Reconsidering Rangefinders: The Minolta Hi-matic 7sII

The Vintage Minolta Love Project began as a stroll through Minolta’s SLR models, starting with the SR-2. No other camera types were given any serious consideration—TLRs were too expensive, point and shoots seemed like a waste of time, and I had an active dislike for rangefinders. Some may find this difficult to accept, but until my 7sII arrived a couple of weeks ago, my only experience using a rangefinder was my father-in-law’s Leica. I forget which model, but I believe he bought it in the early 60s.

At the time, the mid-1980s, my SR-T 101 had died with a stuck shutter after about seven years of distinguished service. My new wife and I were headed to the Caribbean for our honeymoon, and since I didn’t have a camera, my father-in-law volunteered his Leica. I had use of the camera for one week, and without a manual or the internet, every shot was a challenge. I fiddled and tweaked until it made sense and managed to get a few good photos. Although slightly underexposed, my favorite picture of my wife was taken with that Leica. On returning home, I was more than happy to give the camera back.

The biggest challenge I had was focusing—it seemed to take forever to get the focus right. Also, I’m pretty sure I had to use a light meter, something I had never done before. Anyway, the struggle with his Leica soured me on rangefinders. And, in case you are wondering, I have no idea what happened to the Leica (or his Rollei). I never asked about them again.

As you can see, I have been very happy not using rangefinders for many years. Very likely, I would never have tried one again had it not been for the VMLP. Having shot each major SLR, including the obscure Minolta ER, an Autocord, and the Minolta Freedom 160 P&S, it began to seem derelict not to try a Minolta rangefinder. That sense of duty, however, was not enough to overcome the unpleasant Leica memory. At this point, Shawn, an ESF reader and rangefinder enthusiast, suggested on a few occasions that I should try a Minolta rangefinder. Still hesitant, I decided to at least consider the possibility and began to research Hi-Matics. Not being sure I would want to keep the camera, I decided that if I bought a rangefinder, it would have to be one I could resell easily. Also, knowing I preferred lighter-weight cameras, I began looking for something that weighed less than an XD11. That constraint eventually led to the 7sII.

 

Test shot: Nearly ripe lemon, Ultrafine Xtreme 400, Minolta Hi-matic 7SII

The 7sII sticks out in the Hi-matic family. It is more famous than the other models, rating an entry on the Rokkor Files blog. Of course, that means it costs a lot more than other Hi-matics. Happily, I was able to find one in good cosmetic and working condition at a phenomenal price, so I bought it–all the while somewhat dreading the first time I would shoot with it.

Test shot: Studio, Ultrafine Xtreme 400, Minolta Hi-matic 7SII

 

Last week, I took the 7sII off the shelf. Fully expecting to have a miserable outing, I loaded Ultrafine Xtreme 400 (12 exps) and asked myself why I had spent good money on a camera I couldn’t possibly like or use well. I loaded the Wein px625 battery (5.00), set the camera on “Auto”, the shutter to 1/125, and started thinking how I might explain wanting to return the camera.

Well, I spent all that energy worrying for nothing. I had no problem with focusing, and the meter worked fine. Now, I’m wondering why I had such a hard time using the Leica. All I can come up with is I had to use a light meter (I had never heard of sunny 16), which made shooting far more cumbersome than with my SR-T 101.

As for the 7sII, I like it. It is small and lightweight, fitting easily into my jacket pocket, and the images are sharp. It and my Freedom 160 P&S will be my go-to cameras for walks around the city. I’ll put up a full user report in a month or so.

Thanks for the nudge, Shawn!

2 Comments

  1. Welcome to the world of fixed-lens rangefinders! Glad you liked the Hi-Matic 7sii. It indeed is a different beast than a Leica. If you want to give other ones a shot, the Hi-Matic 7/7s/9 are worth a try, though much bigger machines. They are easier to use in a full-manual exposure mode. My meter on my 7s gives me the EV and I can match it on the shutter/aperture rings on the lens barrel.

    1. Author

      As always, thanks for the suggestions! The 7sII is a really nice camera. So, far I’ve only used it in Auto, but I’m hoping to try my luck with some TMax in full manual.

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