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Creativity with Old Cameras – Minolta Maxxum 7xi

February 28th, 2011 1 comment

Minolta Maxxum 7xi 35mm SLR Camera

Minolta Maxxum 7xi

Minolta Maxxum 7xi 35mm SLR Camera

I have been exploring photographic creativity using old “vintage” cameras. Although digital cameras offer a vast array of powerful features, old cameras and lenses often create images that I would not have thought about doing digitally. Of course, most effects can be duplicated in Photoshop, but it's more fun and spontaneous to use older cameras directly. Combined with different types of film and processing, old cameras are a great avenue leading to creative image making.  Lomography, for example, emphasizes the use of cheap analogue cameras and different types of film.

Tiffany May, a very creative photographer who knows that I like to play around with old cameras, lent me her Minolta Maxxum 7xi (also known as the Dynax 7xi). Released in 1991, it was an advanced 35mm SLR camera, possessing many innovative features. One of the coolest things about it are the expansion cards. They're intended to make the camera easy to use - just load the card and set the camera to P (program). I guess in 1991 it was not feasible to build all of the programs into the camera like modern digital cameras. The cards resemble SD cards, but would have much lower capacity!

The expansion cards that I have with this camera:

  • Intervalometer - for time-lapse photography. You can program up to 40 frames at intervals from 1 second to 24 hours
  • Sports Action - for fast moving subjects
  • Custom - stores custom settings according to the photographer's preferences
  • Fantasy -  changes focus during the exposure. Here's an example of the effects.
  • Multiple Exposure - up to 9 exposures in one frame
  • Data - stores exposure information (exposure mode, shutter speed, aperture, focal length, iso, maximum aperture of the lens and exposure compensation for up to 4 rolls of film)
  • Portrait - automatically uses the maximum aperture to reduce the depth of field and blur the background
  • Bracket - can set exposure bracketing of 0.3, 0.5 or 1 stop over 3, 5 or 7 frames, and will work with burst mode at 4.5 frames per second
  • Closeup - for use with macro lenses
  • Depth - maximizes the depth of field
  • Shift - automatically uses different combinations of shutter speed and aperture to give the same exposure
  • Highlight/Shadow (H/S) - automatically compensates for bright or dark scenes.

I tried out the camera during a studio shoot using manual exposure, without the expansion cards.  I attached a CyberSync to the hotshoe using a Minolta/Sony hotshoe adapter because the Minolta uses a proprietary hotshoe system (same as the Sony Alpha system). I set the shutter speed to 1/60th sec because I wasn't sure about the camera's sync speed. I looked it up later and found it is 1/200th sec, which is pretty good.  I loaded the camera with Kodak Ektar ISO 100 colour negative film.

Here are a couple photos taken with this camera:

Model with Diffraction Filter

1/60th sec, f/13, 100-300mm f/4.5 zoom lens, Cokin Diffractor Univers 041 filter

Model with Smoke

Minolta Maxxum 7xi, 1/60 sec, f/13, Minolta 100-300 mm f/4.5 AF zoom lens

I addition to the camera, Tiffany had a large selection of Cokin A series filters with holders that fit the Minolta lenses. They look like a lot of fun to experiment with (but that will be the topic of another post)! I did try out the Diffractor Univers 041 filter, which gave a cool rainbow colour effect. I definitely want to try that filter out some more.

The interesting thing about the Maxxum 7xi camera is that it's quite sophisticated, with many features that are not always available in DSLRs today, but simple to use with the expansion cards. In 1991, a decade before digital photography took off, Minolta was used computerization to help photographers get the most out of their camera without having to be an expert photographer.

I'm looking forward to getting more creative with the Maxxum 7xi and the expansion cards!

Related Links

Detailed specification of the Minolta Maxxum 7xi

Minolta Maxxum STsi 35mm SLR Camera (1998)

September 14th, 2010 5 comments

Zenit-E Russian (Soviet) 35mm SLR camera This is a pretty cool camera, made during Soviet-era Russia in the late sixties. The Zenit-E was produced by the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Factory (KMZ - Krasnogorski Mechanicheskii Zavod) near Moscow starting in 1967. It is a fully manual SLR with a selenium light meter above the lens. The available shutter speeds range from 1/30 to 1/500 s, with bulb setting and cable release for long exposures. The flash sync speed is 1/30s. It is rugged and reliable. It was a popular camera because of its low price.

The lens shown with this camera is Helios-44-2 42mm screw mount 58mm f/2.0 lens.

The camera remains popular today and gets great reviews. Although film photography is not as popular today since digital has taken over, there are many fans, new and old, who like this camera! I haven't tried it out yet but will post photos when I get the chance.

Here are some more photos of this camera:

Related links:

Zenit-E camera in Wikipedia

Zenit-E on Camerapedia

Zenit-E Antique Russian Cameras

Zenit users on Flickr

Click here to check out more images of vintage cameras in my growing collection on Flickr!
Zenit-E Russian (Soviet) 35mm SLR camera This is a pretty cool camera, made during Soviet-era Russia in the late sixties. The Zenit-E was produced by the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Factory (KMZ - Krasnogorski Mechanicheskii Zavod) near Moscow starting in 1967. It is a fully manual SLR with a selenium light meter above the lens. The available shutter speeds range from 1/30 to 1/500 s, with bulb setting and cable release for long exposures. The flash sync speed is 1/30s. It is rugged and reliable. It was a popular camera because of its low price.

The lens shown with this camera is Helios-44-2 42mm screw mount 58mm f/2.0 lens.

The camera remains popular today and gets great reviews. Although film photography is not as popular today since digital has taken over, there are many fans, new and old, who like this camera! I haven't tried it out yet but will post photos when I get the chance.

Here are some more photos of this camera:

Related links:

Zenit-E camera in Wikipedia

Zenit-E on Camerapedia

Zenit-E Antique Russian Cameras

Zenit users on Flickr

Click here to check out more images of vintage cameras in my growing collection on Flickr!

Minolta Maxxum STsi with 28-80 f/3.5 lens

Minolta Maxxum STsi 35mm SLR camera with 28-80 f/3.5 lens

The Minolta Maxxum STsi (also known as the Dynax 500 SI Super in Europe and the Alpha Sweet in Japan) is the most modern 35 mm SLR that I own. It has all the automatic features that you would get in a modern entry level DSLR but of course it is a film camera.

It has an automatic pop-up flash, price TTL metering, ambulance both spot and average, autofocus, a variety of exposure programs and a panorama mode.

The Minolta camera company merged with Konica in 2003, then sold their photography business to Sony in 2006. Sony took over and further developed the camera system as the Sony Alpha system.

The Minolta cameras use a proprietary hot shoe (the same type as the Sony Alphas). I use a Pocket Wizard to trigger an external flash unit, so I needed to buy a hot shoe adapter. They are available in most camera stores or online.

This camera is great to use, and being a modern camera, it feels a lot like using a DSLR. I occasionally look for the LCD screen, forgetting it is a film camera!

The autofocus is fast and sharp. It has an autowinder so the next shot is ready to go very quickly. I use the camera in the studio with a light meter and external strobes, on manual exposure mode, and it has worked very well. Here are some studio shots that I took with this camera using Kodak Ektar 100 negative film.

Lucy Lucy Lucy Tribal Belly Dancer Magda

Overall this is an excellent camera for people who want to use a 35mm SLR but also want the modern features of a DSLR. It is also compact and lightweight making it easy to carry around.

Here are some more images of this camera, as well as the 70-210 mm f/4.5-5.6 zoom lens and camera bag.

Related links

Features of the Minolta Maxxum STsi

The PDF version of the user manual is available online too!

Download the User Manual

UA-12397519-1