Cameras, Photography

Minolta Maxxum 7000

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The old cameras I buy online sometimes arrive broken. It’s a hazard of the hobby. I’ve learned how to assess cameras carefully and ask good questions of sellers, and now I have pretty good luck, at least with all-mechanical cameras. But the more electronics an old camera has, the more likely it is broken in a way so subtle that even the most scrupulous eBay seller wouldn’t know.

The Minolta Maxxum 7000 is the first 35mm SLR with an in-body autofocus-system, and the first Minolta with automatic film winding. And chips in the lenses and accessories talk to chips in the camera body, changing settings inside the camera for best operation — groundbreaking stuff in 1985, when this camera was introduced. The Maxxum 7000 is also the first 35mm SLR to offer both autofocus and motorized film advance.

Minolta Maxxum 7000

Experienced photographers were wary. Their all-mechanical cameras seldom failed. But the siren song of auto-everything was too much for the consumer market, which flocked to this camera and the many imitators that followed. Experienced photographers eventually came around.

Minolta Maxxum 7000

With the Maxxum line, Minolta scrapped its older MC and MD lens mounts for a new fully electronic A mount. Sony’s α-series digital cameras still use this mount; my 7000’s 50mm f/1.7 AF Maxxum lens clips right onto the latest Sony cameras. I gather that Minolta sold this camera primarily in a kit with a 35-70mm f/4 zoom lens, but almost all of the Maxxum 7000s I found on eBay came with this 50mm prime lens.

Minolta also abandoned the mostly metal bodies of their earlier cameras for an all-plastic body. This was the way the industry was going: Canon and Nikon introduced plastic-bodied SLRs at around the same time.

Minolta Maxxum 7000

The Maxxum 7000 offers program, shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and manual modes. It reads the DX coding on the film cartridge to set ISO (from 25 to a whopping 6400), but you can override it. Buttons on top of the camera control all settings. I’ll probably always prefer the dials on mechanical, manual cameras to any electronic controls, but these buttons aren’t bad. I found them a lot easier to use than any of the electronic controls on my auto-everything Nikon and Canon cameras. The LCD panel shows your settings in a logical, easily understood way. All around, the Maxxum 7000 is a thoughtful, easy-to-learn design. Four easy-to-get AAA batteries power everything.

I took the 7000 along in April on our Spring Break trip to Mammoth Cave. I shot a roll of Fujicolor 200 happily, anticipating great photos. But when the film came back from the processor, every shot was badly underexposed. Photoshop helped me make usable images out of a handful of them — I rather like this nicely textured shot of one of the tipis at the Wigwam Village — but most of the images were well beyond saving.

Wigwam 1

I’m learning that even in a botched capture, you can sometimes coax out an interesting image, like this shot from downtown Cave City. A thunderstorm was threatening.

Cave City, KY

I was also able to save this gritty photo of a small grocery store in Cave City. I also shot this with another camera at about the same time; see it here for comparison.

Houchens

I figured the poor exposures must have been my fault somehow — could I have accidentally set ISO too low? So I tried again with a second roll of Fujicolor 200. In case the camera really was at fault, I took three photos of each scene, at 0, +1, and +2 EV. I shot most of the roll Downtown on a sunny day. I had some success, like this shot of Leon’s Tailoring Shop.

Leon's

But several shots still turned out badly underexposed. So I asked the Internet why. It turns out that the Maxxum 7000’s aperture-control magnet can go south, and then the camera shoots everything at minimum aperture. On this lens, that’s f/22. I shot the good photos on this roll on a blazingly sunny day — just the kind of day tiny f/22 likes. All of the sunny-day photos were usable, but exposures were best at +2 EV. This photo turned out best of them all. This giant mural is painted on the side of the Indianapolis Public Schools headquarters building. The red Chevy is a nice contrast.

Red car in front of the mural 1

Speaking of red, the back of the Saffron Cafe offers it liberally. These sweet results suggest a fine lens, at least when stopped all the way down! I would have liked to try some up-close shots to see what kind of bokeh I would get.

Saffron Cafe

Even though the sun was bright, the camera had trouble resolving shady spots. Some tweaking in Photoshop brought out a little shadow detail in this shot. When I worked Downtown going on 20 years ago now, the Elbow Room was my favorite lunch spot.

The Elbow Room

To see more photos from this camera, check out my Minolta Maxxum 7000 gallery.

I’m glad to have experienced this camera. It felt good in my hands, and the controls made sense. One or both of those has not been true for every other auto-everything SLR I’ve shot. So far, if I was going to keep just one auto-everything SLR, it’d be the Maxxum 7000.

But not this one. Repairing the aperture magnet problem is said to cost north of $100. It’s tons cheaper to just buy a working body. If I stumble upon one for a good price someday, I’ll scoop it right up. But meanwhile, I really do prefer my mechanical SLRs for everyday shooting.

Meanwhile, the lens is valuable to Sony α owners. This 50mm f/1.7 lens goes for about $50 on eBay all the time. Selling it will let me recoup my purchase cost. I love it when I break even on a broken camera.


Do you like old cameras? Then check out all of my vintage gear reviews!

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29 thoughts on “Minolta Maxxum 7000

  1. Richard Armstrong says:

    Interesting review of the Maxxum 7000, I’ve never felt the desire to acquire one I’ve always thought it was butt ugly so steered clear, I know one shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover but with so many great camera’s out there it’s hard not to be swayed by looks. Maybe I’ll have to reconsider.

    Keep up the good work.

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  2. Christopher Smith says:

    Intresting review on a nice camera I have 2 of these and just got it’s cheaper version the 5000 I would like to get it”s bigger brother the 9000 but have not found one yet without the LCD bleed. Also don’t forget these have an internal small button like battery that”s under where the AA bateries go these only have a certain life span not sure what it is but would guess about 5 years.

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    • Christopher, I didn’t know about the button battery! It must keep settings in the camera. My 7000 has a little LCD bleed but it’s not bad. Not like it matters given its problems. Like I said, if I ever come upon a fully working example for a good price I’ll scoop it right up, but I don’t truly need a Maxxum camera in my collection and so am not going to look too hard. I was glad to experience this camera, though, because it showed me that it is possible to build an auto-everything camera where the controls make good sense.

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    • If this were an all- or mostly-manual camera, I’d say sure! But I have zero desire to try to repair this electronic beast. Thanks for offering though! If you want another parts camera, say the word and I’ll send the body to you.

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  3. bwc1976 says:

    I’ve owned a 9000 and a 700si, but never a 7000. I love the angular style of the first generation Maxxums. The 35-70 f4 zoom you mentioned is a good one, and the 50mm f1.7 is most likely based on the manual focus version I have on my X-700 which is also very nice.

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  4. I had one of these a while back. I thought the auto focus worked pretty well. I can see why people were taken with it back in the day. Its too bad your auto exposure didn’t work well. I found it to be quite good. And the 50mm lens also is nice. Your image of the Cafe reminds me of the old GAF 500 slide film. I always liked the grain and the warmth of that film.

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  5. The 7000i replaced my Pentax K1000 in 1988. I didn’t give up using it until 2006 (I still have it) when I decided that digital was here to stay. It was wonderful camera, unfortunately it also started Minolta on it its downward spiral. The auto focus system infringed on some Honeywell patents and cost Minolta over 127 million. Then Minolta invested heavily in the APC system and that effectively spelled the end of one of the most innovative camera companies of the film era.

    The Minolta lenses were some of the best on the market. Sadly for Minolta the Nikon/Canon name meant more to most consumers. If you can get the lenses for either the Sony cameras or with adapters any on the mirrorless cameras on the market you can have some great lenses for a low cost. I miss “The Mind of Minolta”.

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      • James whitburn says:

        Yes keep us informed on all things minolta, by tge wYcshere can I get a good minolta 7000 with extra lens that work as they should? I purchased a minolta maxxum 300si from amazon I ended up with a paperweight also I have a another one that for some reason will not advance the film and can’t see much tgey tge viewfinder can they be fixed? And who will do a good job it’s getting harder and harder to trust anyone these days what hapoeneded to alk the good people I used hear about if this is the new normal it’s forctge burds!

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        • Caroline says:

          My husband has two of these that he uses regularly. One we picked up used at a camera store in Tokyo. You may pay a bit more than on eBay, but at least you’ll know it’s going to work.

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        • One of the two I bought was from a camera store and it, too, suffers from this aperture malady! Admittedly, it’s a subtle problem that you’d check for only if you knew about it.

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  6. Bob Hester says:

    I have a Maxxum 9000, which works fine except the viewfinder display no longer functions. The data panel illumination light comes on in low light as it should, but the LCD view finder display doesn’t show up. Surely, I’m not the only one this has happened to, but there’s nothing on the internet about it that I can find. Any thoughts?

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      • Bob Hester says:

        Thanks for the reply, Jim. My concern was that I had done something inadvertently to turn the display off. I would buy a new body, but I plan to sell my 9000 with multiple accessories (motor drive, lenses, 4000 flash, auto exposure meter, etc.). Do you think ebay is a good way to go about doing that?

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  7. “The Minolta Maxxum 7000 is the first electronically controlled 35mm SLR.”
    Sorry to say, but this is totally wrong. X-700 Series, XD and XE were also electronically controlled and equipped with P-A-S-M modes (depending on model) and electronical shutter, timing, release, exposure. The last mechanical Minolta series were the models of the SrT-lineup.
    You might mean the first 35mm SLR with complete in-body autofocus-system and the first Minolta with automatic film transport and (semiautomatic) rewind.

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  8. Sigrid says:

    This is the only camera I use. Never switched to digital, except for inexpensive point and shoots. I love this camera, and fear for the day I have to give into digital. It wasn’t so long ago that digital was not good enough for serious pictures.

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