On paper the A200's an ideal camera for those trading up to something more ‘serious' and those wishing to grow with their digital photography hobby. But does the camera live up to its spec sheet?
The A200 is a compact high resolution digital camera that features a comprehensive spec, plenty of manual control and Konica Minolta's superb CCD Anti Shake system for reducing camera shake at slow shutter speeds.
The camera looks like a squeezed version of the DiMAGE A2; it's marginally smaller and its corners have been rounded during the ‘squeeze', plus it's 60g lighter.
While it lacks some features found on the A2, such as a PC-sync flash terminal and the metering system has been trimmed from a 300 to a 256-zone system, it also has a slightly slower maximum shutter speed of 1/3200sec.
However, the A200 boasts some improvements. Elements that have been removed from the A2 presumably made space for them. There's a new 1.8-inch tilt-turn-swivel colour screen with 134,000-pixel resolution and it has an 11-point (selectable) AF set up (the A2 had only three AF zones).
In a rare demerit however, the auto focusing system is frustratingly sluggish and a sensitive shutter button hampers it further because it means pressing the shutter button to hard (or too quickly) did not allow time for the AF to key on the subject. However the camera would still fire. This meant improperly focused pictures.
On the positive side, the metering and a new (yep, another new bit of kit) CXProcess III colour processing system, work very well and the lens is a real treat, it's particularly good. Distortion-free at the wide and zoom ends, only very slight purple fringing at the extreme edges of a scene and it's sharp. All this despite the lens employing an optical train originally designed for the camera's 5-megapixel predecessors, the DiMAGE 7 models.
You can also shoot RAW and JPEG files simultaneously or stick to JPEG files with Standard, Fine and Extra Fine levels offering plenty of scope for image capture on the camera's CompactFlash storage medium.
ISO sensitivity is very good (it has been improved over the A2 at the lower point) starting at ISO 50 (it was ISO 64 on the A2) through 100, 200, 400 and finally ISO 800. You get four scene modes: sports, portrait, night portrait and sunset, each picked from the top plate mode dial. A new NP-800 Lithium-Ion battery pack provides improved power and more shots and a greater time between charges, so you can snap away for longer.
Other controls are neat with buttons launching contextual menus offering extra settings or adjustments for modes such as the drive button and the Func(tion) button that provides a menu of options for changing the colour space used, flash modes, metering (multi-pattern, centre-weighted or spot modes) and colour saturation filters to name a few.
The overall balance between a point and shoot camera and one that offers high resolution and manual control is about right here. The downside to the package is that you'll have to deal with an overly sensitive shutter button and sluggish Auto Focus.
The DiMAGE A200 is easy to use yet packed with tools for the more advanced user. Picture quality is superb with noise controlled and colour well rendered; highlights are retained in all but the most challenging situations, there's little noise to speak of until you get beyond ISO 400 in low light and handling is great too. Overall the A200 is another superb package from Konica Minolta.