Tuesday, June 24, 2014

From the Mind of Minolta

I've written on this, and other blogs, about my love affair with Minolta. For such a progressive, inventive and productive camera manufacturer, it still amazes me how it all went so horribly wrong. Yes, they played second fiddle to Canon and Nikon. But there was really no reason why they needed to do that. The had the products, they had the innovation, and they had the complete system. As far as I can tell, they just didn't have the same marketing budget?

Even though they are now gone (Sony's products notwithstanding), they have left behind a range of really great film cameras that are alive and kicking. New Sony/Zeiss lenses will work on them, not to mention the plethora of older Minolta lenses readily available on the used market.

I own a Sigma 50-500mm f4/6.3 Minolta A-mount lens, and have access to plenty of others, including a 16mm f2.8 fisheye, 24-105mm f3.5/4.5D and 70-200 f2.8. Not to mention a 5400xi Program flash. Mmmm. Maybe I need to seriously re-think this whole Pentax camera thing?

A couple of weeks ago I bought a Ricoh KR-5 Super fully manual film camera that uses the Pentax K-Mount. I own a couple of Pentax K10D digital bodies, so figured I should go the Pentax route as well and stick to the one system.

But the more I get back into shooting film, the more I think that I might end up shooting it pretty much exclusively. I might not get rid of the digital cameras altogether, but I can foresee a time in the not too distant future where they are relegated to my quick snapshot or web-shot cameras. My 'real' work will probably be with film. And yes, I am writing this in 2014!

Minolta 700si 'serious' film camera
Today I had a big clean out of my camera cupboard, ending up with practically everything on Trademe (NZ's version of ebay). I've sold a couple of things already (an Olympus Trip 35 and a Yashica Mat 6x6), and with my first sale I pulled the trigger on a Minolta 700si.

The 700si was a return to the serious-amateur fold for Minolta after they got it horribly wrong with the whole 'program cards' full-auto concept of the 7xi. The 7xi took control away from the photographer - the 700si gave it back.

This was followed by the even better 800si, and amazing 600si Classic - a camera I owned and loved (and have often regretted selling). I bought the 700si for peanuts ($40NZ delivered), and wouldn't be surprised if I eventually pick up the 800si and 600si for around the same money. That would be a truly amazing system of cameras.

But my 'ultimate' film camera - the one that I lust after the most - the crowning glory, would have to be the Minolta Dynax 7. Forget your Nikon F100's or Canon 1v's. For me, the pinnacle of film camera design has to be the Dynax (Maxxum in the USA) 7.

Minolta Maxxum 7. The ultimate film camera?
Unfortunately I've never owned one of these amazing machines - but a friend of mine has, so I have use one (briefly) before. Hopefully, that will change in the future and my Minolta system will be complete with a Dynax 7.

The 7 was such a design pinnacle for Minolta, (based as it was on the 600si), that when they joined forces with Konica to produce a digital camera, they used the shell of the Dynax 7 and shoehorned a digital sensor into it. And that is no bad thing. The resulting 7'D' was an equally amazing camera. But in its 'purest' form, it was a film camera. An incredible film camera. And one that I hope to own in the future.

But for now, the Dynax 700si will arrive soon and I'm really looking forward to using it. Who'd have thought that film photography could be so exciting!

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