Camera Reviews

Minolta Maxxum 5

When a reader offered this Minolta Maxxum 5 to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras, I had no idea how tiny it would be. Indeed, upon its 2001 introduction it was billed as the smallest and lightest autofocus SLR of all time. I happen to favor compact SLRs, so I was excited to give this diminutive Minolta a try.

Minolta Maxxum 5

The Maxxum 5 was introduced in 2001. Typical of late film SLRs, this camera has a list of specs as long as your arm. I’m not going to try to list them all, as the Maxxum 5 does everything you’d expect. It loads, winds, and rewinds film automatially. You get programmed, aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual exposure modes. It has a built-in pop-up flash, and also a shoe for Minolta’s proprietary external flashes. Its shutter operates from 1/4000 second down to a full 30 seconds.

Minolta Maxxum 5

The Maxxum 5 uses a seven-point autofocus system and a 14-segment honeycomb-pattern meter that emphasizes the chosen focus point. There’s a switch on the front to turn off autofocus when you want to focus manually. There’s also a button on the back that turns on spot metering, which uses only the center metering segment.

Minolta Maxxum 5

The camera reads the film cartridge’s DX code to set ISO from 25 to 5000. You can override that, however, and set ISO as low as 6 and as high as 6400. The camera even has an “eye start” feature — when your hand is on the grip, and you bring your eye to the viewfinder, it begins metering and focusing immediately. (I found that feature to be annoying, so I turned it off.) 2 CR2 batteries power this camera, without which it is inert.

It says a lot about the 2001 state of the SLR art that the Maxxum 5 was considered an amateur’s SLR. The advanced amateur Maxxum 7 and the professional Maxxum 9 offered even more functionality.

The Maxxum 5 was a ton of camera for its price — $403 for just the body. I’m sure almost all of these came with the 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 Minolta AF Zoom kit zoom lens, however. Mine came to me with an almost certainly superior 35-70mm f/4 Maxxum AF Zoom lens.

If you like auto-everything Minolta SLRs, you might also enjoy my reviews of the Maxxum 7000i (here), the original Maxxum 7000 (here), the Maxxum 9xi (here), and the Maxxum HTsi (here). I’ve also reviewed the Minolta SR-T 101 (here) and SR-T 202 (here), as well as the delightful rangefinder Minolta Hi-Matic 7 (here) and later Hi-Matic AF2 (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

I brought the Maxxum 5 with me on a trip to Chicago in mid-January. I had three rolls of film with me, and I began with Kodak Ultramax 400.

On the Chicago River: Minolta Maxxum 5

Temperatures were in the mid to upper teens all that weekend. I had a hotel right on the Chicago River, in the Loop but right across from the River North neighborhood. I photographed the river’s bridges and the neighborhood extensively, keeping the Maxxum 5 inside my coat until I was ready to frame a scene. The camera performed flawlessly even in such low temperatures.

On the Chicago River: Minolta Maxxum 5

The viewfinder is small, but bright. The focus points the camera chooses light up clearly inside the viewfinder.

Ahead: Minolta Maxxum 5

I walked for a couple hours that night with Kodak T-Max P3200 in the Maxxum 5. I got uneven results. The negatives were very thin — either the Maxxum’s meter is way, way off, or the lab bollixed the development. I’m leaning toward blaming the lab; I think the Maxxum’s meter is right.

Chicago River at night: Minolta Maxxum 5

Several shots had vertical light streaks through them, like this one. Normally I develop my own black-and-white film, and I wish I had done so this time.

Down LaSalle St.: Minolta Maxxum 5

Still, a number of the shots I made turned out well enough, like this one.

Shockingly: Minolta Maxxum 5

The next day I loaded Fujicolor 200 into the camera and kept shooting. Despite all of the Maxxum 5’s modes and options, I never varied from straight-up Program mode. But then, I’m sure, neither did 95 percent of people who bought this camera new.

Fire chief: Minolta Maxxum 5

The 35-70mm zoom lens is on the small side, which befits this small camera. I have 50mm prime lenses that are almost as large. The lens offers macro mode, which I used on a couple shots. I was pleased with this lens’s sharpness.

Graffiti: Minolta Maxxum 5

I had only two minor complaints with the Maxxum 5. First, the strap lugs are right by the door hinge on one end, and the door closure on the other. Every time I loaded film, the strap got in the way of closing the door.

Wrapped in lights: Minolta Maxxum 5

Second, the button to open the camera back is in a nonstandard place: on the back, lower right, below the door. I was a little worried that this would make it easy to accidentally open the camera. But while researching to write this review, I learned that the Maxxum 5 will open only when film is not wound around the takeup spool.

To see more from this camera, check out my Minolta Maxxum 5 gallery.

Auto-everything SLRs from late in the film era, like this Maxxum 5, are the great bargains of film photography. You can pick these up on eBay every day for under $40, and sometimes for as low as $20, usually with a lens attached.

On the balance, Minolta made wonderful auto-everything SLRs, and the Maxxum 5 is no exception. I like them more than the contemporary Nikons and Canons that I’ve tried. The Maxxum 5’s small size and rich featureset distinguishes it from the other Maxxums I’ve used. This camera is a keeper.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.

Standard

21 thoughts on “Minolta Maxxum 5

  1. P says:

    I saw some of your photos taken with this camera on Flickr and have been waiting for you to write a blog post about it. I’m usually not interested in 2000’s SLR bodies (or even those from the 80’s or 90’s, for that matter), but I’ve had my eye on the Maxxum 5 for a few years now, thinking I might give one a try some day if I have a chance.

    I don’t know what lab developed and scanned the P3200, but the streaks sure look a lot like bromide drag. Do you see how they are perfectly vertical, evenly spaced, and appear to line up with the perforations/sprocket holes? That’s all characteristic of bromide drag. If it is bromide drag, that is highly abnormal considering most lab processors use continuous agitation systems (e.g. rotary, dip-and-dunk, etcetera). As such, bromide drag should be nearly impossible. Alternatively, I guess it could just be a scanning artifact due to the negatives being so thin. I also find that kind of odd, though. Noritsus are usually quite good at providing even/uniform results with thin negatives.

    On a side note, Noritsus are very good (actually, exceptionally good) with dense negatives, but dense negatives require a more skilled lab tech/scanner operator to get the best results from them.

    In my opinion, most labs actually tend to under-develop B&W film, perhaps deliberately, because both Noritsus and Frontiers do better with thin negatives on their default settings, meaning semi-decent scans can be achieved (although still far, far below what’s possible) even if the operator is entirely incompetent at their job, and/or just doesn’t care. Sadly, both are all too common this day and age. Personally, I prefer much denser B&W negatives than most labs provide, and if the lab knows what they’re doing, I also prefer the scans from denser negatives, especially those from Noritsus. With thin B&W negatives, and even with a lot of negatives having normal density, I find Noritsu scans to have a soft and “mushy” aesthetic, with poorly defined grain structure. It’s not a look I care for.

    But getting back to your roll of P3200, I think you’re right. I think the lab severely under-developed it, resulting in negatives so thin they’re problematic even for the best lab scanners. That’s a shame. When you shoot P3200, I’d definitely recommend you develop it yourself, especially if you’re shooting it at box speed, or even at 1600. P3200 needs a lot more development than most other stocks do, and even though they shouldn’t, most labs unacceptably develop all B&W film together, for the same amount of time. As such, films like P3200 tend to end up massively underdeveloped. The good labs — the ones who really care about their customers and doing things right — pay attention and sort out the stocks that require longer developing times and do a separate, extended run for those rolls.

    I don’t shoot P3200 often, but to put it into perspective how long it needs to develop compared to more common stocks, when shot at 1600 it requires about 18 minutes in HC-110 1+50 (at 68F). For comparison, TRI-X shot at box speed only requires about 8-9 minutes (depending on average scene contrast), or roughly half of what P3200 needs. Given that, I think you can see why you really do need to develop P3200 yourself. Or, you should confirm with the lab you’re using that they do a separate run for stocks requiring longer developing times before sending your roll off.

    Take care, Jim.

    • Thanks for sharing your opinion, P, that you agree that the lab bollixed development on the P3200. Those negatives are very thin.

      I sent the roll to the lab (Dwayne’s) because I already had three rolls of color going to them and I wanted to press the Easy button. Dwayne’s has always been a rock steady lab for me. I guess even the best foul things up sometimes.

      I’ve had the best luck with P3200 sending it to Old School Photo Lab. They are well known to take extra care — they’ll wait to develop a roll of P3200 until they get enough other rolls to do a special run. So you wait a little longer, but it’s worth it.

      I develop at home in HC-110 and Rodinal. I am not opposed to occasionally buying a 1L packet of ID-11, but I don’t keep it here at all times as I do HC-110 and Rodinal. Neither of those developers are ideal for P3200. HC-110 is obviously the better of them. I think after my one foray into developing this stuff myself (in HC-110), I need to leave it in the developer for longer than the Massive Dev Chart calls for.

      But I’m starting to be put off this film. HP5+ pushed to 1600 has been such a reliable performer for me, and a single roll of HP5+ is about $8, compared to $13 or more for P3200.

      • P says:

        I agree. For the vast majority of situations, I also prefer HP5 PLUS pushed two stops (or even three) to P3200. P3200 and Delta 3200 have their place, sure, but those situations that call for them are very limited. And yes, factor in how outrageously expensive they both now are and it makes them even less desirable/worthwhile. I really can’t afford to use them, even infrequently. I thought they were outrageously overpriced when they were both selling for $8-9 a roll just a couple of years ago, but back then I still picked up the occasional roll. Not anymore… Even though HP5 PLUS today isn’t by any means a low cost film, it’s probably still my preferred all-around 400 speed stock. That said, I use a lot more Fomapan simply because it’s so much cheaper (or was, up until it recently saw a pretty substantial and unfortunate price hike; the savings aren’t quite as great anymore). But it doesn’t push nearly as well as HP5 PLUS. Also, as you know, it’s pretty grainy.

        • I just wrote and scheduled a post about how HP5+ is the best value in film right now. Given film prices today, for $8 you get a ton of versatility from HP5+. Fomapan is somewhat less expensive, but not as versatile.

        • P says:

          For those who can still afford it, I’d say you’re probably right about HP5 PLUS, especially for people who prefer to use 400 speed stocks as their go-to and who like to regularly push their film. And this day and age, pushing 400 speed film has almost become the norm, hasn’t it? Certainly, HP5 PLUS is a way, way better value than TRI-X, which is now a total ripoff. Seriously, Kodak… $10.49 per roll, minimum? Come on; there’s just no excuse. T-MAX 100 and 400 are even worse.

          All that said, I almost always shoot in bright, sunny conditions. As a result, EI 50-200 is where I’m at 99% of the time. So, for me at least, Fomapan 100 and 200 are still the best overall values, even after the recent, unfortunate price hike. Depending on how it’s developed, Fomapan 200 can take on a variety of interesting looks. It can look a lot like FP4 PLUS, or even like a somewhat grainy T-MAX 400. Fomapan 100 just has a super classic, traditional look. I really like them both. Thankfully, I’ve got enough film stashed away that at the slow rate I’ve been using it, I won’t need to buy any for a while. When the time comes, I just hope something I like will still be available at a price I can afford.

          I look forward to your upcoming post on HP5 PLUS. Some of your best shots in the last few years have been made on it.

      • I have used Dyayne’s for years (even back in the Kodachrome era) and always had good service. But my last two rolls of C-41 film suffered from scratches and chemical blobs/undeveloped spots. I had to manually clean the scans with the Photoshop heal tool.

        • P says:

          It definitely sounds like Dwayne’s has been having some pretty major quality issues of late. That’s too bad. I hope they get things ironed out, if they haven’t already. I wouldn’t give up on them just yet. I’d much rather support them than The Darkroom or Old School Photo Lab (OSPL) — probably their primary two competitors — both of whose prices are way beyond ridiculous, in my opinion. For most services, Dwayne’s has kept their prices at much more realistic levels throughout the years, although I still think they’re overpriced, just not nearly as bad as some. In my opinion, there are other labs that have them beat, both in terms of quality and offering their services at fair prices.

          Ironically, among the bigger, well-established labs, Dwayne’s seems more “old school” and customer-focused than their primary competition does. If possible, I always try to support the less massive, family-owned labs instead of those that have effectively become corporate behemoths (who seem to care a lot more about huge profits than they do their customers). In my opinion, The Darkroom and OSPL belong to the latter category. I don’t and won’t support either. It’s amazing to me how many other people do.

          Hopefully Dwayne’s gets back on track. I’d hate to see such a longstanding and historic lab fall apart. Given how many decades they’ve been in this game, I’m actually really surprised by the quality issues reported here. I find it rather ridiculous they so severely under-developed Jim’s roll of P3200. They should absolutely know better than to develop P3200 with everything else at a “normal” developing time. If that’s what happened, that’s inexcusable. Let’s hope this and Kodachromeguy’s scratched/dirty/poorly developed film (also inexcusable) are isolated incidents, not mistakes being made regularly. Time will tell, I guess.

        • OSPL has always done excellent work for me. The problem is that it’s $21 now to have a single roll of C41 developed and scanned. I just sent 5 rolls of C41 to Fulltone Photo in Kentucky and it cost me only $35. Hard to justify OSPL.

        • P says:

          Yep. Very hard to justify OSPL (or The Darkroom or several others), even for those who can afford it. The only bad thing about Fulltone’s standard service is their super low resolution scans. Their enhanced scans are generally very nice, but upgrading to them substantially increases the cost per roll.

  2. Let’s not forget your color shots-a lovely series of really nice images. I’m a believer in the notion that the camera you pick has a big influence on the pictures you get. It often shows when you like the instrument in your hands!

    • Thanks Kurt – I have more from the Maxxum 5 in Chicago coming up later this week. I agree, when you like the camera you’re using it can show up in your images!

  3. Steve Briggs says:

    Great review Jim! The tiny Maxxum 5 is a incredible bargain as a state of the art plastic fantastic. I also have collected it’s big brothers the A9 and A7 and a number of cheap Maxxum lenses. When you attach the beercans and 8 contact lenses to the tiny 5 it emphasizes even more what a capable little camera it is. I can see from the gallery that you had geat fun with this little gem in Chicago.

  4. tbm3fan says:

    Finally a MInolta that works for you. Of course you are not the one that picked it out so maybe that was the secret all along :).The Grey curse. I noticed last night that I had two extra lens shades for that particular lens and couldn’t recall if you had one. You don’t, so do you want me to send you one as I don’t need three only two.

  5. Jim, nice review. The Maxxum 5 is one of my favorite AF Minolta’s. Like you, I turned off eye-start because it was annoying. Since, I’ve learned that when shooting butterflies, eye-start is really useful! Also, glad you’ve found an AF Minolta that you like!

  6. Great review. I have tried a few of these plastic minoltas, they have all been great. Chicago is a place I have always been itching to visit, I don’t think I will get a chance now.

    • Thanks Peggy! All of the late Minolta SLRs I’ve tried have been great. I hope you can manage to see Chicago someday. It’s a remarkable city.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.