If I were writing VMLP posts based on how much I’ve used each camera, the 7000i would have been one of the first three posts. The 7000i is the camera that drew me into Minolta madness.
For the benefit of those who don’t know my photography origin story, I will retell it. It was January 2019, and the lunar eclipse was only a half-hour or so away when suddenly I decided to get a snapshot of it. At the time, that meant using an iPhone 8. That did not go well. The best I could do was a brief video. So, I convinced my daughter, who had a Nikon Coolpix, that she really wanted a picture of this historic event. She jumped in, but by the time we found a way to focus in the low light, the Coolpix battery died, leaving us standing there in the chill, disappointed and a little ticked.
After five years of using my iPhone to document my flower garden from season to season, I had become frustrated with not being about to get what I later learned was called “bokeh” with my iPhone. The eclipse happened just before the start of the 2019 gardening season, so the eclipse plus a desire for bokeh led to my decision to buy a real camera.
Having been a Minolta fan for years, I decided my camera would be a Minolta. I looked at DSLRs, and shocked at the prices, dropped that idea quickly. I did not want to spend a lot of money just to be able to photograph flowers better than I could with my phone. I went on eBay and found a Maxxum 7000i for 42.00 that came with a flash, 35-80mm, and 75-300mm (both D); I was ecstatic. It wasn’t until weeks later that I discovered Minolta was defunct.
That Minolta 7000i became my favorite toy, and even though over the next few months, I bought a Maxxum 70, Maxxum 5, and a Maxxum 7, that 7000i was used more than the others combined. I didn’t care much for its looks, but I really liked the grip and how it fit into my hand. To me to 7000i, Maxxum 7, and Maxxum 70 have the best feeling grips, as if they were made specifically for my hands.
Introduced in 1988, three years after the groundbreaking Maxxum 7000, the 7000i offered a faster shutter speed of 1/4000, predictive autofocus, faster continuous shooting 3/fps, and better metering. While the 7000 was limited to center-weighted metering, the 7000i added spot metering. Flash sync also increased from 1/100 to 1/125 with the 7000i. Minolta introduced Creative Expansion Cards that conferred additional capabilities to this second generation. Many opine that the cards do not offer any capabilities that an experienced photographer cannot match, and while this is generally true, there are significant exceptions. For example, the Data Memory card tracks exposure data for 40 frames, which is far easier than stopping after each shot and writing this information down. The Highlight and Shadow card adjusts exposure for Hi-key and Low-key images. Yes, experienced photographers can do this, but no one starts out with experience. The Custom Function card allows one to alter the camera’s behavior, such as leaving out the film header after rewinding—quite useful for home developers.
Inspection and appearance
The seller must have dug this camera out of his basement to sell on eBay (this was the first time I used eBay). Within a week or so, the grip started to crumble. I patched it with spray-on sealant applied with a small piece of cardboard and still use it this way. However, since then, I’ve bought an excellent copy with two lenses and a Minolta bag for 16.00 from Goodwill. Even so, I still keep the original—I’m attached to it. The mirror box, mirror, and battery compartment were clean. There were no significant blemishes aside from the grip cracks, and the camera has always performed flawlessly. Using it ignited my passion for photography, moving me from a snapshot shooter to someone trying to tell stories with images.
The controls on the 7000i are more modal compared to the 7000, which had more dedicated buttons (which I like). The top of the camera has a simple button setup. Going from left to right, the “FUNC” button allows one to select between the function types shown in the LCD panel: Exposure Compensation, Drive mode (single, continuous, automatic), and Focus mode (central, wide). A small button with an upward-pointing triangle allows moving through the menu options for each function type.
Next over, the “MODE” button in conjunction with the oddly named “Up/Down” selector (it moves from side to side) changes between exposure modes: Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual. The “P” button takes one back to Program mode. The On/Off/Lock button is to the rear of the FUNC button. A “Card” button is used to activate inserted creative cards.
The side panel has a door where Creative Cards are inserted, and controls for ISO selection, self-timer, and rewind override buttons are housed. There is a “SPOT” button on the right upper back panel that allows one to do spot metering as desired.
On the front of the camera to the right of the lens mount is the lens release button, a button for changing the aperture while in Manual mode, and the AF/MF switch that moves the camera from manual to autofocus shooting.
Function and Handling
From the start, I found the 7000i easy to use. My hands are on the larger side, so I appreciate the size of the grip. At about 21 ounces (590g), the weight is in my ideal zone for an SLR, as I prefer 18-24 ounces or so. The grip adds to the camera’s balance, allowing a firm hold and easy maneuvering. Loading film is easy, as with other Maxxums. ISO can be adjusted using a button on the side panel.
The LCD on the 7000i is slightly tilted toward the rear, a design feature I wish had been retained in later generations. I shoot primarily in aperture priority mode and occasionally in Manual. Switching to Manual mode is easy–just use the AF/MF on the left of the lens mount.
The viewfinder is large and bright, displaying aperture, shutter, EC, and exposure mode information. A green dot informs of focus confirmation. An audio focus confirmation is available if desired—a beep occurs when focus locks. A central focus area is available to assist composition. Spot metering, which I use often, can be set using the “SPOT” button on the back on a frame-to-frame basis. Accessing these features becomes second nature very quickly. The focus on 7000i seems faster than the 7000, which is only noticeable if one often switches between the two.
I like the 7000i, but not how it handles exposure compensation. For example, one sets exposure compensation by pressing the FUNC button and then selecting the EC function type using the upward-pointing triangle button. Then while the selector points to the EC function, pressing the FUNC button brings up a number (0.0) that one can set to +4 to -4 using the Up/Down control. This process is cumbersome for those like me who use EC often. Aside from that quirk (corrected in the 8000i), I have no complaints. I have never needed to shoot 3fps, so I only use “Single” drive mode.
In my walks around the city, the 7000i was my favorite companion until the Minolta Freedom Zoom 160 bought last year. Paired with the little respected 28-100mm (D), I used the 7000i when taking photos for the first essay I wrote concerning photography, “The People by the Side of the Road,” which later became an EarthSunFilm post.
I have shot black and white and color with the 7000i and used a range of lenses, and it never fails to deliver. The metering is always correct, though not as good in low light as later Maxxums, and the controls are easy to master. After only one or two outings, the controls faded into the background, allowing me to focus on composition. My only gripe is the EC. That being said, I bought a second one—it’s an excellent camera.
I always use a remote shutter release when shooting manual focus cameras for studio shots. With the 7000i and other Maxxums, I use the self-timer instead. It works as well, and I never have to search for the remote release.
Well, the 7000i, like the 8000i, will not win any beauty contests. It is a black, somewhat angular, chunk with nothing to make it stand out from the crowd. However, from a performance/functionality perspective, it does what it was designed to do reliably, quickly, and well.
I cannot recall ever reading or hearing of problems peculiar to the 7000i, and it does not share the viewfinder bleed issue of the 8000i. For those trying to choose between the 7000i and 8000i, if exposure compensation is an issue or if flash sync speed is important (8000i is 1/250), then the 8000i is your best bet. Otherwise, you will be happy with the 7000i.
I have many Minoltas these days, but I still keep my first 7000i with its poorly-patched grip and tattered mien–I will never part with it. It opened my eyes to the world around me and kept me busy through the loss of a loved one. It’s a good camera…a friend.