Who says affordable point-and-shoot cameras have to be dumbed down? Despite its small size and moderate price, the Konica Minolta Dimage G600 incorporates a 6-megapixel sensor, a 3X optical zoom, dual card slots, and full manual alternatives for most of its automatic settings. It's a highly capable digital camera, with the built-in signal processor kicking in for exposures longer than 1.2 seconds, providing nearly noise-free low-light photos. The metal-clad G600 is built like a Sherman tank, so it should be able to take a licking and keep on clicking. Best of all, its picture quality is well above average for a pocket-size camera. Though we encountered a few snags along the way, overall, the G600 would be good as a first camera for casual users or a carry-anywhere second camera for photo enthusiasts.
If you've avoided pocket-size point-and-shoot cameras because you thought they would be too fragile, you haven't wrapped your fingers around a Dimage G600. Its stainless-steel-and-aluminum case is well armored against the bumps and drops small cameras typically encounter. In addition, the buttons are sturdy and amply protected. It could easily survive without an external case, though expect the back-mounted 1.5-inch LCD screen to become scratched if pocketed with keys or coins. Because of its metal exterior, the 7.8-ounce G600 feels a bit heavy for its size (3.7 by 2.2 by 1.2 inches).
The G600 balances well in either one or two hands. The top-mounted shutter release and the back-mounted zoom controls are well positioned for your index finger and thumb, respectively. Oddly, when your hand is positioned this way, your middle finger rests on a raised metal piece in front of the camera. This piece looks stylish but proved uncomfortable for long shooting stints.
It takes only 1.3 seconds for the camera to become ready for your first shot. The lens cover has a thin edge, so it's tricky to grasp. With practice, however, you should be able to confidently open and close the cover. You may also want to practice opening the door to the memory/battery compartment. There's no latch to hold the battery, so it falls out if the compartment door is open while the camera is tilted down.
The LCD-based menus are bright and logically organized. Indexed by color, recording options have a red background, playback options have a blue background, and setup options have a green background. It's a simple distinction that's surprisingly helpful. The small four-way controller button on the back is sometimes difficult to operate unless your thumb is aligned parallel or perpendicular to the camera.
This camera has two memory-card slots: an SD/MMC slot and a Memory Stick Pro slot. You can select which card has priority and move or copy images between cards. A 16MB SD card is included.
The 3X zoom lens has a fairly narrow-angle focal-length range of 39mm to 117mm (35mm-camera equivalent). Even if you're a casual photographer, you'll appreciate the choice of spot or center-weighted metering for automatic exposures. As you become more experienced, you can tap into the exposure compensation, focus, flash, ISO, white balance, sharpness, saturation, contrast, monochrome, and macro settings, which allow a wide range of creative options. You can save some of the settings to two recallable memory groups. By lowering the intensity of the built-in flash, we avoided the deer-caught-in-the-headlights effect common in candid portraits.
Where it counts, the G600's performance is merely fair: typical shutter lag was high at 0.9 second, though low-contrast lag was a relatively respectable 1.1 seconds. Holding down the shutter release snapped high-resolution images as fast as every 1.4 seconds. We found that the zoom lens operated smoothly and accurately, taking roughly a second to travel from one extreme to the other. The zoom is moderately loud, but the autofocus engages fairly quickly.
The optical viewfinder is small, so we avoided it whenever possible. Because it provides a limited view (roughly 85 percent) of what the lens takes in, you'll need to use the LCD for critical compositions. Fortunately, the 118,000-pixel screen, though relatively small, is easy on the eyes, even in bright sunlight. The sharp display provides true-to-life colors and has an excellent contrast range.
Overall, we found the colors in the G600's photos to be accurate, though a little oversaturated. The contrast range, especially on darker photos, was very good. We experienced some loss of detail on the bright end of the contrast range, with the light shades blending together. In images with extreme contrast (such as tree branches against the sky), blue fringing occasionally appeared along the edges of highest contrast. These problems were visible only on close inspection and would probably go unnoticed by casual photographers. Except for a tendency for the brightest colors to blow out the detail, the color and the contrast were excellent for a point-and-shoot camera.
Exposure levels tended to be right on the mark, both with the spot and center-weighted settings. The focus was generally sharp, except occasionally in low-light situations when it was unable to lock. Our flash photos were sometimes washed out, which is a common problem with inexpensive digital cameras. We had better luck when we lowered the intensity of the flash, allowing it to function more as a fill flash.
We were very impressed with how little noise appeared in low-light photos. On the other hand, we saw slightly higher levels of noise than expected in some well-lit shots where the camera hadn't implemented the low-noise algorithm. For example, outdoor photos of a dog showed black fur with random red and blue specks. The excessive noise tended to make the images appear less sharp and detailed. You wouldn't notice the noise unless you heavily cropped the image--though being able crop an image and still have a quality photo is one of the key advantages of a high-resolution camera.
With its armorlike case, its superior low-light exposures, and its above-average image quality, the pocket-size Dimage G600 is a good pick for both novices and photo buffs.
|Shutter lag (typical)||Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time|