Camera Reviews

Nikon F50

In 1994, when the Nikon F50 was new, we didn’t know whether digital photography would ever be good enough to replace film. Maybe companies like Nikon could see the day coming, but they had cameras to sell in the meantime. Nikon in particular kept evolving its lines of 35mm SLRs, including those at the entry level like this F50, which was called the N50 in North America.

Nikon F50D

Nikon’s SLRs moved slowly toward what we now consider the standard idiom, with an on/off switch around the shutter button, a mode dial, and an LCD display of settings. The F50 added the LCD display, but not the rest. A series of buttons around the LCD display let you choose most of the camera’s settings — not as simple as a mode dial, but not hard to figure out. First, set the Simple/Advanced switch to Advanced. Then press the leftmost button to enter selection mode. The LCD panel lights up with P S A M; press the button above the mode you want. In P mode, press a button for the sub-mode you want; there are a bunch of them including a macro mode and a sports mode. I just used Auto, which is the first option on the left. For the S, A, and M modes, select aperture, shutter speed, or both using the buttons. If you need a little help figuring it out, here’s a manual at the wonderful Butkus site. Or set the Simple/Advanced switch to Simple and just use the F50 like a big point and shoot.

Nikon F50D

My F50 is technically an F50D because it has the date back. Not that I’m ever going to use it. The camera is a good size, noticeably smaller than the semi-pro N90s which was made around the same time. I recently got to shoot a Minolta Maxxum HTsi, which is smaller than this F50. The Minolta handled easily enough, but the F50’s slightly larger size made it even easier to handle.

Nikon F50D

The F50 is surprisingly heavy, though! Nikon’s next two entry-level 35mm SLRs, the N60 and N65, weigh next to nothing in comparison. The F50 isn’t as heavy as my all-metal Nikon F2, but it’s got noticeable heft.

The F50 offers a self timer, but it doesn’t offer mirror lockup, depth-of-field preview, or cable release. It reads the DX coding on your film to set ISO from 25 to 5000, but you can override ISO manually down to 6 and up to 6400. It uses Nikon’s famous matrix metering except in manual exposure mode, when it switches to center-weighted metering. Its shutter operates from 1/2000 to 30 sec. You can use most AF Nikkor lenses with it, and many AI Nikkor lenses in manual exposure mode. The F50 automatically loads, winds, and rewinds your film. A typical Nikon-style LCD inside the viewfinder shows exposure settings. A 2CR5 battery powers everything.

Speaking of winding, mine is a little on the loud side, and sounds weak and wobbly. There’s an odd, slight disconnect between pressing the shutter button and the shutter firing. It doesn’t inspire confidence, but you do get used to it. In contrast, when you press the button on the N60 or N65, it fires immediately and the winder is crisp and quiet.

If you like auto-everything SLRs, especially check out my reviews of these Nikons: the N90s, the N60, the N65, and the N8008. I’ve also reviewed the Canon EOS 650, EOS 630, EOS Rebel, EOS Rebel S, and EOS A2E. If you fancy Minolta, see my reviews of the Maxxum 7000, Maxxum 7000i, Maxxum 9xi, and Maxxum HTsi.

I mounted my 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor lens and loaded a roll of Ilford HP5 Plus, which I developed it in Adox HR-DEV 1+30. This was my first go with this film/developer combination. I wasn’t wowed. The scans needed heavy post-processing and some of them could not be made to look good. I later learned that this developer, once opened, should be used within six months — and this bottle had been open at least that long. Perhaps that contributed to the meh results. I let the rest of the bottle go.

1 Thess 5:16-17

It was far below freezing outside, so I shot this roll around the house. This Sears box camera is missing the red plastic bit over the exposure-counter window around back. I need to repair that before I can shoot and review it. But it made a fine subject for my F50. I shot a handful of other cameras with it, but they all suffered from shake as I shot them handheld. In Program mode, the F50 chose apertures of f/3.3 and f/4.5 with shutter speeds of 1/15, 1/20, and 1/30 sec. I normally have a very steady hand and can get away with shutter speeds down to 1/15, but not on this roll.

Tower 120

I was at a bit of a loss for subjects, so I reached for anything that I thought would work, like this orange. The tablecloth on the dining table had an interesting texture so that’s where I placed the orange.

Orange

This is where I write this blog and process my photographs. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s also where I work. I spend a lot of time in that chair staring at that screen. As you can see, I have a lot of wires running about, which I don’t enjoy. Someday I’ll figure out a good wire management solution.

At my desk

I did make a few photos outside, but only by sticking my head and the camera out the door. One day during the cold snap we got about a foot of snow. My wife grabbed our youngest son (who’s 20 and hardly a child!) and a couple plastic snowboards and sledded down the back-yard hill. A zoom lens would have let me move in closer without having to step outside! The F50 did a reasonable job of setting exposure in the snow.

Sledding

I wanted to see how this Nikon F50 handled with the kinds of subjects I normally shoot. So I loaded some Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 and mounted my 28-80mm f/3.3-4.5G AF Nikkor lens. I first used it to chase our granddaughter around to make a couple candid photos of her. She’s hard to capture perfectly still!

Playing with blocks

I love this 28-80mm zoom and turn to it often. It handles easily, has good sharpness, and resolves subjects well with little distortion, except at 28mm. I generally zoom it out no more than 35mm.

Little bus

I finished the roll on a couple walks outside in near-freezing weather. I carried the F50 in my hand unprotected in the cold, and it just kept on working.

Sidewalk closed

The snow from the day I photographed my wife on her sled was beginning to melt. It made for a soggy walk through downtown Zionsville.

the flower shop

I was very happy with these images. They required next to no tweaking in Photoshop — little more than applying the “Auto Tone” command to brighten everything up.

Black Dog Books

I really enjoyed using the Nikon F50. It’s a terrific auto-everything 35mm SLR. This one was a gift from a reader to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras, but a quick look at eBay shows these selling for between $10 and $30, often with a zoom lens attached. The main concern with electronic auto-everything cameras is how robust they are, and whether they can be repaired when they fail. I’ve personally had much better experience with Nikon autoexposure and autofocus cameras working for the long haul than the other brands I’ve tried, namely Canon and Minolta. It’s why I recommend cameras like this F50 to people curious about film photography.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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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

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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Camera Reviews

Kodak Monitor Six-20

I have always had a thing for folding cameras. They sure look impressive to me! But many of them are low-end cameras with limited capabilities. I wanted a usable, versatile shooter, so I went looking for a folder with a fast and well-regarded lens. I found it in the Kodak Monitor Six-20.

Kodak Monitor Six-20

The Monitor is near the pinnacle of Kodak folding cameras, second only to the rare and expensive (even now) Kodak Super Six-20. Produced from 1939 to 1948, versions of the Monitor were made for 616 and 620 film. Regular 620 Monitors came with an f/4.5 Kodak Anastigmat lens at 103 or 105 mm and a Kodamatic or Flash Kodamatic shutter that operated from 1/10 to 1/200 sec.

For more money, however, you could get a 101 mm f/4.5 Anastigmat Special lens, which is a four-element Tessar design. It was coupled to a Supermatic or Flash Supermatic shutter that operated from 1 to 1/400 sec. My Monitor is one of these. The CAMEROSITY code in the lens’s serial number tells me mine’s from 1946. I gather that Kodak started coating, or Lumenizing in their lingo, this camera’s lens that year, which made them perform better. My Monitor’s lens is marked with a circled L, meaning it’s Lumenized.

Monitors also came with double-exposure prevention and automatic film spacing so you couldn’t wind beyond the next frame, both mighty nice features in those days.

All of these goodies cost, of course. The Kodak Monitor Six-20 with the Anastigmat Special lens was $66, which is equivalent to about $1,000 today.

Kodak Monitor Six-20

The Monitor comes with two viewfinders. The first is a brilliant type, attached to the lens assembly. It’s small and reverses the image left to right, making it challenging to use. The other finder flips up on the top plate. It is big and bright, and includes manual parallax compensation.

Kodak Monitor Six-20

To use the Monitor, first cock the shutter with the little lever next to the brilliant viewfinder. Guess the distance to the subject and turn the lens barrel to that number of feet. Then frame the shot and press the shutter button on the top plate.

If you like folding cameras, I’ve reviewed several others, including the Voigtländer Bessa (here), the Kodak Tourist (here), the Certo Super Sport Dolly (here), the Ansco B2 Speedex (here), the Kodak Junior Six-16 Series II (here), and the giant No. 3A Autographic Kodak (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

For my first outing with the Monitor I loaded Kodak Ektachrome E100G slide film. I paid through the nose for this film as I bought it pre-respooled onto 620 spools. In retrospect, I should have started with inexpensive black-and-white film, as I had trouble learning this camera’s ways and buggered most of the first roll. “Why won’t this thing fire? …oh.”

Me, by accident

So I shrugged, loaded more expensive E100G, and kept going. When I worked the Monitor properly, it delivered excellent sharpness and color.

Second Presbyterian Church

The Monitor has a clever winding system that stops when you reach the next frame. A lever on the top plate has two settings: WIND and 1-8. After you load the film, slide the lever to WIND and, using the red window on the camera back, wind to the first frame. Then move the lever to 1-8. For the rest of the roll, the winder knob stops when you’ve wound to the next frame.

Karmann-Ghia

On my first roll, this system didn’t work quite right and I ended up with overlapping frames. If the same happens to you, just leave WIND/1-8 lever on WIND. Then you can wind freely just like on any other folding or box camera. You just use the red window on the back to see when you’ve wound to the next frame. You do need one extra step here, though: to override the Monitor’s double-exposure protection. Just move the lever underneath the pop-up viewfinder to unlock the shutter.

Hydrant with shadows

My Monitor has another common Monitor problem: pressing the shutter button doesn’t actually fire the shutter. The real shutter release is on the lens housing. A complex linkage between button and release is prone to misalignment. The best solution is to screw a cable release into the socket on the lens housing. What I did was just stick my finger behind the lens and trip the shutter manually. Then I pressed the shutter button to release the winding mechanism so I could wind to the next frame.

Polka-dotted chair

On this second roll of E100G, I shot the Monitor on a tripod. I was quite a sight toting my kit through the Broad Ripple neighborhood for these photographs! The Monitor had to come off the tripod for this photo, which because of its lovely color is my favorite of all the E100G shots I made.

Fence

I came upon some expired Kodak Gold 200, probably among the last Kodak made in 620 before discontinuing the format. It came along on a trip to Bridgeton to see the covered bridge. Unfortunately, the processor goofed and developed this film in black-and-white chemistry. I like this shot best, which I cropped square because its native 2:3 ratio was less interesting.

Cross this bridge at a walk

I made one other successful photo here, but buggered up the whole rest of the roll thanks to shake caused by the way I was firing the shutter.

Bridgeton covered bridge

After I returned home, I finished the roll on familiar subjects. This photo tells a lot about the Anastigmat Special lens’s capabilities. The sharpness and definition are wonderful, but despite the Lumenized coating, the lens is still prone to a little ghosting.

Golf course tree

I mounted the Monitor on a vintage tripod and displayed it in my home for several years. I think this camera is gorgeous and I loved looking at it. But it’s a shame to own cameras I don’t use. So I spooled some Ilford FP4 Plus onto a 620 spool and took the Monitor out to play.

NO

Ilford film in a Kodak camera? Scandalous! But the combination worked well. By this time I was developing my own black-and-white film. I used LegacyPro L110, a Kodak HC-110 clone, in Dilution B (1+31). Ilford packaging said 8 minutes at 20° C, so that’s what I did. I scanned the negatives on my Canon CanoScan 9000F Mark II scanner.

GetGo

All was not perfect with the Monitor after so many years. The shutter had gummed up a little bit, which I fixed temporarily with a drop of lighter fluid through the cocking-lever slot. Some shots, as above and below, showed signs of further shutter issues or maybe light leaks.

Meijer

But when the Monitor hit, it hit big. Its lens is still a peach after all these years.

Tree at the retention pond

See all the photos that turned out at my Monitor Six-20 gallery.

I forget what I paid for my Monitor but it wasn’t more than $50. Today, you are hard pressed to find one with the Anastigmat Special lens for less than $100. You might save money buying the similar Kodak Vigilant Six-20, which could be had with this lens and shutter. It lacks the Monitor’s potentially troublesome winding system, but retains the Monitor’s definitely troublesome shutter linkage.

But the Kodak Monitor Six-20 is a beautiful folding camera, and is a peach to use when it works properly. You won’t be disappointed if you buy one. Mine is in the queue to be sent off for repair so it can shoot well for years to come.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Camera Reviews

The Apple iPhone 6s camera

The Apple iPhone 6s is easily the best phone (read: Internet device with a camera) that I’ve ever owned. It was robust and reliable for the five years I owned it. But thanks to Apple’s planned obsolescence, it had received its last major iOS update. In time, apps I rely on would stop updating, too. Some of them would eventually stop working.

Courtesy Apple. (I never photographed my iPhone 6s!)

I could have comfortably gone another year with this phone were I not having battery issues. The original battery was justifiably worn out when I replaced it in early in 2020 after four years of service. But before the end of the year, my new battery wasn’t holding a charge all day anymore either. I don’t think that battery was faulty. Rather, I think my phone just strained to keep up. After five years, advances in iOS and apps probably place much heavier demands on the phone, which strain it considerably.

Another new battery would probably have lasted another year, which would have been a cost-effective solution. But Sprint, my carrier, offered me a generous trade-in value if I upgraded to a new iPhone 12. I bit, and now own an iPhone 12 mini. It’s slightly smaller than the 6s. I like it, because I’m no fan of giant phones.

The 6s was the camera I always had with me, and I’ve made thousands of photos with it over the five years I owned it.

The camera on my previous phone, the Apple iPhone 5, was surprisingly good. The 6s’s camera performs much better in low light, which made it a much more useful tool for me. It also has more megapixels (12 vs. 8 for the rear camera, 5 vs. 1.2 for the front camera) and a slightly faster lens (f/2.2 vs. f/2.4).

The 6s’s camera is full of settings and modes, but I only used a couple of them. It has a square photo mode that I used a lot. I sometimes used panorama mode, where you sweep the camera across a scene for an ultra-wide view. Otherwise I used default settings.

For simple sharing, such as in text messages or on Facebook, I used the images straight off the camera. But I liked some images enough that I lightly enhanced them in Photoshop and uploaded them to Flickr. I post-processed all of the images you see here.

I don’t always have a regular camera on me when I come upon a beautiful scene. When that happens I press the 6s right into service. Or maybe I do have one of my good cameras along, but I want to share the photo online right away. Then I shoot the scene twice, including once with the 6s.

Central Park
At Purdue
Orange Beams
World Trade Center
Circle Tower
Mail Station

Another kind of photo I made with my iPhone 6s is “Look where I am/what I’m doing/what I see right now!” Because I can share these photos right away, I take a lot more of them than I would if I had a regular camera on me at all times.

Iron Maiden in Chicago
The American House
Beauty Is
At Willett Distillery
Pre-Tea
Anthrax Concert
Rainbow in Downtown Indy
Inside the Cadillac Palace Theatre
McCormick's Creek SP
Maker's Mark
Purple dusk

The 6s is, of course, a fabulous selfie machine.

Car selfie
Us at the Bungalow
Me, Margaret, Damion
Wedding day

The 6s was also an easy choice when I needed to quickly document something for this blog.

Verichrome Pan
Instant prints
proc IMG_2563

The Apple iPhone 6s camera has some faults. First, thanks to its rounded edges, the phone is slippery as hell and hard to hold. I dropped this phone more than once while trying to make a photograph with it. My iPhone 5 and my iPhone 12 mini both have flat edges that make the camera easier to grip. Still, any iPhone’s innate thinness makes it harder to grip than even a small, dedicated point-and-shoot digital camera.

Second, the lens is wide. Apple doesn’t list its focal length, but it feels like a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera. I prefer a narrower focal length, such as 35mm or even 50mm. You can zoom in pretty deeply, but it’s digital zoom. The phone interpolates pixels as best it can. The images generally look good on the phone, but at larger sizes the interpolation shows up as mottling. If you click this image and view it full size on Flickr, you’ll see what I mean. I suppose it would make an acceptable 4×6 print.

New Harmony, IN

Finally, even though its low-light performance is improved over the iPhone 5, it’s still limited. But it’s far better than nothing when you want to capture a memory. On the night I went to an Iron Maiden concert I made a few dozen photos with my 6s, but only this and one other photo was usable.

Iron Maiden

Most phones have good cameras in them today. The Apple iPhone 6s is no exception. It’s lovely to so easily carry such a capable camera. It’s always ready to go.

Mark IV
John Mount
Stairs at the Palmer House

The Apple iPhone 6s camera served me well for the five years I used it. I always wished its sides were flat and the phone thus easier to hold as a camera, like both my iPhone 5 and now my iPhone 12 mini. Otherwise, I wish this phone could have lasted another 5 years as I was otherwise satisfied with it. I’m sure my new iPhone 12 mini’s camera is better in noticeable ways, and I’m sure I’ll come to appreciate it. But so far this new phone isn’t so much better or exciting than the 6s that I feel its cost is justified.

If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here!
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Camera Reviews

Operation Thin the Herd: Kodak Monitor Six-20

Tree at the retention pond

At last, we reach the end of Operation Thin the Herd. In this project I’ve sold or given away dozens of cameras, keeping only those I’ll use regularly. Some cameras were a no-brainer to either keep or let go. Others I needed to put one or two more rolls of film through to help me decide. When I did, I shared the photos and my thoughts here. You can see all of my Operation Thin the Herd posts here.

I’ve put off evaluating my Kodak Monitor Six-20, which is why it’s last. Putting film through it might show me that I’m in love with the idea of this camera far more than with the camera itself. I haven’t wanted to find out.

Kodak Monitor Six-20

I was smitten with the Monitor from the time I first saw one on Mike Connealy’s site. Not just any Monitor, mind, but this one, with the 101mm f/4.5 Anastigmat Special lens. It’s a gorgeous camera, and Mike always coaxed such beautiful photographs from his. I wanted in on the action. No matter that I had sworn off cameras that take out-of-production 620 film, as the Monitor does. I prowled eBay until I found one in good condition at a good price.

Here’s a photo from one of the first rolls I shot. It’s not smart to test an old camera with expensive slide film, but I did it anyway. This is Kodak Ektachrome E100G.

Karmann-Ghia

I used the Monitor again about a year later on a trip to Bridgeton. I shot expired Kodak Gold 200 in 620 from the mid 1990s, at the end of 620 production. The lab I sent the film to accidentally developed it in black and white.

Bridgeton covered bridge

I used the Monitor only a few times in the first two years I owned it, and then not again until last November, seven long years later. One reason is that 620 film is expensive to buy expired or hand-spooled fresh, and I wasn’t interested in learning to hand spool my own. But the main reason is that the shutter button doesn’t trip the shutter. The button connects to a series of levers and rods that reach around behind the lens, where the actual shutter release is. They don’t connect properly, and I can’t figure out how to fix it. The only way to fire the shutter is to stick a finger in there. What a pain.

But oh, what a beautiful camera this is! I mounted it on an vintage Kodak metal tripod and displayed it in my living room so I could look at it every day. I kept it there until I moved a few years ago.

I couldn’t put off evaluating my Monitor any longer, so I got it out — and found that its shutter wasn’t working right. No matter the speed I set, the shutter operated at what sounded like the same speed. Mike Connealy advised me to carefully drip a little lighter fluid into the shutter-cable socket and into the cock-lever crevice and fire the shutter at several speeds. Worked like a charm.

Now that I develop my own film and am comfortable working in a dark bag, I tried respooling 120 film onto a 620 spool. It was easy! I had Ilford FP4 Plus on hand, so that’s what I used. I developed it for eight minutes at 20° C in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B (1+31).

Wrecks, Inc.

It’s hard to level the scene in the Monitor’s tiny brilliant viewfinder. It’s easier in the pop-up “sports” finder, but that finder works best for landscape-oriented photos. But just look at the sharp detail the Anastigmat Special lens captured in this cockeyed photo. The white area on the left is light that leaked onto the end of the roll as it sat on my desk, undeveloped, for far too long.

Abandoned Co-Op

Given how I have to fire the shutter, I’m surprised I didn’t get my finger in the lens more often than just this one time. I was trying to be creative here by standing the Monitor on its side on the pavement. I forget what aperture and shutter speed I used, probably f/8 and 1/100, but it wasn’t enough to get the depth of field this photograph needed.

Tennis anyone?

I managed to get a few error-free photos on this roll, like the one below and the one at the top of this post. Handled with care, the Monitor delivers!

NO

I decided the Monitor deserved more time in evaluation. By this time the weather had turned chilly and gray, making faster film necessary. I respooled a roll of ISO 400 Ilford HP5 Plus onto a spare 620 spool and loaded it into the Monitor. I developed it for five minutes at 20° C in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B (1+31).

One of the things I like about the Monitor is its 1/400 top shutter speed. So many of the folders I’ve owned top out at 1/100 or thereabouts. 1/400 lets me shoot faster films even on sunny days.

Z West

COVID-19 kept me close to home, so I returned to familiar subjects. I have shot the back of this Lowe’s reflecting into that retention pond probably 20 times this year. I think there’s an interesting composition in this scene but I haven’t nailed it yet.

Lowe's Reflected

On this roll, a few shots suffered from a light spot in the upper center. Is it a light leak? Is it a shutter fault?

GetGo

Now I come to the moment of truth: does my Kodak Monitor stay, or does it go?

By the end of my second roll, I’d become fully annoyed with how I have to fire the shutter. It made the rest of the cameras’ limitations more annoying, especially that tiny brilliant viewfinder. The pop-up sports viewfinder eases framing on landscape-oriented photos, at least.

Yet I’m still smitten with this camera. As you can see in these photographs, its lens renders good sharpness and contrast. While I wouldn’t choose any old folder as a primary camera, sometimes it’s nice to let one slow you down as much as they do. This one offers great flexibility given its fast shutter and sort-of fast (f/4.5) lens. And this Monitor remains a beautiful camera.

My Monitor needs a CLA. I can’t evaluate it fairly until it functions properly. Unfortunately, many of my other cameras are ahead of it in the repair/CLA queue: my Nikon F2AS, my Pentax KM, my Pentax ME-F, and my Yashica Lynx 14e. I know exactly who I’ll send these four cameras to (Sover Wong for the F2, Eric Hendrickson for the Pentaxes, Mark Hama for the Yashica). But who restores old Kodak folders? Maybe Jurgen, better known as Certo6, would take it on? If you have any ideas, let me know in the comments.

Verdict: Keep

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Camera Reviews

Minolta Maxxum 7000i

Minolta’s 1985 Maxxum 7000 broke ground as the first autofocus SLR with motors in the body. Nikon, Canon, and Pentax all soon followed Minolta’s lead, leaving the manual-focus era behind. Minolta wasn’t content to rest, however, and released an upgraded camera in 1988: the Maxxum 7000i.

Minolta Maxxum 7000i

The 7000i rounded off the 7000’s hard corners and redesigned the controls. It also improves the 7000 with a faster and more sensitive AF system, a top shutter speed of 1/4000 sec. (vs. 1/2000 on the 7000), and a faster film advance at 3 frames per second. Controversially, the 7000i introduced a new flash hot shoe that worked only with flash units designed for that shoe.

Minolta Maxxum 7000i

The 7000i also introduced Minolta’s Creative Expansion Card system. These are little cards about the same size as an SD card that control settings, add features, or let you store information about each photo such as exposure settings. This page describes all of the available cards. I’m sure some photographers used these cards extensively. But for the most part, these cards did not revolutionize photography. My 7000i came with a Portrait card, which controls depth of field in portraits to make subjects pop. I’ve not bothered to use it.

Minolta Maxxum 7000i

The 7000i offers the usual exposure modes: manual (M), aperture priority (A), shutter priority (S), and program (P). It reads your film’s DX code to set ISO, from 25 to 6400, but you can override it.

The 7000i offers exposure compensation of plus or minus 4 EV. You can also choose single-frame or continuous film advance. The 7000i also offers two focusing modes. Center mode focuses only at the center of the frame. Wide mode uses three focusing points: one at the center, and one left and one right of center.

The camera’s settings aren’t obvious, but they’re not hard to figure out. In short: the FUNC and MODE buttons access most options, and the ▲ button and the switch below the shutter button on the front of the camera let you cycle through those options. The LCD panel atop the camera shows your current settings. A small LCD panel inside the viewfinder shows aperture and shutter speed, plus a green dot when the camera has achieved focus and a blinking red dot when it hasn’t.

After you compose and press the button halfway to meter, use the switch below the shutter button to cycle through the f-stop/shutter-speed settings for the given exposure to control depth of field.

The big P button resets the camera to baseline: program mode, center focus, no exposure compensation, and so on. It makes the 7000i a big point-and-shoot.

If you like auto-everything SLRs like this one, also see my review of the Minolta Maxxum 7000 (here), the Minolta Maxxum 9xi (here), the Canon EOS 630 (here), the Canon EOS A2e (here), the Nikon N65 (here), and the Nikon N90s (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.

A reader donated this Minolta Maxxum 7000i to the Jim Grey Home for Wayward Cameras. It shows every sign of heavy use. Some of the material on the lower part of the grip is missing, as is the plastic around the battery door. Fortunately, the battery door stays latched.

I needed a lens to test this camera, so I bought a 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Minolta AF Zoom lens from UsedPhotoPro for 20 bucks. I like 35-70 zooms and this one gets good reviews. The 2CR5 battery I bought to power the camera set me back $10, so $20 for a lens ain’t nothin’. I loaded some Fujicolor 200 and got to shooting.

America's Diner

The 7000i is almost as heavy as my Nikon F2, the gold standard of heavy among 35mm SLRs. But it is easy to carry around just by holding the grip. I never bothered to attach a strap. My F2 can’t be carried this easily.

Orange tree at the pond

I have but two complaints about the 7000i: I’ve seen bigger and brighter viewfinders, and the autofocus hunted a little sometimes. I’d also complain about the 7000i’s proprietary hot shoe if I ever used flash. I can’t mount any of the flash units I already own.

Leaves

I used to wrinkle my nose at auto-everything SLRs, but I’ve come around to them. They require very little from you, freeing you to focus on composition. They reliably yield well-exposed, well-focused photographs.

Meijer

I am pleased with this 35-70 lens’s performance. So often 35-70s suffer from barrel distortion at the wide end, but not this lens. It offers good sharpness and color rendition. I may not keep this 7000i, but I’ll keep this lens for other auto-everything Minolta bodies I come upon.

School bus waiting

As you can see, I shot this entire roll on walks around my suburban neighborhood. I take the walks anyway; putting a camera into my hand before I go makes the walks more fun.

Front yard swing

The 7000i was a well-mannered companion, letting me work quickly. That’s always good as I don’t want my neighbors to wonder what I’m up to making photographs around their homes.

Road closed

Sometimes people ask me to recommend a film camera. If their experience is limited to their phone camera or a digital point-and-shoot, I tell them to buy an auto-everything SLR like this Minolta Maxxum 7000i. They can get a feel for film without diving into the deep end of f stops and shutter speeds. If they don’t like it, they didn’t spend much, as cameras like these currently go for a song.

Bathroom mirror selfie

The Minolta Maxxum 7000i is a good performer and an easy handler. If you are looking for an auto-everything 35mm SLR, this camera should be on your radar.

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