Throwback Thursday: Minolta’s prosumer DiMAGE 7

PMA 2001 was a pretty exciting show for new cameras. It saw the release of the Nikon D1X and D1H, the Fujifilm S1 Pro, Kodak mc3 camera/MP3 player (a camera so bad that I couldn’t complete my review) and the impressive Sony Cyber-shot DSC-S75. Along with those was probably the biggest vaporware product of all-time: the Silicon Film EPS-1. A prototype of a full-frame Pentax DSLR was also shown, but whether that’s also vaporware is up for debate. 

One of the real highlights was the Minolta DiMAGE 7, a prosumer camera with an unconventional design, a long lens and tons of direct controls. Its 2/3″ 5 Megapixel CCD had the highest resolution of any non-pro camera at the time. All of that came at a price: $ 1500, to be exact.

The Minolta GT apochromatic lens had a manual zoom ring (please, someone do this again) and a fly-by-wire focus ring. The maximum aperture range was F2.8-3.5 with an equivalent focal range of 28-200mm.  Notably, the lens had a pair of anomalous dispersion elements, which Minolta claimed improved color accuracy. The D7’s lens was not stabilized.

The D7’s body was made from a single piece of magnesium alloy, though despite that, DPReview’s Phil Askey was unimpressed with its overall build quality. The camera had a ton of physical controls, including the quick settings dial you can see above. Images were stored on a CompactFlash slot that supported Type II cards, such as the IBM Microdrive.

The DiMAGE 7 had a status LCD on its top plate, along with a standard-issue 1.8″ LCD (with 112k dots). The D7 also had a tilting EVF, a feature that has become increasingly popular in recent years. The EVF used ‘ferroelectric’ technology and was one of the best out there at the time.

The camera was generally snappy (though AF could be sluggish at times), image quality was good, and the APO lens kept chromatic aberration to a minimum. One unusual thing about the DiMAGE 7 was that it used its own color space, so users would have to convert it to sRGB manually. Once that was done, colors were much more vivid. One niggle Phil brought up in his review was regarding the D7’s poor battery life: you needed to bring a spare set of batteries as a backup for your other spare set of batteries.

A year after the DiMAGE 7 arrived, its successor (the 7i) was announced. It had a faster burst rate, more movie options (though it remained at 320 x 240, 15 fps), wireless flash control and a slightly updated design. It was also $ 500 less. A DiMAGE 7Hi later followed, with a snazzy black body, more manual controls and performance enhancements.

Did you have any of the DiMAGE 7-series cameras? Share your memories in the comments below!

Read DPReview’s DiMAGE 7 Review

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