Minolta DIMAGE S414

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Wie ich schon vorher schrieb stellte sich kurz nach dem Kauf eine Macke heraus (die der Minolte-Support leugnete) die die Kamera unbrauchbar machte. Die Kamera zeigte an, dass die Akkus leer seien und schaltete sich nach wenigen Minuten ab obwohl diese voll geladen waren. Das war der größte Kamerafehlkauf meines Lebens.

The Minolta DiMAGE S414 features a 4.1 megapixel CCD, a high-quality Minolta GT 4x optical zoom lens, Minolta’s CxProcess image processor, video recording capability, USB interface and Compact Flash card compatibility and is housed in a stylish and durable aluminum alloy body. The S414 is heavily based on last year’s DiMAGE S404 which sold out so fast that most people thought it had been discontinued.

The Minolta DiMAGE S414’s high-precision electro-optical system is built around a 4.1 megapixel 1/1.8-type interline primary-color CCD with 4.0 million effective pixels for fine high-resolution images. The DiMAGE S414’s built-in Minolta GT lens is a versatile apochromatic 4x zoom with anomalous dispersion (AD) glass for color accuracy and dual aspherical elements which, combined with a 2.2x digital zoom, provides a compact lens design with a wide image capture range. The optical zoom lens range is from 7.15mm to 28.6mm, equivalent to 35mm -140mm in 35mm photography, and with digital zoom, the range is equivalent to 35mm – 308mm in 35mm.

The image formed on the CCD is enhanced by Minolta’s exclusive CxProcess image processing technology to optimize sharpness, color reproduction, tonal gradation and noise to create clear and natural images. The wide dynamic range is provided by 12-bit A/D (analog to digital) conversion to ensure natural color and tonal reproduction.

In addition, the high-speed LSI with 32-bit RISC (Reduced Instruction Set Computer) CPU and expanded 32MB SDRAM buffer memory allows the camera to be highly responsive with faster operation. The capturing interval time of 0.8 seconds and brisk continuous advance speed of 1.3 frames per second with up to 7 frames (full size images in fine image quality mode) can transform a passing moment into a priceless memory.

The DiMAGE S414 offers flexible and accurate autofocus, auto exposure and an optical zoom viewfinder. Its stylish aluminum body features an easy-to hold grip and simple control layout. A versatile camera, the DiMAGE S414 features fully automatic white balance and video recording with audio as well as ease of use features like Digital Subject Program Selection and creative functions such as histogram display of recorded images, exposure compensation and bracketing, custom white balance and digital effects control, that give the photographer control over the final image.


DiMAGE S414 Features:

  • All-glass 4x Minolta GT zoom lens (35-140mm in 35mm equivalent)
  • 4-megapixel CCD imager for images up to 2272 x 1704
  • Records up to 60 secs of 320 x 240 motion JPEG with audio
  • 15 second voice memos can be attached to images
  • 12-bit A/D conversion and high-speed image processing
  • 3-point Wide area autofocus system
  • Five user-selectable focusing points
  • Single or Continuous autofocus
  • Program AE, Aperture priority and Manual modes
  • Up to 15 second exposures with noise reduction
  • 270-segment Multi or Spot metering
  • Auto Exposure Bracketing (0.3, 0.5 or 1EV steps)
  • Adjustable image contrast and saturation
  • ISO sensitivity of 64, 100, 200 or 400
  • White balance has four presets plus custom
  • CompactFlash Type I card slot
  • Stylish and durable aluminum body
  • High-speed USB port

Physical views


The Minolta S414 and a standard CD disc.


The Minolta S414 and the DiMAGE F300 for size comparison.


DiMAGE S414 Specifications

No. of effective pixels4.0 million
CCD1/1.8-type interline primary-color CCD with a total of 4.1 million pixels
Lens 4x Zoom 7.15 - 28.6 mm (35mm equivalent: 35 - 140 mm)
f/ 3.0 - f/ 3.6, 11 elements in 9 groups
(includes 1 AD glass element and 2 double-sided aspheric elements)
Recording media Type I CompactFlash card
File formatExif 2.2 JPEG, TIFF, Motion JPEG (MOV): with audio, DCF, DPOF
No. of recorded pixelsStill images: 2272 x 1704, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 640 x 480
Movie clips: 320 x 240 per frame
Storage capacityApproximate storage capacity of a 16 MB CompactFlash card
2272 x 17041600 x 12001280 x 960640 x 480
Economy17 frames27 frames33 frames48 frames
Standard11 frames19 frames26 frames42 frames
Fine6 frames12 frames17 frames34 frames
TIFF1 frame2 frames3 frames13 frames
Movie51 seconds
The actual number of images may vary depending upon the subject.
Autofocus systemVideo AF
AF areasWide focus area / Focus Area Selection
Focus modesAutofocus (Full-time AF available in the autofocus mode) / Manual focus
Focusing rangeW: 0.5 m (1.6 feet) to infinity (from the CCD)
T: 0.9 m (3.0 feet) to infinity (from the CCD)
Macro: 16 cm (6.3 inches) to 60 cm (23.6 inches) (from the CCD)
Exposure modesProgrammed AE, Aperture priority, Manual. Digital Subject Programs (Macro, Portrait, Landscape, Night portrait, Text, Macro & Text)
Digital Effects ControlExposure, Contrast
Color modesNatural Color, Vivid Color, Black and White, Sepia, Solarization
Exposure compensation± 2 Ev in 1/3 increments
MeteringMulti-segment (270 segments), Spot
Camera sensitivityAuto, ISO 64 / 100 / 200 / 400 (ISO equivalent)
Shutter speeds1/1000 - 4 seconds, Bulb (max. 15 seconds)
Continuous advanceApprox. 1.6 frames per second
Self-timerApprox. 10 seconds delay
Movie recordingMax. 60 seconds, with audio (monaural)
Digital zoom2.2x
Audio SignalTwo tones and two shutter-sound effect settings with volume control in 3 steps
White-balance controlAutomatic, Preset (Daylight, Tungsten, Fluorescent, Cloudy), Custom
Flash modeAutoflash, Autoflash with red-eye reduction, Fill-flash, Fill-flash with red-eye reduction, Flash cancel
A/D conversion12 bits
LCD monitor1.8-type / 4.6 cm TFT color, with total 122.000 pixels equivalent
Remote controlIR Remote Control RC-3 (optional)
Printing output controlExif Print, Print Image Matching II
PC interfaceUSB ver. 1.1, Video output NTSC / PAL (selectable)
Batteries*4x AA (NiMH or Alkaline)
* Use of NiMH recommended.
Battery performance*Continuous playback time: approx. 120 min. (NiMH 1850mAh)
* Minolta measurement
Number of recording: approx. 160 frames (NiMH, LCD monitor on)
External power sourceAC adapter (6V DC, option): AC-1L (100 - 120V AC), AC-2L (100- 240V AC)
Dimensions (WxHxD)113.5 x 64.5 x 58.5 (56.5 in grip area) mm / 4.5 x 2.5 x 2.3 (2.2 in grip area) inches
WeightApprox. 335 g / 11.8 ounces (without batteries or recording media)
Standard accessoriesAA Alkaline Batteries, Neck Strap (NS-DG304), Lens Cap (LF-236),
AV Cable (AVC-100), CF Card (16MB), USB Cable (USB-600),
DiMAGE software CD-ROM for DiMAGE S414.
*Availablity of accessories depends on areas.


Features & Controls

The all-glass 4x Minolta GT lens is constructed of 11 elements in 9 groups (includes 1 AD glass element and 2 double-sided aspheric elements). The focal length is 7.15 – 28.6 mm (35-140mm in 35mm format) with a maximum aperture of f/3.0 – f/3.6. It has 35.5mm threads for filters or addon lenses.

The focusing range is 19.7 inch to infinity in wideangle, 35.4 inch to infinity in telephoto. The dedicated macro mode is fixed at 15.5mm and covers from 6.3 to 23.6 inches.

The TTL autofocus system can be wide area or the user can select one of five focus points. The lens can be manually focused with a series of preset distances. The user can select single or continuous AF operation.

The eyelevel optical real-image zoom viewfinder has a field of view of approx. 80% of the captured image. It has 18.5 mm / 0.7 inch of eye-relief but no diopter adjustment. Two LEDs are used to indicate focus and flash status.

The builtin flash has modes for Autoflash, Autoflash with red-eye Reduction, Fill-flash, Fill-flash with red-eye Reduction or Flash Cancel. The working range of the flash is 0.5 – 3.5 m in wideangle and 0.9 – 3.0 m in telephoto. With a fully charged set of batteries the flash recycle time is approx. 8 seconds.

The large monochrome data LCD on the top lets you see all the important camera settings at a glance without the need to turn on the color LCD. Pressing the silver button lets you enable Macro mode, Portrait mode, Landscape mode, Night Scene mode or Text mode. Below the LCD are buttons for the flash mode, selftimer / drive modes and exposure compensation.

The Mode Dial has positions for Off, AUTO record, Multi Record, Play, Movie record, SETUP and Connect to PC.

On the back is a 1.8″ color TFT LCD monitor which can be used as a live viewfinder or for image review or accessing the menu system. The 4-way selector lets you navigate through the menus and making selections by pressing the center inward. The 4-way selector is also used as the zoom lens control in record mode as well as changing shutter speeds, aperture values and exposure compensation. The MENU button enables the onscreen menus. Below that is the QuickView button to let you see the last image captured without leaving record mode. In playback this button is used to delete images. The bottom button controls the color LCD, the display format or the information overlayed on it.

The I/O ports are found behind the CompactFlash door and include an A/V port for the monoraul audio and video output signal (selectable for NTSC or PAL). There’s a fast USB port for transfering images to the computer. On the bottom is a 6v DC INput jack.

The S414 is equipped with a CompactFlash Type I card slot and comes with a 16MB CF card, it’s compatible with any capacity CF card up to 1GB.

Power is supplied by four AA type batteries, high-capacity NiMH type is strongly recommended, you won’t get very far with alkaline batteries in this camera. Minolta claims 280 frames with the LCD off or 160 frames with the LCD on if using NiMH and no more than 50% of the pictures use the flash.


Record Modes & Menu Options

There two main recording modes on the S414, AUTO or MULTI. This is the screen while in the AUTO mode. The center brackets denote the wide autofocus target area.

Menu options for the AUTO mode:

  • Image Size – 2272×1704, 1600×1200, 1280×960 or 640×480
  • Quality – Super Fine (uncompressed TIFF), Fine, Standard or Economy
  • Voice Memo – No or Yes (up to 15 secs per image)
  • Date Imprint – Yes or No
  • Digital Zoom – Yes or No
  • Instant Playback – No, 2 or 10 seconds

The default exposure mode in MULTI is Program AE. The autofocus is wide by default but can be selected, see next frame. When you half-press the shutter the focus target will change color to indicate that it’s working and when locked you will see the shutter speed, aperture value and a white dot on the LCD screen. If using only the optical viewfinder you will see a steady green light to indicate AF lock.

In any of the MULTI exposure modes the user can select the desired focusing area by using the 4-way selector switch and watching the LCD screen display. These are the five possible focusing areas.

This is the Aperture priority mode where you can select either the wide open or or fully closed aperture, the exact f-stop is dependant on the focal length of the zoom lens.

Manual mode lets you choose both the shutter speed and aperture value and the results can be seen on the color LCD as the image lightens and darkens accordingly.

Manual focus consists of a series of preset distances: 0.5m, 0.7m, 1m, 2m or infinity can be selected.

Basic options for MULTI mode:

  • Exposure Mode – Program AE, Aperture priority or Manual
  • Image Size – 2272×1704, 1600×1200, 1280×960 or 640×480
  • Quality – Super Fine (uncompressed TIFF), Fine, Standard or Economy
  • White Balance – Auto, Cloudy, Daylight, Tunsten, Fluorescent, Custom
  • Focus Mode – Auto or Manual focus
  • Sensitivity – Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400

 

 

Custom1 options:

  • Full-time AF – Off or On
  • Metering Mode – Multi-segment or Spot
  • Exposure Bracketing – 0.3, 0.5 or 1.0EV steps
  • Digital Zoom – Off or On
  • Instant Playback – Off, 2 or 10 seconds

 

Custom2 options:

  • Color Mode – Vivid Color, Natural Color, B&W;, Sepia, Solarization
  • Sharpness – Hard, Normal or Soft
  • Contrast – High, Normal or Low
  • Filter – Warm, Off, Cool
  • Voice Memo – Off or 5 or 10 secs per image
  • Date Imprint – Yes or No

 

The Movie Recording mode screen. Wide area autofocus target and the amount of recording time available in seconds is displayed. Motion JPEG is captured in AVI format with audio at 320 x 240 QVGA resolution. The maximum length of a clip is 60 seconds.


Playback Modes & Menu Options

Playback screen display with image size and quality, date and time and [image # / total # of images] shown.

Pressing the 4-way selector „Up“ will display the extended image information that includes histogram, shutter speed, aperture, white balance, ISO speed and exposure compensation.

Pressing the flash mode button while in play mode enables the zoomed playback feature. You can select a maximum 3.5x magnification in 9 steps. You can scroll around inside of the enlarged image using the 4-way selector.

The thumbnail index mode can show either four or nine (below) images per screen. This allows you to quickly review captured images for viewing or deletion.

9 images per screen thumbnail mode.

 

The Play mode menu:

Basic

Delete – Delete current frame, marked frames or all frames

Lock – Lock (protect) current frame, marked frames, all frames

Index format – Display 4 or 9 thumbnail images in index mode

Custom1

Slideshow – Start automatic playback

Play – Select frames for slideshow

Duration – Select the duration each image is displayed

Repeat – Repeat when last image is displayed

Custom2

Print – Set DPOF printing information

Index Print – Print index sheet

Cancel print – Remove DPOF information

Copy – Copy images between CF cards using camera memory

SETUP options:

BASIC

LCDbrightness – Adjust the LCD brightness

Format – Format the CF card

Power save – 1, 3, 5 or 10 minutes

Language – Chose the menu language

Display mode – Overlay display options (Standard display, Focus frame,
Histogram, Grid, Scale, Image only)

Custom 1

File#memory – Sequentially number images

Folder name – Name image folders by (Standard form or Date form)

Select folder – Select the active image folder

Audio signals – Beep sounds: Off, 1, 2

Shutter FX – Shutter sound: Off, 1, 2

Volume – 1 (low), 2, 3 (High)

Custom 2

Reset default – Return all settings to factory default

Date/Time set – Set the time and date

Date format – YYYYMMDD, MMDDYYYY, DDMMYYYY

Video output – NTSC or PAL format


Steve’s Conclusion

The DiMAGE S414 is Minolta’s 4-megapixel update to its popular DiMAGE S404 compact digital camera. The S414 looks and operates exactly like a rangefinder camera. The „fit and finish“ of this camera is excellent, it’s housed in a light but highly durable aluminum body and has a very stable and comfortable feel in your hand thanks to a large, fat fingergrip. Currently (April 2003), the S414 is one of the best deals on the market for a 4-megapixel camera, the average street price is only $399 (often lower) and its 4x optical zoom is more powerful than the 3x zooms found on other cameras in its class. What’s really incredible is that the S404 sold for $499 only a year ago! The S404 was so popular that it literally sold out the entire production run and everybody thought that it had been discontinued.

The S414 is equipped with a CompactFlash Type I card slot which means that it can’t use a Microdrive. That’s not much of a problem these days with CF Type I cards ranging in size all the way up to one-gigabyte and reasonably priced to boot. I like the fact that the S414 uses AA type batteries versus the proprietary and often „whimpy“ battery packs that seem to be all too popular these days. For what it costs for one of those proprietary packs you can buy two (or three) sets of high-capacity NiMH AA batteries and a rapid charger. And the NiMH battery technology continues to evolve, the capacity is now up to 2100mAH per cell with even higher capacity cells on the horizon.

Ergonomically the S414 is well designed, with the exception of its tripod socket which is very near the edge of the body. My only other gripe about this camera is that the data LCD is not illuminated – why don’t they do this?   On the positive side — with your hand wrapped around the large fingergrip. your thumb falls naturally on the 4-way selector that controls the zoom. You can easily operate the mode dial with your thumb and the three buttons next to it. On top is a large and very readable (but not illuminated) monochrome LCD that displays all the important and frequently changed camera settings. Next to the LCD is a button that quickly selects Macro, Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene or Text mode when shooting in AUTO. These selections can be made without having to turn the color LCD on. The shutter release is well designed with a nice „half-pressed“ and „fully pressed“ point that gives the user plenty of tactile feedback.

The S414 has an eyelevel coupled viewfinder that zooms in and out with the lens. The optical viewfinder is a bit narrow and lacks any kind of dioptric adjustment. The coverage of the optical finder is about 85% which means that you always capture more than you see. The LCD when used as the viewfinder is much more accurate at about 96% coverage. The color LCD has a real-time refresh rate so it’s smooth and clean except in low light conditions. The multi-step zoomed playback mode allows for checking the focus, color or composition of the shot. The color LCD is covered by a shiny, clear plastic protector and could benefit from a non-glare coating. When Macro mode is selected the color LCD comes on automatically to prevent parallax errors of the optical viewfinder at close range.

As with all cameras the most important part is the lens and Minolta has put a very good 4x optical zoom lens on the S414. It covers the 35mm equivalent of 35-140mm focal length with a maximum aperture of F3-F3.6. There is moderate barrel distortion at full wideangle which is normal for most zooms but there’s virtually no pincushioning at full telephoto, all in all a very nice lens. The autofocus system covers from 19.7 inches to infinity in normal mode and the dedicated macro mode covers from 6.3 to 23.6 inches. Unusual is that the macro mode is fixed at 15.5mm, the zoom control is disabled until you leave macro mode. In the Multi record mode the AF point is user-selectable, any of the 5 AF points may be chosen using the 4-way controller. The flash does a very good job of „throttling down“ when used in the macro mode and produces properly exposed pictures without having to use any exposure compensation.

There are two main still image recording modes; AUTO or MULTI. In AUTO mode you can select the image size and quality, enable voice memo or date imprint, enable digital zoom or instant playback from the menus or select Macro, Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene or Text mode from the top controls. Switching the camera to the MULTI position gives the user access to three full pages of menu options (outlined on page 3 of this review.) You can choose between Program AE, Aperture priority or Manual exposure modes. Aperture priority mode only lets you select either a fully open or fully closed aperture and automatically selects the proper shutter speed. Manual mode gives you access to the full range of shutter speeds from 1/1000 to four seconds, the Bulb setting can extend that to a maximum of 15 seconds.

Exposure metering can be set for Multi-segment (256 segments) or Spot and the white balance has five presets plus custom. Exposure compensation is available from +/- 2EV in 1/3EV steps and there’s Exposure Bracketing with selectable steps of 0.3EV, 0.5EV or 1.0EV. I’m really happy to report that Minolta has decided to use sRGB as the output color space for the S414. The S404 used a non-standard color space and required post-processing in the Dimage Image Viewing Utility (DIVU) to get the images to sRGB. People that didn’t know this (or were too lazy to process the images) ended up with rather „flat“ looking colors and blamed the camera. Most digicams and computers use the sRGB color space by default so your pictures should look just dandy now. In Multi mode there are color options (Vivid, Natural, B&W;, Sepia and Solarization), Sharpness settings, Contrast settings and Filter options (Warm or Cool) so you can do a LOT of image adjustment right in the camera. After capture you can massage the images with the supplied DIVU software.

The performance of the S414 is quite robust, the average shot to shot speed is about two seconds when capturing Large/Fine images. If using the uncompressed SuperFine (TIF) mode be prepared to wait a good 45 seconds between shots as the „busy“ light glows at you. This camera like most today is optimized for processing JPEG images and this isn’t a bad thing as a Fine quality JPEG makes an excellent print. The only difference is that with a TIF image there are no compression artifacts to interfere with post-processing editing. In continuous mode you can grab up to 4 frames (Large/Fine) at 1.4fps and then it takes about 3-4 seconds before you capture another one. When shooting in Single exposure mode you have to make sure to lift your finger off of the shutter button before you take the next picture or else the shutter is locked. Autofocus is a mixed bag, for the most part it works quite well in adequate lighting but in less than perfect conditions the AF can „hunt“ for several seconds before failing. The S414 like many digicams, could benefit greatly from some type of outboard focus assist illuminator.

The DiMAGE S414 is an incredible deal (steal?) at just $399 (or less.) Most other 4-megapixel cameras are at least a hundred dollars more expensive. Few of the competing cameras offer a durable aluminum body and even less have 4x optical zooms. This is an excellent choice for the advanced user or the beginner who wants a camera they can grow into. It has plenty of image resolution to make photo-quality prints up to 13×19″ size. They should sell as well as the S404 did last year so grab one now if you want one — they could go very fast.


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