Minolta Maxxum 9xi, 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Minolta AF Zoom
Kodak Max 400
After owning two Minolta Maxxum 7000 bodies that broke, I went looking for a working Maxxum body so I could put my two A-mount lenses through their paces. Then Sam over at Camera Legend profiled the mighty Minolta Maxxum 9xi — and pointed to a place where I could pick up a body for $22 shipped. That’s my kind of price! So I scooped it right up.
The 9xi was Maxxum in the US, a Dynax in Europe, and an α in Japan, but wherever it was sold upon its 1992 introduction, it was a hugely advanced camera for pros. It is a beast. Don’t let the plastic exterior fool you: the frame and mirror box are metal. You could drop this thing off a building and probably get right back to shooting. And it’s heavy. I’ll bet it weighs more than my Nikon F2.
It might also be the most technologically advanced camera I’ve ever owned. Its carbon-fiber reinforced shutter operates from 30 sec down to — are you ready for this? — 1/12,000 sec! Its four-sensor autofocus mechanism tries to predict subject movement horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. Autofocus activates, oh my gosh the voodoo, when you place your eye to the viewfinder. The 9xi also features a sophisticated a 14-segment honeycomb metering pattern. And all the information about your shot projects into the viewfinder using a transparent LCD technology. A flash isn’t built in, but compatible external flashes can be controlled remotely and sync up to 1/300 sec.
See that little door on the right, under the FUNC button? Open it to access extra controls for things like setting ISO and rewinding the fim — and to insert “creative cards,” which Minolta sold to add new creative shooting modes to the camera. They didn’t sell well; the pro photographers who could afford this expensive camera didn’t need them.
By the way, if you like powerful auto-everything SLRs like this, check out my reviews of the Nikon N90s (here) and Canon EOS A2e (here). You might also enjoy my reviews of the Minolta Maxxum 7000 (here), Nikon N8008 (here), and Canon EOS Rebel (here). Or just check out all of my camera reviews here.
I had a 2CR5 battery lying around so I dropped it in, spooled in a roll of Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400, clipped on my 50mm f/1.7 Maxxum AF lens, and went out whenever the weather allowed late in the winter. I had the best luck at Bethel Cemetery.
One thing I really appreciated about the 9xi was its viewfinder’s built-in diopter correction. I’ve reached that age where I need to carry reading glasses with me, but I’m resisting. I also really appreciated the knurled wheel right in front of the shutter button. It moves you through valid aperture and shutter speed combinations given how the camera read exposure. I used it to set the shutter at 1/12,000 sec for this shot just to see what happened. That’s some reasonable bokeh from that lens.
I put the 9xi on a tripod for this shot of my to-be-reviewed Ansco B-2 Cadet. Even with every light on and the blinds open, there wasn’t enough light to give me a wider in-focus patch.
This lens gives good definition and sharpness. I wasn’t wowed by the contrast — the miniblind shadow on the wall was much stronger in real life — but that could be the film as much as the lens.
I didn’t feel like I’d wrung the camera out yet, so I loaded a roll of Kodak Max Versatility 400 (expired, cold stored), clipped on my 35-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Minolta AF Zoom, and kept going. That lens, by the way, came in the kit with many consumer-grade Maxxums. Ho-lee-cow was there ever barrel distortion, especially at 35mm. Thankfully, it was easily fixed in Photoshop. I shot most of the roll Downtown, beginning along Massachusetts Avenue.
When I moved to Indianapolis in the mid-1990s, Mass Ave (as we call it) wasn’t much. A couple galleries, a couple restaurants, a whole bunch of decay. It’s been transformed into a happening place to be. These shots don’t show much of it, though, especially this detail shot of some planters next to a new condo building.
Margaret and I strolled through Lockerbie, an old Downtown neighborhood near Mass Ave. We both love to take in historic architecture. Lockerbie is just charming. Margaret and I have talked about moving Downtown together, but somehow I doubt we’d be willing to pay what it costs to live in this very popular neighborhood.
The more I shot the 9xi, the more out of love I fell with it. The tactile experience was just unremarkable. It was going to need to blow my socks off to offset the camera’s size and weight.
I finished the roll by driving down Michigan Road a little ways from my house to snap this building, which is on the southwest corner of Cold Spring Road. I’ve always wondered about its story; there’s a large house behind it on the property. For reasons I can’t fathom, this photo was featured on Flickr’s Explore. It’s far from the best shot on the roll.
See more from this camera in my Minolta Maxxum 9xi gallery.
The Minolta Maxxum 9xi sparks no joy. It is just a heavy lump that does a job. In contrast, whenever I pick up, say, my Nikon N90s, I feel a strong emotional connection with the instrument and finish each roll of film feeling a certain satisfaction. I want that satisfaction in any camera that stays in my collection.
Lockerbie Square is the oldest surviving residential district in Indianapolis, and it’s wonderfully restored and preserved. I found myself there on a Downtown stroll with my Pentax ES II and a 55/1.8 SMC Takumar, Kodak Ektar 100 aboard.
What a perfect time to photograph Lockerbie’s homes: the trees had just started to leaf, lending color and interest to my photos, but weren’t so full that they blocked the homes.
It was also midevening. The sun’s warm light cast interesting shadows everywhere.
I occasionally encountered people on the street, residents I’m sure. None of them gave me and my camera a second glance. Perhaps Lockerbie is a frequent photo destination?
Even when you have no camera in your hands, Lockerbie is a charming evening stroll.
Lockerbie Square was built by immigrants, and most of its homes were constructed before 1910. By World War II, the neighborhood was in decline; many of these homes had become boardinghouses and apartments.
But from about the 1960s the neighborhood began to be restored. Some of these homes were in deplorable condition, but today every last one is well loved and well cared for.
On the only surviving cobblestone street in Indianapolis stands the former home of Lockerbie’s most famous resident, James Whitcomb Riley. In his day, he was an enormously famous Hoosier. The home is open for tours. I’ve done it twice, it’s so good. The house is very nearly as it was in Riley’s day, with most of the furniture being what Riley and the family with which he lived all used. This is as close to a time capsule house as you’ll ever find.
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