D7UG vs D7i

Some comments and comparisons about the new version 2.00 upgrade for the Dimage 7. I'm going to try to answer some of the common questions that people have been asking about the upgrade. I will not touch on all of the features.

This is version #3 of this page, I will be adding to it as I use the upgraded camera. August 8th, 2002.


Focus speed: The most often asked question has been about the focus speed improvement. I will sum it up this way; it is sort of improved. If you are coming from firmware 021 you will think that it is considerably improved. If you are coming from firmware 122, you will find it slightly improved. Here are a few observations about it.

* You notice the display freeze more than on the D7i

* It is faster at the telephoto end (above 150mm). It can still take a long time (2 seconds) at the telephoto end though. At 200mm I timed between 0.8 and 2.2 seconds, with about one second being typical. The D7i uses between 0.6 and 1.8 seconds, with 0.6 being typical. At 50mm the D7u takes about 0.9 seconds, the D7i takes about 0.6 seconds. At 100mm the D7u takes about 1 second, the D7i takes about 0.7 seconds.

* I have to say that I can sense an improvement, but it isn't as much as I expected vs. the 122 firmware. I may have been spoiled by the D7i because I'm used to that. The camera does seem more sure about locking on.

* It is slower than the D7i, as expected. With cameras in both hands and both set to beep when focused, the D7i focuses faster each time. The D7i just seems to step the focus motor faster.


Noise reduction: This is the single best improvement in my opinion, but I do like low light photography. The D7u now has the full length dark frame subtraction that the D7i has in bulb mode. Using it, my 30 second long dark frame is now perfectly clean where I had thousands of hot pixels before. It is quite dramatic and well worth the price of the upgrade alone. The noise reduction is only effective in Bulb mode, so if you have hot pixels visible at shorter shutter speeds this will not help.


UHS mode: When I first got the D7i, I thought that UHS mode would be another worthless gimmick. However, I now think that it is one of the most fun features of the camera (especially if you have kids to film), and it is great to see the D7 acquiring this feature too. The lower frame rate is hardly noticeable at all. The D7 can still shoot as long a sequence as the D7i can. The D7i produced 23 frames at a nominal 7 frames per second (3.3 seconds of shooting) while the D7u produced 18 frames at nominal 5 frames per second (3.6 seconds long). Too bad the D7 didn't gain a little shooting time with the slower frame rate.

I attempted to measure the frame rates, in "Fine" UHS mode the D7 produced 4.7 frames/sec and the D7i produced 8.4 frames/sec. (don't take these too seriously, it partly depends on what the subject material is).

Color space: The D7u uses the same color space that the D7 did. It also does not offer the "vivid color" mode.  The reason that the old Minolta viewer utility can't open the JPEG files from the new upgraded camera is that the EXIF header support has changed.

Infra-Red: The D7u remains as sensitive to IR as the D7 was.


Real-time histogram: This is a feature that seems like it would be great, but I don't personally use it as much as I thought that I would. The real-time histogram really shines when used in manual mode for getting your exposure just right. I find it is of limited use in P mode, where I just usually go by the appearance of the image in the viewfinder. The histogram updates a bit less frequently than in the D7i, but it is still frequent enough to be just as useful.


Flash modes: There are several improvements to the flash system.

First, it is possible, finally, to set single flash mode for tripping studio lights. This can be combined with 1/4 and 1/16 power modes. The 1/16 power mode is perfect for setting off slaves without contributing too much light to the subject. This one feature will be worth the price of the upgrade for many people.

Second, it is now possible to dial in flash compensation in the EV compensation mode.

Third, wireless flash is not available. This would probably require a hardware upgrade to upgrade the flash control unit; the wireless signals are encoded in the flash pulse.


Conclusion: Any single one of these features alone would be worth the upgrade price, and people have spent far more on add-on gizmos to set off their flashes and software for noise reduction that do far less. With this upgrade, and the release of the free .ICC profiles for the D7 that finally correct the color space without having to use DIVU and have the tone of your images changed, Minolta has made a bold statement of support for their early customers. I sincerely hope that people support this effort by buying the upgrade. If only they could have included a stick-on grip extension this upgrade would have been perfect (ha). As it is, you are getting 90% of a D7i for a reasonable price. Sure, the D7i is a little quicker, and has sound recording and wireless flash, but this upgrade breathes new life into the D7. Keep in mind that Minolta did not have to do this, and that no manufacturer has ever done anything even remotely like this. A lot of listening to users and thought went into the D7i and this upgrade for the D7. I think that it demonstrates considerable concern for their products on Minolta's part, and the upgrade was clearly a labor of love by people that want the camera to succeed.