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September 24, 2001

Extraordinary detail, healthy AA appetite

Extraordinary detail, healthy AA appetite with Minolta camera

Minolta, longtime maker of 35 mm cameras, has taken a leap over other digital camera manufacturers by coming up with the first 5.24 million-pixel camera for photo enthusiasts. The company's effort has produced one of the better multi-megapixel cameras on the market - for the most part.

The Minolta Dimage 7 ($1,400) uses a 2/3 -inch CCD (Charged Couple Device) to make big, beautiful digital images up to 2,560 by 1,920 pixels. As with many of the high-end digital cameras, you can manually control exposure, white balance, color saturation, ISO, image size and quality.

Minolta's expertise with lenses on nondigital cameras makes the small one on the front of the Dimage 7 a wonder. The lens has an optical zoom range of 28 mm to 200 mm that handles macro photography with aplomb.

Image sharpness and color reproduction also benefit from how the images are processed in the camera. Minolta uses its own processing technology, CxProcess, for optimizing realism.

As you can imagine, the camera makes a quick meal of four AA batteries. You'll need to use the electronic viewfinder to see what you're shooting rather than the LCD monitor on the camera's back, because the LCD uses so much energy. EVFs rarely have the resolution to show enough detail for proper focusing. So I shot several out-of-focus pictures.

If you want a camera that will allow you to blow up your images to 11-by-17 inches, the new line of 4-megapixel cameras (for $1,000 or less) from other manufacturers will handle your needs. But if you want crisper detail in your photographs for the best enlargements possible, the Dimage 7 is the king of the megapixel world.

Information: 201-825-4000 or www.minoltausa.com.

CH adds USB throttle to line of flight sim tools

You should never fly without a joystick, throttle and rudder pedals when traveling the friendly skies in your favorite flight simulator.

CH Products, which has been enhancing computer flight sim fun for years, has finally added a Universal Serial Bus throttle to complete the family of hardware I love to use for chasing Zeroes or leisurely flying a jumbo jet.

You can use the Pro Throttle USB ($150) with other controllers such as the F16 Combatstick USB and Pro Pedals USB for an unadulterated HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) experience.

As with previous CH Products throttles, this one is programmable. You can control up to 69 functions (for example, hit a button to raise the flaps) through the device and Control Manager software. It will configure your other CH Products game controllers, too.

With its smooth and accurate slider motion for acceleration, the Pro Throttle allows for more realistic changes in speed than punching keys on your keyboard.

Information: 760-598-2518 or www.chproducts.com.

- Kevin Washington

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