Minolta Digital Cameras

 

The Minolta DiMAGE Z3 digital camera is the latest in a long line of  Minolta digital cameras featuring uncommon innovation, aggressive pricing, and superior optics. The original Minolta Z1 (before their merger with Konica) was their first long-zoom (10x) digital camera aimed squarely at the consumer market, and has been one of the most popular cameras on the Imaging Resource site since its introduction.

 The Minolta Z2 also proved to be a popular model, with a higher-resolution 4.0 megapixel sensor, and expanded movie capabilities. Now, the new Konica Minolta Z3 provides a fairly dramatic update, extending the zoom range to a full 12x ratio, and also adding Minolta's highly effective anti-shake technology, to make that long zoom truly useful under a much wider range of conditions than previously was the case. Like its predecessors, the Konica Minolta Z3 offers a combination of ease of use, features, and retail price that are squarely aimed at the bulk of "point & shoot" users.

 At the same time though, the Z3 offers optional advanced exposure modes (including full-manual operation and a flash hot shoe) that appeal to more advanced users. As such, it makes a great camera for situations where users of widely varying experience levels need to share the same camera. It's also a great choice for novices who want a camera with features that they can "grow into" as their photographic abilities mature. The most important feature though, is its anti-shake technology. Long-zoom cameras are currently one of the most popular categories of digicams, but few people realize just how hard it is to hold a 10x zoom lens steady on a distant subject.

 Unless you're shooting in very bright light, or have the camera mounted on a solid tripod, it can be very difficult to avoid blurring caused by camera shake. By contrast, with its advanced anti-shake technology, the Konica Minolta Z3 is able to compensate for a surprising amount of jiggling, delivering sharp photos across a much wider range of conditions than would be possible otherwise. All in all, the new DiMAGE Z3 delivers an amazing amount of technology in a very approachable package, at a very attractive price. Read on for all the details!

 Camera Overview

Similar in shape and size to the preceding DiMAGE Z1 and Z2 models, the Minolta DiMAGE Z3 continues with the shrunk-down 35mm "big lens" SLR design aesthetic, although this newest model is elegantly clad in an all-black body. The DiMAGE Z3 offers many of the same excellent features and exposure options as the previous models, though now with an impressive 12x optical zoom lens and an Anti-Shake feature for reducing blurring due to camera movement in slower exposures. Maintaining the full-featured reputation of the Z1 and Z2 models, the Z3 offers full manual exposure control and a host of creative shooting options in a fairly compact, very user-friendly package. Measuring a mere 4.27 x 3.15 x 3.29 inches (108 x 80 x 83 millimeters) and weighing 16 ounces (455 grams) with the cap, batteries, and SD memory card, the DiMAGE Z3 is quite compact for such a long-zoom camera, but still a bit too chunky for a shirt pocket. It should fit into larger coat pockets, purses, and backpacks without trouble though. A neck/shoulder strap comes with the Z3, for more secure portability. Covered in solid black plastic body panels with a matte finish, the Z3's body is built around the large lens barrel. A substantial handgrip provides a solid hold, but the rest of the camera is fairly compact. A plastic lens cap protects the telescoping lens, but tethers to the camera body to prevent it from being accidentally lost. The Z3 features a 4.0-megapixel CCD, which produces high resolution images for making sharp prints as large as 11x14 inches with some cropping, as well as lower resolution images better suited for email distribution. With its range of exposure options, 12x optical zoom, and high resolution CCD, the Z3 is a versatile and capable performer.

The DiMAGE Z3 is generously equipped with a 12x, 5.83-69.9mm lens, the equivalent of a 35-420mm lens on a 35mm camera. This represents a range from a moderate wide-angle to a very substantial telephoto. This lens replaces the 38-380mm equivalent lens used on the Z2 (which, in its own right was an excellent zoom range). Maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/4.5, depending on the lens zoom setting. Focus is specified as ranging from 2.0 feet (0.6 meters) to infinity in normal mode, with a macro setting ranging from 0.3 to 8.2 feet (0.1 to 2.5 meters). There's also a Super Macro setting, which gets as close as 0.39 inches (1 centimeter) for really impressive closeups. In practice, I found that the camera would focus down to close to the "Macro" range even with the Macro option disabled, at least at the wide angle end of the zoom range. At the telephoto end of the lens' range, minimum focusing distance seemed to be about five feet, regardless of the Macro setting. Though the DiMAGE Z3 normally judges focus from a large area in the center of the frame, a Spot AF mode is also available, which determines focus from one of five possible spot-AF hotspots, arranged across the middle of the frame. To activate Spot-AF mode, press and hold down the center button of the arrow pad in any non-movie capture mode. Once Spot-AF mode is selected, you can use the left and right buttons of the arrow pad to select the specific spot area you want to use.

The Z3 offers a manual focus setting, as well as a Full-time AF mode which continuously adjusts focus whether the shutter button is pressed or not. (This may be helpful in tracking moving subjects, but doesn't reduce shutter lag with stationary subjects.) You can also opt for a Continuous AF mode which employs Predictive Focus technology. This option continuously adjusts focus without you having to hold down the shutter button, and attempts to track a moving subject so that it can "predict" where the next focus area will be. In addition to the optical zoom, the DiMAGE Z3 offers as much as 4x digital zoom. (I always remind readers though, that digital zoom inevitably decreases the overall image quality because it simply enlarges the central pixels of the CCD's image.) For composing images, the DiMAGE Z3 offers a 1.5-inch LCD monitor, as well as a smaller, electronic optical viewfinder LCD display. Unlike previous Z-series models, these are two distinct displays (previous models used the same LCD which would pivot between the full LCD and the viewfinder). The Mode switch on the camera's rear panel determines which display is active, and the full information and image displays are available on both (including the LCD menu). The LCD is quite sharp, and during manual focusing, the central portion of the display is magnified by about 3x, as a further aid to determining optimum focus.

For eyeglass wearers, the Z3's eyelevel viewfinder is a bit of a mixed bag. It has a dioptric adjustment with a fairly broad adjustment, at the "nearsighted" end of its range accommodating even my own 20/180 vision. On the downside though, the eyepiece has a fairly low eyepoint, making it hard to use while wearing glasses. (I could see the entire frame with my own glasses on, but had to press the eyeglass lens right up against the eyepiece, something I'd prefer not to do, for fear of scratches.)

When it comes to exposure, the DiMAGE Z3 offers a wide range of options, controlled by the Exposure Mode dial on top of the camera. Main exposure modes include Auto, Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes, with five preset Scene modes and a Movie mode available as well. In Auto mode, the camera handles everything, leaving only the zoom, drive mode, etc., for the user to worry about. Program AE mode keeps the camera in charge of aperture and shutter speed, but allows the user to adjust all other exposure settings. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes provide partial manual control, letting the user adjust one variable while the camera selects the other. Finally, in Manual mode, the user has complete control over the exposure. Aperture settings range from f/2.8 to f/8, with the actual maximum and minimum values depending on the lens zoom position. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 15 seconds in Manual and Shutter Priority modes, with a true time-exposure setting permitting exposures as long as 30 seconds. (Maximum exposure time in Program AE, Aperture Priority, Auto, and the Digital Subject Program modes is four seconds.) The true time-exposure option on the Z3 is a very unusual and welcome feature on a digital camera. Most digicams with long-exposure options have a "Bulb" mode, in which the shutter is kept open as long as you hold down the shutter button. The disadvantage of this approach is the need to keep your finger on the shutter button often causes camera shake that can blur the final images. With a true time-exposure mode though, you press the shutter button once to open the shutter, and then again to close it. With the camera mounted on a tripod, the momentary minor jiggling as you press the shutter button to open the shutter dies away quickly, allowing very sharp images with very long exposures. Kudos to Konica Minolta for implementing this feature, one that I wish other camera makers would adopt.

The Z3's new Anti-Shake option (enabled through the Setup menu) also helps with blurring from camera movement, which is more pronounced when shooting at the full telephoto zoom position. When enabled, the Anti-Shake system turns on whenever the shutter button is pressed. It has two modes of operation though, selected through the camera's Setup menu. In the first mode (Disp+Exp), the anti-shake system actuates whenever the shutter button is half-pressed, so you can see the effect it has through the image that's displayed on the LCD monitor. The second mode (Exp only), it only activates for the exposure itself, so you won't see any stabilization of the viewfinder image. The second mode saves on battery power, but I personally much prefer the visual feedback of the Disp+Exp mode so I can tell it's working. You should note though, that Anti-Shake is only effective for minor movement, and won't counteract the effects of strong movements of the camera. Neither will it reduce blur caused by a moving subject. For longer exposures, the Z3 features a Noise Reduction setting (optionally activated through the Setup menu), which uses dark-frame subtraction to reduce image noise resulting from long exposure times. While this noise reduction helps somewhat, I found in my testing that the Z3 did much better at moderate light levels, down to roughly 1/4 the brightness of typical city street lighting at night.

In addition to the various automatic, semi-automatic, and manual conventional exposure modes, the five Digital Subject Program modes include Night Portrait, Sunset, Landscape, Sports Action, and Portrait modes, for shooting in common, yet sometimes challenging, situations. Night Portrait allows use of the flash in conjunction with longer exposure times for more even illumination; Sunset mode sets white balance to "daylight" and biases the exposure to produce saturated colors in sky shots; Landscape mode uses a small aperture to produce greater depth of field; Sports Action mode biases the exposure system toward faster shutter speeds; and Portrait mode uses a larger aperture to decrease depth of field, slightly blurring the background behind the primary subject.

By default, the Z3 employs a Multi-Segment metering system, which reads multiple areas throughout the frame to determine the exposure. Through the Record menu, however, you can opt for Spot or Center-Weighted metering modes. The right and left arrow keys on the camera's back panel control the Exposure Compensation, adjusting it from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. Light sensitivity is adjustable to ISO values of 50, 100, 200, or 400, with an Auto setting as well. White Balance is also adjustable through the settings menu, with options for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, and Flash light sources, as well as a Custom setting for manually adjusting the color balance with a white card. The Record menu also offers Sharpness and Contrast adjustments, as well as a Color setting with Natural, Vivid, Black and White, and Sepia color options. The DiMAGE Z3 features a built-in, pop-up flash, which operates in Auto, Auto Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-Flash, Fill with Red-Eye Reduction, Suppressed, or Slow-Sync modes. An adjustment in the Record menu lets you control the intensity of the flash, from -2 to +2 EV. You can also attach a more powerful flash unit, via the external flash hot shoe on the camera's top panel. The flash connection is proprietary to Konica Minolta accessories, including the Maxxum Flash 2500, 3600HS, and 5600HS units, but an adapter unit is available (albeit nearly impossible to find at retail) that provides a standard PC-style sync connector.

In Movie exposure mode, the camera captures 640 x 480 or 320 x 240-pixel resolution moving images with sound, with a Fine quality option available at the larger resolution. The recording time per segment varies with the available memory card space, as well as with the resolution, quality, and frame rate selected. (Given a sufficiently fast memory card, the camera is able to record movies of any size or frame rate without pausing, up to the limit of the card's capacity. With slower memory cards though, recording may be limited to shorter intervals. - Look for speed-rated cards of 32x or higher.) You have an option for Standard or Night movie modes, and can set the frame rate to either 15 or 30 frames per second. In movie mode, you can zoom digitally or optically, though keep in mind that the noise from the lens motor will also be recorded. In this case, the zoom is very slow--better for good movies--so you don't hear the zoom motor as much as the zoom control itself when you activate it too vigorously. Finally, another unique feature of the Z3's movie mode is the ability to capture single frames of the movie during playback, and save them as separate still images.

For shooting fast action subjects, the DiMAGE Z3's Standard and Ultra High Speed (UHS) Continuous Advance modes capture a rapid series of images while you hold down the Shutter button, much like a motor drive on a traditional 35mm camera. UHS mode captures up to 15 frames at the 1,280 x 960 resolution at a rate of 10 frames/second, while Standard mode captures frames at about 2.16 frames per second. (Konica Minolta claims 2.2 frames/second, pretty close to what we saw.) The actual frame rate and maximum number of images in a series will depend on the resolution setting, subject matter, and the amount of available memory space. Besides the normal Continuous Advance modes, the Z3 offers a feature called "Progressive Capture," which begins continuously acquiring images when you press and hold down the shutter button, but only saving the last few captured when you finally release the shutter button. At maximum resolution, standard Progressive Capture will save the last six images captured, while UHS Progressive Capture will save up to the last 15 1280 x 960 images captured. Progressive capture is very helpful for capturing fast action, when you don't know exactly when the critical moment will arrive. (Great for those like myself whose reflexes are slowing as we age.) The Z3's action-capture capabilities are further enhanced by its shorter than average shutter lag times, ranging from 0.26 seconds at wide angle to 0.46 seconds at telephoto. (As well as its prefocus shutter delay of 0.13 seconds, just slightly longer than the Z2's 0.09 seconds.) Also available is an Auto Exposure Bracketing mode, which captures three consecutive frames at different exposure settings, varying by 0.3, 0.5, or 1.0 EV steps. The camera's Self-Timer mode provides a two or 10-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the time that the camera actually takes the picture, allowing you to get into your own shots.

The DiMAGE Z3 stores its images on SD memory cards, and a 16MB card accompanies the camera. (The camera also works with MMC cards, which used to be slightly less expensive, but which have now for the most part disappeared from the market.) I highly recommend picking up a larger capacity card right away, so you don't miss any important shots. (These days, a 128MB card represents a good tradeoff between capacity and cost.) Connection to a host computer for image download is via USB. The DiMAGE Z3 is a "storage-class" device, which means that it doesn't require any separate driver software for Windows 2000 and XP, or for Mac OS 8.6 and later. The camera utilizes four AA-type batteries for power, and a set of single-use alkaline batteries accompanies the camera. While the Z3 offers much better than average battery life, I as always recommend picking up at least two sets of high-capacity rechargeable NiMH batteries and a good charger, and keeping a set freshly charged at all times. See my Battery Shootout page for test results from a variety of batteries, and read my review of the Maha C-204W to see why it's my new favorite AA-cell charger. The optional AC adapter is also useful for preserving battery power when reviewing and downloading images, or when viewing images and movies on a television, via the supplied A/V cable. (With a couple of sets of good NiMH batteries and a good charger though, you really won't need an AC adapter.)

Many of our readers will be familiar with the earlier DiMAGE Z1 and Z2 models, so I put together the following comparison of major features between the DiMAGE Z1, DiMAGE Z2, and the DiMAGE Z3.

Feature DiMAGE Z3 DiMAGE Z2 DiMAGE Z1
Branding Konica Minolta Konica Minolta Minolta
Sensor Size 1/2.5" 1/2.5" 1/2.7"
Sensor Resolution (total pixels) 4.2 megapixel 4.2 megapixel 3.3 megapixel
Sensor Resolution (effective) 4.0 megapixel 4.0 megapixel 3.2 megapixel
Maximum Image Size 2,272 x 1,704 pixels 2,272 x 1,704 pixels 2,048 x 1,536 pixels
Maximum Movie Size 640 x 480 pixels (two quality levels) 800 x 600 pixels 640 x 480 pixels
Movie Clip Length Limited only by card space, given a fast enough memory card (A 32x Lexar card worked fine for me) Limited only by card space, given a fast enough memory card (A 32x Lexar card worked fine for me) 30 seconds at 640 x 480, 30fps (other resolutions vary)
Movie Optical Zoom Always enabled Can be enabled through menu No
Movie Digital Zoom Available at all resolutions Available at all resolutions Available at 320 x 240 pixels or lower only
Movie Audio On at all times On at all times Can be disabled via menu
Movie Editing No, but can save a single frame as a new file Yes, can crop start and end of movie, and save as new file No
Focal Length 5.83 - 69.9mm
35-420mm effective
(12x)
6.3 - 63mm
38-380mm effective
(10x)
5.8 - 58mm
38-380mm effective
(10x)
Maximum Aperture f/2.8 (wide)
f/4.5 (tele)
f/2.8 (wide)
f/3.7 (tele)
f/2.8 (wide)
f/3.5 (tele)
Lens Branding APO GT Lens APO GT Lens None
Focus Modes Single, Continuous with Predictive Focus, and Manual, Five-Point Adjustable AF Area Single, Continuous, and Manual, Three-Point Adjustable AF Area Auto, Manual
Focus Lock Signal Can be changed to one of two sounds or disabled Can be changed to one of two sounds or disabled Fixed
Anti-Shake Feature Yes, activated through Setup menu with two display options

(Major feature!)

No No
Self-Timer Duration Two or 10 Seconds 10 Seconds 10 Seconds
DPOF Date Printing Yes Yes No
PictBridge support Yes Yes No
Other Solid black body with blue Konica Minolta logo and silver wording on front of flash housing. DC In port moved to USB compartment, and SD card slot moved to bottom panel. Oblong shutter button with decorative raised element extending down front of handgrip. Grey panel with silver Konica Minolta wording on front of flash housing. Konica Minolta logo on top of pop-up flash. DC In port has silk-screened graphic showing connector polarity next to it. Silver panel with Minolta logo on front of flash housing. DC In port has silk-screened "DC IN" text next to it.



 

Basic Features
  • 4.0-megapixel CCD.
  • Electronic optical viewfinder (EVF).
  • 1.5-inch color TFT LCD monitor.
  • 12x, 5.83-69.9mm lens, equivalent to a 35-420mm lens on a 35mm camera.
  • 4x digital zoom.
  • Automatic, Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes, plus five preset Digital Subject Program modes.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to 15 seconds, with a "Time" setting for exposures as long as 30 seconds.
  • Maximum aperture f/2.8 to f/4.5, depending on lens zoom position.
  • Built-in flash with five modes.
  • External flash hot shoe for Konica Minolta accessory flash units.
  • SD/MMC memory card storage, 16MB card included.
  • Images saved as JPEG files.
  • Power supplied by four AA-type batteries or optional AC adapter.
  • DiMAGE Viewer and ArcSoft VideoImpression software, and USB drivers included for both Windows and Mac platforms.

Special Features

  • Optional Anti-Shake technology reduces blurring from camera movement.
  • Movie and Night Movie modes with sound recording.
  • Optical zoom can be used in Movie mode (but is clearly audible in recorded movies)
  • Standard and Ultra High Speed Continuous Advance shooting modes.
  • Progressive Capture mode for capturing images before you release the shutter.
  • Auto Exposure Bracketing.
  • Two- or 10-second Self-Timer for delayed shutter release.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with seven modes, including a manual setting.
  • Adjustable ISO with four sensitivity settings and an Auto mode.
  • Noise reduction setting for long exposures.
  • Multi-Segment, Center-Weighted, and Spot metering options.
  • Spot and Full-time AF modes.
  • Single, Continuous with Predictive Focus, and Manual AF modes, with an adjustable AF area.
  • Color, Sharpness, and Contrast adjustments.
  • USB Direct-Print and PictBridge capability.
  • A/V cable for connection to a television set.
  • USB cable for connection to a computer (driver software included).


Recommendation
With its 12x optical zoom lens, full range of exposure control, fairly compact size, and excellent movie- and continuous-capture modes, the DiMAGE Z3 is a full-featured yet surprisingly affordable long-zoom digicam. Though the camera features full manual exposure control, its simplified user interface and available automatic and "scene" modes make it very approachable for less-experienced novices who want to gradually learn more about digital photography. A 4.0-megapixel CCD delivers good quality images, with enough resolution to make sharp 8x10 and 11x14 prints, with lower resolution options available for email and other electronic uses. The Z3 is compact enough for travel, especially for a long-zoom model, and has enough exposure features to handle just about any situation. The Z3 would make a great choice for anyone looking for a long-zoom digicam with ample features, but at an affordable price. It is notable that most everyone here at Imaging Resource has been surprised by how enjoyable it is to shoot with the Z3: When shooting gallery shots, I didn't want to use the other cameras, far preferring the ease, quick performance, long zoom, and excellent anti-shake capability of this nice little digicam. A great choice in the long-zoom category!

 

Design

Minolta Digital CamerasMinolta's DiMAGE brand name carries with it a tradition of quality and technological innovation, covering an array of digital cameras designed to suit a wide range of experience levels and price points. The newest addition to the pack is Konica Minolta's DiMAGE Z3. Like the Z1 and Z2 models before it, the Z3 offers a strong feature set, pared down only moderately from those of Konica Minolta's higher-end models like the A2, but still offering a full range of exposure control and a long-ratio 12x zoom lens, with an easy to learn user interface, all at an affordable price. Compared to the DiMAGE Z2, changes in the Z3 include the longer 12x optical zoom lens, a new, and arguably essential Anti-Shake feature, plus a handful of minor design tweaks. Shaped much like a miniaturized 35mm SLR, the Z3's body is similar to that of its predecessor, though with an all-black color scheme highlighted only by silver control labels and charcoal-gray buttons on the rear panel. (Other design changes include the relocation of the SD compartment and DC In socket.) Made up mostly of the lens and a tall, stylized hand grip, the plastic body is understated and sophisticated, and sports only a few external controls. Measuring 4.27 x 3.15 x 3.29 inches (108 x 80 x 83 millimeters), the DiMAGE Z3 is a little too bulky for shirt pockets, but should slip into larger coat pockets and purses without trouble. The camera's plastic body helps keep the weight down, despite the large 12x zoom lens, weighing in at 16 ounces (455 grams) with the batteries and SD memory card. A neck strap accompanies the camera for easy toting, but I'd recommend picking up a small camera case to protect the matte finish of the plastic body panels when traveling.

The front of the Z3 is dominated by the large lens and handgrip. When powered on, the lens extends just under 1.25 inches from the camera front. A plastic lens cap clamps onto the lens for protection, and tethers to the camera body with a small strap. A set of filter threads around the inside lip of the lens barrel on the body of the camera accommodates Konica Minolta's accessory lenses via an accessory adapter. Konica Minolta's optional accessory lenses extend both the camera's wide angle and telephoto capabilities. Also on the front panel are the Self-Timer LED lamp and the sloping, oblong Shutter button which angles down from the top of the handgrip. A substantial handgrip provides a firm hold on the camera, with plenty of room for your fingers to curve around the grip. While it offers plenty to grab onto, the handgrip is also small enough to be comfortable for users with smaller hands.

The right side of the Z3 (as viewed from the rear) is blank apart from one of the neck strap attachment eyelets and a rubbery textured panel that wraps from the rear of the camera.

The opposite side of the camera is curved to echo the shape of the lens barrel, and features the second neck strap eyelet. The camera's USB/AV and DC-In connector terminals are located on this side of the camera, in a compartment protected by a rubbery, flexible flap that remains tethered to the camera.

On the DiMAGE Z3's top panel is the pop-up flash compartment and external flash hot shoe, as well as the Shutter, Macro, and Flash buttons. The pop-up flash does not have a release mechanism. Instead, you simply pull up the flash from both sides (which automatically places the flash into Auto mode). A three-hole speaker grille and tiny microphone are side-by-side behind the Shutter button, which slopes downward toward the front panel. The camera's Exposure Mode dial is also located on top of the camera.

The remaining camera controls are on the rear panel, along with the electronic optical viewfinder (EVF) eyepiece and 1.5-inch color LCD monitor. Right of the LCD monitor are the Four-Way Arrow pad and Menu, Quick View/Erase, and Information buttons. The Power button and Mode dial are just beneath the LCD monitor. At the very top of the right side is the Zoom lever. The EVF is centered above the LCD, and has a diopter correction wheel to the right.

Minolta Digital Cameras

The Z3's bottom panel is fairly flat, with a plastic threaded tripod mount centered under the lens (a good position for people interested in panoramic photography), a battery compartment at the base of the handgrip, and an SD card compartment between the two. The SD compartment door could be a little more secure than the current spring loaded design (with no latch), but it works well enough. The tripod mount is just far enough away from the battery compartment to allow quick battery changes while working on a tripod, but not to allow a card change. While I am glad that the battery slot is accessible while working on a tripod, I would like to maintain access to the SD card slot as well, as I change memory cards more frequently than batteries while working in the studio. The previous Z2 model had this capability, so I'm at a loss as to why the Z3's designers would have moved the SD slot from its previous location on the left side panel. A sliding latch locks and unlocks the battery compartment door, to prevent it from accidentally popping open while shooting.

 

Camera Operation

With only a handful of external camera controls and a well-organized LCD menu system, the DiMAGE Z3's user interface is straightforward and easy to grasp. The Mode dial on the rear panel controls the camera's main operating mode (as well as whether the LCD display's image is routed to the rear panel or the EVF eyepiece, image playback only being possible on the LCD), while the Exposure Mode dial sets the level of exposure control you have. Though only a few exposure options can be controlled externally, the Z3's efficiently laid out LCD menu system is easy to understand and relatively quick to navigate. Each menu is divided up into pages with tabs at the top of the screen, so you can quickly scan each page without scrolling through a long list of options. Given the camera's straightforward setup and user-friendly design, most users should be able to operate the camera right out of the box, referring to the manual only for more complex operations.

Record-Mode Viewfinder Display: In record mode, you can choose to display an information overlay on the LCD screen, or dismiss it for an unobstructed view of your subject. Information shown includes camera mode, exposure mode, flash status, exposure compensation (if a compensation adjustment has been made), white balance setting (if something other than "Auto" is selected), image size and quality setting, drive mode (single, continuous, movie, etc), and number of shots remaining on the memory card. If the information overlay is enabled, aperture and shutter speed are reported when the Shutter button is halfway pressed. The current battery level also appears on-screen, with a graphic to indicate the amount of charge. An optional histogram overlay can be enabled with an additional press on the Info button. In Auto mode, a set of icons appears across the top of the screen, to indicate that automatic scene mode selection is active.


 

Minolta Digital CamerasPlayback-Mode Viewfinder Display: In playback mode, the Information button cycles between the image display only, the image with a limited information display, and an index display of the images on the memory card. Image information includes the file number, image number in the captured series, date and time, battery level, and the file size and quality settings. Pressing the up-arrow key on the Four-Way arrow pad calls up a histogram display showing the distribution of brightness values in the image, along with detailed exposure information. You can also zoom in up to 6x to check fine details, focus and framing, and can scroll the enlarged viewing window around the full image using the camera's arrow keys.
 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

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