Camera Reviews

Minolta XD-11

My hopes were sky high when I bought this Minolta XD-11 as so many prominent film-photo sites give it such high praise. Developed in cooperation with Ernst Leitz, this camera is supposed to exude quality to nearly Leica levels. The two companies worked together so that Minolta could better compete in the luxury rangefinder market and Leitz could build a cost-effective SLR platform. Leica built its R4, R5, R6, and R7 SLRs on this chassis.

Minolta XD-11

You might also see this camera called the XD-7 or just the XD; those were this camera’s name in Europe and Japan.

This is the world’s first SLR to offer full manual exposure with both aperture-priority and shutter-priority autoexposure. It features a vertically traveling metal-blade shutter that operates from 1 to 1/1000 sec, plus a 1/100-sec manual speed (the O setting on the shutter-speed dial) and bulb (B). In automatic modes, that shutter operates steplessly — if 1/218 second is the right shutter speed, that’s what the XD-11 chooses. The camera also features a mechanical self timer. Two SR44 batteries power the XD-11.

Minolta XD-11

You choose the exposure mode with a switch around the shutter-speed ring: M, A, and S, each meaning just what you’d expect. You can set ISO from 12 to 3200; press the little button and twist the collar around the rewind crank. You can also add or subtract one or two stops of exposure. Press in the tab on the rewind crank and move it to the amount of exposure compensation you want.

Minolta XD-11

The selected aperture is always visible in the viewfinder; a little window shows what you’ve dialed in on the lens. In shutter-priority and manual modes, the viewfinder shows the selected shutter speed. (For shutter-priority mode, first set the lens to its minimum aperture, e.g., f/16 on the 50mm f/1.7 MD Rokkor X lens that came with my XD-11.)

For manual and aperture-priority modes, a shutter-speed scale appears in the viewfinder. (Or it’s supposed to; it didn’t switch over on mine. A fault!) In shutter-priority mode, an aperture scale appears in the viewfinder. LED dots appear next to the scale. In manual mode, they show the aperture you need to choose for proper exposure. In aperture-priority mode, they show the shutter speed the camera has chosen, and in shutter-priority mode, they show the selected aperture. One dot means the camera has chosen that value exactly, while two adjacent dots mean the camera has chosen the proper value between the two marked values.

The XD-11 features “green mode” — set the camera to shutter-priority mode, choose minimum aperture, and choose 1/125 second. Notice that all of these settings are marked in green. In green mode, if 1/125 sec. is too fast, the XD-11 reduces shutter speed until it gets proper exposure.

Under use, the XD-11 is light, smooth, and pleasant. The viewfinder is bright and gives a great view. Its electromagnetic shutter button needs only an easy touch to operate. The wind lever is light and luxurious. My only ergonomic complaint is that there’s no on-off switch. To stop the meter from operating and thus draining the battery, you have to cap the lens.

If you like Minolta SLRs, you might also enjoy my reviews of the X-700 (here), the XG 1 (here), the SR-T 101 (here), and the SR-T 202 (here). I’ve also reviewed some autofocus Minolta SLRs, including the Maxxum 7000 (here), the Maxxum 7000i (here), the Maxxum 9xi (here), and the Maxxum HTsi (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I’ve had a lot of bad luck with Minolta manual-focus SLR bodies, and it continued with this camera. To be fair, I picked up a body at far below market price that the seller couldn’t represent well, and hoped for the best. I’ve already mentioned that the shutter-speed scale doesn’t appear in the viewfinder when it’s supposed to, but there’s more wrong than that. I tested the camera with a roll of Fomapan 200, and on three frames the shutter stuck open. Switching the shutter-speed dial to O, the one mechanical shutter speed, immediately closed the shutter. But those frames were entirely washed out, and the adjacent frames were partially overexposed as well.

I shot the Fomapan at EI 125 and developed it Ilford ID-11 1+1 at the ISO 200 time as I usually do. This was my first time developing in ID-11. It turned out great.

Boone County Jail

The XD-11 feels great in my hand. It’s got enough heft to inspire confidence, but not so much that it feels heavy. The materials all feel nice; the controls are all smooth and luxurious.

Details

The 50mm f/1.7 MD Rokkor-X lens that came with this camera performed as well as any 50/1.7 Rokkor ever does; that is to say, brilliantly. This is a wonderful lens.

Bike parking

I drove up to Lebanon, Indiana, just to make some photographs with the XD-11. Lebanon is my county’s seat. I photographed the courthouse on the square, but I wasn’t thrilled with the images. Therefore, you get photographs of things around the square.

One Way

Lebanon, like most Indiana county seats, features a courthouse square with sturdy old buildings living their fourth, eighth, or nineteenth small-business life. Truly, the photo below could be from any of a hundred small Indiana towns.

On the square in Lebanon

This is the point in the review where I’m supposed to heap giant praise onto the Minolta XD-11. I’ll refrain. I liked this camera, but I like my Olympus OM-2n far better. Camera reviews like this one are highly subjective — what tickles my fancy might turn you right off. So just know that the XD-11 is a fine camera and you should try one someday if you can.

Rocket Liquors

I stopped finding interesting things to photograph in Lebanon, so I headed back to Zionsville, specifically to Lions Park, which is always good for a few frames.

Zionsville Little League

This little lion is a drinking fountain, and it’s on the edge of one of the park’s many playgrounds.

Lion drinking fountain

To see more from this camera, check out my Minolta XD-11 gallery.

Minolta considered its XD-11 to be its premium SLR in its day, slotting it above the full-program X-700. I can see why; this is a very solid and smooth camera. That mine isn’t fully functional is a shame, as I wouldn’t mind being able to do more than a one-roll review of this well-regarded camera. Instead, I did something I’ve never done before: after writing this review, I asked the eBay seller for a refund.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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27 thoughts on “Minolta XD-11

  1. That is disappointing Jim, I was given a Minolta XGM a couple of years ago, with the Rokkor 1.4/50 lens on it. I shot the roll that was in it, probably for the past 10 or 15 years, and found that it performed perfectly apart from light leaks, which I fixed. The camera is now with my step son, who seems to be enjoying shooting film now! It seemed to me to be a very good camera, almost on a par with my Contax 139Q.

    • arhphotographic says:

      Despite the camera issues some really good crisp photos. Thank you so much for the review . I was looking at the XD7 to join my others in the series. There all good ….when their good working cameras.
      Andrew

    • I think I got enough of an impression of this camera to understand how it should be if it were working perfectly. It’s a very nice camera. But I just don’t go along with the “best SLR evar!!!!” reviews.

  2. Andy Umbo says:

    Glad to see your ID-11 processing turned out well! I recommend using it “straight” rather than 1+1, I always seemed to get much better, and longer, tonal range using it straight, especially with shadow detail. Under 1+1 uses, some lighting situations can end up looking “weak”.

    I was never on the Minolta camera train, but I certainly have known those who were and seen a lot of remarkable work out of them. The lenses always seemed to perform quite well, and back in my day, knew plenty that swore by the SRT series. Sorry for your results on this as the XD-11 seems to be universally praised by the fans.

    BTW, I have a few camera bodies that won’t shut the meter off until you cap the lens and I always felt this to be an annoying “feature”. In the old days, a professional photojournalist walking around with multiple camera bodies around their neck with prime lenses, would not have any caps on in order to be able to shoot fast, and they’d be going through a lot of batteries with this type of thing.

    • I bought the 1L packet of ID-11, and developing at full strength means I’ll get 2-3 rolls max. I wanted to stretch it a little — 2-3 rolls isn’t enough to get a feel. I am on the fence after one roll whether I’ll continue with it. As you can see, it works great. But HC-110 is just easier to use and is almost as good. I need more rolls to explore what I think.

      Also: you’d think a camera like this would have an on-off switch or a system to activate the meter when you press the shutter button halfway.

      • Andy Umbo says:

        You know, I’ve always kept sort of a running list of features from the long history of cameras I used, if anyone ever wanted me to build a “Franken-Camera”! I remember having a Praktica Super TL that had an easily reachable button the size of a quarter on the front of the camera, you just pressed it down and it closed down the lens and turned on the meter, let go and everything opened again and the meter shut off. Elegant and easy (of course, stopped down metering days). That was an inexpensive East-German camera, but it had three features I’d put on any Franken-Camera:, that meter button, the angled front release, and it had some sort of “bale” system to load film that never failed and took one second to load film! Not to mention, those Eastern Bloc Carl Zeiss designed lenses were cheap and many times put my Japanese camera owning pals lenses to shame!

        • Ooooh yeah baby. I get you perfectly. I’d put the film takeup spool from the Pentax ME in every manual SLR, for example. The shutter button from the XD-11 and XG-1 is very nice; feels like the soft release I screwed into the button on my Nikon F2. Some cameras I own activate the meter on partial shutter-button press; yes please.

        • Sorry to hear about the problems with the camera. Sounds like a dud. I’m amazed this is the first time you’ve had to ask for an eBay refund. My second purchase on eBay ended in a refund.
          These days, cheap XD-11s that work are very rare.

          One item: the meter on the XD-11 is activated only by pressing the shutter. Otherwise, it isn’t on.

  3. matt says:

    Consider posting the images you didn’t like and tell us what you didn’t like about them too, perhaps. It’d be interesting to see those results as well.

    I like the downtown shots; I’m looking forward to visiting my brother at Christmas in Kansas. They have a downtown sort of like this I want to shoot.

  4. Neal Westergaard says:

    I bought my black body XD-11 with 35mm lens in early 1980 (a few months before my oldest daughter was born) and I have many thousands of negatives from that period. Used this combo and a couple of other MD and MC lenses as my primary kit until going digital. As I migrated back to film a few years ago, brought out my XD-11 which still worked great except for an overly sensitive shutter release and some peeling leatherette. Sent it away for a CLA and re-skinning and while the shutter release is still a little too sensitive for my touch, it’s still a sleek and capable camera. I’m more likely to reach for my Nikon FM3a, but still use the XD-11 regularly, now usually paired with Minolta’s 45 f/2 with a near-pancake profile.

  5. My XD (the Japanese market version of the XD-11) had similar issues until I sent it off to Blue Moon Camera for service. It came back working as designed. Worked just dandy for several years until I sold it, for a small profit, on eBay.

  6. tbm3fan says:

    LOL, you really should be prohibited from buying Minolta cameras given your luck. Best to have someone else find them for you who finds working ones. I seem to recall you were once interested in the Maxxum 5 but ended up with a dud. Still interested?

    • Good call! Have someone else with better luck procure my Minoltas. Another reader sent me a Maxxum 7000i and a Maxxum HTsi which both performed flawlessly, lending credence to your plan. I’d love to try a Maxxum 5, what are you asking?

  7. Jim Hanes says:

    I have an XD-11 that I bought as a backup for my X-700. I didn’t download the instruction so didn’t know how the features you mentioned actually worked.

    • I’m glad to have a 50/1.7 again, no matter what I do with the XD-11 (keep/sell) I’ll keep the lens so I have one for future Minolta bodies I come upon.

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