The Z6's control layout differs slightly from those of most digital cameras, but Konica Minolta has done a good job minimizing the number of controls while, for the most part, maintaining overall ease and efficiency.
The large handgrip houses four AA batteries and provides a base for the large shutter-release button, the mode dial, and the macro and flash controls. You can customize the flash button to access one of several other functions, including drive mode, white balance, and ISO sensitivity. The zoom lever sits within natural reach of your thumb, so it's easy to move through the camera's 35mm-to-420mm (35mm equivalent) focal range without adjusting your grip.
Below the Z6's 2-inch LCD lie the power button and a switch that selects playback, LCD, or EVF mode. Between the LCD and the handgrip sits a four-way cursor controller with a center Set button, a Menu button, a Quick View/Delete button, and an Information button for cycling through the information-display options: no data, complete data, and a live histogram.
In addition to the 2-inch LCD, the Konica Minolta Dimage Z6 offers an EVF (electronic viewfinder). It's usable, but at 114,000 pixels, it doesn't display a high-quality image. A hotshoe atop the pop-up flash accepts Minolta flash units for extra lighting power.
The tabbed menu system is well organized and extremely easy to navigate. All menu items appear as text, so you won't have to decipher icons or pictograms. The main attraction of the Konica Minolta Dimage Z6 is the 12X zoom lens. Its focal range of 35mm to 420mm (35mm equivalent) skimps a bit on the wide angle, but it provides an excellent telephoto reach. Konica Minolta's Anti-Shake technology complements the Z6's extended telephoto range and macro abilities. With Anti-Shake on, the CCD moves in tandem with the camera so that you can easily shoot the Z6 at slower shutter speeds than usual--figure about two stops, possibly more if you have a supersteady hand. Macro lovers will also appreciate the Super Macro mode, which lets you focus as close as 0.4 inch.
With auto, program, aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual exposure, the Konica Minolta Dimage Z6 offers options for every shooting situation and level of experience. For fine-tuning, you'll find four color modes (Natural, Vivid, B&W, and Sepia) and adjustments for contrast and sharpness. Other options include custom and preset white balance, flash compensation, exposure bracketing, and three metering modes.
The Z6 handles scene modes a bit differently than other cameras do. Although you can manually select from a handful of scene modes, the Digital Subject Program Selection feature can automatically choose the appropriate mode after analyzing the scene. The selection is accurate more often than not, but it's not foolproof, so check the LCD to verify the Z6's choice before you shoot.
Other notable features include exposure bracketing, a host of continuous-shooting and autofocus options, and the ability to move the focus point left or right in five steps.
Unfortunately, Konica Minolta has downgraded the movie mode from the one in the Dimage Z5, leaving you with only 320x240 resolution at 15 or 30 frames per second (fps). You can, however, use the zoom during movie capture, and the camera has a decent night-movie mode as well. The Konica Minolta Dimage Z6's performance ranged from average to quite good. Its battery life is impressive, but we found its performance slightly more sensitive than most to battery charge.
Since the Z6's lens needs time to extend, start-up to first shot took just under 3 seconds. After that, our shot-to-shot time was typically about 1.7 seconds without flash and 2.7 seconds with it.
The Konica Minolta Dimage Z6 was much perkier in its continuous-shooting modes. At normal speed and high resolution, we captured around 16 images at a rate of 1.8fps. Dropping down to the lowest resolution increased speed to almost 2fps.
We timed autofocus at a fast 0.4 second in good light and 0.5 second in low light. However, our actual low-light shooting experience wasn't quite as fast in extremely dark conditions. Nevertheless, the Z6 performed admirably, considering its lack of an AF illuminator.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Shutter lag (typical)||Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Although the Anti-Shake technology worked extremely well, some of our images came out softer than we had hoped, particularly with the zoom extended to its full range. Details, while visible, also looked less than crisp throughout the focal range.
At the Z6's maximum ISO sensitivity of 320, noise levels should be lower than they are; however, images appeared fairly clean at IS0 100 and less. We noticed little purple fringing at wider focal lengths, but this aberration became more visible when we fully extended the lens.