Sunday, September 12 2004

There goes my savings…

I’ve been so good recently. Really. My credit cards are clean, my home equity loan has plenty of headroom, I didn’t spend much in Vegas (although for a change I actually lost a few hundred, but still got the room comped), I haven’t gone wild on bike accessories like some Harley owners I could name, and I’ve even resisted the temptation to buy one of the new iPods to replace my now-obsolete 30GB unit.

So what happened? Minolta finally sorted out all the problems with their merger with Konica, and announced this:

Minolta Digital Maxxum 7

Full-frame 35mm CCD, 6.1 megapixels, optical image stabilization built into the body so it works with existing lenses, and based on the Maxxum 7 body. Pixel count might seem low compared to some of the alternatives out there right now, but this thing has been delayed for so long that it’s mere existence is good news, because it preserves my investment in lenses and flash gear. And 6MP is good enough for most common uses of 35mm, especially since I’ve been moving toward medium and large-format film for a lot of things.

My model shoots will work just fine at 6MP, and get processed for the web a lot faster. And the truth is that this thing won’t actually put much of a dent in my wallet; I’ve been waiting for it for quite a while…

Update: The official announcement is out now, with sample images and more details. This is a recompressed crop from a full-sized JPEG sample:

crop from Minolta 7D sample

Right now, the only compatibility limit they list to the image-stabilization is with the 16mm Fisheye and the 3x-1x Macro Zoom. I never bought the latter, and I can see why it would be tricky to stabilize the former. If it really does deliver the promised 2-3 stop improvement in hand-holdability with the rest of their lenses, though, it’s going to be a fantastic tool. With its matched 2x teleconverter, my 300/2.8 makes an excellent 600/5.6, but I’ve never been able to use it without at least a monopod. Very, very cool.

And then there’s the 500/8 Reflex, the 100-400/4.5-6.7, etc, etc. Actually, there have been enough times when I was losing the afternoon light while shooting ISO 100 film with my 80-200/2.8, that those three extra stops would come in handy for all sorts of lenses.

Nifty feature: RAW+JPEG, which allows you to record each picture in both formats, so you’ve got both a compact version for previewing, and an uncompressed, full-quality original to import into Photoshop (a 1GB CF card will hold ~76 of them). And they’ve put in a buffer big enough for 9 RAW+JPEG images shot at 3 frames/second. If you sacrifice the RAW image and adjust the JPEG size and compression, you’ve got a continuous shooting range of between 12 and 43 pictures at 3 f/s.

Only downside: APS-sized CCD, not full-frame (“wait for the 9D?”), so there will be some magnification from my lenses. On the bright side, this will reduce the cost a bit, and I’m not big on superwides anyway.

Minolta’s official sample images.