capsule review

Konica Minolta Dimage Z6

At a street price of $400, the Dimage Z6 is quite reasonably priced for an advanced digital camera. But a number of missing features, such as white balance bracketing and low ISO speed, make it a poor pick for advanced camera users who want extensive control over their pictures.

For getting close to the action with your camera, a longer zoom is better. And the Konica Minolta Dimage Z6 has the look of a winner in that respect: Its 12X optical zoom is longer than most.

The camera’s curved case looks stylish and should stand up to rough treatment: though plastic, it feels sturdily built and fits comfortably in your hand. The Zoom control falls naturally under your thumb, and the Shutter button under your index finger. With one hand you can change Scene modes and Flash mode, go into Macro mode, and navigate the on-screen menu; all of the appropriate buttons are within reach. This is a big plus if you want to use the viewfinder without having to look at the buttons. The only buttons you can’t reach while using the camera with one hand are the on/off button and the one for switching between Play and Shooting modes (which also switches between the screen and the LCD viewfinder). The mode dial has the usual options, including a full Manual mode and five scene modes.

Limited photographic features

The camera includes a basic Exposure Bracketing mode, but it lacks white balance bracketing. And because the ISO speed maxes out at 320, shooting in low light can be difficult (most advanced cameras I tested reach at least ISO 400). Similarly, the Dimage Z6’s maximum shutter speed is 1/1000 of a second, which poses a problem for action fans who want to capture the moment; most of the advanced cameras I looked at can snap a shot at 1/2000 of a second or faster.

The camera takes its time starting up—about 3.5 seconds from when you press the On button to when you can start shooting—in part because the zoom lens has to extend. There’s also a significant pause (around half a second) between when you press the shutter and when it takes the shot. The auto focus is relatively zippy in good light, but it bogs down a bit in low light and at the longer zoom settings: I found that it often spent some time hunting for the right focus.

Poor image quality

The image quality scores that the jury awarded to the Dimage Z6 for pictures taken in the PC World Test Center were the lowest of any recently tested advanced camera. We saw obvious fuzziness leading to loss of details, and a significant amount of noise even at low ISO settings. Color fringing was noticeable and got worse when we used the zoom. Colors were dull, and skin tones looked pale. The camera’s Vivid color mode, on the other hand, went too far the other way: Colors looked artificially bright, exacerbating the noise in the images.

The battery life supported by the camera’s four AA non-rechargeable batteries was also a little disappointing. The Dimage Z6 lasted through 323 shots, which is plenty for a trip of a few days; but other cameras such as the Fujifilm FinePix S5200 (   ), using the same type of batteries have reached the 500-shot limit we enforce for this test. You can replace the AA cells with NiMH rechargeable batteries, but Konica Minolta supplies neither these nor an AC adapter with the camera as standard equipment.

All of these issues limit the Dimage Z6’s appeal. It’s undeniably a step up from a point-and-shoot (and it doesn’t cost much more than many of them), and the long zoom is nice. But if you’re after advanced features, you’ll soon find that you want more than this camera can offer, and the mediocre image quality is a serious drawback for those who take their photos seriously.

jury tests

Color Quality—Accuracy Good
Clarity—Detail Unacceptable
Clarity—Artifacts, Noise Flawed

Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable

To gauge picture quality, we take a series of shots, with and without flash, at the camera’s highest resolution. We photograph a complex still life and a mannequin using automatic settings in Program/Full-Auto Mode to see how well each camera captures subtle color and exposure under its default settings. We then photograph the same still life and a resolution moiré chart with semiautomatic settings using aperture priority, custom white balance, and exposure bracketing. We pick the best shots of each of those two subjects for judging. We also test the camera’s capability for minimizing noise using a range of ISO settings. We review the on-screen and printed photos and assign image-quality scores. The image-quality rating of the camera is based on five categories: exposure, color, sharpness, distortion, and overall.—Tested in conjunction with the PC World Test Center

Specifications

Resolution 6 megapixels
Zoom/Focal Length 12X Optical (69.9mm)
Maximum Aperture f2.8
Size (wxhxd) 4.3 inches x 3.1 inches x 3.4 inches
Weight 16 oz

Macworld’s buying advice

While its 12X zoom lens is impressive and the camera is easy to handle, the Konica-Minolta Dimage Z6’s unimpressive image quality and missing features make it a poor choice for photo enthusiasts.

[ Richard Baguley is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in PC World, Wired, and JIWire.com. He also maintains a Camcorder blog.]

Konica Minolta Dimage Z6
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