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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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