Camera Reviews, Photography

Minolta XG 1

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I got to use my Minolta X-700 just once before the winder locked hard. It’s a common fault among X-700s, caused by two failed capacitors within. I neither wanted to try to fix it myself nor pay someone else to do it, as I figured I could buy a used body on eBay for less hassle and expense. Then my friend Alice said, “Heck, I have an X-700 here doing nothing; you can just have it.” But it, too, suffered from the dreaded locked winder.

Meanwhile, my all-mechanical Pentax SLRs just keep on shooting. Sigh.

But I have several lenses for my two X-700s I want to use, so I went looking for a more reliable body for them. I soon found this Minolta XG 1.

Minolta XG-1

When Minolta introduced its XG series of SLRs in 1977, it slotted between the near-pro XD series and the old-style, all-mechanical SR-T series. (See my SR-T 101 here.) Electronics were creeping into SLRs, and the XG series reflected that trend. (Here’s hoping it’s hardier than the X-700.) Despite the 1 in its name, the XG 1 wasn’t the first of the XG-series cameras; it was introduced in 1979. In 1982, the camera’s name gained a hyphen (XG-1) and the new “rising sun” Minolta logo.

Minolta XG-1

The XG 1 is meant to be used in aperture-priority mode. Just set the shutter speed dial to A, choose an aperture, and let the XG 1 do the rest. In aperture-priority mode, the cloth shutter is stepless from 1/1000 to 1 sec. A shutter-speed scale appears inside the viewfinder. When you touch the shutter button, red LEDs light next to the shutter speed the camera chooses. When two consecutive lights glow, the shutter speed is somewhere between the two values. You can use the XG 1 in manual-exposure mode, too, but the camera offers no indicators that let you find the right exposure. If you want to use the light meter, you’ve got to be in aperture-priority mode. By 1979, silicon-cell meters were the hot new thing, but the XG series stuck with center-weighted CdS-cell meters. At least the XG 1 took films in a wide range of speeds, from 25 to 1600 ASA.

So I dropped some Fujicolor 200 into it, along with two LR44 button cells (without which the camera won’t function) and off I went to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. The grounds contain extensive and well-maintained gardens. I have no idea what this plant is, but I sure enjoyed all of its purple.

Bloomed

I read up on the 45mm f/2 MD Rokkor-X lens that came with my XG 1, and some pan its bokeh as more crisp than creamy. I see where they’re coming from, but the effect is hardly unacceptable. The background of this shot reminds me of an impressionist painting.

Impressionistic flowers

I wanted to see how the XG 1 handled a subject in motion, so I opened the aperture wide to get a fast shutter speed. As the fellow passed me by, he apologized for getting into my shot! I hollered back at him that I meant for him to be in it.

On the bridge

Statues dot the grounds; this is a detail of my favorite one.

Arms wide

I love phlox! I should plant some in a sunny spot in my yard.

Abundant white flowers

This is accurate: it was eight o’clock in the evening.

Eight o'clock

The museum grounds were once the country estate of Eli Lilly, who founded pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company here in Indianapolis. His home, Oldfields, still stands on the site. I took this shot in a portico at the back of the enormous house. You’ll find a couple other photos of the house in my Minolta XG-1 gallery.

Shadows

I blew through the entire 24-exposure roll in an hour while wandering the grounds. The XG 1 handled easily; very quickly it became an extension of my eyes and hands. You really can’t ask for more from any camera.


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15 thoughts on “Minolta XG 1

  1. Nice write up! I miss the old minolta x camera’s they hold a soft spot in my heart! A x370 was my first real slr camera, and I put a lot of miles on it, and got some great shots, it did especially well in b&w. They also have a lovely focus ring, in my mind one of the best.
    I have collected a number of them over the years, and long for a digital equivalent.

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  2. For some reason it doesn’t seem like the standard lenses of the f/2 variety get much respect, however this looks like a good one to me. I wonder why so many cameras of this era left off any kind of metering option in manual mode? I can’t imagine that it would have been much of an added expense.

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    • One of my all-time favorite lenses is the f/2 50mm SMC Pentax-M. It’s a wonderful lens.

      About metering in manual mode: I know, right? It would make this camera much more useful to have it. Admittedly, I’m very charmed by aperture-priority shooting, however, and could probably use this camera daily for years just like it is without complaint.

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  3. I actually needed a camera and found this exact camera and lens combo at a Salvation Army. I’ve been shooting with it for less than a week and was curious as to where you develop and scan your film?
    Thanks

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  4. i have this camera to and I absolutely love this camera. but I have 1 question! I can only take pictures when there is a red licht next to the numbers when you look to your lens. But there is only a red licht in places inside and darker so I can’t take pictures outsite or on brighter spots.
    I hope you can help me and read my english because Im terrible in writing in english!

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  5. Jim, I had an XG-1 but it just didn’t do anything for me. Competent but uninspiring.

    I also had an X-700 and shot quite a bit with it because I love the Minolta lenses. But somehow I never really gelled with that camera either (though the viewfinder of the X-700 is truly special, especially with a 50/1.4 Rokkor!).

    I tried an X-300 which I preferred to the X-700 – same great viewfinder (I think – it’s certainly big and bright), but with simplified controls. The X-700 somehow felt over-engineered for me.

    I really liked the X-300 and it remains my favourite Minolta body I’ve used. But… The first one I had conked out after a couple of rolls. I got a second and that lasted even less time. I returned it to the seller who replaced it and that died too. Strike three and I was done with the Minolta X series!

    This lack of reliability of the X-300, and the fact that I didn’t really like any other Minolta body I tried, led to me selling up all my Minolta lenses.

    Pentax and Contax bodies just feel so much better, for me, and there’s no shortage of decent glass in Pentax K and C/Y mount, not to mention M42 mount via adapters…

    Re the Minolta 45/2, I can see why people are drawn to its wider focal length and small, light spec. Its value has risen recently as digital users seek out compact options in quality vintage glass.

    But whilst competent I don’t think it performs as well as the 50/1.7s. I had a very light and compact MD 50/1.7, with the green min aperture (hence it supports all the exposure modes of cameras like the X-700) and it really impressed me. It only cost about £15, attached to one of those (ultimately useless!) X-300 bodies. Extraordinary value.

    You might find if you have 50/1.7 or 50/1.4 Minolta glass you could sell the 45/2 for more than you might think. They regularly sell on eBay UK for £45-50…

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    • The reason I keep this XG 1 is because it keeps working.

      I’ve had trouble, much like you describe, with every other Minolta body I’ve owned. Two bricked X-700s lead the pack.

      I love Minolta lenses. The bodies … well, if they’d keep working, they’d be great.

      Yeah, maybe I should sell the 45/2 and make a few bucks. I don’t truly need it. But I find its bokeh to be so compelling.

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      • If you like a lens and use it, then keep it!

        There are a couple of semi-pro Minolta bodies I didn’t get to using, but the problem was/is they cost approaching £100, and if they’re as unreliable as the ones we’ve both had experience with, it’s going to be an expensive paperweight!

        I wasn’t prepared to take that risk.

        Another reason the Canon EOS bodies are such a good bet, the last ones they made (I have a 300v from 2002 I think) are not only much newer than a 70s Minolta, but they’re so affordable, if they do break you can pick up another for £10-20.

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