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The Minolta Dynax 303si is the cheapest in the Dynax range, and thus has the least features. That said, this SLR camera has all the features that I need, plus more.
I wanted an SLR camera to give me a better chance at taking better photos (I have never been able to aim at all accurately when the view finder is above the lens). I also did not want to spend too much money, nor did I want a camera with too many gadgets gizmos and features to “play” with. The Minolta Dynax 303si , seemed to fit with what I needed.
It is a 35mm camera, so there’s no option of picture format and you will have to load the film. This simply means putting the film cassette in and pulling the film across to the red marker on the other side. On closing the door, the film is automatically fed in and the indicator on the LCD display (when the camera is switched on) informs you that the film has been loaded correctly.
LENS The camera usually comes complete with an AF25-80mm zoom lens, but an alternative AF28-80mm zoom lens is available for a slightly higher price. The 28-80mm lens will give you better landscape shots, but the 35-80mm is adequate for my purposes. As well as this, the Dynax 303si has interchangeable lens facility, enabling the owner to use a large variety of Minolta lenses, as well as adding onto the end of the supplied lens (I will be purchasing some magnifying lens for some close-up work which will screw onto the end of the 35-80mm zoom lens at approx. £20 for a set of 3 lenses).
AUTO FOCUS Picture-taking is simple with this camera, as when set to the normal mode (The camera is pre-set to this every time it is switched on), mostly everything is automatic. Just switch on the camera, remove the lens cap (no point taking pictures with it on!) point the camera at the subject (whilst looking through the view finder), roll the zoom barrel until you have the picture how you want it, press the shutter release button down half way and the cameras auto focus will focus in. If this can be done, a green light will appear in the view-finder when the image is in focus, if not the green light will blink. At this point the focus lock will prevent the camera from re-focusing when the camera is moved until the shutter release button is released or fully pressed, therefore enabling the image which is in focus to be to one side of the picture and not in the middle, if required. Should the auto-focus be unable to operate for one reason or another, a button on the front of the camera disables the auto-focus, leaving you to focus the picture manually. I have already used the manual focus (my subject was a rather fine grass seed head and the auto-focus kept on focusing on the fence beyond, as the seed head was too fine to be seen, and I can conclude that the manual focus is not all that difficult if very fine increments are used. On focusing your picture, fully depressing the shutter release button will take the picture.
FLASH The built in flash also has automatic functionality. On depressing the shutter release button half way, the camera will detect if the flash is required, and if so the flash will pop-up on top of the camera (keeps making me jump) and a flash symbol will appear in the view-finder. There are five settings for the flash; auto, auto with red eye reduction, on (will flash with every picture regardless of conditions), on with red eye reduction and cancel (will not flash regardless of conditions. Red eye reduction is a series of flashes just prior to the shutter being released, and the subject in the picture should be warned of this. The camera also has the option of an additional flash (the ones with sit on top of the camera) and wireless/remote flash control.
PROGRAM SELECTOR Once you have learnt the basic operation of the camera, you can, if you wish, extend your creativity into the program selector. The program selector enables you to choose the best exposure setting for the type of scenes being photographed. I have already begun to use this function, settings include: Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sporting and Night Portrait modes. Portrait mode automatically adjusts the settings to create a shallow depth-of-field (Depth-of-field is the area in front of and behind the point you focused on that appears sharp), which separates the subject from the background making a greater impact. Landscape mode is the best setting for landscape, scenic and travel photos, where a large depth-of-field is required to make sure everything is in focus. Close-up mode enables you to photograph smaller objects, like flowers or jewellery (I have found that this mode enables me to focus more accurately on small subjects). Sporting basically keeps the auto-focus on continual and will not lock, continually re-focusing on the moving object, this mode also sets the fastest possible shutter speed required to “stop the action”. Night Portrait mode sets longer shutter speeds to capture twilight and night skyline scenes. It is necessary to cancel the flash when taking night scenes.
OTHER FEATURES Yes, on top of all that, there is more! Self-timer mode enables the photographer to be in all the important scenes, the timer has a 10 second delay. Continuous drive enables photos to be taken continuously without lifting the shutter-release button (The camera waits until the auto-focus focused or the flash has recharged (it recharges quickly, by the way)). Auto winding means there’s no need to manually wind the film on, and when the film has finished it will also rewind for you (continuous drive I think would not work without this feature, me thinks!). Also, if you need to rewind the current film before the roll is finished, there is a manual rewind button on the back of the camera. The AF Illuminator, is a secondary function of the built-in flash. If the scene is too dark for the camera to focus properly, the built-in flash fires a few short bursts when the shutter-release button is pressed down half-way to provide to necessary illumination for the camera to focus.
The prints are of far greater quality than prints from my previous camera, the subjects are in the centre and they are mostly focused correctly. It would appear that these pictures would be even better if I was a better photographer.
Some of the prints seem to have developed with a wider view around the subject than I would have liked, but I do not see how this could be the fault of the camera or lens, more likely the photographer is to blame. The other problems which appear to be my fault also are: incorrect lighting, image barely discernible from the background, flash reflection from glass of fish tank.
The majority of the photos are actually good, but then compared to the pictures which I used to take before this camera, they’re brilliant!
All that and one of the smallest SLR camera bodies in the world at 135mm X 90mm X 58.5mm (if only they could lose that half a millimetre).
When combined with fotango.com (see my opinion on fotango.com titled “Share The Moment” Dated 21/08/2001, And updated 11/09/2001), my photographic experiences are now so easy.
I started to enjoy taking photos, since buying this camera, I love it!
A very informative op. You said that you are getting more picture around your subjects that you were expecting - this is the camera, not you, as the view finder on most SLR cameras only display about 95% of the picture. I'm not sure if this is because manufacturers don't trust us not to cut peoples heads off or because if you use print film not all of the negative is printed - check one of your negatives against the print.
LostAngel 20.09.2001 23:47
I had this camera but unfortunately not any more, I really loved it. Excellant op, Thanks.
timmyotoole 20.09.2001 23:22
A magnificently comprehensive opinion, cheers, Timmy.