2003: No sooner did I decide that the Fujifilm FinePix S5000 would be the perfect next digicam for me (see Going Mostly Digital) than Minolta upped the ante by announcing the Dimage Z1. It offers 3.2 MP, 10x optical zoom, and a $100 lower price.
Back to ground zero. Now I have to sit down, weigh the differences, and decide which of the two will better suit my needs – and hope nobody muddies the waters by introducing a similar camera before I make my purchase.
The easiest way to compare the two models is using the balance sheet approach. List the features, indicate which model is superior where there are differences, decide which differences matter most to you, and make a decision.
Here’s a comparison of the two models:
|3.1 MP (2048 x 1536)
6.2 MP (2816 x 2120)*
|3.2 MP (2048 x 1536)|
|12 bit A/D conversion|
|320 x 240 30 fps movie||640 x 480 30 fps movie|
|ISO 200-800**||ISO 50-400|
|10x optical zoom
|10x optical zoom
|focus to 3′||focus to 20″ (wide), 6.6′ (tele)|
|macro to 3.9″||macro to 3.9″ (wide), 47″ (tele)|
|no super macro||super macro at 1.6″|
|multi-zone autofocus||wide focus area|
|2 – 1/1000 sec. shutter||4 – 1/1000 sec. shutter>|
|flash to 20′ (wide), 18′ (tele)||flash to 20′ (wide), 16′ (tele)|
|no accessory shoe||accessory shoe for dedicated Minolta flash|
|1.5″ TFT LCD display||1.5″ TFT LCD display|
|114,000 pixels||113,000 pixels|
|110,000 electronic viewfinder||113,000 pixel electronic viewfinder***|
|xD , 16 MB included||SD, 16 MB included|
|4 AA batteries||4 AA batteries|
|4.4 x 3.2 x 3.1″||4.3 x 3.1 x 3.2″|
|14.4 oz. with batteries||14.5 oz. with batteries|
- * interpolated, roughly equivalent to a true 4.5 MP image in quality
- ** 1280 x 960 as ISO 800
- *** Dimage Z1 uses same LCD for both displays using Minolta’s new Switch Finder
FujiFilm’s fourth generation SuperCCD technology is very impressive, allowing the creation of very good quality 6.2 MP images. Although the quality of these images is not as good as that of a true 6 MP camera, it’s definitely better than from any other 3 MP model. Popular Photography and Imaging recently determined that the quality fell between that of a good 4 MP and a good 5 MP digicam.
The S5000 gets a small nod here for offering ISO 800 sensitivity, one stop more than the Z1, but it only does so at a reduced 1.2 MP (1280 x 960) resolution. A small edge.
The Dimage Z1 may offer a less noisy image at ISO 50 and 100. We’ll have to wait for the reviews to learn more.
The Dimage Z1 wins hands down for offering 640 x 480 VGA quality movies at a full 30 frames per second. The FinePix S5000 only offers 320 x 240 QVGA resolution, although at the same 30 fps.
This isn’t a factor for me right now, but it could be in the future. I know my kids would use the movie setting of whatever model I choose.
Both cameras accept a wide-angle conversion lens to provide roughly equivalent coverage to a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera, and the minuscule difference between 37-370 and 38-380 isn’t worth quibbling about.
The FinePix S5000 has a slight edge in lens speed at the tele end, about one-third of an f-stop. It also includes an adapter for filters and conversion lenses, something that is optional on the Dimage Z1.
Whether it’s better to have a lens that can focus to 3′ at all focal lengths or one that goes to 20″ at the short end but only 6.6′ up top is debatable. Considering the likelihood of using 380mm that close, the Z1 may have a slight advantage here, but it’s close enough to call it a tie.
For maximum macro magnification, the super macro mode on the Minolta gives it another advantage over the FujiFilm, although I don’t see much need to go closer than 3.9″.
Although the Dimage Z1 has a bit less range with the popup flash than the FinePix S5000 at the tele end, the fact that it accepts an accessory flash – and the FinePix does not – definitely gives the Minolta a commanding lead in the flash department.
Both models have a 1.5″ display with almost exactly the same number of pixels, making for a draw.
The S5000 has a true electronic viewfinder with its own display. The Dimage Z1 cleverly uses the same display for both types of viewing, which undoubtedly contributes to its lower cost.
The cameras are close enough in size and weight as to make no difference. Both come with a woefully inadequate 16 MB card, and high capacity cards are available in both the SD and xD formats, giving neither model an advantage.
Feature for feature, these two digicams show a remarkable convergence in design. It’s mostly the specialty features that differentiate them, not the features that the average digicam user will use every day.
The S5000 gets points for offering a 6.2 MP option, which is especially useful for printing images larger than 8 x 10. It also has an ISO advantage in low light, although at such a low resolution that only snapshots will appear sharp.
The S5000 also has a slightly faster lens, 2′ more flash range with the popup flash, and includes a filter/accessory adapter at no extra cost.
The VGA video mode and ability to accept a more powerful dedicated flash give Minolta two big advantages. Super macro is a nice touch, and the US$100 difference in price more than makes up for the filter/accessory adapter being an extra cost accessory.
I haven’t had a chance to see or handle either of these models yet. The camera shop where I work part time carries both lines, and I expect both to be of excellent quality. Minolta and FujiFilm are already two of my favorite lines to sell, and I really have no bias between them.
I plan on keeping a good film system, so I have no intention of going larger than an 8 x 10 from my digicam, which reduces the advantage of the the 6.2 MP option on the S5000. I don’t do much low light photography. If I did, the 1-1/3 stop advantage of the S5000 (1 stop for ISO, 1/3 stop for the lens at the long end) might be a factor.
At this point I haven’t done anything with video, but the VGA video mode of the Dimage Z1 is probably something I would use. It’s not enough to give the nod to Minolta, but it weighs in its favor.
The clincher is the ability to add a dedicated flash to the Z1; the S5000 doesn’t even have a nondedicated hot shoe. Between that and the $100 savings, it looks like the Dimage Z1 will be my next digicam.
Of course, there are a few other factors, such as the cost of the accessory wide-angle lens and adapter, but I suspect the Minolta setup will still come in at a lower cost than the FinePix S5000.
I ended up buying the Minolta Dimage Z1, and it was a descent camera. Some shutter lag, and the wide-angle option required both a lens and an adapter to hold that conversion lens in place. It was not very practical.