Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Minolta 7000 Autofocus marvel

I have a long standing love of Minolta cameras, dating back to the X700 that I owned and used in my mid twenties. It was a great camera, and I would love to own another one day.

Around the time that everybody was 'going digital' (about ten years ago), my last film kit before selling up and joining the herd was a Minolta 600si Classic - another lovely (and dare I say 'Classic') camera. Unfortunately, this was also the time that Minolta as a camera company was going through tough times - merging initially with Konica, only to then end up being brought out by electronics giant Sony. There was a lot of uncertainty around the future of Minolta cameras during those few years, so I (and a good many others) didn't invest in them when looking at a digital system.

With the sale to Sony, history has proven that the Minolta system (and more importantly the 'A' mount for lenses) did, in fact, have staying power - and that perhaps my reticence was a little hasty? But Canon and Nikon were aggressive competitors, and I wasn't the only one tempted over to the dark side :-)

But now, with my renewed interest in film, and a stock of Minolta lenses on hand from a pro photographer friend who did stick with them, I get to once again re-visit my love affair with Minolta. And I intend to do just that - beginning with the Minolta 7000.

The Minolta Maxxum 7000 was a truly revolutionary camera when it first appeared in 1985. Just by looking at it you can tell it is a child of the 80s. If I was being harsh, I would say that it looks like it was designed out of lego blocks - all square edges and geometric shapes. But to give the designers their due, it speaks loudly of the 'computer' age, where old-fashioned knobs and dials were replaced by modern switches and buttons. This design aesthetic was also evident in camera's like the Canon T70 and Nikon F801 - also children of the 80s.

It was also revolutionary in that it was the first Minolta to adopt the new 'A' mount -  and the first camera to facilitate a body-integrated auto focus design. Yes folks, auto-focus came of age with the Minolta 7000. The camera was a huge success, and catapulted Minolta back into the top echelons of the  Big 5 camera manufacturers. In fact it was so successful, it had other manufacturers (like Canon and Nikon) scrambling back to their engineering departments to re-think their own camera lines. If not for the Minolta 7000, Canon's own EOS line of cameras may have taken a lot longer with their development.

A design aesthetic straight out of Robocop
But don't let all those slim metallic buttons and switches fool you - in reality this is a simple and  intuitive camera to use (despite the anorexic thinness of those top buttons). Film speed is set automatically (for DX coded films), it has all the expected modes (P,A,S,M), can shoot at 2 frames per second, a flash synch speed of 1/100th and a top shutter speed of 1/2000th sec.

This is the beginnings of auto focus that we know and love today, so don't expect stellar focus performance. The screw-driven motor sounds like an electric drill set to high, and its single focus detection point takes time locking on. But lock on it does, and Minolta deserved all the kudos it received by bringing body-integrated autofocus to the world of photography.

I'm looking forward to putting a roll of 35mm through this camera. She may be almost thirty years old, but I bet she performs as reliably as the day she was made. Apart from a slight 'whitening' of the hand-grip plastic (a common issue with this era of camera), and a little lcd 'bleed' on one edge, my copy of the 7000 looks to be in fantastic nick. A fresh set of 4 triple A's (yes, it takes 'common' batteries - yay) and I should be good to go. Will post images soon.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

OMG! A new post.

Well it's been two years without a post on my 'Film is Back!' blog. And yes, that means that I haven't used a film camera in about two years.

The reasons are many and varied - but there are a couple of main ones.

First, I took a year off from all photography, quitting my Wedding Photography business, and selling all my digital gear. After over 25 years of photography as my main hobby/passion, I'd had enough and needed a break. I sold a lot of my film gear as well - my Olympus OM kits, Canon T90 kit, Bronica S2 kit, Nikon N80, as well as a few others.

Second, my Graphic Design business struggled, and I eventually decided I needed to also call it quits and look for employment on staff somewhere. Fortunately I found a great job as a senior graphic designer for a commercial printing firm locally - but I was left with lots of bills and a hefty amount of tax outstanding. I had to do some serious soul searching, and some even more serious owning up to my wife about my dire financial situation.

Fortunately I'm blessed with a very forgiving (and loving) wife, who has supported me, and helped me through my financial mess - to the point where we are now working on a budget together (we should have been from the start), and on top of our finances. But it does mean that I don't really have any 'spare' money to support my GAS (gear acquisition syndrome).

And to top it all off, two years ago, my mother died of cancer. At the tender age of (then) 44, I had lost both of my parents (my dad died when I was only 16). So yeah, it's been a tough couple of years.

But - about 6 months ago, I was approached by a friend of the family who asked if I would shoot their sons wedding in early 2015.

I'm not going to lie, I didn't even consider shooting it on film. But since I'd sold all of my digital gear, I needed to buy some more. To cut a long story short (this is a blog about film, not digital after all), I purchased a Pentax digital kit and am loving it.

However, the offshoot of getting a new digital kit is that it has rekindled my passion for photography. And a few quick downloads of the 'Film Photography project' podcast on my iPod has rekindled my passion for film.

And so, we (finally) come to the point of this new post, after two years, on my 'Film is Back!' blog. I've pulled out the film cameras that I didn't get rid off from the cupboard in my office and am surprised at what I've kept. I own two Yashica Mat 124 TLR's, but only shot with one of them once. The crank film winder wasn't working properly on the one I used originally, so the whole film was wasted. Hence my reason to buy a second one, but I've never actually shot with it.

The crank winder on the second camera seems to work fine, but having had a bad experience with the first Yashica, I'm a bit nervous about trying again with the second camera. Which is one of the reasons why I've never actually used it - until now.

Yesterday, I took out a roll of Kodak Pro 100 ISO 120 roll film and after a couple of fumbled attempts, loaded it into my (second) Yashica Mat 124.

I will blog about me experiences using this beautiful camera and I'm pretty sure that this will kick-start my new adventures back into film photography. No, my "12 cameras in one year" project didn't get off the ground in 2012. And I'm not making any promises for 2014. But I'm definitely thinking about revitalising it in 2015. I probably don't have 12 cameras now to use for the project - but 2015 is another 7 months away, so there is heaps of time to fix that :-)