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  1. #1
    Captain of the Ship Photo-John's Avatar
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    Aug 2001
    Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Pro Review

    A Road Trip With the Konica Minolta DiMage A200

    Porcupine Rim Trail - taken with the Konica Minolta DiMage A200

    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.

    Price: Approximately $700 US

    • Excellent control placement
    • 28-200mm f/2.8-3.5 lens w. manual zoom ring
    • Anti-Shake System
    • Minimal shutter-lag
    • Live histogram
    • Flash hot shoe
    • RAW capture
    • Adobe RGB colorspace
    • Bulky for a compact digital camera
    • JPEGs flat and lacking saturation
    • Tendency to blow out highlights
    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Studio Test Images
    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Studio SamplesISO 50 Sample
    ISO 100 Sample >>
    ISO 200 Sample >>
    ISO 400 Sample >>
    ISO 800 Sample >>

    More Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Resources
    All Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Photos >>
    Read reviews DiMage A200 owners >>
    Post a Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Review >>
    Konica Minolta Web site >>

    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 - Front and back

    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.

    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 lens and pop-up flash
      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.

    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 swivel LCD
      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.

    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 controls
    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.

    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 LCD display
      Basic still image recording view on the DiMage A200 LCD.

    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 LCD display
      Basic image playback on the DiMage A200 LCD.

    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 LCD display
      Image playback with histogram.

    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 LCD display
      Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Menu

    Camera Experience

    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.

    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Anti-Shake button
      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.

    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.


    What's In The Box

    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Anti-Shake button
      Contents of the Konica Minolta DiMage A200 box.

    • Konica Minolta DiMage A200
    • Wireless Remote Control
    • Lithium-ion battery NP-800
    • Battery Charger BC-900
    • Neck strap
    • Accessory shoe cap
    • Lens cap
    • Lens shade
    • AV cable
    • USB cable
    • DiMage Viewer CD-ROM
    • ULEAD Video Studio 8 SE CD-ROM
    • Manual, warranty, etc.

    Other Resources:
    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 User Reviews >>
    Write a Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Review >>
    Konica Minolta DiMage A200 Sample Gallery >>
    Studio Sample Images >>
    Konica Minolta Web site >>

    Last edited by Photo-John; 06-09-2005 at 06:40 PM.

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