Do you know what an obsidian dome is? Well, other than knowing that it had something to do with old volcanic activity, I didn't either. I had noticed a reference to an obsidian dome between Mammoth Lakes and June Lake, Calif., on the maps and I was curious. It turns out an obsidian dome is a huge upwelling of volcanic rock that has solidified into black, glass-like obsidian rock.
The dome near Mammoth Lakes is huge. A pine forest surrounds it so you can't easily see its dimensions. My son and I drove on U.S. Forest Service roads through the trees beside it until we found an interesting place to more closely observe the dome. Shiny obsidian cliffs rose high above us, and it looked like a great photo op.
I discovered that the new Konica Minolta Maxxum 5D was ideal for this photography. Before you think this is photo-industry hype, let me explain. A hike to the base of the cliffs didn't look too bad—until I started climbing the talus slope below. I had no idea that obsidian debris could be so slippery (it certainly makes sense, as it's like glass). The day had been long and there was no way I was going to try to climb that slope with a tripod and pack of gear. I put the Maxxum 5D and two lenses in a small fanny pack I use for hiking light. At 5.1x3.6x2.6 inches and 20.8 ounces, this camera is light and compact.
It's what's included inside this camera (and its bigger sibling, the Maxxum 7D) that made it so perfect for this type of photography. The 5D has image-stabilization technology built right into the camera. I didn't need the tripod that I didn't want to carry! The camera senses movement from a handheld camera, then responds to that movement by shifting the sensor to compensate. This makes every lens you attach to the camera a stabilized lens. I got consistently sharp images, even when I had to use slow shutter speeds, because I stopped down the lens for maximum depth of field.
The Maxxum 5D's 6.1-megapixel sensor offered excellent tonal, color and noise quality. I liked my results, as well as the big 2.5-inch LCD. A definite benefit to photographers, the large LCD is one of the best trends in digital camera technology. In addition, this camera can put its settings in large type onto the back (called the Navigation Display), making it simple to use when you need to adjust those controls for serious work; you easily can read the settings in the dark, too. The display even changes to vertical when you turn the camera vertically, and you can alter the size of the text. Estimated Street Price: $799 (body only).
Contact: Konica Minolta, (800) 285-6422, www.kmpi.konicaminolta.us.
Camera Type: Digital, interchangeable-lens SLR
Lens Mount: Minolta A-type (Maxxum)
Resolution: 6.1 megapixels (3008 x 2000 pixels)
Viewfinder: 95% coverage of sensor, 0.83x magnification, pentamirror
LCD: 2.5-inch TFT
Media Type: CF cards
Shooting Modes: Program, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, full-auto, manual
Subject Program Modes: Portrait, Landscape, Sunset, Sports Action, Night Portrait
Exposure Compensation: ±2 stops in 1/3-EV steps
Metering System: Multi-segment metering, spot (3.5%), center-weighted
Shutter Speeds: 30-1/4000 sec.
ISO Equivalency: 100-3200
Built-In Flash: Pop-up, GN 36 (ISO 100, feet)
Power Source: Proprietary Li-Ion
Size: 5.1x3.6x2.6 inches
Weight: 20.8 ounces
|1 Anti-Shake technology moves the sensor in response to camera movement for sharper photos
2 Large 2.5-inch LCD monitor and outsized Navigation Display
3 High-quality 6.1-megapixel sensor offers excellent tonal and color quality