Everyone Has a Dream Camera

There are cameras one dreams about having, and there are cameras that, owning them, one dreams about using. They aren’t necessarily the same camera. 

My father-in-law had a classic Leica from the 50s and a Rollei TLR. Those were his dream cameras. Until May 2019, the closest I had come to having a dream camera was the Maxxum 7000i. It was the last Minolta camera I remember seeing in magazine ads before I stopped reading magazine ads. When I finally got a 7000i, I loved it. The luster wore off quickly, probably because my desire for it was sparked from afar, by a magazine ad, with little real-world experience to bolster it. My use of cameras back in the 80s was for snapshots—”photography” was something people with light meters did. After a few months of shooting, I had learned much more about the technical aspects of photography. By then, the photography bug had hit, and a light meter became a necessary purchase. I developed preferences and began to dream about my one special camera.  

For example, I decided I liked spot metering and shooting in aperture priority mode. Keeping track of exposure data for frames became an annoyance, so a camera that could do that for me sounded like a good idea. Once I started reading photography blogs, I discovered the Maxxum 7, and it became my dream camera. I read everything I could find about it. I looked at eBay listings and told myself it was too expensive. Well, one can only delay gratification for so long, so I bought one. I love it! After two years, the luster is as bright as ever, and I dream about using it. 

Maxxum 7, 100mm Macro 2.8, 50mm Macro 2.8, 28-105mm 3.5-4.5, 70-210mm 4.0 (Beercan)

Now, there is another story here—the XD11. I did not want a manual camera. But in my readings, the Minolta XD11 and XE-7 kept popping up as being wonderful, magnificent, have-to-have items, so I became intrigued. I didn’t seek them out. eBay is the main reason I have any manual cameras (even though I did intend to buy an SR-T 101 at some point, it wasn’t a priority). 

An eBay listing for an X-570 with a lens for 20.00 caught my eye. The X-570 was nice but not a big deal. The lens, however, was a gateway purchase. Not having to buy a manual lens (they cost more than AF lenses) lowered the barrier to trying another manual camera. As time passed, I kept seeing mentions of the fabled XD11. Eventually, it was the combination of curiosity and already having a manual lens that led to me looking for an XD11. After all, who doesn’t want to try a legend?

The XD11 gets high praise among Minolta folk, as does the XE-7. Both were a part of Minolta’s collaboration with Leica, and the XD11 has the additional distinction of being the world’s first camera that offered selectable shutter and aperture priority shooting modes. Eventually, an eBay listing nearly as good as that for the X-570 came along, and I bought one.  

Minolta XD-11, New MD 50mm 1.4, Minolta MD Zoom 28-85mm 3.5-4.5

The XD11 experience was a complete surprise. It worked perfectly, and unlike many available examples, the leather was beautiful, not a mark on it. On the small side and lightweight, the XD11 is just right for a leisurely stroll. I was hooked–Me–the guy who definitely prefers AF cameras, was captivated by a manual machine! For reasons I cannot explain, it feels different from every other Minolta I have. It sounds different. Pop a 50mm lens on it, give me a beret, and I am in another world. I have no idea why. 

Everyone has an dream camera—I have two. 

First up, the Maxxum 7. Everything I could ever possibly want a film camera to do, the Maxxum 7 does well. Metering? Perfect. Need to keep track of exposure data? Not a problem. Bracketing? Choose your preference. Want a perfect Daiquiri? Ok—for that, I’ll have to ask.  

I bought lenses to match my Maxxum 7: 100mm 2.8 Macro, 50mm 2.8 Macro, 70-210mm beercan, and 28-105mm 3.5-4.5. I have other lenses, but these always produce, on-film, the shots I see in my head. Whenever the time comes to shrink my Minolta collection, these will stay. 

The XD11 managed to work its way into my heart, so it will stay as well. This camera is over 45 years old. Yet, the meter works perfectly, and the leather gives it a plushness that conveys a quiet sophistication, like seats in the Jaguar I once considered driving. Mechanically, it has hushed tones that whisper quality. I never dreamed about owning this camera. Now owning it, I most certainly dream about using it. My favorite lenses for the XD11 are the Minolta MD 50mm 1.4 and Minolta MD Zoom 28-85mm 3.5-4.5. I haven’t decided on a longer zoom; probably because if I know I’ll be using a zoom, I tend to grab an AF camera.  

Everyone has a dream camera—these are mine. What camera do you dream about owning, about using? 

4 Comments

  1. I share your love of the Minolta Maxxum 7. It is to my mind the best film SLR ever produced including the Nikon F6. If you can, I would advise you to get the VC-7 Vertical Grip. Not only does it make shooting in portrait mode easier it will allow you to use AA batteries (4) instead of expensive CR123’s.

    1. Author

      Hi Peter! Isn’t the Maxxum 7 great, superb, marvelous!!! Every time use it , I’m like a child with new toy. Every shot I’ve ever taken with my Maxxum 7 has been perfectly focused and exposed.

      I am blessed in that I have grips for my 700si, 800si, Maxxum 7, and Maxxum 9. But since, I’ve focused so much on still life, they haven’t had much use.

  2. I owned the XD11, several actually, and the XE-7 great cameras that took lovely images and they had the smoothest film advance levers in my opinion. Yet somehow I never really took to them the XD11s felt too small and slippery in my hands and the XE-7 too big and clunky. I’ve sold off those cameras but I held onto my SRT 202 which does not have the smooth advance lever like the others and is just as big and heavy as the XE-7. The SRT is a brute with the loud mirror slap but it is a solid everyday shooter.

    1. Author

      Dion, isn’t it fascinating how everyone has such a specific response to a camera? The size and weight of the XD11 are two of the things I like most about it. Beyond those, it just feels right when I use it. I have no idea why.

      Like you, I find the XE-7 too big and clunky. I have one and will likely sell it once the VMLP is completed.

      Glad you are enjoying your SR-T. The SR-Ts feel fine to me, but they arouse only sentimental attachments. An SR-T 101 was the first real camera I ever owned—bought from a pawnshop while in college. I have a 101, 102, and 202. I’ll keep my 101 for sentimental reasons.

      The SR-3 was a surprise. It feels right in the same was as the XD11.

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