Maxxum 7 and Maxxum 7D: Analog and Digital Vintage Wonderfulness Twins

If photography needs to make sense you are probably not doing it right.

I started uttering this half-jokingly some time ago in response to being drawn to a piece of gear or a photo idea that steps outside the realm of the reasoned. Usually having to do with film somehow. (Brace yourself. This is a long one.)

No difference here. The usual starting place…

So there I was surfing the interwebs researching some random notion that washed over my psyche with no warning and I realized that there existed an Alpha 7 before the Alpha 7. More specifically the Minolta Alpha 7. And it was gorgeous. Was a good camera also I heard.

Never knew this camera existed, but now that I did I must have one.

Now I knew that the Sony A mount was a direct descendant of the Minolta AF mount, but I had no idea that this lineage included a film Alpha 7 before the mirrorless Alpha 7. Started wanting to get my mitts on an (I believe Asian market) Alpha 7 (dubbed Maxxum and Dynax in the US and Europe respectively) because… you know… it says Alpha. But after perusing the internets those were hard to find in good nick and would cost a bit more since most would need to be shipped from Asia. So I let go of the Alpha obsession and quickly found the cleanest copy of any of the trio stateside. KEH.com to be specific. I not only write for them, I am a customer too.

Held off on buying a lens since I remembered that my local photo haunt was filthy with copies of my lens bogey, the AF 50mm f/1.7. A 50mm (or equivalent where a crop is involved) fast prime (nifty-fifty) is always the first lens on my shopping list regardless of system.

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This is where things went a bit sideways on me. While shuffling through the Minolta bin one of my compatriots announced, “Hey look. We have a Maxxum 7 here if you are interested.”…

What?

Film? I asked in disbelief.

“No, a digital one. (Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D to be specific.)”

What?

Had a look at it and it was nearly as awesome looking as the film variant. Then I remembered that since this must have come out right after the film one the specs must be laughable by modern standards. We joked and guessed that it had 1 MP. Nope. A whole 6. Then I looked at the thing. It had a shaky hand by an on and off switch and it dawned on me that this thing had image stabilization.

What?

Then I started looking at it more closely and realized that this thing had the best control layout I have ever seen on a digital body. Any meaningful setting had a sensibly laid out button, switch, or dial that would manipulate it.

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Confirmed that the flash card, charger, and battery came with fired it up slapped on the 50mm took a few shots, then (not being enthused with what the old screen on the back of the camera was showing us) stuck it in the compact flash card reader, and then… the laughing stopped.

IMG_20171128_225644_367

What do you want for this? were my next words.

Chris gave me a price and I bought the 7D along with the 50mm lens. Not long after I came back to rescue another lens, the 70-210mm constant f/4, dubbed the beer can for its very sturdy metal construction.

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Had a blast with the 7D while waiting for the film 7 to arrive. Initially thought it would amuse me until the 7 arrived and then I would sell the 7D. Nope.

Was reminded that 6MP is quite enough if the glass is good. And the 50mm f/1.7 is one of the best lenses I have ever used. The 70-210mm f/4 is no slouch either.

Then the Maxxum 7 arrived and it was both more impressive than the pictures and even a liitle nicer than the 7D with a little less sheen to it’s surface. And that control layout that sold me initially had even more surprises in store (more on that below).

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Amazingly the 7 also adds a top of the camera LCD readout20171209_215413 and an even more comprehensive readout on the back. That button panel on the bottom with a magnetized flap,

gives control over 35 customization menus. Oddly feel inclined to list them all, but would not be offended if you passed them by… unless you are a glutton for punishment.

  1. AF/R Priority.
    1. AF Priority
    2. Release Priority
  2. Whether rewind starts automatically or manual only.
  3. Whether or not the camera leaves a film tip out when rewinding.
    • Have never seen that before as an option.
  4. DX Memory On/Off.
  5. Film release lock On/Off.
  6. What the focus hold button does.
    1. Focus Hold
    2. Cont. Bracket
    3. D.O.F. Preview
  7. Eyepiece Sensor
    1. On Grip Sensor
      • Grip front has a touch-sensitive ridge that can wake the camera up out of sleep mode just by picking up the camera by the grip assuming Eye-Start switch at the very bottom, back of the camera is set to on.
    2. By Main Switch
  8. Frame Counter (Um, ok.)
    1. Count Up
    2. Count Down
  9. AF/MF ctrl button
    • Whether the AF/MF button has to be held or acts as an AF/MF toggle.
  10. AE lock button
    • Same as 9
  11. Select the order photos are taken in bracket mode.
    1. 0,-,+
    2. -,0,+
  12. Rewind Speed (Hey, why not? Just showing off at this point.)
    1. Fast
    2. Silent
  13. Metering Display Duration
    1. 5 seconds
    2. 10 seconds
    3. 30 seconds
  14. AF Area display (duration)
    • Some choices here
  15. F/R Dials Lock (Again. Just showing off.)
    1. Dials Unlocked
    2. If Mtr& Grip Off
    3. If Mtr Off
  16. Lens Release Lock On/Off
  17. AF Drive Speed
    1. Fast
    2. Slow (Close-up) {Their clarification}
  18. Rear Dial ExpComp
    • Some choices
  19. Dial Exchange (Showing which… You get it.)
  20. Flash metering scheme.
    • Winged it and chose 2 (TTL 4-Segment) since I refused to find out what ADI means when using the on camera flash or the $15 3rd party flash… Because it was $15 Nissin (34iaf to be exact) with the necessary oddball proprietary nobody but Minolta hotshoe.

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      Will not see much use.

  21. AF Illuminator On/Off
  22. FocusModeSwitchA
    • ??? Left at default.
  23. Shutter – R Button
    • Attention span waning.
  24. Full Auto
    • ???
  25. Memory 3
    • Ha ha. Choice 2 says STF mode. I wish these menus would… (ahem)
  26. Flash w/ExpComp
    • Choices.
  27. Detailed Display
    • Wish this applied to the number of menu choices.
  28. Operation Display On/Off.
    • Can’t be bothered.
  29. LargeIconDisplay
    • Because sometimes you need large icons evidently.
  30. Meter-Index Display On/Off.
    • Home stretch.
  31. Exposure History On/Off.
    1. This thing will track the exposure of each frame shot. Third column is the exposure compensation used. Hats off.20171211_131309
  32. Vertical Display On/Off.
    • Rotates the displa… you get it.
  33. Imprint Intensity (0-7)
    • Cause one preset intensity would be just crazy.
    • Still there?
  34. ID Number
    • Ceased caring, but you are limited to 1-9 whatever this means.
  35. Language (Cruel in my opinion. Bordering on diabolical. Should be the first option. Imagine some poor soul cluelessly trawling through 34 menus in a foreign tongue to find this.)
    1. Jpn
    2. Eng
    3. Deu
    4. Fra
    5. Esp

Woo! We made it.

Some other, slightly more interesting quick bits as I look this Maxxum 7 over.

  • That same button panel lets you change the ISO.
  • Like the 7D you just pull the flash up to turn it on and shut it to turn it off.
  • Astonishingly this camera tops out at 1/8000s shutter speed. I have to double check, but I am fairly certain no other film camera I own or have owned matches this. Many modern digital cameras cannot match this. The 7D tops out at 1/4000s and came after this.
    • Note: Have since found out that the Maxxum Alpha 9 goes up to 1/12000s which is amazing. Oddly that cameras larger price, larger physical size, larger top screen, and lack of a back screen puts me off. A bit clumsier looking also, but that is personal taste.
  • Is actually a little smaller and lighter than the 7D.
  • Has an optional battery grip that may be in my future just because.
  • Dedicated memory setting slots. Have not bothered figuring out how to set them. Partially because this camera has exhausted my attention span. Mainly because what do I need with presets when I can change any setting on the fly.
  • Attention to detail like a 2 sided exposure dial with the option of half and third stops, pushbutton releases to turn dials, dedicated flash compensation and single/continuous/bracketed/timer/multi-exposure dials all with sturdy actuation belying this cameras age. Near any company would benefit from giving this camera a look.
  • Both cameras have well implemented 9 point full auto, selectable 9 point via the back dial/center button, and one point lock as choices. Constant focusing is also an option, Tested it and it seemed fairly responsive given the vintage. In the end I held to my usual center point lock, AF-S, focus and recompose technique. AF this way worked so well I have yet to use manual focus on either.

Ok. Finally wrapping up. Below will be a gallery of images using the Minolta Maxxum 7 (Take note of the airport shots with the reach of the 70-210mm f/4 and the wonderful bokeh this set up produces with the 50mm f/1.7.), a side by side gallery, and links to ongoing galleries for both.

Minolta Maxxum 7 shots:

Side by side:

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A gallery for the Maxxum 7 and the Maxxum 7D.

If you are expecting me to choose a favorite this is the wrong post. Like choosing a favorite kid. No offense kids. The sensible move? Advice? Choose a less expensive hobby than photography like burning money.

But seriously folks. These cameras, especially the Minolta Maxxum 7, performed so well and offered so many advanced features that I actually shed some familiar, more storied, more costly film gear as a result. What it was is not important, but the body alone just about paid for both of these cameras and both lenses. As long as this post is I could list even more positives, but I will let the pictures do the talking. At around $100-$200 for either body and way under $100 for each lens if you shop around I cannot think of more capable cameras.

Happy shooting.

-ELW