by Photo-John The DiMage A200 is one of Konica Minolta's top-of-the-line compact digital cameras. It straddles the line between pro and prosumer, with an 8-megapixel sensor, 28-200mm optical zoom lens, Anti-Shake technology, quick start-up, and minimal shutter-lag.
Introduction The DiMage A200 is the latest in a series of cameras that began with the DiMage 7. From the beginning, this digital camera series straddled the line between prosumer and professional digital camera. This near-professional design is carried on in the A200, featuring Konica Minolta's Anti-Shake System, an excellent 28-200 auto focus lens, 8-megapixel CCD, and the fastest response I've ever experienced from a compact digital camera.
I was excited to get my hands on the Konica Minolta DiMage A200. I've read so many good things about this series of cameras, and I wanted to see for myself how well the Anti-Shake CCD works. The A200's arrival coincided with a trip to a mountain bike festival in Fruita, Colorado. So the A200 got to go on a road trip through Southern Utah and Colorado. It got a great trail workout, including plenty of mountain biking photos, some worthy landscapes, and even some cactus blooms. I doubt my Konica Minolta rep had any idea what was in store for the camera they sent me. Luckily, it made it back in one piece - and so did I.
Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Features
The Konica Minolta DiMage A200 is a full-featured, high-end, compact digital camera. It has pretty much all the features a pro would require, aside from the ability to change lenses. And if you do want more lens options, Konica Minolta makes three dedicated accessory lenses - a 1.5x telephoto converter, 0.8x wide-angle converter, and a close-up lens. The threaded lens makes it easy to add accessory lenses and filters.
There's a full range of exposure options, from full auto to complete manual, including scene modes for beginners who want to get creative. With compact digital cameras I generally use aperture priority and shutter priority. The metering and exposure was very good with this camera, with easy and intuitive access to the exposure compensation control. Shutter speed and aperture are clearly displayed on the LCD and in the viewfinder, and a live histogram is accessed by one press of a button. Unfortunately, I didn't discover the live histogram until after my trip. It probably would have helped me avoid some of the exposure problems I describe later.
Left: The DiMage A200 7x f/2.8-3.5 optical zoom lens with manual zoom and focus rings, and macro switch. Right: The A200 pop-up flash.
The Konica Minolta 7.2-50.8mm f/2.8-3.5 APO GT lens (35mm equivalent: 28-200mm f/2.8-3.5) is the most noticeable feature on the DiMage A200. It has manual zoom and focus rings and the 7x optical zoom range is very powerful. The widest-angle lens most compact digital cameras offer is 35mm (35mm film equivalent). I really enjoyed being able to shoot at 28mm with the A200. It's a lot of lens, and my trip made use of the whole zoom range. Pair the excellent lens with Konica Minolta's Anti-Shake CCD-shift technology, and you have a very powerful and flexible camera. Konica Minolta claims the Anti-Shake System allows photographers to use shutter speeds up to three times slower than normal. Anti-Shake is especially helpful for handheld telephoto shots and low-light photography, without flash. I used it almost all the time.
To help you control the optics, the DiMage A200 has a full-range of focus options, including a manual focus ring and predictive auto focus for accurately tracking moving subjects.
The DiMage A200's LCD display swivels 180º forward and rotates 270º vertically.
Two features that might be easy to take for granted are the swivel LCD and flash hot shoe. I've come to expect a swivel LCD on high-end compact digital cameras. I think it's pretty much a required feature at this point. The A200's LCD does everything it should, including swivel all the way around for self-portraits. The image is bright and sharp and I felt pretty confident using it.
Having a flash hot shoe is critical if a digital camera is going to be used in any professional capacity. Even the best built-in flash is weak compared to a hot shoe flash. And the hot shoe on the A200 offers the option to use one of Konica Minolta's excellent Maxxum/Program flashes, macro flashes, or even studio lights.
Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Design
The basic design of the A200 is similar to a small SLR, without the option to change lenses. There are pros and cons to this design strategy. The pro is that you get to use a big, fast lens, with lots of glass, and a manual zoom ring. The larger lens elements usually mean a brighter lens, and that's definitely the case with the f/2.8-3.5 7x optical zoom. The manual zoom ring is faster and more precise than the power zoom most compact digital cameras have.
The tradeoff with this design is a somewhat awkward size and shape. I recently reviewed the Canon PowerShot G6. While the G6 is also large for a compact digital camera, it was still easy to squeeze it into a relatively small camera case. The A200 wouldn't fit the same small case I have, so I had to put it in a bag I usually use to carry a digital SLR and flash. You can definitely buy a smaller case than the one I used. But it's not as convenient as a camera with a retracting lens.
Two views of the excellent DiMage A200 control layout. Left: The FUNC button and the four-way key access most of the main controls, including white balance, exposure compensation, flash exposure compensation, ISO, etc. Right: The exposure mode dial, shutter release, and exposure control dial. Almost everything can be controlled with the right thumb and index finger.
The ergonomics of the DiMage A200 are exceptional. All the controls are placed where you fingers can easily reach them without changing hand positions. I quickly learned where all the controls were and could generally changes settings and shoot without having to take my eye from the viewfinder. The main exposure control is a dial right behind the shutter release. For full manual, there's a shift button on the left side of the camera that toggles between aperture and shutter control. Buttons under the photographer's right thumb access exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, playback, and other controls.
Basic still image recording view on the DiMage A200 LCD.
Basic image playback on the DiMage A200 LCD.
Image playback with histogram.
Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Menu
Camera Experience Performance I took the DiMage A200 along on a road trip to a mountain biking festival in Fruita, Colorado. I also took my normal ride camera, a Canon EOS 10D digital SLR. Mountain biking is my main photographic subject. So I have my technique down and I'm not very tolerant when it comes to images lost because of camera design problems or feature failure. The A200 didn't let me down. The auto focus is excellent for a compact digital camera. It's not as quick and accurate as the EOS 10D, but I didn't expect it to be. I took very, very few out-of-focus images. On the photos that were soft, I'll take the blame. It hunts in low light, but no more than I've come to expect from compact digital cameras. I mostly used the Single-shot AF mode and used the center spot to prefocus. This is usually the most accurate auto focus method and it delivered the goods for mountain bike photos with the A200. I also tried the Continuous AF and it surprised me by working really, really well. The combination of super-fast shutter response and reliable continuous auto focus could make this the best high-end compact digital camera for shooting sports and other action.
Battery performance was fine. I didn't actually test it and I make it a habit of recharging every night. But I took a fair number of photos every day, used the LCD plenty, and did a lot of reviewing, on the trail. I didn't have the battery die on me once. Not even when I forgot to charge the battery overnight. It's always a good idea to have an extra battery. But this one seems to be very good.
The magic Anti-Shake button which turns on the A200's Anti-Shake CCD-shift system.
I left the Anti-Shake on almost all of the time. Looking back over my A200 photos, I know the Anti-Shake CCD helped me get good images where I otherwise would have had too much camera shake. I have sharp images that I shot as slow as 1/6th second. You're supposed to turn the Anti-Shake off when panning, and I had a couple of photos where that might have been a problem. Unfortunately, I didn't think to turn off the Anti-Shake until later.
One compromise necessary for a compact digital camera with a long zoom lens is an electronic viewfinder (EVF). Basically, the EVF is a tiny video screen that replaces the optical viewfinder. I'm not a fan of electronic viewfinders. But the A200's EVF didn't bother me at all. In fact, I enjoyed being able to see image data and review my photos, without taking my eye from the viewfinder. None of the usual EVF issues - slow display response time, low resolution, etc. - were apparent. I can't believe it, but I'm leaning towards considering the A200 EVF as a more of a benefit more than a liability.
Image Quality The DiMage A200 supports ICC profiles and you can shoot in the sRGB or Adobe RGB colorspace. This is very important for a controlled, professional workflow and predictable color. I had the camera set to Adobe RGB the whole time I used it. I only shot in the Extra Fine JPEG mode, with sharpening, saturation, and contrast on their default settings. The studio tests show very low noise at ISO 50 and 100, ISO 200 is very good, 400 acceptable, and then it gets pretty chunky at ISO 800. Most compact digital cameras don't even have an ISO 800 setting, so there's no reason to get upset or ding the camera for some noise at this high sensitivity setting. I'd consider ISO a bonus setting. It might not be pretty, but it will help people get photos where otherwise they'd get nothing.
I looked hard at all kinds of photos taken with the A200 and don't have anything really bad to say about it. At the default settings the images are flat and lack saturation. But that's fine because the files have a lot of potential and have a lot of room for adjustment in post-processing. The only real problem I had was the A200 seemed to have a tendency to blow out the highlights in outdoor photos. This is actually the norm for digital cameras. But I found it was happening to me more with this camera than others I've used. The solution is to check the histogram and make sure to expose for the highlights. Shadows can easily be adjusted after capture. But once the highlights are gone - that's it.
As far as post-processing goes, I didn't need to do anything special with the A200 image files. I warmed them up, punched up the contrast, increased the saturation, and did some sharpening. But that's exactly what I would do with images I shot with my own digital SLRs. The only difference was I had to work a little harder to hold detail in the skies. I think the sensor has a bit less dynamic range than I'm used to, on the light end of the scale.
Conclusion Taking this camera on a road trip was a great way to give it a real life workout. Overall, it worked out great - even compared to my digital SLR. I took both my digital SLR and the DiMage A200 on multiple mountain bike rides. It was a very good test of the Konica Minolta's abilities. If anything, it was an unfair test. It's not really realistic to expect any compact digital camera to measure up against a $1500 digital SLR. But the A200 isn't "any" compact digital camera.
For me, the best thing about the DiMage A200, was the size and weight. Although the long lens makes it less convenient than some other high-end compact digital cameras, the optical zoom range, Anti-Shake technology, and the speed of the camera more than make up for the size. I didn't once regret taking it on a ride. Sure, there were some things I wasn't able to do with the A200 that I could do with my digital SLR, 28-135mm zoom lens, fisheye, and off-camera flash. But the A200 wasn't an extra 5 pounds on in my backpack, either. It was faster to get out and set up, and the image quality delivered. The only thing I regret is not taking more mountain bike pictures with the A200.
Who Should Buy The Konica Minolta DiMage A200 The Konica Minolta DiMage A200 digital camera has something to offer almost everyone. Like all high-end compact digital cameras, it's got a full auto mode, for people who don't understand, or don't want to make decisions about exposure. The long zoom lens and Anti-Shake System will help inexperienced photographers get good photos in situations where they might normally have problems. So it would be a good choice for beginners who have some money to spend on technology that will really help them take better pictures.
The camera will also work well for people who are considering buying a digital SLR but aren't sure about the size or expense. The A200 is as close as it gets, without actually having a single lens reflex camera with changeable lenses. It could also be a good second camera for a pro who wants something small and light to compliment their main, workhorse camera. With the threaded lens for filters and accessory lenses, the flash hot shoe, and studio light capabilities, there aren't many photographic jobs that can't be handled with the DiMage A200.
The only people who shouldn't consider the DiMage A200 are those who want a "pocketable" camera and people who can't afford it. It's a lot of camera for the money, but the going price of $600-700 is still a lot of money. If you like what you've read but don't need the 8-megapixel sensor, consider the Konica Minolta DiMage Z5 - a 5 megapixel camera with a 12x optical zoom lens and Anti-Shake technology.
Strengths: Lightweight, with a manual zoom that is so much easier to use than those cursed push button zooms.
Swiveling LCD so you take pictures around corners and over walls, useful if you're a private eye or a voyeur.
Lithium Ion battery but see below.
Compact flash memory card, a movie mode, and a 7X or so zoom range.
Weaknesses: The battery is dinky and as far as I know there was never a battery grip for this camera. There was an external battery Minolta made that was very expensive and was hard to find even when new.
Minolta has quit the commercial camera business, so there's not much support and no updates.
Noise is showing pretty well even at ISO 800 in daylight.
The movie mode is has lots of noise/grain, and saves them in Quicktime format, which not all movie editors support. Further, the autofocus will run continuously so it's better to leave it in manual mode. But you can get a whole 15 minutes per clip! Joy!
Achingly slow autofocus, I lost many good action shots because the !#$@! thing was chattering away trying to lock.
This is one of those "bridge" cameras that looks like an SLR but really isn't. Perhaps I'm too hard on it, but after I sold this for a D50- I never looked it's weaknesses outweighed it's good aspects.
As with most older cameras, used within it's limits it can take good pictures, but those limits are abysmal compared to what modern cameras can do.
Similar Products Used: D50, DCS 620X, D90, D200, D700, Pro 70, etc.
Type of photography: Outdoor
Date Reviewed: May 8, 2006
Strengths: Great lens....f:2.5-3.5 is fast...light weight
Weaknesses: View finder is poor
I bought this fifteen months ago to try digital photography. Most of my serious work I enlarge to 20x30 in. i previously had used Nikon N80 and Maxxum 7 film cameras for my work.I was amazes at the quality of the lens on the Konica Minolta. The definition was superior to anything I have ever gotten on film! The anti-shake is great; the only complaint is the viewfinder. If you have light coming from over your shoulder it's very hard to see into the finder.
I shoot at JPEG Fine and see no need for my work to even use raw.
I recently got the Nikon D200 and a few weeks ago got the highly touted 18-200 mm. zoom with their anti-shake. It's great camera and has a great lens, but honestly the pictures are not better than the Konica Minolta's. And the Nikon with that lens must weigh three or four times as much!
One thing you must not do with the Konica Minolta is to shoot at more than 100 ISO.
But with anti-shake and a f:2.5-3.5 lens you really don't have that biga problem.Great
Strengths: Vari-Angle LCD Monitor
Anti-Shake (a must have!!)
2 different Macro settings
Manual Focus Ring
The EVF is great (even if i don't use it often)
Shape and size
Many Many options, and settings
Ability to save certain shot settings, to use later, with the touch of a button
Weaknesses: The magnifier during manual focus can be irritating (i'm impatient)
I wish it had a nicer, thicker, neck strap
I've found everything I need in this little camera, It takes excellent photos from any range, and in any lighting condition. It's small size makes it easy to take anywhere.
I've had this camera for several months now, and I am still discovereing new things I can do with it's settings and options... It's truly Packed with possibilities!
I'd recommend this camera to almost anyone.. even with all it's options, and settings.. and many buttons and features, it's Very simple to use
Strengths: Excellent picture quality, manual zoom, high quality movide mode, LCD display swivels 270 degrees for shooting over crowds. Minolta makes an adapter (purchased separately) so it can let the camera use compact flash or SD cards. Manual settings make night pictures and other difficult shots a breeze.
Weaknesses: Small proprietary battery doesn't last long, the movie mode is limited to 15 minutes per clip and they are in quicktime format. This isn't much of a problem for me as I use it as camera first, but some people have complained about it. My particular camera has a hot pixel on the LCD. High ISO (800) is very noisy.
This is the ideal camera for me, it takes great pictures and high quality video up to 800X600. (15FPS for 800X600, all other settings are 30fps.) The A200 has a short learning curve, after which it's how good you are, not the other way around.
Strengths: Excellent optics with low distortions and no visible chromatic abberations, really good mechanical AntiShake, fast mechanical zoom ring, realistic (yet a bit cold) colors, low weight, orientable LCD , remote control, ISO50, low noise with ISO50 and 100, manual flash pop-up (prevents you from undesired flashing), high resolution movies with anti-shake
Weaknesses: Bug in the auto-focus algorithm (often slow and sometimes unprecise), a bit too soft images, sometimes (yet rarely) faulty exposition, noise higher than for 5Mp cameras, zoom ring could be smoother (you feel that in movie mode), LCD screen has some hot pixels + too much plastics (= cheap feel) , battery life could be longer, no power-on lcd, electronic viewfinder could have better resolution, the built-in flash is a bit week, autofocus is often unprecise in movie mode (this is annoying !)
Very good camera with almost all manual controls you may want from a bridge camera,
and even from a SLR camera. It has excellent lens (although a bit soft) with a fast manual zoom ring and a smooth focus ring. The colors are highly realistic, the optical distortions and vignetting are very low. The orientabale LCD monitor is very useful in macro mode (compared, for example, to DimageA2). The ergonomics is excellent and its is very easy to operate.
The great advantage of A200 is its AntiShake (AS) system that works extremely well and allows to shoot in bad light conditions, in tele/macro mode or in movie mode.
I had experience with several digital cameras and with
many 35 mm SLRs. My last one was 5MP DSC-717. I decided to try Dimage A200 because
the DSC717 is a bit slow (it was fast for its time) and I also wanted a higher numerical resolution.
I first hesitated between DSC828, KM Dimage A200 and Canon PS Pro1. I have finally chosen A200 for its
anti-shake, low weight and low chromatic aberrations (I also wanted to buy Dimage A2 but it was difficult to find on the market).
If you compare a 8MP CCD bridge camera with 5MP counterparts, the main negative feature would be a higher noise level.
For A200, the noise is
higher than for my DSC717,
so that ISO 100 is comparable to ISO 200 for DSC717. However, it looks like A200 has a lower noise level than many 8MP cameras based on Sony's CCD sensor including their own DSC828.
Thanks to AntiShake one can use ISO50 or 100 in most situations, which partly
solves the problem. At ISO50 the noise level is very low, and this allows one to get rich detailed images.
The autofocus has some kind of a little bug in the algorithm so it is slow and lacks precision in case of low contrast or bad light conditions. This is not really crucial this problem can be corrected using the DMF (direct manual focus) mode.
Finally, A200 can produce high quality movies in high resolution (800x600)
mode (thaks to AntiShake as well)