As part of my film Camera Donation project, I was fortunate enough to receive a Minolta X-700 35mm single lens reflex (SLR) camera and some lenses. The X-700 was first introduced by Minolta in 1981. It was the last manual focus SLR model Minolta ever brought to the market.
When I started this blog, I never had intentions of giving detailed reviews of film cameras, but each time I’m fortunate enough to come across one I feel obligated to write something about my experiences with the camera. I shipped the X-700 out for a full CLA and once it was returned I ran a couple of rolls of film through it. You’ve been warned, this isn’t an in-depth non-bias review of a camera but my limited personal and biased experiences with the camera and a few images from the camera as well.
For the lazy readers, I’ll save you a little bit of time and let you know that the Minolta X-700 is nearly my ideal film SLR. I believe all of us as photographers develop certain needs and wants in our photography tools. Naturally, a camera holds the position as our most important tool and because of that we develop a very high set of standards for our perfect camera and we really never find that perfect camera.
The X-700 boasts through-the-lens (TTL) metering and allows the user to choose Program, Aperture Priority or Manual for exposure modes. It should be noted that Program mode is only available when using Minolta lenses that are MD models or later. The widely available MC version of Minolta lenses only allows for aperture priority or manual mode. From the very first time (decades ago) I held a camera capable of aperture priority, it became my preferred mode of photography. For whatever reason, it works the best for me and I have always preferred a camera that does the metering for me. I can shoot the Sunny 16 rule but I guess my laziness wins out and I find myself in aperture priority 80-85 percent of the time with manual mode filling in the rest of my shooting time.
The Minolta X-700 features a perfectly placed exposure lock button that I feel should be a mandatory feature of all cameras. The button sits on the front of the camera just under where my middle finger rests naturally and it is always available to press when I feel the need for it. Another adjustment I feel should be mandatory on cameras is an exposure compensation dial. The X-700 contains a +/- 2 stop (1/2 stop increments) dial for this as well. However, the dial is placed on the left side of the top deck and this is a poor location for it my opinion. To the best of my knowledge, it would take SLR camera manufacturers many years to figure out that a camera user’s right thumb was in a perfect position to manipulate a feature dial. That position or on top of the camera next to shutter speed (normally the right side of the top deck) is the ideal placement of an exposure compensation dial for myself. In fact, for myself I use EC adjustment more often than exposure lock and having an adjustable dial reachable with my right thumb while the viewfinder is drawn to my eye is a huge asset in a camera for me.
When using the viewfinder of the camera you are able to see the actual painted numbers of the selected aperture through a small viewing window. The sheer simplicity and genius of engineering behind this feature are nearly perfect. You always know your chosen aperture while using the viewfinder and there is nothing electronic that can someday fail. I suspect whoever designed this portion of the camera did not take part in planning the displayed shutter speed in the viewfinder. In aperture priority mode the camera electronically displays the shutter speed the camera will be using. However, in manual mode that indication of shutter speed is not given and you have to either remember the shutter speed the camera is set to or pull your eye away from the viewfinder to check it.
Lastly, there are two final things that trouble me about the camera. The biggest is that both the exposure compensation dial and the mode switching selection are locked from moving unless the user first presses an additional tab that releases that particular dial for movement. The second is less critical to me because I rarely shoot in Program mode. But, in Program mode, the user is required to set the aperture of the lens to its smallest aperture as a signal to the camera that it is now responsible for choosing the shutter speed and aperture. In turn, the user has no idea what aperture the camera will pick in Program mode. When shooting in Program mode you have to blindly hope that the camera chooses an aperture that pleases you. Some users will complain that the camera is incapable of being used without a battery. In the world of cameras, this has never bothered me. I have always resolved this fear by using a camera that contains a battery and carrying a spare if I’m in a situation where it would matter to me if it stopped working.
The camera has been performing well and without issue. I feel very fortunate to have a nice working film SLR and plan to pass it along to my son. I wasn’t as lucky with the lenses. One of them I already owned and I have been using on my Minolta SRT-101. Another of the lenses was non-functional and beyond repair. But nonetheless, I do have a nice group of working Minolta lenses that I’m able to choose from as needed.
Overall, the Minolta X-700 for me is a joy to shoot. It’s small (for an SLR), has a good feel in the hand, accepts a good line of lenses, contains a feature set that fits well with my style of shooting and third-party resources are still available to maintain and repair the camera if needed. I am lucky enough to also own a Minolta SRT 101 and on the rare day where I have the time to take a lot of photos I can go out with two cameras and just one set of lenses. One camera can be loaded with a high-speed film and the other loaded with a low-speed film. Just what I need . . . yet another choice to make before I press the shutter.
I encourage you to follow along on my film adventures. You can subscribe via email or click the “follow” button in the bottom right corner if you’re a WordPress reader.
My Film Beginnings Project has also intrigued me to try using other 35mm film cameras along the way. If you have a working 35mm film camera that you no longer use please take a look here to see what I’m thinking. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.