Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

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

Will Digital Kill Photography as a Profession?

April 27th, 2010 2 comments

Dance Away the Blues Digital

Almost everyone has a digital camera – at least a “point and shoot” compact camera or a camera phone. When I got my first Olympus 1.3 MP camera in 1999, not very many people had them. I immediately saw the benefits and have been keeping current with the latest developments. Even the entry level cameras today are amazing compared with the most advanced digital cameras of a few years ago. High quality professional level DSLR's are now affordably priced for most serious hobbyists. How has this impacted photography?

Better photographers

Digital makes it faster for good photographers to become much better photographers. Simply by reviewing the photos on the LCD screen, you get instant feedback. You don't need to know a lot of technical stuff to get great photos. Trial and error is easy. You can take lots of shots without the additional expense of film and developing. As long as you have enough memory and battery power, you can shoot hundreds of shots (or thousands!) in a day.

Sharing Photos

Digital photos are easy to share. You can share film too by having it scanned, but most people are not going to spend the time and money to scan their old photos. I was inspired by Flickr, a website with huge numbers of photos and tons of useful information. The photography on Flickr, from both pros and amateurs, is amazing.  Flickr, photography blogs, and other photography sites are great resources that help enthusiastic photographers improve their skills. By participating in online communities, photographers can get great feedback, finding what people like or don't like.

Increased Interest in Photography

The combination of digital cameras and online resources have increased the popularity of photography - it is now more popular than ever before.  And now you have great tools to improve your results. The overall quality of photography has increased in the last 10 years due to digital photography.

More Photographers

Professional photographers are feeling the impact. People and businesses may choose to do the photography themselves with their new high quality digital cameras. Or, they can hire a part-time photographer who can do a quality job, but charges very little or nothing. Why pay for a pro when you can get good results for less cost? There's pressure on professionals to reduce prices to compete. Another option for pros is to compete on other factors than price - quality, customer service, creativity and other value-added services. The bar has been raised and people now expect more from a pro photographer than ever before.


As a freelance photographer, my goal is to be the best I can be. I'm comparing myself to the best photographers in the world, today and in the past, and I'm aiming to be in the same category. I know I have a long way to go! The best photographers have created images that I love and would be thrilled to have done myself.  When a client hires me, it's because of my photographic style, vision and knowledge - not the camera that I use, which is not very important.

In the book "Outliers: The Story of Success," author Michael Gladwell identifies factors contributing to high achievement and success. One of the factors is "The 10,000 hour rule" - it generally takes about 10,000 hours of training, practice and hands-on work in any profession to become great at it. That works out to around 5 years working full time. That's how long it takes to master a subject and become world class.  And it's one of the reasons I love to shoot as much as possible. I also take courses, read and try new techniques. I want to get to 10,000 hours!

The technical challenges for a photographer are enough for a lifetime of learning. The creative challenges are even greater! New technologies have opened up new possibilities for photographers who are willing to pursue them. The role of the professional photographer has not changed too much, but it's now more important for photographers to market themselves to demonstrate the value that they provide. It takes a lot more than a good camera and Photoshop. In-depth technical knowledge of lighting and cameras is important, but when it's combined with great people skills, creativity, passion and vision, the photographer becomes a rare resource who is valued for their unique style.


Will the demand for professional photographers decrease in the future? It is very likely that it will. More people will be doing good work for a low price, driving out the professionals from the lower end of the photography market. Magazines, one of the traditional markets for freelance photographers, are reducing their budgets as fewer people subscribe and access online information, most of it for free. There will be more demand for photography for online use instead of print, and much of this can be sourced from amateur photographers or stock agencies. People will still pay for high quality prints, which will support the market for some photographers, for example fine art, wedding and commercial photographers. And the best photographers will always be in demand.

The challenges for photographers in adapting to digital are not much different than those facing people in other fields. Music and movies are a couple examples. The old business models need to change. In the allegorical book Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, the characters are mice in a maze who suddenly find that the cheese is not in the same place as it used to be. They need to change and adapt if they want to find more cheese. Going back to the same spot is not going to work!

I'm excited by the challenges, the opportunities and rewards. I want to be the best, and appreciate having the opportunity to pursue it with a passion!