Digital cameras have been around for nearly 10 years now. The first consumer models appeared in late 1996, and since that time they have become more and more popular. For several years now digital cameras have out-sold film cameras by a significant margin. Despite this, many manufacturers still design their digital cameras to resemble film cameras, at least in general appearance. One of the few to break with this tradition is Konica Minolta, whose innovative Z series, first introduced in 2003, looks like no film camera ever made. Instead they are designed with purely digital functionality in mind, and the result is one of the oddest-looking but best handling cameras on the market.
The latest model in the series is this, the Z6. With a 6 megapixel CCD and 12x optical zoom lens with anti-shake technology, it is the top in the current range of five models. It has a list price of £299.99, but if you shop around online you can find it for £50 less. (Digital Rev is doing it for £200- ed).
It’s probably fair to say that the styling of the Z6 will not appeal to everyone. It does look quite retro-futuristic, with its chrome detailing giving it more than a hint of the kind of Art Deco last seen in the prop design of the1930s Flash Gordon series. Personally I like the way it looks, and I absolutely love the way it handles. The big handgrip with its textured rubber insert makes the Z6 fit snuggly and securely into the right hand. The controls are carefully positioned for maximum comfort and utility, and it’s quite possible to operate the camera with one hand. The layout of the camera is apparently identical to the earlier Z5 reviewed back in March, although there seem to have been a few minor adjustments. The zoom control feels a bit sturdier and securely mounted, and the camera has a general feel of solidity and weight.
As with all of Konica Minolta’s model range, build quality is excellent. Although the outer casing is plastic, there is a lot of metal in the camera’s construction. If I have one complaint it’s with the poor design of the card hatch on the bottom of the camera. Its position means that it is impossible to change the card while the camera is mounted on a tripod. There’s no latch holding it shut, just a rather weak spring, and it is easy for it to come open in the course of normal use. The card won’t fall out, but the lid of the hatch is very flimsy and could easily be broken. I suspect that this will be a common reason for warranty returns with this model.