It has been two years since I bought my first “7,” the Maxxum 7000i. That Maxxum 7000i was my gateway to Minolta collecting. I was happily snapping away with my 40.00 7000i until I discovered it was only the second generation of level-seven Maxxums. Finding out there were five “7” models I knew nothing about–7000, 7xi, 700si, 7, and 70– naturally, I went looking. Two years later, I have more Minolta gear than I care to say out loud and now find myself creating a protocol for deciding what to sell and what to keep. Collecting is easy to fall into; unless they are deemed extra special, most vintage cameras sell for about 20% of their original cost. Diligent searches can find good deals for even less. If you have just bought one or two cameras and have your eye on a few more, you may be in danger of unwittingly becoming a collector. Here are the warning signs.
Stage 1 – Innocent Curiosity
Stage one usually starts innocuously—a gift, an attic discovery, or thrift store find. You have a camera and think a second one would be fun to play with and compare. There is no intent beyond a little innocent fun. However, after a while, curiosity kicks in. How old is this? Is it worth anything? The background research leads one to blogs and eventually a forum or two. Inevitably, the need to have one complete set kicks in. Something simple will do—the correct period lens, camera strap, or an original lens hood. Of course, finding that simple thing requires more research and more exposure to camera gear. And before too long, it’s become a serious interest.
Stage 2 – Serious Interest
Having developed more than a passing interest, you will have to join a forum or Facebook group. How else will you find answers to your questions? The problem is these groups are full of true collectors who think owning 75 cameras or all models of a specific lens is a just a good start. The best thing is not to speak to them too often or too long because they will tell you stories that make you buy something. Say you have a Minolta SR-T 101. You’ve been shooting with it, and it suits your needs. At some point, a true collector will say, “Oh, so you don’t have one with mirror lockup”? Until that moment, you had never heard of mirror lockup. Now, it’s going to bug you. To find out what mirror lockup is requires more research. Unfortunately, in the course of looking at cameras with mirror lockup, you will realize that the Soligar lens you were once so pleased with is garbage. How did you ever even think it was OK??? Obviously, you need an MC Rokkor 50mm 1.7 PF, maybe even an MC Rokkor 58mm 1.4 PF before you can show your face again. Reading about the bokeh and the beautiful Minolta colors possible with the new lenses will eventually usher in the passion stage.
Stage 3 – Unapologetic Passion
The passion stage is when one learns lens jargon—PF, bokeh, MD, MC, SR. This is also the stage when lens versions come into play. Yes, you must have a 135mm 2.8, but ONLY the 4/4 version. A lens that you would have been proud of in Stage 2 now is just a placeholder until you get the BEST version. And Your SR-T 101 is still excellent— but—now you know the SR-T 102 is superior. This is also the stage when you learn about the Leica collaboration and the XD11 and XE-7, at which point you will either quietly acknowledge Leica as a helpful partner or quietly resent them for not showing Minolta proper gratitude (or both). The XE-7 and XD-11 are very different in character, and you will have to pick a side. Small, elegant, refined, stylish—that’s the XD-11. Buttery film advance, built like a tank, beautiful black design with rich shutter sound, that’s the XE-7. You can try to say you like both, but there will be a preference, and one day you will declare that preference for all to hear and stand by your camera. T-shirts and key chains will follow. You are now ready for Stage 4 (or rather, you have already entered Stage 4).
Stage 4 – Hopeless Obsession
Obsession is the most comfortable stage. Budgets no longer hold any sway over you. How can anyone speak of money when there is art to be hunted down and possessed? You have a spare room with plenty of space, so the problem is??? These are valuable investments and world-recognized art items, so the collection is for the sake of art, the economy, and the good of mankind. (By now, you have a nickname or a few badges in various Facebook groups.)
People listen when you offer advice. After all, who else knows what color box came with the European version of the third version of the viewfinder? The local camera store folks keep stuff in a backroom “for your eyes only.” Handed a lens, sommelier-like, you can state how many elements a lens has and the proper serial number range. That secreted cabal of beknighted souls who own CLEs will contact you. Yes, they know who you are (you were mentioned favorably at the last meeting).
If you notice any of these behaviors, be warned. Also, stay away from Facebook. Because there is always a guy who has a friend whose cousin lives in Japan and has a girlfriend who worked for Minolta, and that cousin has a Minolta item that you can never get unless you take it from him. Knowledge becomes misery–you have to make a difficult decision. Tickets to Japan are expensive, and with that money, one can buy a complete set of XK finders. What to do? (Oops! Now you want the finders and the item that guy has—sorry…)
For a brief moment, I considered myself a Minolta collector. Then I started interacting with real collectors. And I realized I’m just somebody who likes Minolta gear. You see, true collectors have boxes with serial numbers for everything, and I have none. They also have variations of items I have never heard of. Fortunately, I have avoided the collecting bug. I’m just having innocent fun and looking for storage space.