We have been waiting for a long time for this to happen. Konica Minolta has launched the long awaited camera Dynax 7D. What was the expectation about and what does Minolta stand for in the SLR world? I’m sure there are some digital photographers who are not truly aware of the recognition of this company. Here are some facts. They made their first camera Nifcalette in 1929. Minolta SR-2 was their first SLR camera and was made in 1958. It was with the cameras SRT-101 and SRT-303 that convinced users from all over the world that Minolta can design excellent cameras. In 1973, they have tried to surpass Cannon with a great system camera XM, which was at the time far behind Nikon in the class of professional cameras. This was also the year when Minolta gained huge recognition thanks to their cooperation with Leica, for which they were the first to make cameras. The cameras Leica R3, R4 and R5 were all coming from Minolta’s factories.
In 1976 Minolta introduced the model XD7, the first SLR camera ever with aperture and shutter priority modes. Furthermore, the year 1985 will always be an important milestone for Minolta. It was at that time that they launched the camera Minolta 7000, the first SLR camera with auto focusing. In the following years, Minolta kept introducing interesting innovations. In 2004 they have merged with Konica and many photographers will still have to adapt to the new company, Konica Minolta.
These are a few historical facts, which might be worth of consideration to younger photographers, who are not aware of many experiences that companies such as Konica Minolta have in manufacturing SLR cameras and other innovations. It is not surprising that when you take the new DSLR camera Dynax 7D into your hands, you get a very positive feeling.
Dynax 7D is not their first DSLR camera though. In 1996 they have introduced the camera RD-175, made in cooperation with Agfa. However it was obvious that the camera was merely a logical answer to Kodak, Fuji and Canon and famous Nikon bodies.
The body and the kit lens are nice to look at and perform well. The feeling when holding the Dynax 7D is great and at least one step ahead of competitors.
At the beginning of 2004, the company’s representatives have promised me I will be able to use the camera on the Photokina. After the official introduction I was already able to make the first few shots and to make my initial feelings about the camera. The number 7 must really be Minolta’s happy number. I wonder if it still holds true in the new company Konica Minolta. In general, they have managed to always offer users what they demanded. There are 16 million of their lenses in use now. Many owners of these lenses were waiting for the right DSLR body to invest into.
Here is my opinion. If you are familiar with Minolta’s SLR cameras and you already own some A-type lenses, then there is no question about it. The Dynax 7D is the camera that will suit you just right. It is true as much for the body as for the usability of the system and the quality of the picture. However keep in mind that its CCD measures 23.5mm x 15.7mm and has 6.1M pixels, so it is not meant for professional use where large prints are needed. But for taking photos to the lab or to print them at home, the number of pixels will be satisfiable for at least the photos of 30x40cm. The camera features advanced algorithms for image manipulation and so it is quite possible to achieve quality prints of even larger formats.
High-quality and huge 2.5” LCD screen are of great value. More info about the AS system will be available when we become more familiar to it.
Body and settings
Everyone who is familiar with bodies of SLR cameras can tell without hesitation that the body of the Dynax 7D is one step before its competitors. It is made from magnesium alloy, with great ergonomics and usability. Its size is 150 x 106 x 77.5mm and it weighs 800g with battery and memory card included. Excellent design and a number of buttons make it possible to switch between functions in a no time. Even though there are so many buttons there, they are very intuitive. The learning curve is even steeper for existent users of Minolta’s SLR bodies. The grip is also very well built. Among new digital components on the body there is a huge 2.5” LCD screen with the resolution of 207.000 pixels. It gives you a feeling of watching a small TV. It is very convenient to check various settings and especially for previewing your photos. One nice feature is automatic rotation of images when you hold the camera vertically.
The screen shows all needed information. Besides image preview, one can check the histogram, with under/over exposure warnings; there is also a possibility of 5x zooming so one can be sure if the focus is on the spot.
There is no need to talk extensively about autofocusing. The company which was the first to include AF in a SLR camera, made a good focusing system in this new camera. It features 9 focusing points and four focusing modes: AF-S (single) for static objects, AF-C (continuous) for moving objects, AF-A (automatic) for automatic recognition of movements and M mode, which stands for manual. Switching between AF and M modes can be done also by pressing the button on the back of the camera.
Shutter times are available from 30 to 1/4000 sec and there is also B mode. Sync time is 1/125 sec, but interestingly when using AS it is 1/160 sec.
For an experienced photographer and for Minolta’s fans this camera deserves respect even at the first glance. I am sure that Minolta managed to satisfy a lot of users of film cameras with this new Dynax 7D.
The viewfinder is very bright and shows 95% frame coverage. (For fresh photographers, unfamiliar with SLR system: information about frame coverage is often quite representative about the class the camera belongs to.) The camera can shoot RAW+JPEG files simultaneously. In burst shooting it is limited to 3 frames per second and 9 in a row (RAW+JPEG). In JPEG Extra Fine one can shoot up to 12 frames and 15 frames in Fine mode. Good algorithms, fast processor Advanced LSI and technology CxProcess III make fast processing possible and ensure that photos are of high quality with very low noise even at high ISO values (settings of ISO 100-3200 are possible). There is a function NR, noise reduction, which is activated at exposures longer than 1 sec.
The camera features a lot of buttons for various settings so one rarely needs to browse through the menus at all. However it is true that you have to get used to all the buttons to avoid unwanted mistakes. Exposure compensation button at the top left corner can be a bit slow to operate, but a retro feel is not bad at all and might be very appreciated for long-time photographers. The camera has spot metering. This is the function that is important to so many users. How important it really is one has to decide for himself.
The kit lens Konica Minolta AF 17-35mm f/2.8-4 performed reasonably well. I have also tried two other lenses, the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro and Sigma 75-300mm f/4-5.6.
Most of the features of the Dynax 7D is well known to photographers using cameras Dimage A. Therefore if you are interested in light metering modes, menu settings or other functions, you are kindly invited to appropriate reviews or to their respective manuals.
The camera is well protected. The bottom side is covered with rubber also.
I was most interested how the Dynax 7D performed in use, so its technical specifications will only be mentioned in connection with photos. Some photos are available in full size (where noted). I have tested the Konica Minolta Dynax 7D in comparison to the Nikon D70. The AS system was compared to Canon’s IS technology. I was also able to provide a review of Konica Minolta’s macro flash system.
The Dynax 7D and the two-head macro flash.
The settings on the menu are very clear.
Few words about AS (AntiShake) system for image stabilization. It is a feature that Konica Minolta has presented with Dimage A1, A2 and Z3 cameras, where this system performed very well. I have compared the AS to Canon’s IS (Image Stabilizer) system, which is located in the lens. There are differences in the way these systems work. Canon’s IS is moving a group of lenses, whereas AS of Konica Minolta works by moving the CCD. However the results achieved are very similar for both systems. I didn’t notice any differences. There is one important thing to be aware of. The sensor in the Dynax 7D is moving for 9mm diagonally. This means that full frame 35mm sensors are not possible with it, because the sensor wouldn’t be able to capture the whole frame. With this is mind, Konica Minolta cannot make “digital” lenses, designed for smaller sensors. Their lenses must project a bigger circle, than lenses which are design for smaller sensors.
Which system is better? With regard that the AS system is known from Dimage A1 and works flawlessly through all these years, there is no fear about the reliability. It does however bring one great advantage – the system works with all lenses. There is no need to buy special lenses with image stabilization. After many tests it is pretty obvious that the AS is quite equal to the IS system.
Back of the camera with visible CCD sensor and AS system.
When I asked Olympus engineers about which system is better or more usable and cheaper, they said AS was better. Canon representative has also confirmed that they are researching this technology. It all comes to what is cheaper to produce. Why make expensive IS lenses, if this can be done in-camera? Of course only time will tell. What is good for us, users, is more options and new innovations, which help us achieve better photos. I believe that next year, we will get some very attractive technologies in our cameras.
So far I can only tell good things about the AS system, at least until it is more thoroughly tested and more user’s opinions are created. It really is quite amazing. Konica Minolta has once again proved with this AS system that they are ambitious and can be counted on. This is one of the most obvious features that will bring new customers, especially those Minolta users who have been waiting for so long. A wider choice of cameras is good for everybody. And just a reminder for newcomers to the DSLR world: you are buying a system, not only a body as in a compact class digicams. With Konica Minolta you get lot. A huge system of flashes, macro flashes, accessories, etc. and approx. 40 lenses to choose from. Of course you have to consider the lenses and accessories of other independent manufacturers, too.
The built-in flash raises high above the body, so even larger lenses don’t block the light.
When the battery grip is added, holding the camera becomes even better. The battery grip can be used with two Li-Ion batteries or six AA batteries. The body of the camera is a proof of many years of experiences of Minolta’s engineers. The extra grip has a shutter release button to be used when holding the camera vertically, there is also a possibility of setting some general functions with it.
Two Li-Ion batteries (NP-400) can be used with the grip. There is also a special adapter for 6 AA batteries.
A few details. (Top left) You can see the reflection of 9 focusing points on the mirror. (Top right) Thin rubber covers the connection for external flashes and for charger, this is perhaps the worst part of the camera. Below is an opening for connecting the controlling trigger, hidden behind solid plastic doors. I wonder why the upper connections are so badly protected. (Bottom left) The CFI/II compartment is well protected by the doors. Next to it is a USB port. (Bottom right) The upper button functions as a lens release switch, below is a four-function button for various focusing modes. Manual focusing can be activated with a button at the top right back side of the camera.
I have tested the Dynax 7D with lenses Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro and Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6, too. It is great to have image stabilization in the body so it can be used with all lenses that have Minolta mount.
Test Samples - All full sized if you CLICK on photo
100ISO, 2 seconds, without NR
400ISO, 2 seconds, without NR
1600ISO, 2 seconds, without NR
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