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Konica Minolta Dynax 5D – Digital SLR Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £524.00

The Holy Grail for which all of the major camera manufacturers are questing is the affordable consumer digital SLR. They know that once a customer buys an SLR and a couple of lenses, they will most likely stay with the same brand for life, buying more lenses and accessories for their system, and occasionally upgrading the camera body. Manufacturers make a lot more profit from lenses than from either SLR camera bodies or zoom compacts, so market domination awaits for the company that can introduce the first real consumer SLR. Canon was the first to break the £1000 barrier with the highly successful EOS 300D, with Nikon, Pentax and Olympus quick to follow suit. The next big barrier is £500, and many models are now approaching this breakthrough price point.


Konica Minolta’s latest SLR, the Dynax 5D, comes very close, costing just £524.49 complete with an 18-70mm lens, a price not much higher than a top-end fixed-lens camera and well within the range of most keen amateurs. Despite this budget price tag it offers a specification and image quality that rivals many of the more expensive professional models, while simultaneously sporting a number of easy-to-use features more commonly found on compact cameras.


The heart of the Dynax 5D is the same well-proven Sony 6.1-megapixel APS-C CCD found in the more expensive Dynax 7D launched last year. It also has a big 2.5in LCD monitor, a full range of manual exposure options, a powerful built-in pop-up flash and multiple automatic modes. The feature that sets it apart from other similarly priced models however is the inclusion of Konica Minolta’s innovative and highly effective body-integral anti-shake system, which utilises near-instantaneous movement sensors and micro-actuators that move the CCD to compensate for camera shake when shooting hand-held at low shutter speeds. The system has been used on other Konica Minolta models, first appearing in the Dimage A1, and allows shake-free hand-held shooting at shutter speeds two to three stops slower than would normally be possible. Currently this camera and the Dynax 7D are the only digital SLRs on the market with image stabilisation technology built into the camera body. With other brands you would have to buy more expensive IS lenses.

Handling and performance are outstanding. The 5D has a tough reinforced glass fiber body over an alloy chassis, making it strong but light. Although its chunky design gives an impression of bulk it is actually quite a small camera, just 5mm wider and 25g heavier than the Pentax *ist DL, with which it is in direct competition. It has a big comfortable rubberised handgrip, large clear viewfinder with optical correction, and a superbly ergonomic control layout. The camera starts up in under a second, and in continuous mode can shoot at three frames a second, although the number of frames that can be shot before the camera needs to stop and write to the card depends on the image quality setting. In Standard mode it is 13 frames, but in the superior RAW+JPEG mode it is just three frames.


Power is provided by an NP-400 7.4V 1500 mAh Lithium-ion battery pack. I charged it up at the beginning of a week’s holiday in France, took around 350 photos while I was there, many with flash and with the A-S system permanently switched on, and it was still reading as fully charged when I got home. Konica Minolta claims 700 shots on a charge, so it’s safe to say that battery life is outstandingly good. Spare NP-400-type batteries are relatively cheap at around £30 each.


The key to any consumer SLR is ease of use, and this the Dynax 5D has in spades. The main control is the mode dial on the top plate, offering a fully automatic snapshot mode, program auto, aperture and shutter priority and full manual exposure, as well as special program modes for portrait, action, landscape, sunset and night portrait. Despite this relative simplicity the 5D has a fantastic range of manually controllable options, far too many to list here. Suffice it to say that creative photographers who like everything to be adjustable will not be disappointed.


Frequently-used options such as AF mode, metering mode, EV compensation and even colour correction are available by pressing a Function button on the camera’s back, although white balance settings have their own dial on the left of the top plate. All settings can be adjusted manually, and colour temperatures can be dialled in.


There are only two criticisms I could make about the camera’s handling. The first is the design of the aperture preview button. It is awkwardly positioned and almost flush with the camera body, making it difficult to find by touch and very fiddly to use. The second is the noise of the shutter and reflex mirror. Compared to many other models it makes quite a loud ‘clack’ as the picture is taken.

In normal lighting conditions the 5D’s AF system is so fast it is effectively instantaneous, and in its default wide-area setting it does seem to have an uncanny knack of focusing on just the right part of the image. One test of this is trying to focus on a bird in flight against a cloudy sky, at which the 5D succeeded consistently. In low light conditions the AF system was fractionally slower, but not by much.


Exposure and colour balance are, as you might expect, also superb. The 5D uses the same CX Process III image engine as the award-winning Dynax 7D, and the results are superb. The 5D has ISO settings ranging from 100 to 3,200, and with its advanced and extremely effective noise reduction system it is capable of turning in a usable picture even at the highest setting. Combined with the anti-shake system and the performance of the AF system, this makes the 5D a good choice for low-light or flash-free photography.


The Dynax 5D is available in a kit with the excellent Konica Minolta AF DT 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 lens, which provides extremely fast and very quiet focusing as well as superb optical performance. It is a lightweight lens specifically designed for use with Konica Minolta’s digital SLRs, and makes a perfect standard zoom, roughly equivalent to 28-105mm on a film SLR. The image quality produced by the camera and lens is outstanding, with excellent contrast and minimal distortion right into the corners of the frame right across the zoom range. For sheer picture quality it is without question the best 6-megapixel digital SLR I have seen so far. Take a look at the accompanying sample shots to see what I mean.


”’Verdict”’


Superb performance, design and handling, fantastic picture quality and a huge range of features and options make the Dynax 5D a very strong contender in the budget D-SLR market. If you are looking for such a camera, this should definitely be on your shortlist. It may lack the 8.0 megapixel performance of the Canon EOS 350D, but it offers a wider range of features and it has the advantage of the excellent Konica Minolta anti-shake system, which is very hard to beat.

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A range of test shots are shown over the next three pages. Here, the full size image has been reduced for bandwidth purposes, and a crop taken from the original full resolution image has been placed below it in order for you to gain an appreciation of the overall quality. The following pages consist of resized images so that you can evaluate the overall exposure. For those with a dial-up connection, please be patient while the pages download.



At the minimum ISO setting of 100, these migrating Canada geese on the Otter estuary in Devon are captured in perfect detail with no noise at all.

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At 200 ISO there is no visible difference with the previous shot.

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At 400 ISO there is fractionally less fine detail due to noise reduction, but colour fidelity is still perfect.

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At 800 ISO there is again less detail, and some colour noise is starting to creep into the darker areas of the image.

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At 1600 ISO there is a moderate level of noise especially in darker areas, and the image is slightly over-exposed.

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At the maximum setting of 3200 ISO there is quite a lot of image noise right across the frame, but colour balance is still fairly good and the image could still be used.

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This page consists of resized images so that you can evaluate the overall exposure.



Using two stops of negative exposure compensation to produce a near silhouette and give a faster exposure (1/1,000th sec) this late afternoon shot captures the action nicely.

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Just a quick snapshot in Auto mode, but again the 5D has got it right. Not a single blown-out highlight or purple fringe in sight, despite the bright sunshine and light-coloured stonework.

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This page consists of resized images so that you can evaluate the overall exposure.



With just a touch of fill-in flash to lighten the shadows, this shot of a beautiful old fairground carousel shows what the 5D can do. Perfect colour, perfect exposure and an amazing level of sharp detail.

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This was taken on a cloudy day, resulting in a shutter speed of just 1/80th sec, not ideal for action shots, but the anti-shake system ensures that the background is pin-sharp.

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This page consists of resized images so that you can evaluate the overall exposure.



The Palais du Papes in Avignon is a huge building and hard to photograph from the ground, but at wide angle the 18-70mm AF DT lens has made a superb job of it, with good edge sharpness and barely a trace of barrel distortion.

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Taken indoors at 1/60th sec, this shot demonstrates the high power and excellent colour balance of the 5D’s built-in flash, as well as the metering system’s ability to balance it with available light.

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The 18-70mm AF DT lens has a macro range of 38cm and this shot was taken at close to that distance, showing again a complete lack of edge distortion and fantastic texture detail.

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This page consists of resized images so that you can evaluate the overall exposure.



One of the few times the 5D’s exposure system produced a less-than-perfect result, but even so there is plenty of detail in the shadow areas. This shot was taken on the widest angle lens setting, 18mm.

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Taken from the same spot as the shot above, this one was taken on maximum zoom of 70mm, showing the range of the lens. It also shows a very tiny amount of blue fringing at the top of the frame.

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Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Value 9
  • Image Quality 10

Features

Camera type Digital SLR
Megapixels (Megapixel) 6.1 Megapixel
Optical Zoom (Times) N/A By lensx

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