Street / SoHo - Minolta Alpha 7 (Kodak Portra 400)
Updated: Sep 27, 2021
Date - September 12, 2020
Camera - Minolta Maxxum 7
Lenses - Minolta AF 35/2 RS, Minolta AF 50/1.4 RS & Minolta AF 50/2.8 Macro RS
Film - Kodak Portra 400
Developed @ - "Dotwell" PhotoLab
Scanner - Nikon V-ED
Software - Vuescan / NegativeLabPro / Photoshop / Lightroom
Location - Hong Kong (SoHo Area)
Comment - I'm in the midst of a considerable reshuffle of camera gear. Much of my equipment has just been sitting there doing nothing for years, so I thought it's time for a cull and buy some new gear that I'll actually use. Selling my Nikon 70-200/2.8 VR2 netted enough cash to buy a new (well... 20yo actually) Minolta Maxxum 7 (aka Alpha 7 or Dynax 7) and four lenses to go with it. The last time I used the 70-200/2.8 was over five years ago when I was shooting sport. It won't be missed. I still have a lot of gear left, but at least it’s thinning out somewhat. At last count, I still had around 12 cameras and 35 lenses 😃.
The Maxxum 7 is one of the most technologically advanced film cameras ever made. It's right up there with the Nikon F6 & Canon EOS 1V and even bests them in many areas. It's also a lot lighter, which is perfect for me. Some highlights include 35 programmable functions, three memory slots, a rear LCD screen (!) for information display, the ability to swap films out at any time and it will memorise which frame it was up to when inserted again, a fourteen-segment honeycomb-pattern meter which displays over/underexposed areas on the LCD and a whole lot more. The rear LCD even rotates as you rotate the camera! The evaluative metering system seems to be practically infallible from what I’ve seen so far, and even in backlight situations it did an excellent job. This may have something to do with Minolta (along with Sekonic) being the premier brand of hand held meters for many years. Their meters still sell for a good price on the second-hand market.
One of the most groudbreaking features the Maxxum 7 has, is the ability to store EXIF data from the last 6 rolls of film and view it on the rear LCD screen at any time. I even have a mint condition Minolta DS-100 on the way from Japan which will extract the data from the camera and then store it onto to an ancient "SmartCard". I can then use Meta35 to read that data file & embedd the EXIF information into to the images. An incredible feat considering this is a 20yo camera. The handling is top-notch as well with no less than 15 buttons and dials on the camera. Not once do you need to waste time diving into a menu to change a setting. Very geeky vintage tech indeed. There are some great reviews of the camera here and here.
I’m pretty impressed with the lenses as well, especially the 35mm f2 and the 50mm f/2.8 Macro. The 50mm f/1.4 is also excellent, but not quite up to the standard of the other two. The 24/2.8 is nowhere near the standard of the other three, but it's very useable @ f/5.6 and super compact. I don't use wide-angle much anyway, but at least it's there when I need it. There are some really exotic old Minolta lenses that I have on my eBay watchlist, but I'll think I'll wait a while before adding any more. The 135mm f/2.8 STF & 100mm f2 both look interesting, but I'll probably end up going for the 100mm f/2.8 macro though, which is much more affordable and probably more useful.
It's a pity Minolta was bought out by Sony in 2006, as it would have been great to see what sort of gear they’d have in today's world. For a Japanese company they took a lot of risks and came up with a lot of firsts including the EV-based exposure meters, the first multi-coated lenses, and of course they were first to market with an autofocus lens. The Maxxum 7000 was the first ever autofocus SLR and released 15 years earlier than this camera in 1985. As a testiment to how good their lens designers were, a whole swathe of the current Sony Alpha mount lens line-up are still 100% Minolta optical formulas but with more modern & improved coatings. At least their heritage and mount still exist with Sony.
Coffee with Dogs.
Click to enlarge.