My life in cameras: Part 2 Minolta Dimage A1 review

Soon after I dabbled in photography with the small Sony P&S I felt the need for a real camera. My budget was still a bit tight so thought I a so-called bridge or prosumer camera would do nicely. The Minolta Dimage A1. I used some student loan money to buy it.

This camera had a whopping 5.2 megapixels and could output files up to 2560×1920 pixels. That is less than some monitors and TVs can output today. But it had some really nice features like image stabilization and a tiltable viewfinder. Something that is still uncommon today even though I found this feature to be incredibly useful. The lens went from 28-200mm equivalent and had a nice mechanical zoom mechanism. This was a proper camera with control dials, buttons, manual zoom, focus options, white balance control and I think even RAW output. But the camera was very prone to noise and its dynamic range struggled even on not so bright days. Nevertheless I took some nice pictures with it and it was not too bulky or heavy with its 650 grams.

Minolta Dimage A1: Examples

Minolta Dimage A1: A grey and dreary shopping mall
Dreary shopping complex (09/2004) Minolta Dimage A1 32mm F9 1/500s ISO 200

I took this picture somewhere in Eastern Germany while visiting family on a rainy day. For me it encapsulates the dreariness of some East German towns. Many municipalities built shopping malls in the hope of reviving their city centers. But many young people left for West Germany or the the bigger cities in the East and they left a lot of old or unemployed people behind. Not much spending power then. So many of the shopping malls ended up half empty with cheap stores. Note the small part of a street lamp protruding into the frame. I could crop it out but then I like to keep my mistakes.

Minolta Dimage A1: A residential complex in West Germany
70s style residential block in Western Germany (08/2004) Minolta Dimage A1 28mm F11 1/125s ISO 100

I have such a fascination with 1970s and 1980s residential and commercial buildings from Western Germany. Especially the ones they built in smaller cities oftentimes taking a former village or settlement on the outskirts and converting it into a planned community. By the time I took this picture the small district was home to mainly migrants many of them unemployed or poor. The original residents who where mostly young families looking for a modern apartment had already left a long time ago. A nice single residential unit with a garden sounds much more appealing when you have kids. Some of the now old original residents are still living there. Frictions between them and the migrant population is common.

This story played out over and over in West Germany where those planned communities become what the French would call a banlieue or the Americans a Ghetto. Not as severe (this is still Germany) but mostly a place where the poor settle and social problems persists. Since the late 1980s urban planners no longer build such places.

Minolta Dimage A1: The Velodrom in Berlin
Velodrom Berlin (07/2004) Minolta Dimage A1 28mm F2.8 1/5s ISO 100

This is the Velodrom in Berlin. The city I grew up in. It is an incredibly ugly piece of architecture and therefore fascinating to me. If you check the link you can see an aerial view and it looks gorgeous but as a pedestrian it is somewhat of a war zone. On the left side of my position is a huge parking lot, on the right a big throughway and on the other sides are train tracks and locked sporting facilities. Even though there is grass on top of the building it is no place to spend time. It is loud, there are no trees, no shade, no coffeeshops or playgrounds. People use it to move from the train station to the residential area and it is usually littered with garbage. The whole ensemble is a photographers dream and a pedestrians horror show.

I took the picture half past nine in the evening with a shutter speed of just 1/5 of a second. The image stabilizer worked great although I was quite lucky.

Minolta Dimage A1: Veldrom Chimneys
Velodrom Berlin (07/2004) Minolta Dimage A1 28mm F2.8 1/10s ISO200

This is part of the Velodrom. You can see it is not really a place to stay and relax. But I do like these industrial looking chimneys right in the middle of the city. The bike racks are used by commuters. The train station is below in a cut.

Minolta Dimage A1: an abandonend supermarkted in Berlin
Old supermarket (07/2004) Minolta Dimage A1 62mm F3.2 0.6s ISO200

If you turn left from where I took the first Velodrom picture you end up here. An old supermarket built in the former GDR with its typical corrugated sheet construction. This place is already gone and has been replaced with a small mall containing a supermarket and drugstore. Although I haven’t been there in some years. I always figured that this scene could be from some shady parts of the Bronx in NYC.

You can see that this camera was definitely a better tool for what I liked to document.