When Konica and Minolta married last fall, the Konica KD-510Z became the Konica Minolta Dimage G500. Under either alias, this camera is a modest upgrade to the original Konica KD-500Z, a 5-megapixel, 3X-zoom snapshooter that earned high marks for both portability and image quality.
The G500 retains the KD-500Z's sturdy, metal body; moderate eight-ounce weight (with batteries and media); and slim design. But the company slightly restyled the camera, encasing it in a new finish of dull silver and toning down the green LED that flashed to unwittingly comic effect on the original. As with the KD-500Z, you activate nearly all the features from within the menu system; it's streamlined and relatively logical, but its four-way navigation pad is still much too small.
Like its predecessor, the G500 is designed for basic snapshooting, but Konica Minolta has added some useful exposure options. A manual exposure mode now supplements programmed autoexposure, you can set ISO sensitivity from 50 to 400, and the longest exposure time has improved from the previous 1 second to 15 seconds. The camera also supplies a three-step preset manual focus.
Other major specifications remain essentially unchanged. The 3X zoom lens, with its 39mm-to-117mm range (the 35mm-film equivalent), still lacks decent wide-angle capability. You save stills as JPEG images to SD/MMC or Memory Stick media, choosing from two compression levels and four resolutions. In movie mode, the G500 will record 320x240-pixel MJPEG video with sound in clips as long as 30 seconds.
The G500 slightly outperforms comparable point-and-shoots, though it's not as responsive as we'd like. Konica Minolta claims that the camera starts up in 1.3 seconds, but the fastest we could get from power-up to our first photo was 2.7 seconds, which is still reasonable. Autofocus speed is about average; shutter delay and shot-to-shot time rate as adequate, typically running 0.9 and 3 seconds, respectively. The lens zooms quickly if a little noisily, and it's fairly easy to control. On a single charge, the lithium-ion rechargeable battery delivered a decent 470 pictures, which is about what we expect from an 820mAh cell.
Despite its point-and-shoot feature set, the G500 takes impressive photos that will look good at print sizes of 8x10 and even a bit larger. Sharpness and detail are excellent, noise at ISO 50 and ISO 100 is low, colors are vivid, there are few processing artifacts, and skin tones seem natural. The lack of manual white balance shows--shots snapped under our tungsten test lights came out very yellow on automatic and a little pink when we used the preset. The camera's one significant image-quality problem is a marked tendency to blow out highlights at the default contrast and exposure levels.
Just like its predecessor, the Dimage G500 delivers a good combination of style and functionality. And if you shop around, you can find the camera at a bargain price.