One of the great things about collecting cameras is that friends and family sometimes give you equipment they’re not using anymore. I’ve picked up many cameras that way over the years. It’s usually the junk nobody wants, but every now and again something really good falls into my hands.
Such is the case with this Minolta X-700. My aunt Maxine bought it in the mid-1980s, but it has been sitting in a drawer unused for at least 10 years. She found out about my collection and decided I needed to have this camera.
I had never owned an SLR before. I’d only ever shot one a handful of times. My first wife had a Pentax K1000, and to be sure she was in some family photos she’d preset aperture and shutter speed and hand it to me. Except for focusing, I used it like a point and shoot.
I’d been primarily a camera collector up to this time; photography itself was secondary. I had always enjoyed junk cameras I found at yard sales, but by this time I was shifting my focus to working rangefinders and folders. As I have run a roll of film through so many of these cameras now, I’ve had to learn the mechanics of photography to get decent results. I have begun to find the pleasure of photography, and have begun to read about and deliberately practice the skills of taking good pictures.
At the time Maxine gifted me this camera, it became the most capable camera in my collection. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.
The X-700 was the pinnacle of Minolta’s final manual-focus SLR camera series, in continuous production for 20 years starting in 1981. It was aimed at the advanced amateur with two autoexposure modes, one where you set the aperture and let the camera figure the shutter speed, and the other where the camera figured out both settings. In this age of auto-everything cameras, it may be hard to believe that in 1981 it was pretty remarkable to twist the lens until the viewfinder image was crisp and then press the shutter button confident that the camera would figure out the rest.
My camera came with three lenses. The primary lens is a 50 mm f/1.7 Minolta MD, which seems to be widely recognized as a fine, sharp lens. The other two lenses were off-brand zooms that weren’t awesome.
By the way, if you’re charmed by Minolta SLRs, also check out my reviews of the SR-T 101 (here), SR-T 202 (here), XG 1 (here), Maxxum 7000 (here), and Maxxum 9xi (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
The X-700 was way more complicated than my ex-wife’s K1000, and I had to read its manual just to figure out how to turn it on and access its autoexposure modes. But once I figured those things out, I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and visited the cemetery at my church.
I shot in program mode. I’m surprised that the camera biased toward shallow depth of field.
I got this shot by accident while looking over the camera from my car’s front seat in the church parking lot. It turns out to be my favorite photo from the roll.
I brought the X-700 along on a road trip down the National Road (US 40) in western Indiana. This diner was, at the time, just east of Plainfield. It has since been moved to downtown Plainfield and completely renovated.
The X-700 was a useful companion on this trip. By this time I’d gotten the hang of it and it handled easily in my hands. Here’s an abandoned bridge that once carried US 40 west of Plainfield.
Here are some cheerful flowers I found by the roadside on an old alignment of the road near Reelsville.
Downtown Terre Haute offered me several nice subjects. This building may once have housed the Terre Haute Trust Company, but for as long as I can remember — since I moved there in 1985 — it has housed the Merchant’s National and, later, the Old National Bank.
Finally, a photo of the great sign for the Saratoga Restaurant. When I lived in Terre Haute in the 1980s and 1990s, this was a place all the middle-aged people went for a nice night out. Now that I’m middle aged, I see the charm.
To see more from this camera, check out my Minolta X-700 gallery.
The X-700 is clearly a fine camera of great capability. I can see that I was just beginning to tap into its versatility as I shot this one roll of film.
Unfortunately, a few weeks later when I tried to load another roll of film, the winder would not move. Some Internet sleuthing revealed that this is a common fate of the X-700. A particular capacitor fails and renders the camera inert. When I sought estimates for repair, I was disappointed with how expensive it would be. I put the X-700 aside thinking I’d have it repaired someday. But the years passed, other fine SLRs entered my collection, and I decided to just sell this X-700 as a parts camera.