My hopes were sky high when I bought this Minolta XD-11 as so many prominent film-photo sites give it such high praise. Developed in cooperation with Ernst Leitz, this camera is supposed to exude quality to nearly Leica levels. The two companies worked together so that Minolta could better compete in the luxury rangefinder market and Leitz could build a cost-effective SLR platform. Leica built its R4, R5, R6, and R7 SLRs on this chassis.
You might also see this camera called the XD-7 or just the XD; those were this camera’s name in Europe and Japan.
This is the world’s first SLR to offer full manual exposure with both aperture-priority and shutter-priority autoexposure. It features a vertically traveling metal-blade shutter that operates from 1 to 1/1000 sec, plus a 1/100-sec manual speed (the O setting on the shutter-speed dial) and bulb (B). In automatic modes, that shutter operates steplessly — if 1/218 second is the right shutter speed, that’s what the XD-11 chooses. The camera also features a mechanical self timer. Two SR44 batteries power the XD-11.
You choose the exposure mode with a switch around the shutter-speed ring: M, A, and S, each meaning just what you’d expect. You can set ISO from 12 to 3200; press the little button and twist the collar around the rewind crank. You can also add or subtract one or two stops of exposure. Press in the tab on the rewind crank and move it to the amount of exposure compensation you want.
The selected aperture is always visible in the viewfinder; a little window shows what you’ve dialed in on the lens. In shutter-priority and manual modes, the viewfinder shows the selected shutter speed. (For shutter-priority mode, first set the lens to its minimum aperture, e.g., f/16 on the 50mm f/1.7 MD Rokkor X lens that came with my XD-11.)
For manual and aperture-priority modes, a shutter-speed scale appears in the viewfinder. (Or it’s supposed to; it didn’t switch over on mine. A fault!) In shutter-priority mode, an aperture scale appears in the viewfinder. LED dots appear next to the scale. In manual mode, they show the aperture you need to choose for proper exposure. In aperture-priority mode, they show the shutter speed the camera has chosen, and in shutter-priority mode, they show the selected aperture. One dot means the camera has chosen that value exactly, while two adjacent dots mean the camera has chosen the proper value between the two marked values.
The XD-11 features “green mode” — set the camera to shutter-priority mode, choose minimum aperture, and choose 1/125 second. Notice that all of these settings are marked in green. In green mode, if 1/125 sec. is too fast, the XD-11 reduces shutter speed until it gets proper exposure.
Under use, the XD-11 is light, smooth, and pleasant. The viewfinder is bright and gives a great view. Its electromagnetic shutter button needs only an easy touch to operate. The wind lever is light and luxurious. My only ergonomic complaint is that there’s no on-off switch. To stop the meter from operating and thus draining the battery, you have to cap the lens.
If you like Minolta SLRs, you might also enjoy my reviews of the X-700 (here), the XG 1 (here), the SR-T 101 (here), and the SR-T 202 (here). I’ve also reviewed some autofocus Minolta SLRs, including the Maxxum 7000 (here), the Maxxum 7000i (here), the Maxxum 9xi (here), and the Maxxum HTsi (here). Or check out all of my camera reviews here.
I’ve had a lot of bad luck with Minolta manual-focus SLR bodies, and it continued with this camera. To be fair, I picked up a body at far below market price that the seller couldn’t represent well, and hoped for the best. I’ve already mentioned that the shutter-speed scale doesn’t appear in the viewfinder when it’s supposed to, but there’s more wrong than that. I tested the camera with a roll of Fomapan 200, and on three frames the shutter stuck open. Switching the shutter-speed dial to O, the one mechanical shutter speed, immediately closed the shutter. But those frames were entirely washed out, and the adjacent frames were partially overexposed as well.
I shot the Fomapan at EI 125 and developed it Ilford ID-11 1+1 at the ISO 200 time as I usually do. This was my first time developing in ID-11. It turned out great.
The XD-11 feels great in my hand. It’s got enough heft to inspire confidence, but not so much that it feels heavy. The materials all feel nice; the controls are all smooth and luxurious.
The 50mm f/1.7 MD Rokkor-X lens that came with this camera performed as well as any 50/1.7 Rokkor ever does; that is to say, brilliantly. This is a wonderful lens.
I drove up to Lebanon, Indiana, just to make some photographs with the XD-11. Lebanon is my county’s seat. I photographed the courthouse on the square, but I wasn’t thrilled with the images. Therefore, you get photographs of things around the square.
Lebanon, like most Indiana county seats, features a courthouse square with sturdy old buildings living their fourth, eighth, or nineteenth small-business life. Truly, the photo below could be from any of a hundred small Indiana towns.
This is the point in the review where I’m supposed to heap giant praise onto the Minolta XD-11. I’ll refrain. I liked this camera, but I like my Olympus OM-2n far better. Camera reviews like this one are highly subjective — what tickles my fancy might turn you right off. So just know that the XD-11 is a fine camera and you should try one someday if you can.
I stopped finding interesting things to photograph in Lebanon, so I headed back to Zionsville, specifically to Lions Park, which is always good for a few frames.
This little lion is a drinking fountain, and it’s on the edge of one of the park’s many playgrounds.
Minolta considered its XD-11 to be its premium SLR in its day, slotting it above the full-program X-700. I can see why; this is a very solid and smooth camera. That mine isn’t fully functional is a shame, as I wouldn’t mind being able to do more than a one-roll review of this well-regarded camera. Instead, I did something I’ve never done before: after writing this review, I asked the eBay seller for a refund.
If you like old film cameras, check out all of my reviews here! To get Down the Road in your inbox or feed reader, subscribe here.
This summer as I’ve ridden my bicycle around, I’ve slipped whatever camera had film in it into the pannier. It hasn’t worked out as well as I’d hoped; camera after camera, roll after roll, many of the images are quite hazy from (I presume) a lens fogged by the humidity inside the bag. When my Olympus Trip 35 found its way into the pannier, it suffered from this, too. Here are some images I was able to rescue well enough in Photoshop.
This bar and restaurant is a couple miles north of the house in old Whitestown.
I was surprised to find this sign on a country road. I probably shouldn’t have been; there are plenty of horses out here, and plenty of wealthy people who would use the word equestrian instead of horse.
I love the look of this property and have photographed it several times. The trees near the end of the lane are probably peach trees — last time I drove by, there were big buckets full of fruit, labeled “Free Peaches,” at the end of their driveway.
One of my usual rides takes me over I-865. Here it is northbound, its end visible in the photo.
It was a gray day when I dropped one of our cars off at my mechanic’s in Carmel and rode home. I seldom get to ride out here and made sure my route home passed by the stunning Mormon Temple.
That route home took me past Coxhall Gardens, a park I’ve photographed many times. You can see a little haze still in this photograph.
By the time I got back to Zionsville, my lens had gone all foggy. I wish I’d checked it and wiped it before making several shots. Perhaps I need to find a different way to carry a camera while on the bike. This pedestrian bridge is near Lions Park on the east edge of town.
Blue becomes green, green becomes purple, yellow becomes magenta, and red and white stay true to color. That’s Lomography Lomochrome Purple XR 100-400 film in a nutshell. It gives an otherworldly look to your images, if you’re into that sort of thing. I’m not, but it was interesting to try this film anyway just to see what turned out.
Lomography has improved this film at least once; the latest is “the 2019 emulsion,” but because I didn’t hang onto the box I don’t know which version this is. I shot it in my Olympus XA2, which I slipped into the pannier on my bike. All of these photos are from various bike rides this summer.
Someone gave me this film several years ago. It was a little bit expired by the time I got around to shooting it, and I’d stored it at room temperature the whole time, so it’s possible that these images don’t look the same as they would have when the film was fresh.
Here’s my favorite photo from the roll, of a lovely old home on a country road in Boone County, Indiana.
This photo of a boutique’s entrance in Zionsville looks almost like it was shot on normal film.
Here’s my blue bike on a pedestrian bridge in Zionsville.
This photo isn’t terribly interesting, but it does show that this film renders white as white.
I don’t like how Lomochrome Purple renders a deep blue sky as a sickly blue-green.
I got a lot of that blue-green sky in my images as I shot largely on clear days. I like how red things look normal against the otherwise alien landscape.
I made the photo below on a hazy but bright day, which turned the sickly skies to white.
The XA2 flared when aimed even partly toward the sun. This is new behavior; it never used to do this.
I didn’t love Lomochrome Purple. But I liked it a lot better than the company’s Redscale film, a roll of which I shot last year. That film just tinted everything red. At least it was interesting to see how this film rendered various colors.
This might look like the heart of a classic Indiana small town, but it’s not.
Stonegate is a tony neighborhood here in Zionsville. The heart of Zionsville, the original town, is 3½ miles to the east. Over the last 20 years or so, Zionsville annexed a lot of land to its west as farmers sold out and developers built new neighborhoods.
As you drive (or, as was the case for me this day, biked) along Stonegate’s curved main street, at about the midpoint you come upon this little business district. These buildings are fashioned to look like they were built a century ago. They stand in a part of Stonegate where the houses look like modern takes on early 20th-century house designs — foursquares and bungalows with prominent front porches.
It’s all rather charming. It’s also rather expensive, but that’s life in Zionsville.
Someday Margaret and I will move back to Indianapolis from Zionsville. Not only do I miss the city, but I also don’t enjoy the suburban lifestyle. But when we go, we will absolutely miss being just a few minutes away from Zionsville’s charming downtown, with its shops and restaurants.
We will also miss events like the Brick Street Market. It’s an annual thing, except that (I think) it was skipped last year thanks to the pandemic. But this year, with vaccinations on the rise, they held it. We’re fully vaccinated, so we went. I had Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400 in, and my 35mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-A lens on, my Pentax KM, so I brought it along.
Several blocks of downtown are closed for the market, and vendors set up booths. Some of the vendors are local, most of the rest come from around the state, and a few come from surrounding states to hawk their (mostly) handmade wares.
It’s called the Brick Street Market because Zionsville’s Main Street is paved in brick. It’s hard to see in these photos, but the the center section of the street is a different color brick from the outer sections, because that’s where the streetcar tracks used to run and when they were removed I guess they couldn’t find matching brick.
I moved in close to capture some of the more interesting products for sale.