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Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z6 Digital Camera Review
by Ben Stafford -  10/17/2005

Introduction
The Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z6 is a 6 megapixel camera that features a 12x optical zoom and Konica Minolta's CCD-shift Anti-Shake system. The camera performs quickly with a fast auto focus system and minimal shutter lag. Manual modes provide a large range of control over images and the stabilized 12x optical zoom. However, I had problems with overexposure in a lot of my shots taken with default settings and shots were a bit too noisy.

konica minolta dimage z6
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In the Box
You'll find the camera, software, neck strap, 16MB SD card (yes, get a bigger one), lens cap, USB cable, and A/V cable.

Features
First, the basics - the Z6 is a 6 megapixel camera with a 12x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom. You can frame your shots using the electronic viewfinder (EVF) or the 2 inch LCD. The EVF has a diopter adjustment for sharpening the view when you use it.


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The big feature of this camera is Konica Minolta's Anti-Shake technology. In their implementation, the sensor actually moves to minimize the camera shake. This CCD-shift mechanism was first feature in Konica Minolta's DiMAGE A series and is included in the Maxxum 7D digital SLR. I found it to be very effective. You can even see the difference when you zoom in on a subject and depress the shutter halfway. You'll immediately see the minor shakes disappear and the image move smoothly. If you put your ear up to the camera while in this state, you can hear the mechanism inside.

The camera does start up quickly, especially given the large lens that needs to extend from the camera. The start up time is around one second. Shutter lag is minimal and I had no problems catching kids on swings at the point in their arc that I was aiming for. If you need to whip out the camera for an impromptu moment, don't forget to take off the lens cap. I found that the lens cap does come off easily, so make sure to use Konica Minolta's neck strap that lets you attach the lens cap.

The lens has a focal length of 35 -- 420 mm (35 mm equivalent). In normal shooting mode, the focus range starts at 2 feet (at wide angle) and 5.2 feet (at full telephoto). In Macro mode, you can shoot at subjects as close 3.9 inches at wide angle and 47.2 inches at full telephoto. In Super Macro mode, the camera fixes the focal length and you can focus on subjects as little as 0.4 inches away.

The Z6 has several scene modes to choose from: Night Scene, Portrait, Action, Landscape, and Sunset. There are also several modes that offer degrees of manual control. There is a full manual mode (M on the mode dial), aperture-priority (A on the mode dial), shutter-priority (S on the dial) and Program exposure mode (P on the mode dial). The other two items on the mode dial are the Auto and Movie modes.

The Auto mode, by default, attempts to detect the type of shot that you are shooting and can activate the settings appropriate for that mode. When you view the image on the LCD, you will see grayed-out icons for Portrait, Landscape, Action, and Sunset modes. Depending on the composition, the camera may choose one of these modes and highlight it when you depress the shutter button partway. If you want to disable this feature, just activate the menu using the Menu button and turn off the "Auto DSP" mode.

Images can be captured at 2816x2112, 2272X1704, 1600x1200, and 640x480. There are also 3 compression settings: Fine, Standard, and Economy.

The ISO sensitivity can be adjusted in any of the manual modes (P, A, S, and M modes) by using the menu system -- you can choose Auto, 50, 100, 200, or 320. Exposure compensation (EV compensation) can be set by using the left and right directions on the directional pad (this isn't labeled, so you just have to read your manual to know this) or once you choose to change the Drive Mode to "Bracketing" from -2 to +2 at 1/3 stop increments. The white balance can also be set in any mode, choose from Auto, Custom Set, Custom Recall, Sunlight, Cloudy, Fluorescent, Flash, and Tungsten.

The Z6 will let you capture pictures in NaturalColor, Vivid Color, B&W, and Sepia. You can also adjust the sharpness with three levels: Hard, Normal, and Soft. Contrast can be adjusted to High, Normal, and Low.

The built-in flash has a range up to 0.7 feet -- 11.8 feet when taking wide angle shots and 3.9 feet -- 7.2 feet at full telephoto. The flash modes are Auto, Auto & Red-eye reduction, Fill flash, slow-shutter sync, and Flash off. The Auto mode is disabled in A, S, and M modes. You can also adjust the Flash compensation from -2 to +2 at 1/3 stop increments.

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There are several "drive" modes on the Z6:
Single frame
Self-timer- You can set the interval to 2 seconds or 10 seconds.
Continuous mode - Captures images as long as you have memory and the shutter are pressed down. Images will be captured at approximately 1.8 fps
Progressive Capture -- Will capture images while you hold down the shutter (like Continuous mode), but once you release the shutter, it will only save the previous 10 images.

The images and movies that you shoot with the Z6 are stored on a SD/MMC card. The access door just flips open (there is no latching mechanism) and doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in its longevity.

The lengths of movies are limited only by storage capacity. They can be captured at a resolution of 320x240 pixels at 30 fps and 15 fps. You can also set the white balance, enable or disable Anti-Shake, toggle between Standard and Night Movie, set the focus mode and set the color mode when capturing movies.

The Z6 uses 4 AA sized batteries. Konica Minolta claims that the Z6 can achieve 420 shots when using high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries. I tested using fully charged, 2400 mAh NiMH batteries. Using the LCD about 90% of the time, flash about 10% of the time, Anti-Shake on all the time and doing a lot of menu navigation as I write this review, I took around 150 pictures. Then, I set the camera on Continuous mode, with flash, Anti-Shake on and the LCD on and took more than 500 shots at VGA size while throwing in a couple several minute videos. After my finger cramped and I gave up, I can safely say that Konica Minolta's claim on battery life is well-founded.

The menu system is easy to use and navigate. Once you enter the menu (by pressing the Menu button, of course), there are a varying number of numbered tabs, depending on the mode that you're in. There is always access to the "setup" menu in addition to the numbered tabs. One nice thing about the menu is that all the options are on one screen, there are no options off the screen that you have to scroll to. I'm not a big fan of the shape/location of the directional pad (with a confirmation button in the middle), but it's a matter of comfort, it's even hard to put into words what I don't like about it.

 

Form & Design
In the ultra zoom field of cameras, you're just not going to find a camera that fits (comfortably) in a pocket. I'm sure it can be pocketed, but it won't be pretty. In fact, with a lens cover that pops off, you really shouldn't pocket the Z6. Also, Konica Minolta includes a neck strap to carry this guy (another hint that you really shouldn't try to put it in a pocket). That said, the camera is not at all hard to handle -- I would even say that this camera is much more comfortable to hold than the Canon A95 I own.

The battery compartment on the right of the camera is meant to be the main handhold of the camera. The body is slightly rubberized and it fits in your hand well. Also, the camera is not heavy and comfortable to hold for long periods of time.


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The body is plastic, but is solid. I don't hear any "creaking" parts when the camera is gripped tightly. I am not confident in the memory card access door. There is no latching mechanism and the door just flips open.

You can't say that the lens is unobtrusive, but what do you expect when you get a 12x zoom! The flash on the camera has to be manually opened up and there is a hotshoe to attach a higher-powered optional flash.

Along the top of the camera are the shooting mode dial, the shutter release button, the macro button, the flash mode button, and the flash and hotshoe (with cover).


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On the back of the camera, you'll see the viewfinder -- with diopter adjustment, the LCD, directional pad, and zoom button. Below the LCD, you'll see the power button and the switch that activate the EVF, the LCD, or playback mode. Below the directional pad, you'll find the Mode button, the Quick View / Delete button, and the Information button.

The bottom of the camera has the doors to access the battery and memory card. There is also a tripod mount in line with the lens.

On the left side of the camera is the rubber flap which covers the jack for the USB cable and the jack to plug in a 6 volt DC power source.

Image Quality
The image quality of the Z6 was ok. I experienced a lot of cases of overexposure. A lot of the images lacked fine detail and clean edges on items in the frame, like blades of grass or other plants in the frame. I also noticed higher than average noise in the images.

I took a lot of shots on a clear, autumn day and in many shots the blue sky was completely overexposed, almost white (see the tree picture below). Now, most of the shots that I took were taken in Auto mode, so once you get to know the camera, you might want to adjust how the metering is done and use center-weighted instead of multi-segment metering and bracket your exposure that way. The upside of the overexposure is that dark areas in the picture did show detail. There always has to be a balance between the light and dark areas of an image and it just seems that this camera tends to overexpose the highlights. In shots with lower light, the image quality was much better. The noise was still there, but the detail was much better (see the cat picture).


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The zoom was very impressive and the Anti-Shake makes 12x zoomed pictures possible when hand-holding.


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Full optical zoom [larger] [fullsize]

Macro shots also came out well with plenty of detail and being able to get so close with the Super Macro was pretty impressive.


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Noise seems to be a bit higher than usual. It's ok at ISO 50 and 100 but pretty noticeable at ISO 200 and 320.

Below is a comparison with the Canon A95 on an indoor shot.  The Z6 has higher noise and washed out colors.


Indoor with Z6 [larger] [fullsize]


Indoor with Canon A95 [larger] [fullsize]

Conclusion
The Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z6 is a good option in the field of point and shoot, ultra zoom cameras. The quick auto focus, minimal shutter lag, excellent battery life, great 12x zoom, and excellent Anti-Shake feature makes the mid-$300 price tag very reasonable. Since I liked the way this camera operated so much, I really wanted it to perform well in the image quality department, but the overexposure, lack of detail, and higher than average noise are pretty apparent.

This camera is a good option for folks who don't mind a non-pocketable camera and want to really utilize the ultra zoom. It would be a great camera to take a shot of the bench at a football game (as long as you're not 100 rows away) or before a play starts.

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