Konica Minolta's Dynax 5D is the latest budget DSLR (digital single lens reflex) to hit an increasingly competitive digicam market. Like its rivals, it offers 6.1Mp (megapixel) resolution for £649 including lens, but boasts one important differentiator: a unique anti-shake system built into the camera body itself.
This system matches that of the more expensive Dynax 7D (reviewed in our March issue), but by building it into the body rather than specific lenses, Konica Minolta has effectively turned any lens into an anti-shake model (see 'All shook up' for more details).
The 5D can use any Minolta A-type bayonet lens and, as with other budget DSLRs, their effective focal length is multiplied by 1.5. Konica Minolta has also launched three new DT lenses designed for the smaller sensors of its DSLRs: an 11-18mm, an 18-200mm and an 18-70mm. This 18-70mm f3.5~5.6 is optionally bundled with the 5D for an extra £50, and provides a slightly longer range than the 18-55mm lenses normally bundled with budget DSLRs; it's equivalent to 27-105mm on a 35mm camera.
The 5D's 6.1Mp CCD (charge-coupled device) delivers images with 3,000x2,008 pixels and sufficient detail to make good-looking A3 inkjet prints. The sensor's physically larger than those in consumer cameras, allowing lower noise levels even at high sensitivities. Images can be recorded at three different Jpeg settings, or as RAW files with an accompanying Jpeg if desired. They're stored on Compact Flash cards, but you'll need to supply your own.
Small is beautiful
The 5D is significantly smaller and lighter than its predecessor, the 7D; indeed, it's around the same size as Canon's compact 350D, although heavier. The 7D's huge array of manual controls and dials has also been simplified, although there's still direct access to many items.
The 5D features a large 2.5in screen and shows all shooting information on it. Handily, sensors detect the camera's orientation and cleverly turn the characters so they're always upright. Other sensors detect when you're looking through the viewfinder and turn off the display's backlight to save power.
Unfortunately, though, the screen resolution has been almost halved to save costs. While it may now be the same resolution as many 1.8in screens, it looks quite coarse at 2.5in, especially compared to the 2.5in screen of the Pentax *istDL or the 7D.
The main dial switches between Auto, Program, Manual, Shutter and Aperture Priority modes, along with five scene presets. Exposures run between 1/4,000 to 30 seconds and bulb, while a wide range of sensitivities are available, from 100 to 3,200 ISO. Burst mode shoots at 3fps (frames per second) with a buffer of ten frames.
In use the 5D started quickly and performed well, matching the resolution and noise levels of its 6Mp rivals. What really stood out, though, was the anti-shake mechanism, which lets you handhold exposures far slower than normal. It's wonderful not having to increase the ISO and compromise quality in dim conditions. The 70mm end of the lens also allows you to get noticeably closer than the 55mm of rival cameras.
These two points alone make the 5D highly recommended even if the screen looks coarser and the body's heavier than immediate rivals. The 5D should be high on the list of anyone in the market for a budget DLSR.
All shook up
The Dynax 5D's unique anti-shake system mounts the CCD sensor on an adjustable platform. Motion detectors analyse any wobbling and counteract it by shifting the CCD sensor in the opposite direction.
The platform is adjusted by fast-reacting piezoelectric actuators, which can shift the sensor by 5mm in any direction. Since there's no live screen on a digital SLR, you can't actually see the effect of the anti-shake as you take the picture, but lights in the viewfinder indicate how hard it's working. To conserve battery power, the anti-shake system only kicks in as you take the picture.