Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


 

Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2 Experience Report

A review diary by Uwe Steinmueller @Digital Outback Photo

Also photos by Bettina Steinmueller

 

 

 

 
This review will be written again in the form of a diary. Most recent findings on top.
 
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Note: This review is written from the perspective of a long time digital SLR user.
 
 
 

Note on image processing:

Because the DiMAGE A2 can be used in raw without to much waiting for the data to be written to the card (not true for all the other 8MP digicams we tested so far) we work mostly using raw and use a version of Camera Raw 2.2 for Photoshop CS for conversion.

 

Most images are also sharpened using Simple Sharpening.

 

 
5/30/2004 Camera is back
 

The DiMAGEA2 is back to Konica Minolta.

Summary

If we would select from the current 8MP digicam crop we would select the A2 for our use. Why?

  • Highest level of usability
  • Using raw files with this camera is ok (with the Nikon 8700, Sony 828 and Olympus 8080 it is a pain. The Canon Pro 1 is also still much slower)
  • Image quality is good (although we think that the Pro 1 and 8700 have a slight edge, we did not use the 8080 to make final judgments)

Konica Minolta has an innovative winner here.

 

 
5/12/2004 A2 and old 340MB Microdrives
 
The A2 does not work with our old (close to 4 years) 340MB microdrives. Maybe the power requirements are to high. Works just fine with our 1GB microdrive.
 

 
5/8/2004 A2 in Yosemite
 
We published our first comparison portfolio photo where we photographed the same scene with the A2 and three other cameras.
 
 

 
5/4/2004 Noise Check
 


Test object

Note: we know that this shot has blown out highlights (which we otherwise always avoid). Unfortunately the building was partially in sun and we wanted only to check the noise in the window which was in the shadow.

Images were processed in ACR 2.2 with color noise removal set to 25 and sharpened (we would normally use a sharpening variant that uses an edge mask but in this case the sharpening brings out the noise).

 


ISO 64

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 400

Overall the images at ISO 64/100 are quite ok, the ISO200 shot just usable and at ISO 400 you would need a tool like Noise Ninja to reduce the noise.

 

 
5/3/2004 Working with raw files
 

Because the A2 is the only 8MP digicam that makes working with raw files fun (all the other cameras slow down the photography way to much, the next best is the Canon Pro1) Currently we know three options to work with A2 raw files:

DiMAGE Viewer (free with the camera)

This raw converter is way to slow to work with. So we did not spend a lot of time with it.

Adobe Camera Raw 2.2

This is the standard raw converter we use for the A2. But some reported "zig-zag color banding in the shadows" with the new version 2.2 (not there in 2.1).

Dalibor's MRWFormat


Dalibor's MRWFormat

It always surprises me what single talented people can do. Dalibor's raw converter is a Photoshop (works also in PS Elements 2.0) plugin. MRWFormat does a good job in my opinion. With version older than 1.6 there were some ugly artifacts with clipped (overexposed) highlights: they turned pink. Dalibor added a highlight fix for that in his latest version 1.6.

Note: Remember if you overexpose and data get clipped any raw converter can make only a guess about colors. Try to avoid any high contrast scenes and avoid overexposure as much as you can. The A2's live histogram is a great help to get the exposure right.

MRWFormat is quite fast and allows great control on your image. A unique feature is the possibility to select the interpolation algorithm used. You have to be aware that the image preview is not color managed. That means you see different colors later in Photoshop.

With some interpolation algorithms MRWFormat is fully functional even in the free demo version and the full version is easily worth its $20. We think MRWFormat is essential to every A2 user that plans to use raw files.

Being able to use raw files with the A2 is a very strong argument in favor of this camera compared to all the other 8MP digicams.

Note: Due to a limitation in Photoshop you can only use one raw file format plugin for the A2 at any time (either ACR or MRWFormat). If you want to use ACR you can either use "Open as" and select Camera Raw or disable MRWFormat by renaming it to ~MRWFormat.

 

 
4/30/2004 First real world test shots
 

We really like the handling of the Sony F828 but it failed big time in the the following areas:

- Purple fringing
- Poor EVF
- Very poor handling with raw files

Our first impression of the A2 is that although it is much smaller it handles extremely well. We won't praise the EVF now (EVFs are not nearly in the league of good optical viewfinders yet) but the A2's is much better than the EVF of the F828. This is also the first 8MP digicam we used that handles raw files very well due to a good write buffer implementation. From all the 8MP digicams (Nikon 8700, Canon Pro1, Sony F828 and we also know the Olympus 8080 a bit) the A2 has clearly the best feel and handling.

First test shots

Note: All shots from raw (converted in ACR 2.2) , sharpened with Simple Sharpening and some are cropped and corrected for perspective in Photoshop.


Los Gatos Ristorante


Crop at 100% magnification

Color is fine and detail ok. We don't use resolution charts but think that the images may be slightly softer than the Canon Pro1 or Nikon 8700 photos. But we also have to get used to the A2 autofocus system. Overall the A2 did just fine.

This image shows some slight chromatic aberration (CA)


Preview at 200% magnification (not sharpened)

You realize the purple/green fringing. This is the result of minor lens faults. They are hard to correct for a 7x zoom and if at this low level they are no big deal.

But because we shot raw we can use ACR's CA removal tool:


CA removal settings in ACR 2.2


Preview at 200% magnification after correction (not sharpened)

Note: CA depends on the focal length of the lens. This means you cannot reuse these settings at a different focal length.

So far we only found CA with the A2 and not the extensive purple fringing like on the F828 which even showed up in the center of the image.


Los Gatos Antique Store


Crop at 100% magnification

The first round with the A2 was more fun than using any of the other 8MP cameras. There is not only a lot of technology innovation in this camera like:

  • Anti Shake
  • High resolution EVF

but also a lot of good engineering towards usability:

  • Two scroll wheels for aperture and shutter speed (old hat of course for digital SLRs)
  • Swivel viewfinder
  • Good feeling in our hands even at that small form factor
  • Automatic switch viewfinder/LCD
  • Fast raw file handling

We are at a good start here.

 

 

 
4/29/2004 Dimage A2 in
 

Just received today a review sample of the Dimage A2.

Our very initial test shots and handling showed that the A2 is very well thought out for good handling (we don't even have a manual). Also the first 8MP digicam that can be used in raw and still handles reasonable fast.

 
 

Digital Outback Camera Evaluation Chart Konica Minolta DiMAGE A2

Criterion
Description
Prio
DiMAGE A2
 
View Finder
Quality of the electronic Viewfinder
1
poor
better
Swivel Viewfinder The Konica Minolta has a nice Swivel Viewfinder
2
no yes (love it)
Swivel LCD Swivel LCD can help viewing the LCD better
2
not need due to swivel body design yes (only up down)
Resolution
How much detail can be represented
1
good
good
Color Quality
How well are colors rendered
1
good
good
WB
How well works the automatic white balance
1
good
good
Noise
Best detail does not help if you get too much noise. But we would not get noise neurotic either.
2
ok
ok
CA
Chromatic aberration shown
1
sometimes severe
low
Purple Fringing
Extra purple fringing beyond CA
1
sometimes severe
low
Lens Range
What range is covered by the zoom (in 35mm equivalent)
1
28-200mm (good range)
28-200mm (good range)
Manual Zoom Ring Manual zoom rings feel nicer than electronic controls
2
excellent very good

Manual Focus Ring

Manual focus rings feel nicer than electronic controls
2
yes (don't think the EVF is good for manual focusing though) yes
Live Histogram
Showing a live histogram. Featuring a live histogram for all 3 color channels would be even better.
1
good (luminance)
yes
Raw recording
How well is the use of Raw supported
1
poor (8-10 secs for each file the camera is blocked)
Records to a buffer, good
Raw SW
Manufacturers Raw software. Many raw files can be opened by Adobe Camera Raw in Photoshop CS
1/2
poor (8bit only)
mot that goos (we use Photoshop ACR 2.2)
Flash
We are no experts on flash
1
ok
not tested yet
Flash Synch If you work a lot with flash check the flash connectors and flash synch speed
2
not tested not tested
RGBG/RGBE
Does the sensor use the classic three color RGBG Bayer pattern or like the Sony F282 a new four color RGBE pattern
n/a
RGBE
RGBG
Sensor Sensor type and manufacturer
n/a
Sony 8MP CCD Sony 8MP CCD
Startup Time to power up the camera
2
ok ok
Shutter lag Delay from pressing the shutter till the picture is taken
1
significant ok
Autofocus Autofocus quality (low light, low contrast)
1
good ok
AF Speed Autofocus speed
1
ok ok
Size Smaller does not mean better
1
excellent small, feels good in our hands
Handling How does the camera feel in use. This is very subjective.
1
good excellent
Lens hood Lens hood is critical for best lens performance
1
in the box in the box
2 dials For good handling you need 2 dial for shutter speed and f-stop
1
no yes!
1/3 f-stops Be able to control f-stops by 1/3 EV in manual mode
1
yes yes
1/3 shutter Be able to control shutter speed by 1/3 EV in manual mode
1
yes yes
 

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