Konica Minolta introduced a new DSLR camera, the Dynax 5D. This is Konica-Minolta's second DSLR, following the mid-class Dynax 7D, which was introduced last October. The 5D's target audience are consumers, not professionals. Due to the relatively high price of the Dynax 7D, many photographers of Konica-Minolta's film SLR cameras were eagerly anticipating the 5D.
Why was it so eagerly anticipated and what does the Minolta brand mean in the SLR world?
To many young digital photographers, the Minolta brand is almost completely unknown. They produced their first camera, the Nifcalette, in 1929. In 1958, this was followed by their first SLR camera, the Minolta SR-2. The next two cameras, SRT-101 and SRT-303 made it clear to photographers around the world - Minolta is capable of making excellent cameras. In 1973, they introduced a professional system camera, the XM, with which they tried to take Canon's place as the second biggest professional camera manufacturer, behind Nikon. This was also the year when Minolta increased prices based on their ever increasing reputation, as they were entrusted with building the first SLRs for Leica. Leica R3, R4 and R5 were all built by Minolta.
In 1976, they introduced the XD7, world's first SLR camera to have both shutter and aperture priority. What happened next is well known. 1985 was a breakthrough year for Minolta. The Minolta 7000 was the first SLR camera with autofocus. It wasn't, of course, the only unique solution to be introduced by Minolta. After all, when John Glenn went into space as the first American astronaut, he had a Minolta Hi-matic camera with him.
In 2003, Minolta merged with Konica. It will take time for photographers, used to just Minolta, to accept this new name. Oddly enough, the Dynax 7D introduced at last year's Photokina was not their first DSLR camera. In 1996, they introduced the RD-175 DSLR camera, developed together with Agfa. Of course, we know what that was. It was merely a response to Kodak and Fuji using Canon and Nikon bodies.
History, in reasonable quantities, is always a good thing. This makes it possible for a young photographer who is only beginning to enter the world of photography to recognize what a history a company has. To put it simply, Konica Minolta has a long history of producing SLR cameras and innovative solutions. The fact that everybody got a good first impression when handling the Dynax 7D last year therefore comes as no surprise. The same goes for Dynax 5D. Clearly, its direct competitors are the lower-end DSLR cameras, such as Olympus E-300, Nikon D50, Pentax *ist DL and Canon EOS 350D.
|If you have experience with Minolta's SLR cameras and Minolta A mount lenses, there's no dilemma. Dynax 5D is the camera you've been looking for, unless you're willing to pay much more for a completely different class. |
There are 16 million Minolta lenses worldwide. This of course means that there are a lot of photographers waiting for a DSLR camera that would let them use their lenses. Of course, what better way to use Minolta mount lenses than on a Minolta camera? For the vast majority of these photographers, the Dynax 7D is priced too high. However, Dynax 5D's affordable price makes it available to a broader audience.
Let's make one thing clear in the beginning: If you have experience with Minolta's SLR cameras and Minolta A mount lenses, there's no dilemma. Dynax 5D is the camera you've been looking for, unless you're willing to pay much more for a completely different class. This can be said for everything - construction, ergonomics, and last but certainly not least, image quality. Of course, the CCD sensor in the camera is only 23.5 mm x 15.7 mm with just 6.1 MP. However, the Dynax 5D was never intended for pro use where larger prints are required. Nevertheless, the camera's output will suffice for high quality prints up to 30 x 45 cm. Of course, it will take some postprocessing to make the image files ready for printing. The built-in firmware is obviously well programmed, converting sensor signals into images well enough to enable reasonably big prints from "only" 6.1 MP. The sensor was manufactured by Sony, same as in Nikon D50, D70s and the Pentax *istD series.
Body and settings
If anyone familiar with Minolta's SLR bodies picks up a Dynax 5D, one thing will be made immediately clear to them. Minolta, or rather Konica Minolta, has loads of experience in this field. And it's this experience that makes it possible to construct a body that has a good grip, good ergonomics and, what's most important of all, lots of buttons to enable quick settings changes. All this in the lowest price bracket.
The body is made of high-quality plastic. Both the grip and the thumb rest are coated in rubber, making sure the camera stays in hand. The body itself is 130.5 x 92.5 x 66.5 mm, while the weight, including the Li-ion battery, is 675 g.
It's the body, especially the plethora of adjustment buttons, knobs and dials, that's the first sign of how much work and experience went into this camera.
It's quite obvious that they wish to win over their legacy photographers as well as neophytes who are only entering the DSLR world. Let’s continue with a tour of the camera.
|The body is made of high-quality plastic. Both the grip and the thumb rest are coated in rubber, making sure the camera stays in hand. |
On the front side, there are only two buttons: Lens release and depth-of-field preview.
On the left side, there's the AF mode switch, enabling the photographer to select either AF or MF. There's also a remote release socket, hidden safely behind a rubber cover.
On the right side there's the CF card and USB connector cover.
On the bottom, there's only the metal tripod socket and the battery cover.
However, it's the top and the backside of the camera that are really useful. As said before, the Dynax 5D has enough buttons to make sure that the menu does not see too much use. It's primarily used for settings that are not often required during photographing.
On the top side, on the left, there's the big dial for white balance correction. Already a marked difference from the competition, the Dynax 5D enables the photographer to adjust white balance with a dedicated dial. Therefore, the photographer can choose between Auto White Balance, six presets, each with the possibility of additional +/- 3 correction, manual setting (with the possibility of a test shot), and last but not least, adjustment using the Kelvin scale (ranging from 2500 to 9900 K) with additional adjustment for the green-magenta shift.
When it comes to white balance, the Dynax 5D is clearly a class ahead of the competition. On the other hand, the vast majority of photographers in this class do not use white balance adjustment, leaving the camera set to Automatic White Balance. However, the settings are there for those who require them, adding a lot to the camera's value.
The most part of the mid top side is occupied by the built-in flash. It has to be manually raised, even when operating the camera in full-auto mode. In the raised position, it is very high above the lens barrel, making the dreaded red eye effect much less pronounced. The back part of the flash is used by the external flash connector, including a plastic cover. Completely to the back, there's the dioptre adjustment dial with values from -2.5 to +1.
To the right of the flash, there's the mode dial. It has a full-auto mode, five scene programs, classical program (P), aperture priority (Av), time priority (Tv) and manual modes.
|It's the body, especially the plethora of adjustment buttons, knobs and dials, that's the first sign of how much work and experience went into this camera.|
However, the Dynax 5D has its advantages and new features. Of course, these are only intended for the ones who wish to use them and know how to use them. This is an entry level DSLR. This means that an inexperienced photographer will be able to use the scene programs or the full auto mode. In these modes, most functions are reset and then set to predefined values. However, unlike the competition, the Dynax 5D makes it possible to adjust certain parameters even in the full auto mode, enabling the photographer to capture a better image. Therefore, it is possible for the photographer to set the focus points (nine in total), sensitivity (ISO), exposure compensation, focussing mode etc. One of the very few parameters that cannot be set through the menu are image sharpness, saturation and contrast.
To the right of the mode dial, there's the command dial, used to set the shutter value, aperture value and exposure correction. Following that, there's the shutter release, drive mode button, enabling the photographer to control the speed of capture (1 or 3 frames per seconds), self-timer (2 and 10 seconds) and bracketing, where three shots are taken with different exposure compensation. Bracketing mode is also well implemented in this camera. Bracketing can be performed using +/- 0.3 EV or +/- 0.7 EV exposure compensation, with the possibility of setting the compensation to go more into the negative or the positive direction. Oddly, the camera is incapable of wider bracketing, such as +/- 2 EV. Then, there is another bracketing possibility, using three sequential shots with different white balance settings. It is possible to choose between Lo and Hi correction.
The last button on the upper part of the camera is used to change the ISO sensitivity rating. This can be set to either automatic (AUTO), 100—3200, and two additional, 80Lo and 200Hi. These two are a new feature, however, these were already used in film photography. Most of us are familiar with the Low-key and High-key photography. Low-key photography is about capturing a lot of dark details and only having a small highlight in the picture, while High-key photography is about capturing a lot of bright details with only a minor part of the motif being darker and well pronounced. It's these basic functions that show the Dynax 5D has easier access to commonly used functions and a few additional functions, putting it, again, ahead of the competition. Dynax 5D represents a whole new chapter for entry-level digital SLR cameras.
|The most part of the mid top side is occupied by the built-in flash. It has to be manually raised, even when operating the camera in full-auto mode. |
The back side has yet more buttons and even more new, interesting and above all useful functions. The left side features an On/Off switch. The switch was left in the On position most of the time, as the camera is very good at conserving energy. The menu can be used to control TFT illumination time from five seconds to one minute. Also, standby mode delay can be changed from 1 to 30 minutes. After the settings are made, the display shuts down and the camera goes into standby mode, from which it awakes the moment a button is pressed.
Below the switch, there's the Menu button, enabling the photographer to enter the menus from where they can control camera parameters and image quality parameters, such as resolution, RAW mode or JPEG compression, noise reduction etc. Next comes the display button, switching the display on or off, then comes the delete button, enabling the photographer to delete a picture, and last comes the image playback button.
To the right of these buttons, there's a 2.5'' display with a resolution of 115,000 pixels. While it is not the best when it comes to quality, it is large enough to offer the photographer a plethora of information. It also has a very useful feature, as the data displayed is rotated if you hold the camera vertically. Similarly, if you turn the camera back into the horizontal position, the data is rotated again.
Above this is the viewfinder, again filled with information. In addition to the usual information, there's additional info. To the left, next to the flash symbol, there are additional symbols denoting use of external flash in Wireless (WL) mode, as well as High Speed Synchronization mode (H) of up to 1/4000 sec. To the far right, there's the AntiShake (AS) indicator, containing five bars in a vertical row. Again, this is an interesting and useful new feature. The bars indicate the level of camera shake, corresponding to image blur. This provides a visual feedback, enabling the photographer to carefully pick the time when camera shake is at its lowest. When depressing the ISO or exposure compensation (+/-) buttons, the information is displayed in the viewfinder, eliminating the need to consult the external screen.
There are two sensors under the viewfinder. When one or both of these are blocked, the TFT screen shuts down. As the Dynax 5D lacks a top LCD screen, all data is displayed on the TFT screen. However, its brightness could prove disturbing if its light were to enter the viewfinder, therefore Minolta used a tried and tested system which was previously used for turning cameras on and off.
|The back side has yet more buttons and even more new, interesting and above all useful functions.|
Next to the viewfinder is the Function (Fn) button. It offers an instant setting of AF point mode selection. These can either be used in wide configuration, automatic choice of focus point, central point (spot) or manual AF point selection. Next, there is the AF mode choice. Again, Dynax 5D offers something new. In addition to standard modes as offered by some of the other cameras in this class, such as Single Shot (AF-S), Continuous Shot (AF-C) and automatic selection of either mode (AF-A), the camera offers the option of using Direct Manual Focus, enabling the photographer to fine tune the focus following autofocus. In this mode, the camera functions in the AF-S mode, but lets the photographer fine tune the focus.
Next, there's the metering mode selection. Again, there are three options. Matrix metering with 14 areas, central-weighted and spot metering.
Below this function, there's the flash exposure compensation function, allowing a compensation of +/- 2EV. The last among these functions are image parameters, such as contrast, saturation and sharpness (+/- 2). These include 10 preset options. It is also possible to choose the AdobeRGB colour space.
The Fn button proved to be very useful as it meant less menu use, which is time consuming. In the playback mode, the Fn button is used to reduce the size of a picture.
Next is the +/- button which is used for exposure compensation. When used in Manual exposure mode, it is used in conjunction with the front dial to change the aperture settings, while in the playback mode, it is used to zoom in to a picture by up to 5 times.
Following that is the AEL button which is used to lock the exposure setting that was taken with a half-press of the shutter release. When using the flash, the button is used to activate the Slow Sync mode, in which the shutter speed is extended. The function is very useful in low light situations. The flash is used to illuminate the foreground, while the Slow Sync function makes sure the background is sufficiently illuminated with ambient light by extending the shutter time. However, Dynax 5D has other tricks up its sleeve. The Fn button can be used to measure exposure in matrix mode with 14 areas or in central weighted mode. Using the custom function for the AEL button, it can be set to switch the camera into spot metering, enabling the camera to operate in two light metering modes at the same time. Another very useful feature for an entry level camera.
|On the bottom, there's only the metal tripod socket and the battery cover.|
The Dynax 5D shows how very simple it is to enable the photographer to function in advanced modes without going into the menu. Once the photographer is familiar with button positions, there's no more need to take the eye off the viewfinder to set the camera to do exactly what you want it to do.
On the lower right side of the camera, there are additional settings possibilities, while the AC connector is at the very bottom. This too is protected from dust and moisture by a rubber cover.
The multifunctional button, which is a feature shared by most cameras, is used for switching between functions on screen or for selecting autofocus points if they are set to manual selections. In order to reach the corner points, the button must be pressed halfway between two directions (up, down, left, right). In the middle, there's an additional button which is used to confirm selected functions and presents yet another possibility for quick camera handling, as it can be used to engage autofocus.
In the bottom right corner is the button activating a function which is, at the moment, unique to Konica Minolta cameras. The AntiShake (AS) feature prevents camera shake with long exposure times. To be more precise, the sensor itself is moved to compensate for the camera shake. This of course means that the AntiShake feature works with the vast majority of Minolta lenses. This is a distinct advantage for Konica Minolta, as the AntiShake feature is built into the camera, negating the need to purchase expensive lenses with image stabilisation systems, which is the case with other manufacturers. However, it is possible that this system will not perform correctly with older third-party lenses.
|In the raised position, the flash is very high above the lens barrel, making the dreaded red eye effect much less pronounced.|
While in most entry level cameras menus must be used to set various functions, Dynax 5D proves to be an exception to this rule. As described above, the vast majority of settings that influence photography can be set using buttons and dials. All this means that the first menu screen is only used to set resolution, capture mode (JPEG/RAW) and JPEG compression and noise reduction function. Next screen sets flash mode and bracketing.
Next three menu screens are used to write pictures to the card, format the card, write-protect recorded pictures, determine the way they are viewed and printed, set custom functions and priorities for certain buttons and features, set screen illumination, mirror lock-up (Clean CCD mode), reset to factory defaults etc. To make menu navigation easier, the MenuSec.Memory function can be set so that the last function is displayed when the Menu button is pressed. This is yet another shortcut, enabling complete and quick control of camera settings.
All of this means that once the menu functions are set just the way you like them, you can forget about the menu for all but the very minor settings. It is this that sets the Dynax 5D apart from the competition.
|On the left side, there's the AF mode switch, enabling the photographer to select either AF or MF. There's also a remote release socket, hidden safely behind a rubber cover.|
|Many adjustments can be made by using only the forefinger.|
|The Dynax 5D offers some very useful functions, enabling the photographer to quickly adjust settings and concentrate on taking pictures. One very welcome and useful feature is activated by the AEL button. It can be set to immediately switch metering to spot even though matrix or central-weighted metering is used by default.|
|In many ways, the Dynax 5D is better than other cameras in its price bracket. Some of its features are distinctively upper-class, and, in some cases, even beter. The EOS 20D is higher in size.|
|The Dynax 5D has a much larger screen than the EOS 20D. |
|The Dynax 5D uses CF cards for storage.|
|Li-ion NP-400 battery.|
|Next to the viewfinder, there's the diopter adjustment dial.|
|The AntiShake function is very useful. By integrating the image stabilization system into the camera, the system price lowers dramatically. Central AF point can be used to focus even if another focus point is selected by pressing the AF button.|
|Below the viewfinder, there are the two IR sensors used to switch the TFT screen on and off.|
|The Dynax 5D, unlike most other cameras, has no top LCD screen to display image capture settings. Instead, the rear TFT display is used. The first menu screen is used to set resolution and compression. Since the camera makes it possible to adjust the vast majority of settings using buttons and dials, the menu is rarely used.|
|The Fn button makes it possible to adjust all the major settings (AF, exposure compensation, flash exposure compensation and tone corrections.)|
|Using the menu, the settings can be adjusted further.|
|On the top of the camera, there are buttons for setting drive mode and bracketing as well as sensitivity settings.|
|The screen is 2.5" big. Its picture quality is very good, and captured images can be zoomed up to 5 times, making reviewing very easy.|