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The Konica Minolta Dimage Z20, like the Dimage Z5 ( July 2005 ) looks like a contraption from a sci-fi movie. But concealed within its unique-shaped body is a surprisingly capable camera with an Automatic mode for snap shooters and Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes for shutterbugs.;
The unusual shape is a bit bulky for a compact (this isn’t a pocket camera), but affords a comfortable grip. The 1.5-inch LCD is tiny, but it’s bright and sharp, and menus are easy to read and navigate. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) is easier than the LCD to view in bright sunlight, though the images in it are somewhat grainy. It has a diopter adjustment, so you can adjust it to your eyesight. A live histogram helps you manually adjust exposure compensation (quickly selected by controller buttons). And a flash-mode button, positioned behind the shutter button, puts manual controls at your fingertips; you can customize it to easily enable and disable drive, focus, or color modes, or white balance or ISO settings. The Z20’s ISO ranges from 50 to 320 and can be set automatically or manually.
The conveniently arranged buttons and controller are easy to manipulate, but they clack, and feel slightly cheap. Overall, though, the camera feels solid.
The three-point area autofocus (AF) is responsive (you can select from single-shot or continuous), and you can focus manually using the controller. A focus-lock feature is available in single-shot focusing mode, and continuous autofocus uses Predictive Focus Control to anticipate where your moving subject will be when you release the shutter.
The Z20’s 8x optical zoom lens is a bit slow at the wide end with a maximum aperture of f3.2, but that only jumps to f3.4 when zoomed in (many other cameras in this class have maximum apertures of f4.5 of f5.0 at the long end, requiring more light). Like the Konica Minolta Dimage Z5, it can focus to an impressive 0.4 inches in macro mode, making either model a good choice if you need to focus very close.
You won’t have to worry about missing a shot with the Dimage Z20, because startup time is virtually instantaneous. A continuous mode can capture three frames at the highest quality in about as many seconds, and a Progressive Capture mode snaps pictures continuously every 1.5 seconds for as long as you hold the shutter (but only at medium quality), then records the last six images to memory.
The Z20’s images had accurate colors and very good detail, but slightly underexposed, and noise was evident above 100 ISO. I also noticed some purple fringing around high-contrast edges.
There’s a movie mode, but it records without audio, so it’s of limited use.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
Very good pictures, 8x optical zoom, focus to 0.4 inches, and manual controls make the Z20 a good choice for the beginning shutterbug on a budget, especially if your interest lies in macro photography.
|Color Quality—Accuracy||Very Good|
Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable
|Zoom/Focal Length||8.0x Optical (36mm to 290mm)|
|Size (wxhxd)||4.3 inches x 3.2 inches x 3.7 inches|