Cameras, Photography

Minolta Maxxum 9xi

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My Minolta Maxxum 7000 didn’t work quite right. I liked it, so I bought another — and it was broken in the same way. Turns out it’s a common fault; go read my review for details.

I wanted a working Maxxum body so I could put my two A-mount lenses through their paces. Then Sam over at Camera Legend profiled the mighty Minolta Maxxum 9xi — and pointed to a place where I could pick up a body for $22 shipped. That’s my kind of price! So I scooped it right up.

Minolta Maxxum 9xi

The 9xi was Maxxum in the US, a Dynax in Europe, and an α in Japan, but wherever it was sold upon its 1992 introduction, it was a hugely advanced camera for pros. It is a beast. Don’t let the plastic exterior fool you: the frame and mirror box are metal. You could drop this thing off a building and probably get right back to shooting. And it’s heavy. I’ll bet it weighs more than my Nikon F2.

Minolta Maxxum 9xi

It might also be the most technologically advanced camera I’ve ever owned. Its carbon-fiber reinforced shutter operates from 30 sec down to — are you ready for this? — 1/12,000 sec! Its four-sensor autofocus mechanism tries to predict subject movement horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. Autofocus activates, oh my gosh the voodoo, when you place your eye to the viewfinder. The 9xi also features a sophisticated a 14-segment honeycomb metering pattern. And all the information about your shot projects into the viewfinder using a transparent LCD technology. A flash isn’t built in, but compatible external flashes can be controlled remotely and sync up to 1/300 sec.

Minolta Maxxum 9xi

See that little door on the right, under the FUNC button? Open it to access extra controls for things like setting ISO and rewinding the fim — and to insert “creative cards,” which Minolta sold to add new creative shooting modes to the camera. They didn’t sell well; the pro photographers who could afford this expensive camera didn’t need them.

All of this is powered by a 2CR5 battery. I had one lying around so I dropped it in, spooled in a roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400, clipped on my 50mm f/1.7 Maxxum AF lens, and went out whenever the weather allowed late in the winter. I had the best luck at Bethel Cemetery.

McCurdy

One thing I really appreciated about the 9xi was its viewfinder’s built-in diopter correction. I’ve reached that age where I need to carry reading glasses with me, but I’m resisting. I also really appreciated the knurled wheel right in front of the shutter button. It moves you through valid aperture and shutter speed combinations given how the camera read exposure. I used it to set the shutter at 1/12,000 sec for this shot just to see what happened. That’s some reasonable bokeh from that lens.

Stone

I put the 9xi on a tripod for this shot of my to-be-reviewed Ansco B-2 Cadet. Even with every light on and the blinds open, there wasn’t enough light to give me a wider in-focus patch.

Ansco Box

This lens gives good definition and sharpness. I wasn’t wowed by the contrast — the miniblind shadow on the wall was much stronger in real life — but that could be the film as much as the lens.

Tree In the House

I didn’t feel like I’d wrung the camera out yet, so I loaded a roll of Kodak Max Versatility 400 (expired, cold stored), clipped on my 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Minolta AF Zoom, and kept going. That lens, by the way, came in the kit with many consumer-grade Maxxums. Ho-lee-cow the barrel distortion, especially at 35mm. Thankfully, Photoshop let me easily correct it. I shot most of the roll Downtown, beginning along Massachusetts Avenue.

Tattered Paqer Can Transform Into Sky

When I moved to Indianapolis in the mid-1990s, Mass Ave (as we call it) wasn’t much. A couple galleries, a couple restaurants, a whole bunch of decay. It’s been transformed into a happening place to be. These shots don’t show much of it, though, especially this detail shot of some planters next to a new condo building.

Yellow bowls

Margaret and I strolled through Lockerbie, an old Downtown neighborhood near Mass Ave. We both love to take in historic architecture.

Lockerbie home

Lockerbie is just charming. Margaret and I have talked about moving Downtown together, but somehow I doubt we’d be willing to pay what it costs to live in this very popular neighborhood.

In Lockerbie

I finished the roll by driving down Michigan Road a little ways from my house to snap this building, which is on the southwest corner of Cold Spring Road. I’ve always wondered about its story; there’s a large house behind it on the property. For reasons I can’t fathom, this photo was featured on Flickr’s Explore. It’s far from the best shot on the roll.

House on Cold Spring Road *EXPLORED*

See more from this camera in my Minolta Maxxum 9xi gallery.

I did not fall in love with the 9xi. It’s plenty capable, and I didn’t have to try hard at all to coax decent images from it. But it sparked no joy. It was just a heavy lump that did a job. In contrast, whenever I pick up, say, my Nikon F3, I feel a strong emotional connection with the instrument and finish each roll of film feeling a certain satisfaction. I want that satisfaction in any camera that stays in my collection.


Do you like old cameras? Then check out all of my old camera reviews.

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11 thoughts on “Minolta Maxxum 9xi

  1. Hey Jim, great post and beautiful results out of the 9xi!! The camera looks in nice shape! I do agree, as a knobs/dials kind of guy, tech cameras such as the 9xi don’t inspire love, but it is a high spec machine that is now “retro” in its own way. That said, I do prefer my manual cameras as well. Thanks for the link as well, appreciate it!

    Like

  2. Jim, I don’t have much experience with the AF-Minoltas, but I know they packed some amazing technology into them. Great results, and good to see something about a camera that I know absolutely nothing about.

    Like

  3. hmunro says:

    Isn’t it interesting when you pick up a camera that you technically *should* love, but somehow you don’t quite bond with it? You still got some lovely images out of it, though.

    Like

    • This is part of the fun, though: to try different cameras and learn what I like. Turns out I favor manual-focus SLRs, especially those that offer aperture-priority autoexposure. I think I was born to shoot those, actually!

      Liked by 1 person

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