Competition among SLR manufacturers heated up during the 1970s as use of electronics increased and body size decreased. Minolta’s XG series was their way of competing against Olympus’s OM series and Pentax’s M cameras.

I bought one because I had two Minolta X-700s in a row that failed, but I wanted a body lighter than my SR-T 101 to shoot my MD Rokkor lenses.

Minolta XG-1

When Minolta introduced its XG series of SLRs in 1977, it slotted between the near-pro XD series and all-mechanical SR-T series. The 1 in the name doesn’t mean it was the first of the series — that was the XG 7 — but rather that it is the entry level model. Or at least that’s what it became upon its 1979 introduction. 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.

By the way, if you’re a fan of Minolta SLRs, have a look at my reviews of the X-700 (here), the SR-T 101 (here), and the SR-T 202 (here). I’ve also reviewed the big Minolta Hi-Matic 7 rangefinder (here) and the weird Minolta 110 Zoom SLR (here). To see all the cameras I’ve reviewed, click here.

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.


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. The XG 1 handled easily. If I have a complaint, it’s that the shutter button triggers with only light pressure. It’s too easy to trip it before you mean to.

Arms wide

But that’s the worst thing I can say about the XG 1. It quickly became an extension of my eyes and hands. You really can’t ask for more from any camera.

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.


To see more from this camera, check out my Minolta XG-1 gallery.

I blew through the entire 24-exposure roll in an hour while wandering these grounds. That’s always a sign I was having a great time with a camera. I seldom warm up to a camera so quickly. If you like aperture-priority shooting, you could do worse than a Minolta MG 1.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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22 responses to “Minolta XG 1”

  1. Andy Evans Avatar

    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.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Andy! The X cameras are all fine shooters. I’m going to try my f/1.7 lens off my old X700 on the XG 1 next.

  2. pesoto74 Avatar

    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.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      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.

  3. Bernie Kasper Avatar

    Love the bokeh in the lens Jim, wonderful images!!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Bernie!

  4. Vernon Lee Szalacha Avatar

    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?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I buy film at Meijer and CVS. You can get it online from B&H Photo, too. I send my film out for processing, either to Dwayne’s Photo or The Darkroom.

  5. Bill Schwarz Avatar
    Bill Schwarz

    Process One in Kansas also typically does a fine job with developing and scanning of black and white film.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for the tip!

  6. Hanne Van der Sanden Avatar

    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!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Do you have your film speed set correctly on the camera? To set the film speed, lift the shutter-speed knob and turn. A little window on top of that knob shows the film speed, in ASA, which is equivalent to ISO.

      Here’s a manual for the XG-1 that might help you troubleshoot further.

  7. dan james Avatar

    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…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      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.

      1. dan james Avatar

        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.

        1. Thorne Avatar

          Just wanted to say, I agree that the Minolta bodies aren’t the most reliable (well not all of them are paperweights -my XG-1 is great) but don’t be put off of them, if you buy a broken one or yours breaks, just take it to a repair shop and fix it for nothing!…

          I suppose i’m at an advantage of having an Uncle that owns a repair shop but take my word that they are easier to fix than the later, more auto SLRs from the 90s (like the early Nikon F series and Canon EOS’)

  8. TheGourmetKitchen Avatar

    Beautiful photos
    What ISO aperture and shutter speed did you use for the plant portraits and maybe you can give some other suggestions on shooting with the xg1 Thanks!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I don’t remember anymore what my settings were, but I do recall that I used ISO 200 film at box speed. This is a pretty easy camera to use — I’d just put in some film, set ISO to box speed, set it to A, and experiment.

  9. Olli Thomson Avatar

    I’ve often thought of picking up one of the XG range to have as a backup for my Minolta lenses should my XD ever pack up on me. The XD also has a highly sensitive shutter release so at least I’d be used to that.

    I do wonder if the Minolta reputation for reliability – or rather unreliability – is driven by issues with cameras from the X700 onwards. The earlier Minolta’s don’t seem to have the same issues or the same reputation.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You’re probably right about the X700 messing up Minolta’s rep. I had two X-700s with the dreaded stuck winder problem. Soured me on that otherwise fine camera.

  10. Fern Avatar

    Hi jim, i had 3 x300, all dead ,even with new batteries. The problem was the capacitor under the camera. Loosen 3 screws desolder the capacitor that is visible on the side , resolder a new one and you have a functionning camera. You see that the capacitor is dead because his soldering is oxyded

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It sure is helpful to have good repair skills! I’m still slowly building mine.

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