If you want a small, easily pocketed, yet stylish digicam the Konica Minolta DiMAGE Xg might be the one for you. Opening the box and hefting this little beauty for the first time makes a real impact. The wife has the original ‘X’ version of this. The Xg is the latest update and at 20mm thin and weighing in at only 120g, it’s remarkably small and stylish. It betters the original for sheer exuberance in its red livery.
The small size is possible thanks to the Xg’s superb folded optics; all the X series Konica Minoltas sport this innovative optical design. Working in the same way as a submarine’s periscope, the 3x optical zoom lens is housed vertically within the body; nothing protrudes from the from of the camera - even when in use - the optics travel up and down just like a tiny lift within the body.
A small metal lens protector slides silently out of the way and when you zoom through the lens’s 37-111mm (35mm equivalent) focal range. There’s even a remarkably clear optical viewfinder built in to help framing if you want to conserve battery power by switching the 1.6-inch colour screen.
You also get a nice 3.2-megapixel CCD to capture your shots providing enough resolution for shots up to A4 with ease. SecureDigital (SD) storage is housed under a silver, push-and-flip-out hatch underneath which also rests the camera’s ultra-thin lithium-ion battery.
It’s all very neat but what of shooting images? Minolta claims the Xg has the ‘world’s fastest start up time of 0.8-seconds’ (as of January 1st 2004) and it’s certainly quick to get ready to start shooting.
You get a five zone wide-area AF set up, which works reliably enough. The built-in flash is, perhaps unsurprisingly, a little underpowered but there are four automatically selected scene modes of portrait, sports, landscape and sunset. The camera assesses the scene and chooses what it thinks is the right setting; you can manually override the auto selection if needed.
Exposure compensation to +/- 2EV and colour and saturation filters allow fine tuning of your shots and a noise reduction mode is in there too, although, my shots were remarkably noise free at all ISO settings from 50 to 200, with only slight noise evident in low light at ISO 400, the maximum setting available on this camera.
Handling is a little bit of challenge, mainly due to the camera’s small size; those with sausage size fingers, beware. A small thumb-operated joystick style button rests between one ‘left’ and one ‘right’ button, which between them, scroll through menus and images (in playback mode. A flip round switch adjacent to the above controls selects modes. On/off button and shutter releases are the only controls on the top plate and are straightforward in use, the shutter release having a nice two-step feel to it.
Below the camera’s 1.6-inch colour screen (which has a useful anti-reflection coating), four more buttons provide a menu, Quick View, displayed information and flash control options. Each brings up a contextual menu scrolled as detailed above.
Image quality is good but with a couple of reservations: there’s a lot of red and blue pixel fringing at the extremes of the images, otherwise, white balance, colour, spectral highlights and detail is all good.
Overall, given the camera's sheer must-have design, its nice build and generally good image quality, the Xg is shoe-in for anyone wanting a small, stylish digicam with enough resolution for reasonably sized prints.
It's fairly basic in terms of manual controls, but given its target point-and-shoot market, this is not a major problem. The DiMAGE Xg is surely one of the nicest point'n'shooters on the market (it comes in silver, red and blue liveries) and should be near the top of your list if you're in the game to buy just such a digital camera.
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