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Konica Minolta Dynax 5D Digital SLR Review

| Minolta Dynax 5D Digital SLR in Digital SLRs
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Following in the footsteps of Konica Minolta’s first DSLR, the 7D, comes the new Maxxum/Dynax 5D, which is aimed at the lower end of the digital SLR market and pitched against the likes of Canon’s 350D, Nikon’s D50 and the Pentax *istDL. These are all good acts to follow and, as we said in the review of the 7D, Konica Minolta have had the opportunity to avoid the pitfalls highlighted by their competitors earlier entry into this field. Here we take a look at how the 5D shapes up.

Konica Minolta Dynax 5DKonica Minolta 5D Specification

  • 6.1 megapixel CCD
  • 2.5" TFT
  • Compact Flash Type I/II and Microdrive compatible
  • Eye Level Fixed Glass Pentaprism
  • 14 Segment Honeycomb, centre weighted and spot metering
  • Anti-Shake system
  • ISO 100/200/400/800/1600/3200 + Lo80, Hi200
  • Program, Aperture-Priority, Shutter-Priority and Manual exposure modes + five scene modes
  • Exposure and flash compensation
  • Shutter speeds: 30sec to 1/4000sec + bulb
  • File formats: JPEG (3 levels) RAW and RAW+Jpeg
  • Flash Guide number 12 (ISO100/m)
  • USB 2.0 interfaces
  • Lithium-ion battery, optional AC adaptor (AC-1L)
  • NTSC and PAL video
  • Dimensions: 130x93x66.5mm
  • Weight: 590g without battery or CF card
  • Box contents: Dynax 5D Body, USB-2 Cable, Video Cable (VC-500), Lithium-ion Battery Pack (NP-400), Lithium-ion Battery Charger (BC-400), Wide Shoulder Strap (WS-4), Eyepiece cap, body cap, shoe cap, Software CD-ROM, Instruction Manuals, Warranty Card

Konica Minolta Dynax 5DWhere the Konica Minolta Dynax 5D fits in the marketplace
With a list price of just under £600 (and available for much less here) the Dynax 5D is an entry level DSLR aimed at capturing upgraders from compact digital cameras as well as those moving from film to digital for the first time.

Despite this, it's a very capable camera with enough bells and whistles to satisfy even the more advanced amateur photographers. The build quality appears to be above that of much of the competition with a solid feel to it, despite the reduction in size and weight over its bigger brother, the 7D. What hasn’t changed is the large and useful LCD that still has the same dimensions, the battery is compatible and the 5D still uses CF cards that are widely available and slightly cheaper than some of the opposition’s SD format storage media. There is, however, a reduction in the number of control devices, thankfully the more fiddly ones, making a number of adjustments easier to perform if you have larger hands. The addition of five scene specific modes also helps those who are moving from compact cameras into the changeable lens world without previous SLR experience.

Konica Minolta Dynax 5DKonica Minolta Dynax 5D handling
Although smaller in all dimensions than the 7D and some 170grams lighter, the 5D still feels substantial and well built with a comfortable grip and rubberised finger and thumb areas. The rear of the camera is dominated by the large LCD screen, which it has inherited from its bigger brother and retains the ability to change the size of the text to accommodate those with sight problems. The menu system is extremely intuitive and straightforward, being accessed by the top of the four buttons that are alongside the LCD screen and navigated by the multi-purpose rocker wheel to the right of the screen. The other three buttons are for bracketing, deleting and reviewing respectively. Below right of the wheel is an on/off switch for the Anti-Shake system, more of which later.

The viewfinder has a large rubber surround that helps protect those with spectacles better than most, however, the eye has to be placed accurately in order to see all of the information in the viewfinder. Most of the relevant information is there though. A dioptre adjuster is set into the right edge of the surround, allowing adjustments from –2.5 to +1.

To the left of the viewfinder is the on/off switch, a positive slide/click affair that feels robust enough. To the right are three buttons for setting functions, exposure compensation and exposure lock. Two of these also double as zoom buttons in the review mode.

Konica Minolta Dynax 5DThe top of the camera sports six controls, two dials, a wheel and three buttons - one of which is the shutter release. The right hand dial sets the mode the camera works in and has settings for the normal PASM, Auto and the five scene modes. The dial on the left is dedicated to setting the white balance with four modes, three of which are adjustable through the LCD by pressing the central button on top of the dial.

Two press buttons allow the adjustment of ISO and shooting parameters, both lighting up the LCD with the rocker wheel doing the adjustments and confirmation. In front of the shutter release button is the control wheel for shifting the priority setting depending on the mode selected.

The front of the camera contains only a depth-of-field preview button and the lens release lock with the AF/MF switch to the left side of it.

The camera also has two small rubber doors, the covers of which seemed a little fragile. One, on the left side of the body is for the dedicated shutter release cable and the second, on the rear below the rocker wheel is for the AC in adaptor. The Right side of the handgrip sports the CompactFlash compartment door with a positive click and lift mechanism. The compartment also contains a USB2 output socket.

Overall the controls are well laid out and I found I knew what all the controls did and I could make them do it within an hour of playing with the camera. All without reference to the well detailed manual or CD.

Konica Minolta Dynax 5D modes and features
Although sporting fewer custom functions thans its big brother, the 5D doesn't leave you short of choices . The camera has enough settings to keep most photographers - beginners or the more advanced -relatively happy. Program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual (PASM) are all there and are complimented by auto, portrait, action, landscape, sunset and night modes for those needing a little help in deciding the settings.

Main menu
The menu button activates the LCD where you have access to four sets of screens to adjust camera settings, playback settings, exposure settings and recording parameters.
The function button also activates the screen to allow selection of focus area, focus mode, metering mode, flash compensation and colour choice.
All of these parameters are easily adjustable with the rocker wheel by pressing it in eight different directions and qualifying the selection with the centre button of the wheel, an action which also turns off the screen. Should you need to adjust more than one parameter, you will need to turn the screen on again.

Playback mode
The 2.5in LCD is ideal to preview images, especially when you use the 4.7x magnifier that scrolls so you can pinpoint a section and check sharpness with ease. You can also set the camera up to display 4, 9 or 16 index frames or work in slide show mode which all makes it easier to find photos and check quality quickly.

Pushing the rear rocker wheel left or right flicks through the images stored on the card, while up shows various information about the photo including a histogram, highlights, under exposure and exposure information, and down rotates the image. Zooming is achieved with the Fn and AV buttons to the right of the viewfinder. Through the menu system you can adjust the brightness of the screen, another handy capability.

Shooting mode
A half press of the shutter button overrides all other functions in order to select shooting mode. This is also the mode that the camera will start up in when turned on and the delay is minimal, being ready to shoot almost instantly. Which particular shooting mode is selected by the dial on the right of the pentaprism while white balance is set with the dial on the left. Frame rate and ISO are set with the two buttons behind the shutter release and all the other function are set with a press of the Fn button on the right of the viewfinder followed by navigation with the rocker wheel through the on-screen icons and qualifying with the centre button.

Autofocus is achieved by nine sensor points, a big jump on the opposition, and they are selected with the rocker wheel at the eight compass points plus the centre button for the centre sensor. I found it was worth checking which point is selected as it is easy to touch the rocker wheel in handling and move it from the one last used.

Continuous shooting achieved seven frames in just over two seconds with only a further three frames recorded by the ten-second mark. It took another 15 seconds to clear the buffer with a standard card although, with a Lexar 80x WA card, the camera managed 16 frames in the 10 seconds and needed only another four seconds to clear the buffer. (All timings approximate and shot at the large fine jpeg setting.) There is a number that shows in the viewfinder for the amount of frames available to the buffer and at this setting it never went above three. However, to find an indication of how many more frames can be written to the card, you have to activate the rear screen with the display button.

One nice touch is the shutter delay settings, in which you can select delays of two or ten seconds. On tripping the shutter the mirror flips up and stays there during the delay, effectively giving a usable mirror lock-up.

Anti-shake system
The Dynax 5D has an innovative feature that was first introduced on Konica Minolta's consumer digital cameras such as the A1 and Z3 and its big brother, the 7D. Where other brands incorporate a camera shake reduction system in their lenses, this one is built in to the camera so all the lenses of the existing Dynax range will work with it. You can turn this on or off as you please with the switch on the rear and when on you see what can only be described as a small bar graph on the bottom right of the viewfinder display.

When the graph shows just the single small bar, you are holding the camera as still as possible and the anti-shake will take care of any movement. As this is the only indication of whether the system is working it is a little un-nerving, especially as the accompanying sizzle from the 7D has been silenced! It is effective though and the little graph does concentrate the mind on keeping the camera still which is a further advantage.

Picture quality
The camera can be set to take images at ISO100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200 equivalents and in addition there are settings for Lo80 and Hi200 for low and high key subjects respectively. The camera can record pictures in three sizes, L (3008x2000), M(2256x1496) and S(1504x1000) and in five formats, RAW, RAW + Jpeg, X Fine, Fine and standard Jpeg, all set through the record menu. There is a noise reduction setting in camera but for the most part I did not find the necessity to use it.

Picture quality is a combination of factors including the performance of the sensor, lens, exposure and processing method. The following results were obtained using the camera in Jpeg large, X-fine mode. The lens used is Konica Minolta’s 50mm f/2.8 Macro (D) lens that has proved to be one of the most consistent lenses across the aperture range.

In the accompanying picture comparisons, the crop area has been chosen to show up the maximum amount of noise and shows that up to ISO800 the camera is very useable and, with a little post production work with a dedicated software program, ISO1600 has possibilities too although there is still more than acceptable noise in the ISO3200 setting. Overall though, the control is exceptionally good for a CCD sensor. 
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
Studio shot with WB manually set to 3200Kº. Crop area marked
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
ISO3200 with noise reduction

The dodgy Auto White Balance of the 7D has been improved on and for many scenes was adequate although it did still struggle when it came to tungsten lighting. However, once you know this it is comparatively easy to switch to manual settings and use either the manual presets, the custom WB using the spot meter or the Kelvin scale each of which are accessed by the dial to the left of the pentaprism. The Kelvin scale is adjustable in units of 100Kº and at 3200 came up spot on with my Interfit Tungsten 3200 lights. Far easier than trying to rescue in Photoshop!

Flash coverage from the pop-up flash unit, again with a guide number of 12 was also on par with the 7D although when taken to the extreme in curves did show a little fall off towards the edges of the frame but performed admirably as a fill flash and as a trigger for other units in manual modes. When the unit is in the raised position it will act as a focus assistant, giving a couple of flashes to help the autofocus. However, don’t expect the unit to pop up on it’s own in programmed modes as it is a manual only lift.Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
Off-white wall shot with flash, stretched in curves to show flash coverage.

Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
Contrasty scene without fill flash. 50mm lens and ISO100

Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
Contrasty scene with fill flash. 50mm lens and ISO100

Konica Minolta Maxxum / Dynax 5D sample photos. Cick on the photos to see the original files

Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
1/320sec at f/4.5 AF24-105mm f/3.5-4.5 lens at 105mm. Aperture priority, honeycomb metering. ISO100
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
1/2500 at f/5.6 AF100-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens at 200mm. Aperture Priority, honeycomb metering at ISO800
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
At 1/10sec the anti-shake made up for most of the movement on a cold night. F/5.6 on 50mm f/2.8 lens
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
By the time the shutter speed was down to 1/4sec at f/8 the anti-shake could not cope with the shivering of the operator. 50mm f/2.8 lens.
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D
1/400sec at f/8. AF100-300 f/4.5-5.6 lens at 300mm. Aperture priority, spot metering at ISO100

The Konica Minolta Dynax 5D, also known as the Maxxum 5D is a more than capable entry level camera and most more advanced amateurs will find that it does all that they need too. It certainly has features above and beyond most of the other entry level cameras available at present. A minor bugbear is having to light up the rear screen to find how many frames are available on the CF card.

The other item I missed was a top LCD, which is normally where you find the frame information, but also shutter speed and aperture settings.When the camera is mounted on a tripod, especially low down, you don’t really want to be looking through the viewfinder to check settings all the time and lighting up the screen may not be appropriate.

Other than those points, the camera is an excellent tool, made easy to use by the large LCD screen and sensible, uncluttered layout. The anti-shake is a helpful, if not mind-blowing feature and navigation through the features is not rocket science. The noise suppression is about the best I’ve seen on a CCD equipped camera, although the in camera noise reduction did not help a lot over the non reduced files. Easily usable up to ISO 800 though. Overall I enjoyed using it.

In summary, the positive points of the Konica Minolta Dynax 5D are:

Konica Minolta Dynax 5D Responsive, accurate, nine point autofocus
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D Excellent noise control
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D Easily navigated menu system. Easily understood.
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D Large, adjustable rear LCD
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D Improved metering over 7D
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D Anti-shake is a bonus and graph helps you concentrate on holding the camera still.
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D Flash works well

The negative points are:

Konica Minolta Dynax 5D Auto WB still not perfect
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D Lack of easily seen frame counter
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D Too easy to move AF point with rocker wheel accidentally
Konica Minolta Dynax 5D Card format still takes nine clicks!

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Test by Ian Andrews

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Photographs taken using the Minolta Minolta Dynax 5D Digital SLR

Gone Electric Mothernight timeRhonda Bull RingNorth of RhondaSail BordingAmeliaAnd if one Sea Gull - should accidentally fallpuffinsBoat House at Lynn Ogwen, N.WalesMuzzle Loading Rifle shoot on a nice dayUnpluggedgull in flight

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