Camera Reviews

Minolta Maxxum HTsi

It didn’t take long after Minolta introduced the first in-body autofocus and autoexposure 35mm SLR, the Maxxum 7000, for these features to take over the entire SLR market. It opened the SLR market to even casual shooters who wouldn’t know an f stop from a shortstop. Anyone could get high-quality images with point-and-shoot ease. Almost from the beginning, Minolta offered auto-everything SLRs aimed at the entry-level photographer. In 1998, the Minolta Maxxum HTsi was that entry-level camera.

Minolta Maxxum HTsi

The Maxxum HTsi cost far more than a point-and-shoot, however. It listed for $770 (including a 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens), which is about $1200 today. Nobody paid that; street prices were far lower. But you got a lot of camera for that money. It has a three-point autofocus system and 14-segment honeycomb-pattern metering. Its shutter operates from 1/4000 to 30 seconds. It reads the film’s DX coding to set film speed from ISO 25 to 5,000, or you can set film speed manually from ISO 6 to 6,400. It offers the usual modes: program, aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual. A built-in flash pops up when the camera doesn’t detect enough light. You can also slide a separate Minolta flash unit into the proprietary hot shoe. Unfortunately, two expensive CR-2 batteries power everything.

Minolta Maxxum HTsi

The HTsi offers the usual modes: programmed, aperture priority, shutter priority, and manual exposure. To access them, move the Mode dial to PASM. Press the P button above the LCD to return the camera to program mode at any time. To access the other modes, press the FUNC button and turn the wheel below the shutter button to cycle through A, S, and M. The HTsi also offers portrait, landscape, close-up, sports, and night portrait modes. To access them, press the P button and then press the button next to the LCD with a head on it, repeatedly, until an arrow appears beneath the mode you want.

Minolta Maxxum HTsi

An unusual feature of the HTsi is its customizable functions, like allowing the shutter to fire even when autofocus hasn’t locked on a subject, and leaving the film tip out upon rewind. The manual describes the rest of them. Only one was useful to me. By default, the HTsi fires the flash anytime it thinks it needs to. I hate that! But you can turn it off. The functions and their settings all have numbers; this one is Function 5, Setting 2. Turn the mode dial to CUST. Then turn the wheel under the shutter button until the LCD reads CUST 5. Then press the FUNC button and turn the wheel until 2 appears below CUST 5. Return the mode dial to PASM to take pictures.

By the way, this camera was called the Maxxum HTsi only in North America. As best I can tell, in Europe it’s called the Dynax 505si. I don’t think Japan got a version of this camera.

If you like auto-everything SLRs like this one, also check out my reviews of the Minolta Maxxum 7000, the Maxxum 7000i, and the Maxxum 9xi; as well as the Nikon N60, N65, N8008, and N90s; and the Canon EOS 630, 650, and A2e. Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I loaded a roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 into the HTsi. The pictured 35-80mm f/4-5.6 Maxxum Zoom lens came with this body, so I left it on. I took it on a few walks around my neighborhood, one of which lasted a half-hour on a clear 25-degree morning. I held the camera in my hand in the cold the whole way. To its credit, it never complained or malfunctioned. It made every photograph I asked of it.

Snow-dusted BMW

I shot the whole roll in full program mode. I figure that a camera like this is meant to be a giant point and shoot. As one, it’s competent and handles easily. It’s nothing to carry it just by holding its grip. That’s very nice on a long photo walk.

000036680016 proc

The HTsi focuses fast and I could never make it hunt. I was testing an older autofocus SLR from another manufacturer at about the same time and it hunted like mad unless the subject was crushingly obvious. That SLR was a more robust machine with better specifications, aimed at the semi-pro market. I’d rather shoot this HTsi because it just works.

Footprints

I’m sure that other camera is built to outlast the HTsi. But the amateur who would have bought a camera like the HTsi was unlikely to use it nearly as often. It was likely to last a long time in that photographer’s hands.

Old Navy

To finish this roll I popped up the flash and photographed our home office, which happens to be in our living room. It’s odd to walk into this from the front door, but it works for us. The flash lit evenly.

My office

I had a good enough time with the HTsi that I loaded a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus and kept shooting on a walk through downtown Zionsville. I developed the film in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B, and scanned it on my Minolta ScanDual II scanner.

Pot

Who knows how my HTsi came to have a 35-80mm f/4-5.6 Maxxum AF Zoom lens rather than the kit 28-80mm lens. This 35-80mm lens offered good sharpness corner to corner but did suffer from a little barrel distortion at the wide end. That’s typical of the genre, and isn’t surprising.

Window

It’s also not surprising that this lens always flared in the sun, too. These are the kinds of challenges you expect from a zoom lens like this one and I wouldn’t be surprised if the 28-80mm kit lens performed similarly. Lenses like these aren’t stellar performers, but they are more than fine for an amateur photographer documenting his family’s activities.

Flower shop

The lens doesn’t offer a macro mode but it did all right when you moved in as close as it could focus.

70

I enjoyed using this camera, plain and simple. It just worked. What more can you want?

Knight

See more photos from this camera in my Minolta Maxxum HTsi gallery.

A reader donated this Minolta Maxxum HTsi to my collection. I wouldn’t have bought one on my own. It opened my eyes, as this is a terrific little SLR for easy shooting. Here’s the crazy thing about cameras like the HTsi: you can buy them for next to nothing. I just did a quick check of eBay and find dozens of these that sold for less than $50, and many for less than $20, often with some sort of lens still attached. Cameras like these are the great value in film photography today.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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38 thoughts on “Minolta Maxxum HTsi

  1. another good camera from you Jim! this time i’m pretty sure i’ve shot it at some point but never owned. gives me reasons to go searching hehe. meanwhile last saturday i’ve got Minolta HiMatic 7 at a flea market. seems to be functioning. i’ve ordered film to try it.

    • The Hi-Matic 7/7s/9 are great cameras, hope you won’t be disappointed. I’ve got a 7s and love it. It might take you a little while to get used to the EV metering it does, but I rather like it.

      • you mean the little eye on the lens ring? i have one camera that uses this system so no biggie. this one has manual controls so i’m gonna test it without buying a battery. if it turns out fine then i might))

        • Yep. And the meter in the veiwfinder reads out in EV. If you do pop a battery in, the EV readout will appear in both auto and manual modes.

        • yeah, i never learned EV system honestly. rn i’m more concerned about the light isolation. the camera has no padding inside. should there be?

        • Padding? As in light seals? There should be some, though it’s not a lot from what I can remember. (My Hi-Matic 7s is in the shop right now, so I can’t look at it.)

        • tbm3fan says:

          There is a seal on the film door where it butts up against the camera body. The two rails also have seals.

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    Very nice lens quality! While Minolta kind of slipped off into the great unknown, back in my day, the lenses for the SRT-101 certainly had their aficionados; back before the Canikon era, there were certainly plenty that shot Minolta, Pentax, Konica, Miranda Sensorex, and a lot of others, the market was certainly very fragmented! Minolta ads had pro David Hamilton waxing on poetically about the quality of the lenses. Anyone wanting an interesting read, the story of Minolta getting into bed with Konica, and then selling themselves to Sony, makes interesting reading. Minolta actually losing a patent fight on auto-focus technology with Honeywell may have hastened their slow roll to get out of the camera business, even tho they probably had the most quality level 35mm auto-focus cameras before anyone else.

    There are many of us that look at the Minolta auto-focus era as the beginning of the end for affordable, quality metal 35mm’s that were of interest to professionals. The jump in Minolta sales to the “prosumer” market, motivated the rest of the camera industry to start designing for that market, vs. the old paradigm of serious amateurs adopting cameras that were designed for pros.

    Another interesting read? The story of the Minolta XK, a pro level, metal 35mm film camera designed to compete with the Canikon juggernaut. A camera so beautiful, and relatively rare, that I never even saw one back in the day! I spent years hearing about this, but never saw one…

    https://casualphotophile.com/2016/08/14/minolta-xk-camera-review/

    • Minolta was on fire in the 70s and early 80s. So many good cameras. It’s a shame they threw in the towel.

      I’d love to try an XK someday!

      • tbm3fan says:

        Well they only threw in the towel on cameras as they are still around in other imaging and optical fields enough so to have over 43,000 employees and over $9 billion in revenue. Actually much like Canon except no more cameras. So the financial ability was there to continue but elected to sell out to Sony due to heavy losses (they say) in their photographic division. To keep losses in perspective at Minolta’s height during the autofocus revolution, and they had the lead, they did $400 million in the U.S.

  3. It still looks very cheap and plasticky…typical 90s electronics I’d say. The big AF button on the back is strangely placed. Almost like a digital camera and they forgot the display ;-)

  4. Nice write-up. I decided not to try any of the lower level AF Minoltas. Then, I bought a lot for the lenses that contained a Minolta 400si. I had heard so many derogatory comments about the consumer-level cameras that I set it aside. Later, thinking I might be able to sell it for a few bucks, I put a roll of HP5 through it. One of my favorite images came out of that roll. These cameras are so much better than they are given credit for being.

    • tbm3fan says:

      Well of course it can take great pictures. A camera is only a box with a hole in front for a lens. The box could be made of titanium, steel, aluminum, plastic, wood, or cardboard. Add a basic aperture, speed control, throw on a decent lens, and shoot. Anything added after that is fluff that isn’t related to the quality of the picture. I could send Jim a Sears TLS M42 that costs nothing, most consider it a doorstop, throw on a great Super Takumar lens and wow this camera is great.

      In Minolta you simply get more fluff (and thicker manual) as you move up in the pecking order since they all can use any of the great Minolta A mount lenses. Now as a Minolta collector I am not denigrating fluff just using the word descriptively. By the way the Minolta 70 is a cool little SLR which is going with me to Las Vegas tomorrow along with a few others.

      • Minolta collecter—excellent! Yes, the Maxxum 70 is very nice. That and the Maxxum 5 are great travel cameras.

        Two year ago, I bought a Maxxum 70 rated “Excellent” level from KEH for 27.00. Looking around now, the prices have gone up quite a bit.

      • Well yes, of course. I should be more precise. This camera punches above its weight class in features and usability, and the excellent Minolta glass means fantastic results!

  5. It was not only the infringement of the Honeywell autofocus patents that caused Minolta to leave the camera business. They also foolishly invested heavily is the short-lived APS (Advanced Photo System) as well as concentrating on competing with Nikon and Canon for the pro market. Minolta, like Kodak and many other companies, paid the price of bad management decisions.

    At the time the Htsi was available the MSRP was shall we say optimistic. The actual Street Price was probably around $600.

    • It is a shame about the bad management decisions in the late 90s and early 00s that led to Minolta’s hasty demise. On the other hand, since Minolta hasn’t been an active marquee for almost two decades, the prices for their cameras on the used market are often less than other brands. It’s easier to score a decent Minolta Hi-Matic 7/7s/9 for a good price than say a Canonet rangefinder.

    • APS looked promising for amateurs when it was new, but it surely did fizzle.

      $600 seems like a more reasonable price for this camera.

      As you can see, it’s a fine performer! Thank you for sending it!

      • I’m guessing that Minolta et al wouldn’t have invested so heavily on APS (or just not do it) if they realized how fast digital was going to take over. As I understand it, they all knew it was a credible threat, but thought that it might be 10-15 years in the horizon. But it turned out to be more like 5. Yeah, those early digital cameras weren’t great, but people didn’t care because they no longer had to pay for film and processing!

        • Andy Umbo says:

          You can kind of understand Minoltas thinking, tho. Not a professional I knew was interested in auto-focus, and many were proud of their ability to “follow-focus” sports events and wild life. Minolta introduction of auto-focus ended up being a watershed moment for amateurs that wanted a decent “pro level” camera but could care less about learning how to expose or even focus! In case you don’t think this was a “thing”, before autofocus, I lent my brother a camera once to photograph something, and he came back with an entire roll of film unfocused. He said he “forgot to focus”, and just thought the image in the finder looked blurry because his eyes were bad! It probably wouldn’t have been a big jump, just to think APS was going to be another step down that road.

          BTW, Minolta got into bed with Konica, but I have to say, I knew more serious photographers that worshiped the Konica camera system rather than the Minolta. Lot of aficionados out there for Konica.

    • tbm3fan says:

      I still say that lawsuit was dubious at best. Think back the the transistor developed by Bell Labs in 1947. Afterwards they did nothing with it from a consumer POV. Then along came Sony which saw a big commercial use in portable radios. US developed yet left to someone else to find a use.

      Honeywell was working on an autofocus system as was several Japanese makers in parallel. Japanese makers said it wasn’t very functional and useful in it’s present state. Honeywell should invest more money to refine. Honeywell said Japanese makers should invest the money to refine. Honeywell said they had a contract to use their system. Minolta said they didn’t. Honeywell turned this into an American company having it’s intellectual property being stolen by a foreign firm.

      In the end Minoltas AF worked while Honeywells didn’t. Honeywell also expected to sue all 15 other manufacturers for the same violations and collect millions in royalties from each. Those makers did eventually pay for a license. How close the two systems were I don’t know but Minolta was doomed at that time in court.

      Along with their APS bet and failure, their initial start with a DSLR using the A mount, then a new DSLR based on the APS SLR, in the very early digital era, they withdrew from further development. However, Nikon and Canon, came along as a consumer market was definitely forming and they gained market share. Minolta saw this and entered back with their 7D and 5D but now they were too far behind. They could have recovered from the lawsuit but seemed to have not tried and then the next several bonehead moves doomed them.

  6. Good review. That looks like a great camera for casual photography and probably even more. Does the Spot button on the back mean you can switch to a spot meter? The plasticky cameras like the Maxxum and the Nikon F80 ignored by the hipsters and collectors are quite good and the prices are still low. A great option for people who are interested in photography rather than the coolness factor of film cameras.
    I bought a Minolta X700 + 50mm a while ago and it’s really great. Minolta knew their stuff. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find lenses for it here in Korea. I looked online and went to the camera districts in Seoul but no luck. And autofocus Minoltas are even rarer. Strange. Well, it’s okay. I enjoy the simplicity of one camera one lens sometimes.

    • Oh yes, the HTsi has a spot meter capability! I should have mentioned that in the review.

      Yes, now is the time to buy these blobby, plasticky SLRs. They are bargains.

  7. Don says:

    Great review, I enjoy my Minolta Dynax7000i (without the cards) as a great (and sturdy) everyday camera. These period camera hit the sweet spot between performance and current price.

    • I reviewed a 7000i earlier this year and I agree, it’s a great & sturdy everyday camera. I do always wonder what happens when the electronics start to fail in these, though!

  8. Tom says:

    Hi Jim, First, thanks for doing a camera review. Your reviews are the reason I started reading your blog. I wanted to mention that when I read the price you listed, I thought it seemed awfully high from my memory. I picked a random copy of Popular Photography from July of 1999 from Google books and, checking the various ads at the back, found the HTsi selling for around $220-230.00 for the body only and $80-100 more with a kit lens.

    • Tom, I listed that price based on one period review I was able to find — but frankly, I was surprised by that number. The street prices you list make a lot more sense for an entry-level camera.

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