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Konica Minolta Dimage Xg

The fifth addition to Konica Minolta's ultracompact Dimage X line, with its signature internally zooming lens, the 3-megapixel Dimage Xg offers an amalgam of features from its forerunners and a few new tricks of its own. Both quick and versatile, this model makes an excellent tote-and-snap companion.

This Dimage is only 0.79 inches thick and weighs less than 5 ounces with battery and media installed, so you can dangle it from your neck like a pendant or slip it into just about any pocket. Its solid, elegant-looking brushed-metal body will also go nicely with your outfit. The camera's control layout is logical and generally convenient, although you have to be careful not to block the lens with a finger when you're shooting. Otherwise, we found the Dimage Xg comfortable to hold for a camera of its size. However, if your hands are on the large side, give it a try before buying.

You won't find many advanced photographic features on this point-and-shoot, but the Dimage Xg gives snapshot photographers all the essentials along with some nifty extras. The 320x240 video mode lets you shoot at 30fps, and there's a special Night Video mode that produces a brighter but noisier picture. You can also record up to 180 minutes of audio on 128MB of SD/MMC media. The Automatic Digital Subject Program Selection feature automatically chooses one of five scene modes. Granted, the Dimage Xg selected the Portrait mode for a test shot of a bookcase (the image came out fine), but it did a good job of switching to Landscape mode when appropriate. If you don't like the camera's choices, you can select the scene mode manually.

The Dimage Xg performed quite well in tests. It took less than 2 seconds from start-up to first shot, and continuous mode zipped along at about 1.5 frames per second. At high resolution, you're limited to six shots before the camera slows down, but at lower resolution, our hand cramped up before continuous shooting showed any signs of stopping. Shot-to-shot time in single-frame mode averaged a little more than 2 seconds, with or without flash. Even under low-light conditions, the Dimage Xg's autofocus was fast and decisive, and the LCD gained up to provide an adequately bright view. Midday sunlight overpowered the Xg's LCD, as it does many cameras'. Unfortunately, the tiny optical viewfinder isn't a very appealing alternative.

Battery life was excellent, lasting more than 700 shots in our tests. The indicator gives you plenty of warning before power is depleted, although once it turns red, you have time for maybe a half-dozen shots.

We were generally pleased with our test shots. From skin tones to bright blue skies, the Dimage Xg delivered realistic colors, although they were a little less saturated than we like. Without a dedicated macro setting, the Dimage Xg focuses only as close as 6 inches, and its flash tended to overpower our closest close-up shots, but they were otherwise well focused and detailed. Not surprisingly, image noise was most evident in shots with large expanses of sky, but we saw relatively little purple fringing or other aberrations.

The good:
Compact and slim design; easy to use; fast; good battery life; cool automatic features; good image quality.

The bad:
No macro mode; flash blowout for tight close-ups; limited manual features; controls may be uncomfortable for large hands.

What's it for:
Taking photos to print as large as 5x7; capturing 320x240 video clips; voice recording; Webcam use.

Who's it for:
Snapshot photographers and business users who want an ultracompact device.

Business use:
This camera doubles as a voice recorder and also fits nicely in a suit or a pocket. Business users should also consider the Minolta Dimage Xt Biz.

Essential extras:
SD/MMC storage media with a capacity of at least 64MB.

The bottom line:
Snapshot photographers looking for portability, ease of use, and style won't go wrong with this sleek little camera.

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