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!


  1. I enjoy my Minolta 7s so much that when I dropped it and lost the light meter I had to get another. I now have a 9 coming soon. The glass is outstanding on these cameras.

    1. Author

      Yes, they are quite good. For some reason, they get very little press. Since the 7sII, I’ve gotten the Minolta A and A-2 and both have good glass. The Super A is very nice, as well.

  2. 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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