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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Lowe's ascending

Lowe’s ascending
Minolta Maxxum 7000i, 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Minolta AF Zoom
Fujifilm Fujicolor 200
2020

Everywhere else I’ve ever lived, I was able to drive out of my neighborhood without passing a single store or restaurant. Not here. The only two ways out of the neighborhood empty out onto the big main road, which is a long shopping strip. I’ve never been so surrounded by companies trying to sell me things.

I don’t like it. It feels like this neighborhood’s entire reason to exist is to supply people to these businesses. All of us who live here are immersed in commerce.

I photograph this Lowe’s a lot as it is one of the first things I see anytime I walk or drive toward the main road. I made this photograph from that main road’s old alignment, which is now just a connector road for my neighborhood.

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Film Photography

single frame: Lowe’s ascending

Lowe’s poking out between the trees.

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Tofaute & Spelman

Tofaute & Spelman
Konica C35 Automatic
Fujifilm Fujicolor 200
2013

Looking through my archives for a particular photo recently I came across this 2013 photo of this attorney’s office in Terre Haute. I remember this day of photography surprisingly well. I also remember how washed out the color was in the original scan. When you aim a camera at a big golden yellow wall, it can fool a meter into thinking it’s seeing middle gray and expose accordingly. A little Photoshoppery restored the color in this one.

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Film Photography

single frame: Tofaute & Spelman

A golden yellow wall in Terre Haute, on Fujicolor 200.

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Autumn at the farmhouse

Autumn at the farmhouse
Minolta Maxxum 7000i, 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Minolta AF Zoom
Fujifilm Fujicolor 200
2020

At the rate I’m going, my review of the Minolta Maxxum 7000i won’t show up here until January. But I wanted to show you this photo from it now.

Within my subdivision, a few houses still lurk that predate it. This old farmhouse is one of them. I gather that this subdivision was built on land owned by the Ottinger family; was this the Ottinger farmhouse?

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Film Photography

single frame: Autumn at the farmhouse

A tree decked in late-autumn red guarding an old farmhouse, on Fujicolor 200.

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Road Trips

The same scene on the Ohio River in Indiana, 60 years apart

My wife and I still own too much stuff after four years of marriage. We went on a jag recently to rearrange the entire downstairs of our home, along the way shedding some things we don’t need anymore.

Emptying a drawer, I came upon a stack of old postcards I bought early in my road-trip hobby. They depict roadside scenes all over Indiana, but mostly on the Michigan and National Roads. I don’t need these postcards anymore. I scanned them all, and sent them to a fellow I know who collects postcards just like these.

Old postcards are a great way to see what the old roads and the surrounding environment used to look like. Sometimes places look very different, and sometimes they don’t. The postcard above is probably from the 1940s, of a scene just west of Leavenworth, Indiana, on State Road 62. (The postcard says this road is also US 460, but US 460 was removed from Indiana in 1976.)

Remarkably, some time before I bought that postcard I made a photo from the same place. I stepped over the steel guardrail and down the bank a little for my photograph, but as you can see the mighty Ohio and the surrounding terrain still look much the same.

Ohio River, from IN SR 62, Leavenworth, IN
Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80, Fujicolor 200, 2006

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Windswept Farms and my bike

My bike at Windswept Farm
Pentax IQZoom 170SL
Fujicolor 200
2020

I put away my bike for the season the other day. It’s grown too cold for me to want to ride anymore.

I rode longer this season than I normally do thanks to Three Speed October. It’s an event put on by the Society of Three Speeds to encourage those of us who love three-speed cycling to cycle more in this autumn month. It’s not an onerous commitment: three rides of three miles or more, during any three weeks in October. The Society even defines October loosely, to include most of the last week of September and the first day of November.

I’m sure I would have given up riding sooner this season without Three Speed October. A few of my rides were a little chillier than I normally put up with! But I was determined to finish the challenge.

One of my usual routes takes me by this yellow barn. I had film in the Pentax IQZoom 170SL so I brought it along just so I could make this image.

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Photography

single frame: My bike at Windswept Farm

My old Schwinn in front of an even older barn.

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