 (av. size: 380kb)
2mp 1600x1200 Economy 53 (av. size: 250kb)
1280x960 TIFF 3 (av. size: 3.6mb)
1280x960 Fine 36 (av. size: 355kb)
1280x960 Standard -
1280x960 Economy -
640x480 TIFF 14 (av. size: 955kb)
640x480 Fine 93 (av. size: 93kb)
640x480 Standard -
640x480 Economy -
320x240 Movie 41seconds

You can fit an average amount of images on the provided 16mb SD card, even at the 4MP setting, but compression does seem high compared to the Casio QV-R40, or Canon A300.

Speed, ease of use: It's a bit slow to switch on, the lens seems to take a while to extend, and takes the same amount of time to switch off. It's very easy to use in the automatic mode, especially as there are several pre-set modes that help you get the best out of the photo - the camera chooses the best mode automatically, so you don't even need to worry about this. The camera is fairly complicated in the manual mode - especially if you start changing aperture / shutter speed / focus etc, simply because there as so many options and settings, metering modes, focusing modes etc, but with a good understanding of camera basics it should be fairly straigtforward to get to grips with the camera. The camera does seem quick enough at focusing, even when indoors and under fairly poor lighting - the camera does seem quicker than the Canon A300, especially if using flash as there is a much longer wait on the Canon for the flash to warm up - the Minolta is not as quick as the Casio QV-R40 however. The Minolta is quick enough at going from wide-angle to telephoto, but again nowhere near as quick as the Casio QV-R40.

The camera also has a neat "QV" / Quick View button, which quickly lets you view your images without having to turn the dial to "Play", when you have finished looking at your images, you just need to press the shutter release half way to get the camera back into photo mode.

Battery usage: So far it does seem fairly poor to average, especially if you are using the screen, and flash quite a lot, or focusing a lot or going from wide to telephoto. Luckily the battery warning will come on giving you prior warning that you will need to change your batteries soon.

LCD display in photo mode:

One of the neat things I like about this camera is that when you are taking a photo, and half press the shutter, it displays the F setting (aperture) and shutter speed. The screen is good, with good colour and clarity. It updates smoothly / quickly. In playback mode a histogram / additional information can be viewed by pressing the i+ button.

Playback mode: In playback mode you can zoom into the image to have a closer look (x6 - in 0.2 steps) and pan around the image to see the part you are interested in. Zooming into the image and panning around is fairly quick. Changing from photo to photo is also quick. The camera automatically rotates portrait images in playback mode - very clever!

Image Quality: Larger versions of these images can be viewed in the gallery album called "Random Minolta F200 Photos", other photos taken with this camera can also be found in the gallery, eg "Birming Motor Show 2004", and "Bradford + BBQ". All photos taken with sharpness / saturation / contrast set to normal unless otherwise stated. You may also want to have a look at the Canon vs... page to see the same photo taken by the Minolta F200 and a Canon A300.

Inside:

No noticable red-eye on this photo - Very cute little kitten picture taken at ISO160 / no flash.- Good colours, again no red-eye. There were some colour / exposure issues, particularly when not using the flash, but so far it only seems to be in one or two photos (see the gallery for an example on page 2). The camera also does a very good job of focusing indoors, even without a lamp, and even when using full optical zoom - the camera does this by increasing the gain by the looks of things - it also means you can see what you are taking a photo of on the LCD screen.

Noise: In manual mode it is possible to select from AUTO or ISO 100/200/400/800 - the camera also has a "Noise Reduction" option in the setup menu - using the higher ISOs do let you use a faster shutter speed which is useful when taking pictures of moving objects. Even with the "Noise Reduction" feature off images do not seem to suffer too much with noise problems, until you get to ISO800 where noise is quite noticable - after much examination of images taken in manual mode with noise reduction on and off, I can't really see any difference - according to Minolta, "Noise Reduction" is only effective on exposures 1 second or longer - none of the test images I have taken so far have met this requirement.


This photo (featuring a model "bananalamb" / "lamb banana") was taken without flash, actual pixels shown below:

ISO100 / Noise Reduction OFF ISO200 / Noise Reduction OFF
ISO400 / Noise Reduction OFF ISO800 / Noise Reduction OFF

Outside:

Excellent colour, detail, sharpness etc. Very low noise levels. No noticable "chromatic abberations" or "vignetting".


Very good colour, excellent sharpness / detail, etc, again no noticable image problems.

Actual pixels comparison: (from photo above right, windows top left)

Minolta F200 - ISO100 Actual Pixels Casio QV-R40 - ISO80 Actual Pixels

When compared to the same photo(s) taken by the Casio QV-R40 (a 4mp digital camera with 3x Optical zoom lens), the minolta pictures seem much sharper, and clearer, with less noise

Zoom: The camera has a built in 4x Digital zoom, as well as a 3x optical zoom lens - the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software to blur the image so that it does not look pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using this, and simply crop the image later on your computer. I've included an example below simply to show what this feature does - and whilst it looks acceptable at the size shown (the last photo), if you printed the images out or viewed the full size versions in the gallery you would easily notice the negative effect it has on image quality. Luckily the Minolta's digital zoom can be turned off in the menu, plus the digital zoom factor is clearly displayed when using it - although the camera very smoothly starts using the digital zoom - I would have prefered a small pause before it started using the digital zoom.

No zoom (wideangle) 3x Optical zoom (telephoto) 3x Optical + 4x Digital zoom

The optical zoom on this camera has 12 definite steps from wide-angle to telephoto and moves fairly quickly between the two extremes.

Macro: Flash can be used in macro mode, but seems to make the image overly dark (shown in the gallery, picture 'PICT0028') - perhaps the camera turns the flash down too much in order to avoid overexposure. The macro mode automatically puts the camera into full telephoto mode, and the closest you can get to the object is about 14cm away - however this produces an EXCELLENT macro image. The camera allows you to use manual focus in macro mode, as well as aperture / shutter priority (or both).

Excellent macro performance, easily accessible by pressing the macro button when in photo mode - awesome rich colour on the blue pen.

The Macro performance is further enhanced by an additional undocumented "Super Macro" mode, (this is assessible by putting the camera into "Manual" mode, setting the camera to manual focus, switching macro mode on - focusing as close as possible, then switching macro mode off, then zooming out (without refocusing) - information found on the Minolta F200 Yahoo group) - this allows you to position the camera 1-2cm away from the object you want to photograph - focal range does seem a little bit limited at this setting.

Movie: The movie mode lets you record unlimited movies at 15fps with sound, with a resolution of 320/240 - you are simply limited by the size of your memory card. The camera lets you set the optical zoom before you start recording and allows you to use digital zoom when recording. Image quality is good even in fairly low light - the videos have an average frame rate as far as video modes on digital cameras go. The first clip is a normal video indoors, the second is using the "Night Mode" - this makes the image brighter, but also seems to make the image noisier. The movies are in .mov format, which is played by Apple's Quicktime player.

Left:
Movie "PICT0104.MOV" Normal mode, Right: Movie "PICT0105.MOV" Night mode. Click the image or link (right click, save target as) to view the video clip - both around 6mb downloads. (saved as Zip file)

Conclusion

Image: The camera produces great images, with rich colour, low noise, and good detail. Ever so slightly soft images, that I personally think look better with a slight sharpen - perhaps this would be corrected if I set sharpness to "high", instead of "normal" in the cameras settings - this is nothing to worry about too much though. Exposure is generally very good, occasionally images can be slightly dark however - depending on the subject matter.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera looks good, has some impressive features (unlimited movies, auto-image rotate, auto-area focus that follows the subject etc), and an impressive amount of control (aperture/shutter/manual focus etc). The macro mode is excellent. The movie mode is especially useful as the night mode helps when lighting is poor - it's a shame however that the resolution is not higher than 320x240 and that the frames per second is only 15fps. Rechargable batteries are a must!

Alternate cameras: This camera is now discontinued and can now be bought for £179 new from Jessops (05/06/04), or £191 from XLshop.com. I managed to buy this camera for around £130 on ebay.co.uk. This is a good price, even new, although perhaps a newer camera would be better? Other cameras worth considering with 4mp, and 3x Optical zoom are the: Canon Powershot A80 (from £180), Casio QV-R40/41 (from £160/£190), Casio EX-Z4/Z40 (from £200/£220), Fuji A340 (from £160), Kodak EasyShare DX 6440 (from £154, 4x Optical), Konica Minolta Dimage G400 (from £160), Nikon Coolpix 4200 (from £230), Olympus 400/410 (from £175/£210), Pentax Optio S4 (from £190). Prices correct at 06/06/04 from Kelkoo.co.uk

Summary: A great camera that produces very good images. It has some useful and unusual features - but faces some fairly tough competition from this years new 4mp digital cameras. Check latest price on Amazon.co.uk

What I like:

  • Looks good
  • Some GREAT rich vibrant colours, very true to life.
  • Good detail (in images)
  • Low noise, nice smooth images
  • Unlimited movie mode / night mode
  • Great macro mode.
  • Good auto modes / easy to use
  • Advanced features are there if required.

What I don't like:

  • No easy way to get to 'Play' mode from off - have to turn the dial which often extends the lens. (unless you hold the zoom setting at 'wide')
  • F series discontinued by Konica/Minolta
  • Some exposure issues? eg macro with flash, indoor photos without flash - perhaps these could be corrected using manual settings - or perhaps I got them wrong because I was using the manual settings!?
  • A bit slow to turn on/off, zoom a bit slow.
  • Battery use seems quite high.

More Sample Photos: (larger versions viewable in the Minolta F200 gallery)


Middle picture taken on 'portrait mode' with fill flash.

Other Reviews:

Other Reviews of the F200: Digit-Life.
Reviews of the F100 (4MP, March 2002 release): DCResource, Megapixel.net, Imaging-Resouce, Steve's Digicams.
Reviews of the F300 (5MP version): Digit-Life, Steve's Digicams, Megapixel.net, DCResource, Imaging-Resource.