So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z2
- Automatic modes
- Awkward design
The Z2 delivers a wealth of features for a cheap camera and turns out fairly nice photos. With a little practice, you should be able to get better images using its manual modes.
Price$ 689.95 (AUD)
The Konica Minolta DiMage Z2 has a space-age look. Its big, round, silver body houses a 10X zoom lens and is attached to the large battery-compartment-cum-right-hand-grip by a short stalk. Unfortunately, the size of the handgrip and the placement of the zoom control (at the back of the grip) make operating the Z2 one-handed difficult: It's awkward to hold on when your thumb is on the zoom switch. The controls, though poorly labeled, are logically placed and easy to work with.
This camera can record 800-by-600-pixel movies at 15 frames per second; if you drop down to 640 by 480 pixels, the frame rate doubles to 30 fps. Konica Minolta gave the Z2 a relatively small 1.5-inch LCD panel, but reading it in sunshine is easy enough. Interestingly, when you switch to using the optical viewfinder, a curtain slides over the LCD screen and the image is projected into the eyepiece.
Most of the Z2's higher-level exposure controls are located in the menu system, but it's neatly organized. Oddly, though you can set the instant photo review period to up to 10 seconds, you can't erase the image instantly. Instead, you have to wait until the camera has finished processing the image, and then switch to the quick-view mode before deleting it. In continuous mode you can take five consecutive shots, but a red light flashes for about 25 seconds while the camera writes all of the images to the memory card.
The Z2 complements its fully automatic capabilities with five scene modes, for portraits, sports, landscapes, sunsets, and nighttime portraits. It also has four manual modes that will appeal to more-experienced photographers. Aperture sizes and shutter speeds are easy to set with the left/right and up/down buttons. A live histogram display helps you to set the correct exposure. We see this option more and more frequently, but it remains the digital camera feature that photographers probably understand least.
The Z2 is has a shoe for external flash. But its design isn't standard, so a Konica Minolta flash is your only choice.
In our lab tests for image quality, the Z2 achieved mixed results. It did quite well in our flash test, producing natural-looking color and faithful skin tones with good overall exposure. In our still life shot, however, the Z2 turned out dull colors and lacked sharpness. Its shot of an outdoor scene was overexposed and somewhat fuzzy.
The Z2 did moderately well in our battery tests. It lasted for 2 hours, 18 minutes or 251 shots - but that's with four AA alkaline batteries.
We received a preproduction instruction manual with the Z2, but downloaded a final version in PDF format from the Konica Minolta Web site. Though it lacks an index, the manual provides thorough guidance on using the camera.
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