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The Z5 also has a decent movie mode. It can shoot full VGA 640 x 480 resolution sequences at 30 frames per second, which is comparable to many video cameras. Like a number of other digital cameras, movies are recorded in Motion-JPEG format (.mov) which can be played back using QuickTime. A built-in editing function allows you to cut clips from a movie and save them back to the memory card, so you can build up a fully-edited film right there in the camera. The zoom lens operates silently, so no motor noise is recorded on the soundtrack.
With all these good points, it would be a shame if the Z5 was let down by picture quality. Many super-zoom cameras are handicapped by their massive lenses. Any experienced photographer will tell you that no matter how steady you think your hands are, you simply cannot use a 420mm lens hand held at a shutter speed of less than 1/400 of a second. At this focal length the lens magnifies the tiniest of movements, resulting in blurred pictures.
To help overcome this, some super-zoom cameras use image stabilisation. Most of them work by moving elements within the lens to compensate for vibration, while some attempt to correct the problem electronically using image processing. Konica Minolta’s solution is slightly different. In the Z5 and several of the company’s other models, the CCD is mounted on tiny servos connected to vibration sensors and a high-speed computer circuit which can sense and correct vibration with incredible accuracy. The practical upshot of this is an increase of two to three stops of useful shutter speed, in other words you can take hand-held shots with the Z5’s lens at full extension, at a shutter speed as low as 1/50 of a second with little sign of camera shake.
However, if you want to use that impressive focal length to freeze fast moving subjects then image stabilisation becomes almost redundant and what you really want is a fast shutter speed and fast glass, coupled with low noise at higher ISOs. At 420mm, the Z5 offers a maximum aperture of f4.5, which is actually very good, but I would have liked a maximum shutter speed of more than 1/1000 of a second, and a little less noise in images shot above ISO 100.
However, for everyday use and at ISO speeds of 50 and 100, the Z5’s pictures are of a high quality, as well as being shake-free. The multi-point AF system is quick and accurate, and turns in nothing but perfectly focused shots. The exposure system is also very good, coping particularly well with tricky backlighting, but I did see a couple of over-exposed shots, so judicious use of the exposure compensation button might prove useful. Colour rendition is excellent, nice and natural in the Standard mode, bright and fully saturated in the Vivid mode.
Despite its odd appearance the Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z5 has fantastic handling, nifty performance and generally good picture quality, so long as the ISO setting is kept low. It is easy to use for the beginner, but has a range of features that will please the enthusiast. While a higher capacity SD memory card could have been included, the image stabilisation does make it one of the few super-zoom cameras that can fully exploit its impressive 420mm reach, and the high quality video mode is just icing on the cake. A fine camera and decent value for money.