Between the Wrigley Building towers Minolta Maxxum 5 35-70mm f/4 Maxxum AF Zoom Fujifilm Fujicolor 200 2022
I’m fascinated with the Wrigley Building in Chicago. You’ll find it on Michigan Avenue, on the west side of the street, just north of the Chicago River. The building has two towers connected by an arched pedestrian walkway. This creates a courtyard of sorts, one of concrete rather than of grass, between the towers. I find this to be a stunning view and I love to photograph it.
When I first shot Kodak T-Max P3200, I was blown away by the great results. I shot the film in my Nikon F3 with my 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens attached. I don’t remember for sure who I had develop and scan the film, but it was probably Old School Photo Lab.
Unfortunately, I’ve had mixed results using other labs, and developing and scanning this film myself. I shot these two images with my Nikon FA, the first with my 50mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor and my second with my 35-70mm f/3.3-4.5 Zoom Nikkor. I developed them in HC-110, Dilution B, and scanned them with my Plustek OpticFilm 8200i. I find the grain to be obtrusive and not pleasing on these.
On my recent trip to Chicago I shot a roll of this film in a Minolta Maxxum 5 with a 35-70mm f/4 Maxxum AF Zoom lens. I had Dwayne’s Photo develop and scan the roll. If this had been my first experience with this film, I would never have bought it again.
I believe my cameras all to be in good working condition with accurate meters. Perhaps this film requires great care in developing and scanning. If that’s true, I clearly haven’t found the touch yet. Perhaps this film looks better in developers other than HC-110. I suppose I could always send this film to Old School Photo Lab, as I get the best results from this film when I use them for processing. But I want films that I can develop and scan at home and get consistently good results. With my home development, I’ve had great luck pushing HP5 Plus to 1600. I think the next time I’m up for some night photography, that’s what I’ll try.
While I was in Chicago in early January, I made a whole bunch of photographs along the Chicago River on the north end of the Loop. I shot a Minolta Maxxum 5 with a 35-70mm f/4 Maxxum AF Zoom lens. I shot some Kodak Ultramax 400 and some Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, and as I share the images I’m not going to bother telling you which photos were shot on which film. I can’t tell which photos came from which roll just by looking at these scans; can you?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The viewfinder is small, but bright. The focus points the camera chooses light up clearly inside the viewfinder.
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.
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.
Still, a number of the shots I made turned out well enough, like this one.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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