Camera Reviews, Film Photography

Operation Thin the Herd: Minolta Hi-Matic 7

Fishers Construction

This Minolta Hi-Matic 7 was one of the first cameras I bought when I restarted my collection in 2006. I had decided to collect 35mm rangefinder cameras, and this was the first one I found at a price I was willing to pay. I happily kept buying rangefinders right up to the day┬ásomeone gifted me a 35mm SLR. Right away, through-the-lens composing charmed me and my rangefinder predilection went right out the window. But I’ve kept this camera nevertheless.

Minolta Hi-Matic 7

I’ve shot it but twice before: once Sunny 16 without a battery, and once with a PX-625 battery inserted to take advantage of its onboard metering. That metering couldn’t be easier: twist the aperture and shutter-speed rings to A and the camera chooses both aperture and shutter speed for you. It does so on a linear scale from 1/30 sec. at f/1.8 to 1/250 sec. at f/22 — this camera biases toward the greatest depth of field possible. This was a mighty advanced system in 1963 when this camera was new. Here’s a photo from that latter session, on Fujicolor 200.

Bug light

I’d never shot black-and-white film in my Hi-Matic 7 so I loaded some Kodak Tri-X and headed out on a full-sun June day. Right away there was trouble in paradise. Inside the viewfinder a needle points at the exposure value (EV) the meter calculates, from 5.6 to 17. On that bright day I expected to see that needle point at EV 15 or maybe 16. Instead, the needle was in the red zone above EV 17, meaning it was underexposing by a stop or two. Drat! At least the meter functioned — they often don’t in cameras this old.

Reflected vinyl

What I didn’t do, but should have: set the camera to EI 200 or 100 to compensate for the underexposure. I don’t know why I always think of such things only when I sit down to write about my experience with a camera. Sigh. Fortunately, Tri-X’s incredible exposure latitude — up to 4 stops in either direction — mostly covered for me. Where it didn’t, a nip and a tuck in Photoshop usually did the trick.

Cars

Despite being large and heavy, the Hi-Matic 7 is pleasant to use. A lever on the focusing ring is well placed; my finger always found and moved it without me needing to move my eye from the viewfinder. The rangefinder patch is bright enough even for my middle-aged eyes (and was probably even brighter when it was new). I was able to move fast enough with it to capture my son playing a game at the dining table with the family.

Damion

The Hi-Matic 7 is a lot of camera to carry. Mine has its original leather “everready” case so I slung it over my shoulder, camera inside, as I carried it around. Or at least I did that until the leather shoulder strap broke.

At Rick's Cafe Boatyard on Eagle Creek

I finished the roll at Rick’s Cafe Boatyard, a seafood restaurant on Eagle Creek Reservoir in Indianapolis. It was the site of one of Margaret’s and my early dates, so we like to go back sometimes and reminisce.

At Rick's Cafe Boatyard on Eagle Creek

We always sit on the outdoor deck. Therefore, we only dine at Rick’s in the fair-weather months.

At Rick's Cafe Boatyard on Eagle Creek

One finds few opportunities to make dockside photos in landlocked central Indiana. The Hi-Matic 7 was up to the task. These photos needed little Photoshoppery to look good.

At Rick's Cafe Boatyard on Eagle Creek

See more photos from this camera in my Minolta Hi-Matic 7 gallery.

I had a hard time deciding whether this camera would stay or go. I’m emotionally attached to it as one of the first cameras in my collection, I enjoy using it, and I love the images it returns. But I can’t escape the fact that I’ve put only three rolls of film through it in 12 years. I’m unlikely to use it more than that in the next 12. As I shrink my collection to just the cameras I’ll actually use, I have to let pragmatism win over sentimentality.

Verdict: Goodbye

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9 thoughts on “Operation Thin the Herd: Minolta Hi-Matic 7

  1. This was one I was thinking about when I was looking into getting a rangefinder. In the end I went with the Yashica MG-1 which is about the same size and weight, I think, but has aperture priority exposure which I like. I leaning towards moving it on as well – just too big.

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    • I had an MG-1 for a while. I like the Hi-Matic better. I prefer aperture priority over full program myself, but the Hi-Matic’s otherwise an easier (for me) to use camera than the MG-1.

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