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One of the 4-megapixel models in Konica Minolta's line of affordable megazoom EVF cameras, the Dimage Z2 offers a 10X zoom lens, a solid feature set, and impressive video-recording capabilities. This easy-to-use camera does a good job of bridging the gap between snapshooter and advanced amateur; it performs well in fully automatic mode but offers a wide array of photographic controls. Though the Dimage Z2 lacks some advanced features, such as the ability to save raw or TIFF files, its lightweight flexibility, solid performance, and satisfying image quality make it an excellent travel companion.
The responsive buttons are clearly labeled. Individual buttons are laid out in compass formation for navigating the menus and are more easily operated than rocker-switch equivalents found on some cameras. Macro and flash buttons next to the mode dial cycle through the settings in those modes. As a bonus for more-advanced users, the flash button can instead be customized to control drive mode, white balance, focus mode, or color setting. Assigning drive-mode control is particularly handy when making frequent use of the self-timer and obviates the need for scrolling through the menu before each shot. Should scrolling the menus be necessary, however, they are easily navigated and clearly labeled.The Dimage Z2's most prized feature is, of course, the one that lent its initial to the camera's name. The all-glass, apochromatic f/2.8-to-f/3.7 10X zoom lens has Konica Minolta's GT designation, reserved for the company's higher-end lenses. The 38mm-to-380mm range (35mm-camera equivalent) is well suited to performances and wildlife photography, although you may find yourself craving the optional 0.75X lens attachment for wide-angle needs. The Dimage Z2's lack of image-stabilization technology necessitates the use of a tripod or monopod if you're zoomed in and shooting under dim lighting conditions.
This Konica Minolta Dimage Z2 provides the four standard exposure modes--programmed automatic, aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual--as well as five programmed scene presets and excellent video-recording capabilities. You can shoot 30fps VGA (640x480) movies with sound for as long as your SD card capacity allows or even, impressively, SVGA (800x600) at 15fps--again, limited by only your card's capacity and write speed. Basic in-camera editing allows you to delete unwanted footage from your movies and free up space on the memory card.
The camera's Super Macro mode, though restricted to a focal length of 11.1mm, can produce sharp, detailed images of objects as close as 1.7 inches to the front of the lens. Manual focus is available, but unless you're using a tripod and measuring distances, this feature isn't all that serviceable.
Experienced photogs will appreciate the real-time histogram display and the ability to select metering mode--multisegment, center-weighted, and spot--as well as the built-in hotshoe for use with Konica Minolta external flash units. Absent, however, is the ability to save images in either raw or TIFF formats.The Konica Minolta Dimage Z2 is a responsive camera for its class. You can power it up and take a shot in just a hair more than 3 seconds, and the shutter lag is less than half a second without prefocusing. Typical shot-to-shot time is just 1.7 seconds. The Z2 lives up to its promise of fairly quick autofocus, too--in good light. Dim conditions slow it considerably, as the camera lacks an AF assist lamp. The flash range is rated to 20 feet at the widest setting and performed well in our tests.
The Dimage Z2's continuous-shooting specs aren't impressive: about 2.6 shots per second for a maximum of 5 images in normal continuous-advance mode. An ultra-high-speed (UHS) continuous mode produces 15 images at about 8.3 shots per second but at only the 1,280x960-resolution setting. Shutterbugs who want to capture action with that smooth megazoom have another high-speed option: progressive-capture mode. In this mode, images are captured at the same respective rates (regular or UHS), but the camera continues to shoot until you take your finger off the shutter release; at that point, the 5 images at the end of the series are saved.
The LCD, though measuring just 1.5 inches, is wonderfully clear and bright, with accurate colors; it's easy to see in most lighting conditions. Its 60fps refresh rate means you also see very little delay in unfolding action. Thanks to Minolta's Switch Finder setup, the LCD monitor can also be seen through the viewfinder, resulting in a remarkably clear and smooth, action-friendly version of an electronic viewfinder.The Konica Minolta Dimage Z2's image quality is overall quite pleasing: colors are saturated but natural (a Vivid color setting is also available); detail and definition are good, though not exceptional; and pictures are usually free from any significant aberrations. In our tests, exposures were generally right on. Flash-lit photos were usually exposed properly, although they were susceptible to underexposure in certain tricky situations--when subjects were wearing white shirts, for example.
Noise is certainly present in low-light shots, although in most cases not enough to cause serious image degradation. Jack up the ISO to 400, however, and image noise is definitely a problem. This isn't uncommon in cameras of this class, and we'd recommend avoiding ISO 400 entirely--even ISO 200 produced far, far better results. Skin tones generally reproduced well, although darker skin was particularly prone to image noise in low-light conditions.
We noticed very slight barrel distortion in some of our test images at the widest setting but saw no evidence of pincushion effects on the other end of the spectrum. The Super Macro mode revealed particularly detailed images, and the SVGA movie mode, in good light, produced some of the best-looking video we've seen from a digital still camera, albeit at only 15fps.