Film photography is really good fun and part of that can be the feel of using superbly engineeered, classic cameras. I recently managed to pick up a Minolta XD7 SLR camera on eBay; some would argue that this camera is Minolta’s finest manual SLR. It certainly is very well built. Some people may prefer the Minolta SRT but this camera is far more compact. It was the world’s first camera to offer both shutter and aperture priority modes. As I tend to shoot in aperture priority most of the time when shooting Digital SLRs it was great to be able to set up this camera in the same way. Now I just had to concentrate on the manual focusing; I find my Nikon D7000 DSLR is so fast at auto focusing that you completely take it for granted that you can freeze frame fast moving children easily, and sharply in focus. With a manual focus camera you have to think a bit differently and with time I’m sure I will become more efficient; I find it very enjoyable though.
This particular camera was one of the cameras developed in conjunction with Leica, the legendary German brand who still make digital and film cameras today. Leica used the XD7 as the basis for their R4. As well as making superb cameras, Minolta make extremely good lenses, and one could speculate that this may have been one of the main reasons why Leica chose to collaborate with them when it came to developing their own SLR cameras. The Minolta brand sadly no longer exists and you can find some camera and lens bargains on eBay. Their excellent lenses, in particular, selling for a fraction of what you would pay for Nikon etc. So how does the camera perform?
I took my newly acquired Minolta XD7 out on a recent family photo shoot. I loaded it with Kodak Tri X and set about capturing a few images to see, firstly whether the Minolta was working correctly, and secondly to see how well the camera, and the lens in particular, performed. This was only my second roll of Kodak Tri X that I have shot; the last roll was taken on my Nikon F65 with a more modern Nikon lens. The other thing I wanted to try, this time, was developing film at home. I had managed to successfully develop some black and white film at a local camera club and was keen to repeat this success at home. So this film was the first film to go through the Minolta and the first to be developed at home. I must say when I had scanned the images I was very pleased with how they turned out. The camera appears to be working correctly and the lens adds a classic feel to the images, and is also very sharp! I was fascinated by the detail it resolved, particularly highlighted in the bark on the tree in one of the images below.
How does the camera compare to a Minolta SRT? Well, as mentioned previously,it is a lot smaller, and it is also lighter; but still very solidly built out of metal. The shutter is a lot quieter, using a Seiko titanium unit in place of the Minolta SRT’s cloth shutter. The SRT certainly draws attention to itself in that regard: whilst shooting my first roll of film with the SRT I managed to startle quite a few sheep several metres away! The SRT is a great camera though. I’m becoming a bit of a Minolta fan! I hope you enjoy the images from my first roll through the XD7.