Snowman

Olaf?
Agfa Clack
Ilford FP4 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B

2021

I seldom have nice things to say about living in this vinyl village. Here’s one nice thing: plenty of families here do fun things together, like build snowmen.

I suppose families are the whole point of neighborhoods like this. For far less than anywhere else in this surprisingly wealthy town, you can get your kids into good schools. This neighborhood overflows with children. In nice weather, lots of them play in their yards and sometimes in the streets. One family down the street wheels a portable basketball goal to the curb, and the kids shoot hoops for hours. Another family on my block rents a bounce house at least once a summer, which brings in kids from far and wide.

It reminds me a little of the neighborhood I grew up in. There were so many kids, the parents took to calling it Rabbit Hill. Families on Rabbit Hill weren’t nearly as well off as families in this neighborhood, so we didn’t have bounce houses or portable basketball goals. But we still made plenty of fun together. Those houses were cheaply built, as are these. It didn’t matter to us. It was grand to have so many kids to play with. I’m sure the kids here feel the same.

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Film Photography

single frame: Olaf?

A snowman in a neighbor’s yard.

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Mail station

Mail station
Agfa Clack
Ilford FP4 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B

2021

It’s useful to know which old cameras work well in the cold. It’ll be only a small, select group — old mechanical gear usually gums up when temps fall below freezing.

I took my Agfa Clack out to see how it performed. It went on two frigid photo walks after a snowfall. I have this Korean War-era, wool-lined Army trench coat, and I get it out when it’s either below zero, or below freezing and I’m going to be outside for a while. The Clack fit into the roomy side pocket. But that pocket isn’t lined. The Clack was only slightly warmer in it than it would have been if I had held it in my hand. Every time I got it out, it performed fine.

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Film Photography

single frame: Mail station

The mail station in my subdivision on a snowy day.

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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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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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Suburban scene

The backs of houses
Nikon F2A, 50mm f/2 AI Nikkor
Ilford FP4 Plus
LegacyPro L110, Dilution B
2020

In this neighborhood I live in, it’s remarkable to me how many backs of houses I see as I walk on its streets.

A wide main road makes a semi-circle through the neighborhood and all of the sub-neighborhoods branch off it. Because of the curved, cul-de-sac nature of the sub-neighborhoods’ streets, the backs of many houses face the main road. A fence and some trees make a thin attempt to block the view, but they don’t really work.

The pipelines and high-voltage electrical transmission lines that cut through create gaps between houses, making the backs of many houses more visible. Also, the backs of all of the corner houses are visible just by their nature. Finally, some houses back up to a retention pond, and for whatever reason roads pass right by a lot of them here.

Moreover, it’s against the rules here to build a privacy fence. Three feet is all the taller a fence can be.

The upstart is that a private back yard is hard to come by here.

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Film Photography

single frame: The backs of houses

Why you see the backs of so many houses in my neighborhood.

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COVID-19

Sandy is resting in her stable

Here in the Midwest we have Meijer, a big-box store like Walmart except way nicer. Meijer is pretty terrific.

Meijer

I shop there every week. I go Saturday mornings now, early, hoping for the best selection. I wear nitrile gloves; we have some thanks to our son who used them on the job until he was furloughed. Friday the CDC recommended wearing masks in public. I tried to find my sawdust masks in the garage but had no luck; the place is in considerable disarray. I’ll do a deep dive later. Off I went.

I worry most about the pandemic while I’m in Meijer. There are just so many people there! And some aren’t good about keeping their distance. I am usually a charge-ahead shopper — let’s see how fast I can burn through this list and get out of here! But now, I have to choose deep patience. I wait as long as it takes for a clear path before I move. But that means I just expose myself for that much longer.

They had toilet paper, ground beef, and chicken breasts this week! Small victories.

When I got to the checkout there was a new plexiglass shield between me and the cashier. As I loaded bags into my cart I noticed this:

It’s a Meijer tradition: since 1962, every store has had a mechanical horse for kids to ride. And since 1962, every ride has cost just a penny.

I’d never paid much attention to Sandy. My kids were never interested in her when they were small. Even though I’ve shopped at Meijer for more than 25 years, I didn’t even know her name was Sandy until I saw that sign saying they’d put her away.

It makes obvious sense to put Sandy away right now. But for whatever reason, this one small thing brought the enormity of this pandemic home to me. I stood in line holding back tears.

Other pandemic reports from fishyfisharcade and -N- today.

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