Vintage-Minolta Love: Here’s to the Dreamers

Like a lot of people, I usually root for the underdog. When I bought my first Minolta, an SR-T 101, in 1975 from a pawn shop, it was a purely economic decision. I wanted a “real’ camera and that 101 was the only thing I could afford at the time. I believe I saw an ad for Minolta in a magazine, and that was my only acquaintance with the company at the time. I loved my camera, but as a college student, I could not afford an expensive hobby—I was paying my tuition and board with work-study money. Many of those photos are long since lost, but the affection I had for my first real camera never waned. That camera died a few years later, and in the late 80s, I was gifted an entry-level autofocus Minolta, which seemed almost magical at the time. I used it for a few years, then life happened, and photography took a hit except for an occasional disposable point-and-shoot camera, and eventually, an iPhone 4s. However, the bond I felt for Minolta products and the yearn to try one of the top-level cameras, never went away. I always knew that if I ever bought another camera, it would be a Minolta. 

35-70mm and 70-210mm adapted by Minolta for Leica

Minolta was never the market leader. It was always the scrappy little guy who was willing to dream big. It made a few stabs at professional level cameras, but ultimately those efforts were not very successful. However, even though Minolta never made a dent in the professional market, it still produced some genuinely great cameras and lenses. It also managed to deliver several innovative features first. For example, it was the first company to offer a camera with an integrated light meter (SR-7), the first to produce a camera with both aperture and shutter priority (XD 7/XD11), the first with body integrated autofocus (Maxxum 7000), and the first with in-body image stabilization (Minolta 7D). Along the way, it produced several cameras that won awards (e.g., 700si, X700, Maxxum 9xi, Maxxum 7000, Maxxum 7, Maxxum 5).  

Alpha 7/Maxxum 7, most advanced Minolta 35mm SLR

Around 1990 or so, I saw ads for a Minolta 7000i and a zoom lens that together came to hundreds of dollars—far beyond my budget. I never got over wanting that set-up. When I set out to get better pictures of my garden, I had not researched camera equipment for almost 30 years. I was shocked to learn that Sony bought the intellectual property of Minolta, and Minolta no longer made cameras. It actually hurt. On learning of Minolta’s demise, I decided to try and find a used camera, thinking that, by now, if any were still available, they should be relatively inexpensive. eBay seemed to be a good place to start. Well, to my surprise, not only were Minolta cameras inexpensive, nearly every model was available. Naturally, my first buy was a 7000i that came with two lenses, a bag, flash, and two Creative Expansion Cards— total price $42.00! But if buying one Minolta is good, then surely buying a few more is even better—right?

So, what is Vintage-Minolta Love? This section of Earth, Sun, Film is an homage to the imagination and pluckiness of Minolta, and a heartfelt “thank you!” for what I have experienced using Minolta products. It is a nod to Sony for keeping that legacy going. And, finally, it is a recounting of unbridled, unapologetic gear acquisition syndrome told with affection and glee in hopes of finding others who share a love for Minolta products. Feel free to join in and share your story—every Minolta owner has at least one. 

See also: Bingeing Minolta History: Really–This Should Be on Netflix

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