Around the time the fifth camera arrived, it dawned on me that I had become a Minolta collector—that certainly wasn’t my goal initially. My first purchase, the Maxxum 7000i, was solely for the purpose of solving the bokeh problem. Awareness of the 7000i had been with me for years as I had seen the magazine ads back in the 1980s. When I signed up for eBay, it was the very first thing I searched for. Looking back, it was bingeing Minolta history that triggered the urge to collect.
The first five purchases were the direct result of reading blog posts and the surprisingly low prices for Minolta gear. Apparently, from 2017 or so, bloggers discovered the Maxxum/Dynax/Alpha 7. After reading a few posts that extolled the virtues of Maxxum 7, I went searching for one and found them to be in the 150.00-plus range, which was far beyond my budget. But searching for the Maxxum 7 brought me to the Maxxum 70, which I found on eBay for 25.00—right in my price range. Bad news—the viewfinder had a deep orange stain as did the lens mount, the flash was broken, and mount cracked—none of which showed in the pictures, of course. My money was quickly refunded when I complained. But the specs of the Maxxum 70 were very attractive compared to the 7000i—more focus points, bracketing, subject modes, custom functions, and a built-in flash. My 7000i suddenly seemed passé. KEH camera came to the rescue with a Maxxum 70 for 30.00 in excellent condition. Now any reasonable person would have stopped there. I planned to, and I had firmly decided that more would be overkill. After all, I had a fancy Maxxum 70 and the 7000i I had longed for since the eighties. I could live without the Maxxum 7; all was well.
I wanted a zoom and the Beercan was widely extolled, so next came a 70-210mm Beercan, and rounding out my lens collection—a 50mm 1.7, 35-80mm, and Sigma 70-300mm that came with the 7000i. Life was good.
After a few more weeks of reading everything about Minolta that crossed my path, I found a forum post listing the best Minolta lenses. One lens that everyone agreed on as being perfect was the Maxxum 100mm f2.8, a macro lens. Since flowers were my intended subject, a macro lens was obviously essential. Done. And again, all was well. I shot about five or six rolls of film with my new toys and marveled at the colors. Life was good.
The eBay app is dangerous. I had stopped using it because I was satisfied—okay? The app sent me a note expressing how sorry it was that I did not get the Maxxum 7, and being the friend to me eBay is, it pointed out a lovely Alpha 7, in near-mint condition that had gone unsold for 15 days. This was when I learned an Alpha 7 was a Maxxum 7 sold in Japan. The price was 20% lower than the Maxxum 7 prices eBay searches had returned. It was beyond my budget, and I certainly didn’t need it, but what heartless person would allow such a wonderful camera to sit alone and unloved, especially near-mint and 20% off? Being kind, compassionate, and frugal, I bought it. Every blogger with any sense of taste or photography expertise told me I needed one. Who was I to ignore them? The camera arrived in pristine condition, looking as if it had never been used. BLISS. Everything was fine. I had the camera of my dreams—and apparently those of many other people— the camera beloved by bloggers and the last great film camera Minolta made. I was set!
Then, about two months later, the eBay app, showing its continued neighborly concern for my well-being, sent me a message. Realizing I had been searching for Minolta items, it suggested a 20.00 Minolta X-570 with a 70-210mm f4.5-5.6 zoom might possibly be of interest. It wasn’t—but why be rude? After all, my buddy was only being thoughtful. After a bit of research, twenty dollars for an X-570 with a lens seemed very low, so I wrote the seller to find out what was wrong it. I didn’t want an X-570, but the seller had gone through all that trouble to list it, take pictures, and such, so… The seller had no knowledge of the camera’s past or even if it worked. The sharpest, most unimpeachable logic pointed out to me that I waste twenty dollars all the time on things like beer, snacks, and Netflix, so a vintage camera, even a “shelf collectible” that might not work should be a no-brainer. The X-570 was beautiful! After removing the dust, it looked barely used and looked right at home sitting next to the Alpha 7. (It works great too!)
The X-570 really should have brought camera buying to an end, except it made absolutely no sense to have an X-570 and not have an SR-T 101, the first 35mm SLR I ever owned, my youthful companion. The SR-T 101 held a warm spot in my heart, and so why not a spot on my shelf?
From there, I learned about crossed “XX” and the Exxon lawsuit, the Leica collaboration, the camera of the year awards, the innovations in the Maxxum 7000, XD 11, and Maxxum 5D, all the lens lore and so on. Along the way, I discovered the Minolta manual lens database, the Rokkor Files, Dyxum, and ShopGoodwill.
Images did their part. I shot about 35 rolls of film within the first six months of buying the Maxxum 7000i. Each roll of film made me fall in love with my little collection all over again.
My affection for Minolta existed long before the 7000i, and bingeing Minolta history deepened that feeling. Very likely, if Minolta still existed, I would have been far less interested in its history and much less likely to buy more gear. However, learning of its demise and knowing that all the Minoltas that would ever exist had already been built, made each remaining item more precious. And it was that realization that made me want to experience as many of these beautiful machines as possible while they could still be found.
Collecting is an immersive activity. It allows the collector to leisurely relive history and acknowledge the contributions of those whose past handiwork has endured, making that reliving possible. Collecting provides one the capability to linger, at will, over moments and times and to daydream. Whether one has a mini-museum or a single piece, the affection and appreciation are no different.
Very likely, few people, when buying that first camera, have already decided to become a collector. Rather it is something that happens gradually as one digs into the lore and desires a more personal and intimate way to experience the innovations and the setbacks, the brilliance and the flops. That’s what happened to me— I simply fell in love with the story and like to revisit my favorite parts from time to time.
I created a Collecting Minolta: A Guide for Newbies resource page for those new to Minolta excellence. Happy hunting!