Back in the late 80’s you had your pick of two satellite TV networks in the UK; Sky and the British Satelitte Broadcasting service. The main difference between the two was the design of the BSB satellite dish; the Squarial. They seemed to be counting on the form factor of the antenna to clearly differentiate themselves from their competitor. In 2002 Minolta seemed to be using a similar design technique with the DiMAGE X.
Roughly the size of shirt-pocket, the camera is just 20 mm thin and 84 x 72 mm, weighing just 155 g. Incredibly the zoom mechanism, doesn’t protrude, with a prism reflecting the image seen through the first lens element. ‘Folded Optics’ is how Minolta described this innovation, essentially a precursor to the periscope lens tech seen on camera phones last year.
The lens is automatically covered by a sliding metal door. Given the square design, there is no hand grip to speak of. Just three raised bumps to stop the camera from slipping from your grasp; the matte finish thankfully keeps it relatively grippy. The tiny viewfinder is surprisingly bright, which is good job because, believe it or not, the 1.5" viewscreen is a shocker.
I was quite surprised by the options the camera afforded you; the highest quality ‘Super Fine’ setting lets you capture TIFF files at 1600 x 1200. This kicked out a roughly 6MB image size, which I wasn’t expecting. There wasn’t much in the difference in the quality of images between the TIFF and JPG files but with the former filling up in the 256Mb SD card super quick. At maximum resolution the camera can eek out just 43 images. I’ve tried slightly higher capacity cards but the camera isn’t happy about it; 2002 technology showing its age.
The best feature is the voice note functionality which will have been used by exactly no one. In audio record mode, you can record up to 90 seconds of audio annotation; like the worst most ridiculous dictaphone. Or, you can select an option that allows you create a follow up audio clips of up to 15 seconds after each image you take. Completely pointless, and absolutely amazing.
Almost everyone who dropped the thick end of three hundred quid on a point and shoot digital camera in the early 00s also bought a rotter of case in which to protect their heavily depreciating investment; usually made by Case Logic, Samonsite or Lowepro. The unique design of the DiMage X probably meant that users couldn’t find too many cases for their camera. This might suggest why my latest addition is so battle scarred.
With a sizeable dent on the side, a missing screw and more than a few scuffs and scrapes, it is far from box fresh. The diminutive design, however is utterly charming. It feels great in the hand and is perfectly pocket sized.
The photos, when you consider the age, are perfectly fine. Fairly crisp colours despite the lack of resolution. The battery was goosed, holding only a few minutes of charge, so I had to invest in a new one which, somehow, was easy to source and only £6 in price. So adding to the cost of the camera itself, I’ve spent £6.10.