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I bought my Minolta 7I about 3 years ago and used it until the CCD sensor went wrong. Being out of warranty I tried to get a quote for fixing it and the local menders said it would cost about £100 and it was not worth fixing. I consigned the camera to the junk draw and there it stayed for many months. I decided a couple of weeks ago to junk out my drawer and there was my poorly 7I, I decided to try one last time to get a sensible quote to repair it so I went on the web to find a repair company then........ I went to the Minolta site and joy of joys my series of camera had a manufacturing fault and they were offering a free fix for my camera. Being true to their word I sent my camera off and 3 days later it came back all fixed, service and shiny. I have got to say that if this is an example of customer service then I believe that many of the big companies should aspire to this level of care... Well Done Guys..
I bought my Minolta Dimage 7i about 3 years ago, but only started getting really acquainted with it about a year and a half later.
I was travelling a lot and I prefer to use film cameras when I travel and for "serious" photographic work, as I provide a couple of Photo Libraries with images, and most of them still prefer slides, although many do accept digital images of high quality and resolution.
A big reason for not using it more often at first was my unfamiliarity with digital cameras prior to my purchasing the Dimage 7i, but the main reason is the fact that I still prefer the colour intensity of my Fuji Velvias and Provias.
I started using the Dimage 7i more and more for practical reasons: it is so light (608g with batteries - dimensions are 117 x 91 x 113mm, which is 4.6 x 3.6x 4.5 in) compared to the SLRs I am used to carrying around. Of course, compared to the tiny cameras you get nowadays, it isn't the lightest, but it is semi-professional, has a lot of features, 5.0 megapixels and a zoom range of 28mm to 200mm (a 7x optical zoom), but I will go into its features a little later.
Nowadays, I like to keep it in my bag almost every time I go out, I take a lot of pictures of my son and you never know when this magic ray of light is going to strike for a few seconds on a tree trunk or flower and then disappear again as if is it was just an illusion. This is when you have to grab the camera and be quick, but precise.
I have now grown to love my Dimage 7i, it is easy to handle, has a very useful hand grip that allows you to grab it firmly without fearing it will slip out. Its LCD monitor is quite large at 1.8 inches, but I find the electronic view finder not wide enough to use with full confidence. While I tend to use the LCD more often, this is almost impossible in bright light, as you can hardly see anything, unless you keep moving it about, but then this ruins your composition and you have to use the viewfinder in order to get a decent picture. The electronic viewfinder can be moved up and down, but I did not find that this helped me much.
Along with the narrow viewfinder (to my liking anyway), the only other thing that annoys me with this camera is the rather low life of the rechargeable batteries. I always carry an extra set or two if I know I may be taking lots of pictures, but I am always frustrated when the first set of batteries dies out after about 60 or 70 pictures. I do take some time in preparing the composition, so the camera is on a lot, but I feel that a photographer, amateur or professional, should not have to feel stressed while taking pictures because of battery matters, at least not at such an early time perhaps I just take too many pictures. But I think most digital cameras do eat up battery life much faster than SLRs do. In any case, as long as you are well prepared, all should be swell.
The zoom is very easy to use and you can switch from auto-focus to manual focus, which is very useful. It also has a very handy macro feature, which allows you to focus at a distance of 13cm, the normal focus range is 38cm, which is not bad at all.
The Minolta Dimage 7i has a lot of features, I would say too many almost, but if you like to play around, they are fun, although I do not use them much.
The features which I find to be the most useful are the Aperture and shutter priority and the full manual mode (the aperture range is f2.8-f3.5/f8 and the shutter speed range is bulb at 30 sec for the slowest and 1/2000sec for the fastest).
It has an exposure compensation of -2 EV to +2 EV in 1/3 EV steps, this is usually what you get on most SLRs.
Metering modes are multi-segment, center-weighted and spot metering.
It has a built-in flash, good for close portraits but do not use it for anything too remote (I think 2 metres is already a bit far). You can change the flash mode from auto to fill-in to red-eye reduction to slow sync, but it will only really work if you are using an external flash, for which the camera has a hot-shoe.
It has different filter modes for taking pictures in black and white, infrared and sepia style, which are a nice extra.
You can change the picture quality from fine to standard to economy, to save memory. The maximum resolution is 2560 x 1920 and the low resolutions are 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960 and 640 x 480.
And this brings us to the fact that card it uses is a compact flash card, this is what is so nice about digital cameras, you take lots of pictures on one or more cards, depending on the megabytes it has (the camera comes with a 16MB card), download them onto your computer, save them onto a disc (I advise always making extra copies) and then erase them and use the card again. What an economy.
The camera comes with a USB adapter to allow you to download them but if you have a flashcard slot on your computer, it is, of course, much better. And you save batteries unless you buy the special adapter, which I never have, as it was a bit expensive.
You can also record short movies of up to 60 sec, a feature which I have often used and which is a useful bonus.
The quality of the images (I always use the highest resolution) is very good, with fantastic sharpness and the colours are very natural.
The thing I most dislike about printing digital images at home is that, the image you see on the computer is almost never the one that will print out. Depending on the program you are using (photoshop elements, photoshop 6 or 5 .) the paper you are using, the way you have saved your image and other little details, you will get a different image. You also spend a lot of money on ink. But if you stick to one sort of paper (I recomment Ilford Galerie smooth or classic) and ink, after a while, you know whether you have to add or take away contrast or brightness from the image etc It is a matter of practice and patience.
The camera comes with a battery charger and 4 rechargeable batteries (AA NiMH), but I bought different batteries which last longer than the ones it came with (I bought the Fameart rechargeable Ni.MH 1.2V - 2300mAh)
It has a remote control as well, which I have never used, and the self-timer lasts 10 sec, and thankfully, it has a tripod mount.
I really do like this camera, but I don't use it for professional work. I think it is fantastic if you are an amateur and do not intend to sell your pictures, it is very flexible and the Minolta customer assistance have been very helpful when I had a problem with a camera once, which turned out to be my fault, and this is my only warning to you:
Never EVER open the Compact Flash compartment either to put or remove a card, when the camera is on and the light is still on in the data panel, as this will erase all your pictures and render the card unusable. This is the mistake I made and I lost 70 photos this really hurt. I do believe this goes not only for the Dimage 7i but for all digital cameras. Please do remember this.
When I bought my camera, it cost £900, it is cheaper now. But I am happy that I've got it.
If I said that I do not use it for professional work, it is simply that the photo libraries I provide images to do not take digital photos yet, and because I sooooo enjoy slides and printing my own B&W photos, there is something magical about this and I love to "paint with light" in the darkroom.
But, having said this, I have taken some superb photos with the 7i, if I knew how to add photos to this review, I would add them but I don't, so I can't!
Another thing is, you can mess around so much with digital photos by using photoshop and other programs and create ever so easily (sometimes not, when you have a precise idea in mind) really weird images by sing the brightness/contrast and levels features and so many others. If you haven't yet, do try it, it is really fun.
So all in all, I think this camera is great. And I do believe that both film cameras and digital ones each have their special magic, which, one has to learn to appreciate.
Patience, constancy and a lot of love this should do the trick.
As far as I am aware this is the only camera in it's class that has pretty much all the same facilities as a top of the range digital SLR camera. It has a manual zoom on it. Something that doesn't seem to be mentioned much in their brochures. The big advantage I have found with that. Is when zooming you don't get the delay before the camera stops zooming unlike electronic zooms which seem to only stop moving a split second after you let go of the zoom button. Also even though some might find the camera a bit bulky, I found that to be very useful as you can get a very nice grip on it and it seems to fit in the hand just perfectly. Apart from the very advanced functions, it is very easy to use straight out of the box. It has the best zoom I've ever seen in a digital camera apart from a Pro SLR. The only camera to date with a better zoom is the Nikon 5700 but that is at the time almost £1000 I paid £600 for my Minolta The movie quality is first class and has sound as well. A feature I wasn?t expecting, is interval shooting. If you have ever fancied taking a photo of a flower opening or the sunset as it goes down. The only thing I would say about it on the bad side. Is that when you select the highest resolution and quality. The time it takes before you can take the next photo can be several seconds, but I have found that can be reduced greatly by getting a fast Compact Flash card. If fast photo taking is your thing, you need to go for the Minolta 7Hi as this has a 64mb buffer memory, which means there is much less waiting time between photos. It also has a standard 49mm lens thread, which means it will take just about any kind of lens filter. It will also take standard 49mm lens adapters, like wide angle, and zoom In short, this is one fully featured top of the range digital camera, with just about everything you are ever going to need, with out spending £1000?s
With a no-compromise image quality and performance that will satisfy even the most demanding photo and PC enthusiasts, the DiMAGE 7i is set to maintain Minolta's lead in the high-performance SLR-style digital camera segment. In spite of improved image quality, performance and professional-style features, the DiMAGE 7i comes at a competitive price to make it an attractive proposition for the enthusiastic amateur or professional photographer. When quality and control are the required qualities, the DiMAGE 7i comes into its own as a digital imaging center, controlling all the essentials of high-quality photography: sharpness, exposure, contrast, color and saturation. The DiMAGE 7i is built around a high-precision electro-optical system designed to maximize image quality. The system starts with a 5.24 megapixel CCD that delivers 4.95 million effective pixels for fine high-resolution images, e.g. A3+ in 150 dpi prints and A5+ in photo quality. Minolta's image-processing technology, CxProcess, controls image sharpness, color and contrast while minimizing noise to produce vivid, natural pictures with real depth. 12-bit A/D conversion and CxProcess ensure that what you see is what you capture. Minolta has introduced numerous improvements into the DiMAGE 7i. A choice of three selectable focusing screens gives you the same kind of flexibility as a SLR camera in framing your shots. There is standard AF frame, a matte field with grid, and a matte field with vertical and horizontal scales. Advanced technology gives the camera professional-style versatility, e.g. a 3-point wide AF system for fast, accurate focusing, Flex Focus Point for precise control over the focusing area and a Direct Manual Focus (DMF) feature normally found in professional-level film cameras like the award-winning Dynax 7. After the AF system has focused and locked on the subject, DMF enables the focus to be fine-tuned manually. The DiMAGE 7i is the first Minolta digital camera to incorporate Direct Manual Focus (DMF).
The DiMAGE 7i can record high-quality 16-bit audio with still and moving images. Along with standard QVGA digital movies, three new movie functions have been added. Night movies allow monochrome images to be recorded in low light; time-lapse movies capture the imperceptible motions of the world, and UHS continuous-advance movies show unfolding events. All these features are housed in a durable but feather-light and surprisingly compact magnesium-alloy body with an elegant silver finish and comfortable contoured grip. What's more, despite such sophistication the DiMAGE 7i retains the same simple ergonomic control layout of its predecessor. Numerous professional-style features and functions plus all the fun of a digital camera - that's the DiMAGE 7i from Minolta.