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10X Mega-zoom SLR-type camera: Minolta DiMAGE Z1
Dennis Hissink : August 9th 2003 - 00:06 CET
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MinoltaThe DiMAGE Z1 is the first in an innovative series of Minolta's new user-friendly, powerful SLR-type digital cameras. Its 10X Mega zoom, equivalent to 38-380mm 35mm camera zoom, in combination with the digital zoom, offers a 40X zoom range. The DiMAGE Z1 comes complete with a 3.2 megapixel display and weighs in at only 305g. With Minolta's new drive mode, Rapid AF, and minimal shutter release lag time, this compact, stylish digital camera has all the necessary imaging tools to capture high-quality digital images. The 10X Mega-zoom is a fast f2.8 - f3.5 lens allowing fast shutter speeds for sport or natural-light photography. The ten-element, seven-group design employs two aspheric lenses to minimise aberrations and produce sharp images.
Such powerful optics combined with a high-resolution 3.3 megapixel 1/2.7 interline primary colour CCD require a powerful auto-focus system. The DiMAGE Z1 employs Rapid AF to ensure sharp images with minimum delay. Rapid AF utilises a passive AF sensor that instantly estimates the distance between the subject and the camera's CCD to determine the precise focus point. A high-speed drive focuses the lens quickly and smoothly, while the CCD uses a 60fps sampling rate to determine the optimum focus. This sampling speed is twice the rate of most digital cameras on the market today. All this translates into a 0.3 second focusing time at a focal length of 5.8mm and 0.4 seconds at 59mm, giving the DiMAGE Z1 the world's fastest AF among digital cameras with a built-in 10X or greater optical zoom.1

Minolta's new drive mode, Progressive Capture, ensures a moment will never be missed. When the shutter-release button is pressed and held, Progressive Capture begins saving images in the buffer memory. Watch the action on the monitor and when it is over, release the shutter button to save the images from the buffer memory to the memory card. Six frames are saved when using standard continuous advance, and 10 frames when using Ultra High Speed (UHS) continuous advance. Standard continuous advance records at approximately 1.5 fps at any image size or quality setting. UHS continuous advance records 1.2 megapixel images at 10 fps.

The affect of camera shake, a slight blurring of the image when the camera is handheld, can be a significant problem when such powerful optics are used. Minolta engineers have developed an advanced program exposure line to maximise shutter speeds by controlling the aperture and camera sensitivity based on the selected subject program and focal length.

Every aspect of the DiMAGE Z1's performance is breaking records in speed. Start-up time is only 2 seconds and shutdown time is just 2.4 seconds. After focus has been locked, the shutter-release time lag is 0.06 seconds or less, comparable to an SLR film camera. The camera will be ready to capture another image in 1.2 seconds or less after the exposure.

The DiMAGE Z1 packs Minolta's most powerful flash in a digital camera yet. With a guide number of 12 meters (39 in feet), the flash can illuminate a subject up to approximately 6m away (20 ft.) when used at the wide-angle position with autoexposure and auto camera sensitivity.

The DiMAGE Z1 is compatible with the Minolta Program Flash 3600HS (D) or 5600HS (D) units as well as the latest addition to the line, the Program Flash 2500 (D). These powerful flash units can be used directly on the camera. The 3600HS (D) and 5600HS (D) have zoom heads that automatically adjust as the camera's lens is zoomed in and out, and their heads can be tilted for bounce illumination. The 5600HS (D)'s head also swivels and the flash output can be controlled with power ratios. The newest addition to Minolta's Program Flash line, the new 2500 (D) is a compact, automatic flash unit with a tilting head and an affordable price tag.

The DiMAGE Z1 is not limited to capturing static images, but high-quality VGA (640 X 480) movies can be recorded at 30fps. Image size and frame rate can be selected to balance image quality with file size. Three image sizes are available: 640 X 480, 320 X 240, and 160 X 120. Because of the high frame rate of the CCD, movies may be shot at 30fps to create natural flicker-free images, or 15fps to maximise recording time. The length of the movie is limited only by the memory card capacity, image size, and frame rate.

Because the DiMAGE Z1 can capture large, high-quality VGA (640 X 480) movies, image sharpness and brightness are absolutely critical. During recording the Z1 will continue to auto-focus to provide the sharpest possible image, and the night-movie mode can make colour recordings under extreme low-light conditions.

The controls and dials are laid out for clear, intuitive operation. For quick changes to camera settings, the large exposure mode dial and zoom lever are located on the top of the grip. Placed on the back of the camera, the controller is a straightforward five-way array used to control many of the camera's advanced features and menus. The large grip provides the DiMAGE Z1 with secure, comfortable handling, especially for keeping a steady hand in low-light conditions or when using long focal lengths.

Ordinary AA batteries power the DiMAGE Z1, and ubiquitous alkaline or rechargeable Ni-MH can also be used.

CxProcess II, Minolta's new image-processing technology, is integrated to bring out the best in the 3.3 megapixel 1/2.7 interline primary-colour CCD. CxProcess II controls the essential image qualities of colour, contrast, and sharpness while minimising noise. Brilliant, saturated colour remains vibrant without becoming unnatural or flat. Subtle contrast is rendered to retain the richness and depth of the subject while preserving details in the highlights and shadows. Balancing resolution with acutance controls sharpness, as well as shows fine detail while minimising hard, unnatural edges.

The DiMAGE Z1 possesses the necessary, advanced technology and powerful optics enabling the capture of high-quality images and 30fps VGA movies. This compact, stylish digital camera has the imaging tools required to capture first-rate images in virtually any situation.
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LetsGoDigital digital camera magazine
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