Those of you who aren't familiar with Minox, it's a German company that specialises in making small classic replica cameras ranging from little spy camera gadgets to retro looking miniature digital cameras. The Classic Mini Digital Camera, or DCC 5.1 for short, is Minox's latest and greatest mini digital camera. Minox even goes as far as describing it as "a small masterpiece with huge performance". Well, we're going to be the judge of that. Photography junkies are bound to fall in love with such a pretty little retro camera such as this one. Photojojo was gracious enough to supply this tiny retro masterpiece-looking digital camera for review so jump past the break for the full breakdown!
A camera such as this is going to run you $179, a hefty price to pay for sure. What you get for that price is very nice presentable wooden box that would make gifting this tiny camera worth while. In addition to a fancy wooden box, also included are European wall power adapter with a North American wall plug, a lithium-ion rechargeable battery and a USB charging cable.
The Minox DCC is so small it fits right in the palm of your hand. By now you might be thinking that this is purely a toy camera. In some regards it is in fact a toyish looking camera. But in reality this little camera is a fully functional replica of the Leica M3 camera on the outside, and on the inside its got modern digital goodness. The body of the Classic Mini Digital Camera is extremely full detailed with working levers and buttons. It may be tiny, but it's really easy to use. A matter a pointing at the object and taking the shot. There's no thinking involved really. I've been using this Minox for a while now after using a full featured DSLR, it really didn't seem like it could take good pictures to say the least.
I thought it would be fun to take the front page "hero" photo of the Minox using the iPhone 4 and applying a retro-like color tone to it using the Camera+ app. It turned out to be a worthy hero photo for sure. Sadly, this is still a digital camera so don't expect any retro-looking pictures out of the Minox.
Getting into the build quality, from far away, the Minox DCC camera looks like a stunning piece of miniature camera. However, upon close inspection, you'll quickly find out the plasticky construction that ultimately makes it feel on the verge of feeling and looking like a cheap little toy camera. Plasticky buttons and moving levers feel just that. The only working moving part on this little camera is the tiny rounded shutter button at the top, which also feels cheaply made and feels a little weird to press given that the button feedback is poor. Except for the shutter button, focus adjustment ring and the three little buttons located near the back screen, everything else is just for show. Despite the "Germany" writing emblazoned at the top, this camera is made in China.
The good news is that the 42mm equivalent lens is made out of glass and housed inside a metal enclosure that brings back some quality to the rather cheaply made plastic body of this camera. Focusing is done entirely manually using the focus ring on the lens which will let you focus between 0.5m to infinity and as close as 50cm to an object. It's as old school as you can get. To me surprise, the Minox DCC has a f/2.8 aperture lens that can produce some nice smooth bokeh.
On the back of the Minox DCC camera, you'll find a fairly large 2" TFT digital display on such a small camera. A power button and function buttons accompany the 2" display and will let you fiddle around in the very basic and limited settings this camera has. There's really no need to change anything from the start. WB, EV and picture quality are the only settings worth mentioning here. Besides taking still shots, the Minox DCC can take really crappy video clips not worth taking.
In addition to the 2" screen that helps you compose your shots, is a viewfinder that can be detachable and is made out of metal should you want to really go retro. Though you can't really turn off the back display to conserve battery life.
Inputs are really basic here, what did you expect? A mini-USB input and an SD car slot is all that you will find on this tiny camera. Having a side battery/SD card door makes it a breeze to insert an SD card up to 16GB in capacity as well as the included 760mAh rechargeable battery.
Finally we get into the picture quality side of things. This camera packs a decent 5.1-megapixel CMOS sensor that can achieve some decent quality images in the most perfect conditions. Above is a unedited sample image taken at 0.5m. It's as close as you can get for sharp closeup shots. You can fully enlarge the original image by clicking on it.
To say that the Minox Classic Digital Camera takes good photos is ridiculous to say the least. Even while you area able to get some depth of field, the out of focus parts are extremely noisy, grainy and just spotted with fuzzy spots. Whether you shot indoors or outdoors, expect every image to be extremely noisy.
I've noticed that on occasion, I would get some Inception-like effects caused by slightly moving object or unsteady hands. Or in other words, this is called the jello/rolling shutter effects. Some may say it's even creative.
The big question still remains as to whether this tiny retro-looking camera can be passed off as a non-toy camera. And the answer is not really. In my eyes, this isn't a camera you would want to take pictures with. For $179, you can get much better, real point-n-shooters. The Minox is a mere novelty item that collectors will love to add to their collection of cameras. Miniature or not, the quality doesn't justify the price. For more sample images, visit the gallery.