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The Dynax 5 is Minolta's serious amateur's camera and frankly, it wipes the floor with equivalently priced models by any other manufacturer. Choc-full of features and well worth the money at a more than reasonable £250.00 (as of March 2003).
Features in detail:
You can buy the Dynax 5 on its own with no lens, or with a 28-80mm (D) zoom lens (I'll explain the 'D' bit later). Some other combinations exist, but these are down to individual companies.
The 28-80mm gives decent coverage, from landscapes to portraits, and is a good lens with which to start. If your photographic interests take you into a specific area of photography e.g. close-up work, professional portraiture, landscape photography etc, you might consider buying more specialised lenses which give better results than the basic 28-80. The Dynax 5 accepts any Minolta AF lens currently in production, so you can interchange to your heart's delight. There are also some other lens manufacturers, such as Tamron, Sigma and Tokina, who provide high-quality, Minolta-fit lenses as well.
Returning to the 'D' bit now...this means that the lens is compatible with Minolta's 'Advanced Distance Integration' system. Here's what Minolta say about it: With a (D) lens Minolta’s ADI (Advanced Distance Integration) will ensure optimum flash metering—regardless of background conditions or subject’s reflectance characteristics. Used with Program Flash 5600HS(D), Program Flash 3600HS(D) or even its built-in flash, the Dynax 5 calculates a guide number based on distance from subject, ambient light/pre-flash reflectivity of the subject and the background to determine the ideal amount of flash.
Essentially this means that with the correct type of lens (D-series), and with the built-in flash or a separate Minolta flashgun (5600HS or 3600HS), the camera will calculate just how much flash is necessary and use only what is needed, leading to better-exposed pictures. The system does indeed work, in my experience, and Minolta are bringing out more D-series lenses as time goes on. A useful little feature.
Just a final note on lenses (especially if you upgrade to an expensive one) - buy a UV filter for your lens (£8) and leave it on. If the filter is damaged, you can replace it for a mere £8, but if you damage the actual lens, you're looking to pay a lot more!
If you are looking for a point-and-shoot SLR, the Dynax 5 has a VERY fast autofocus system, based around a 7-point sensor. It will provide good, well-focused shots in all but the most taxing light. 99% of the shots that I've taken with the autofocus system have come out very nicely indeed.
The camera's in-built metering system will calculate the right exposure settings for each shot and will use the camera's built-in flash if necessary. The viewfinder will flash once to tell you which autofocus sensor is being used to take the picture and all you have to do is press the shutter release. If you are too close to the object you are shooting, the viewfinder display will flash to warn you that it cannot focus and will lock the shutter release so that you don't waste a shot.
If you intend to take more control of your picture-taking and use the camera in manual mode, the viewfinder display will give you an indication as to whether or not your chosen settings agree with the in-built metering system. This is a useful learning tool and has certainly helped me avoid foolish errors!
Minolta have included a feature known as 'Eye-start' on their autofocus camera, which can be turned on and off as you see fit. This feature uses a little sensor by the viewfinder of the camera. As you put the camera to your eye, the sensor detects this and begins autofocussing, so that your subject is focused on almost instantaneously. It doesn't get it right every time, but that can be put right by holding the shutter release button halfway down, causing the camera to refocus. Some people like this setting, others don't. It's very much a case of personal preference.
The built-in flash is used automatically by the Dynax 5 if it deems it necessary. When you depress the shutter release button halfway, the flash will pop up if it is needed. Full depress the button to take the picture. There are various flash modes: auto, red-eye reduction, fill-in and flash cancel. Briefly, auto is fully automatic, red-eye reduction fires some pre-flash light to narrow peoples' pupils to reduce red-eye, fill-in is where the flash will fire with every shot and flash cancel turns flash off.
The built-in flash is not incredibly powerful (no built-in flashes are), so you shouldn't expect miracles in low-light conditions. However, when there is already some decent lighting the built-in flash can produce great results. However, if you are looking to improve your flash photography, consider a dedicated flashgun, which attaches to the hotshoe on the Dynax 5. A dedicated flashgun is MUCH more powerful than the built-in flash and will provide much better results, especially in low-light conditions.
The Dynax 5 can be used in Autofocus mode (point and shoot), Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual and in several program modes.
Aperture priority gives you control over the aperture size which you select manually. The camera selects the appropriate shutter speed and uses flash as appropriate. Vice versa for Shutter priority. Manual mode gives you control over every aspect of the shot.
The five program modes are: Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports action and Night portrait. These are modes optimised for those purposes and you can experiment with them to see if you like the results. I am a portrait photographer and in my opinion, the Portrait mode works well. It makes sure that the depth of field is shallow, meaning that your subject is in focus but the background is blurred. This draws attention to the subject, not the background.
Landscape mode has a large depth-of-field, meaning that the whole picture is in focus, giving you good detail everywhere, which is what you want for a landscape!
Close-up mode allows you to focus more accurately on small objects like jewellery for those insurance photographs!
Sports action keeps the autofocus system on continually, so that as you track a moving object, say a football player, they will be refocused on again and again, so that you can take focused pictures.
Night portrait mode is optimised for low-light scenes, setting a longer shutter speed.
OTHER BITS AND BOBS
Don't worry, you're almost at the end now...I promise I won't go on much longer!
There are even more features on the Dynax 5, but I will just mention a few:
Self-timer - allows you to get in the photo yourself. You can also buy a remote control for the camera which allows you even more time to prepare than the self-timer.
Continuous advance - you can take up to 3 frames per second with this setting on. Useful for a series of action shots.
Dimensions - 127mm(W) x 87mm(H) x 60.5mm(D)
Weight - 335g without batteries or eyepiece cup.
If you want more information, visit Minolta's website at www.minolta.co.uk
All in all, this is a great little camera. It is compact for an SLR and you'll hardly notice the weight. It packs in a surprising number of features for the price and takes fantastic pictures to boot. It has won several photographic industry awards and I love it to pieces.
It has certainly improved my photo-taking and has given me some fabulous photos. Don't believe people who tell you that only Canon and Nikon make good cameras (and there are still some people who will). To my mind, no camera in the same price range offers the build-quality, features and value for money as the Dynax 5.
Try it, buy it and enjoy taking photos with it. I know you will.