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Minolta have already had a lot of success in the compact camera department with their Dimage X . Whilst good styling is a subjective matter, the Dimage F100 we're looking at here is certainly not as radically designed as the Dimage X, it does however offer a higher level of features.
Main features of the Minolta Dimage F100
- 3.95 effective megapixels
- 12bit A/D conversion
- ISO100, 200, 400, 800, Auto
- 7.8-23.4mm (35mm equivalent: 38-114mm) 3x lens
- f/2.8-f/4.7 maximum aperture
- 4-1/1000s and Bulb shutter speed range
- Digital Subject programs
- +/-2Ev exposure compensation
- Exposure bracketing
- Movie mode
- Audio capture
- E-mail copy function
- Uses SD/MMC Cards (16Mb supplied)
- Stores images as JPEG or TIFF
- USB 1.1 interface
- Uses one CR-V3 lithium battery or two Ni-MH batteries
- 111x52.3x32mm dimensions
- Weighs 185g
Having a solid chunky feel, the Dimage F100 also feels moderately heavy for a compact of this size. This is caused by the metal elements used in the exterior design, some of which are purely for aesthetics. They do make it feel like a high quality camera and although perhaps not to everyone's taste, the F100 is one of the best styled compacts around.
It features all the usual conveniences, like an automatic lens cap and discreet carrying strap ringlet. The LCD display is well recessed, so barring carelessly scraping the camera over a rough surface it should maintain it's appearance well if cared for.
It takes around 5 seconds for the lens to quietly* extract and then a further second for the camera prepare to take the first shot. The controls are very simple and maintain the same high quality feeling of the rest of the camera.
*The camera is not so quiet when you have the camera sounds turned on. As then it is more like some gadget from a science-fiction film.
The large white brackets show the autofocus area while you're composing a shot. After the autofocus procedure is completed the focused area is highlighted by a small red rectangle.
A minor niggle is there is no display of the current zoom position.
|Basic: Exposure modes - Program/Aperture Pri/Shutter Pri/Manual, Drive mode - Single/Timer/RC/Continuous, Bracketing, Image size, Image Quality, White balance.
Custom 1 - Focus mode, Full-time AF, AFsensorDisp, Metering mode, Sensitivity.
Custom 2 - Digi FX ctrl, Voice memo, Date imprint, Digital Zoom, Instant playback.
|Whilst in playback mode, a press of the i+ button gives information on the settings used when taking the shot plus a histogram to check exposure levels.
This histogram facility is also available in the quick view mode, useful for quickly checking a shot in record mode, without having to switch the dial to playback.
The zoom and pan controls are quick to function and easy to control.
|Basic: LCDbrightness, Format, Power Save, Language.
Custom1: File # memory, Folder name, Audio signals, Shutter FX, Volume.
Custom 2: Reset default, Date/Time set, Video output.
The mode settings on the F100 are straightforward, with the mode dial being split into six options.
Changing between the different modes is fast, with the camera being swift to react. Occasionally, due to the ease with which the mode dial can be turned, the camera was once turned on by accident in a pocket.
In addition to the basic six modes already explained, the F100 has an automatic Digital Subject program selection option. This is selectable using the button with the macro flower icon next to it. On pressing this button you can cycle through the modes available which are:
- Programmed AE (Standard mode)
- Sports action
- Night portrait
Viewfinder and LCD screen
The viewfinder is typical of ultra-compact digital cameras, being small and not offering any diopter adjustment.
The LCD screen is clear and informative, with the active focus point being displayed by a red square. It's also sharp and has a good level of colour accuracy.
To the right of the base of the camera, there is a tripod mount. At the lower right of the back of the camera, is a covered connection area. This houses a DC power in socket and a dual purpose socket for Audio/Video out and USB.
Using two AA batteries, the F100 proved to offer a decent level of performance, much on par with other compact digital cameras of this type. As we recommend in nearly all our digital camera reviews, it's worth buying some NiMH rechargeable batteries as these will last a lot longer than the more expensive Alkaline type and of course you can recharge them!
Backed up by a decent range of image quality settings, the F100 provided a better than average standard of image quality throughout testing. Although it's not as sharp as most larger cameras, the quality it is capable of is still impressive.
There were only minor problems with chromatic aberrations and although the noise levels at ISO 800 were bad, it is good of Minolta to at least provide the option for people to use it. Noise levels at ISO100 and 200 were hard to fault and ISO400 is usable.
Colour accuracy is commendable for a compact camera of this type and you're unlikely to have many problems in this area. The provision of a custom white balance mode improves the chances of getting a good accurately colourful shot. Also useful is the histogram facility which some other ultra compact camera manufacturers have left off their models. The metering and focussing systems are at a good standard, although the focussing system struggled in macro mode sometimes.
Viewed at 1:1 scale parts of the above image look soft. However at a normal viewing distance the image looks like it contains a lot of detail.
Again a close inspection of the above image reveals a slightly soft finish, but there is still enough detail provided for a good sized print.
The image below is a 1:1 crop of a section of the image above.
The digital compact market is already crowded and the F100 will be competing with a lot of other good cameras. However it has shown it has a lot to offer and is in a good position to compete due to the good image quality, handling, features and build quality that it offers.
It's a camera that can appeal to more advanced amateurs and beginners alike and is well worth putting down on your shortlist if you're after this type of camera. If image quality is very important to you, it would be sensible to look at some of the larger compact cameras available or consider a more prosumer digital camera such as the Minolta Dimage 7hi.
In summary the main positive points of the Minolta Dimage F100 are:
Nicely designed and well built body
Easy to use and comfortable to hold
Good range of features
High level of image quality
Fast to operate
Negative points are:
Noise levels at ISO800 are high
Minor instances of chromatic aberration
Slight softness to images
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