VMLP 31: The Minolta Maxxum 70—The Last Hurrah

Life is full of surprises, some pleasant, some not. The Maxxum 70 is a pleasant one. The Maxxum 70 was my next purchase after the Maxxum 7000i. This was in March 2019, right before I learned Minolta no longer existed and that the Maxxum 70 was the last Minolta film camera. Wanting to experience where the technology lineage had terminated, I drove across town to KEH to pick up a copy of the Maxxum 70. It was on this fateful trip to KEH that I was inspired to write The People By the Side of the Road.

At the time, I knew very little about the Maxxum 70. There were no reviews that I could locate, and few blogs discussed Minolta gear. Clearly, not many people had heard of or cared about the Maxxum 70—KEH’s selling price was 29.00 and change for a camera in excellent condition. I chose KEH because my luck had not been good on eBay–a seller sold me an obviously broken 70 for which I had to demand a return. I tried buying another one last year, and it too was DOA.

There was no build-up to the Maxxum 70. I had not been pumped up by influencer hype. I simply wanted to own Minolta’s last SLR model. You know what? This camera has become one of my favorite cameras! It is small, capable, and discreet. If you like wandering about taking photos, you will want one, too.

Historical Perspective
Released in 2004, the Maxxum 70 followed closely on the design of the Maxxum 5 and Maxxum 7. It was a more budget-friendly version of those earlier cameras but still retained a number of advances. For example, the 70 has 14 programmable functions, but the fastest shutter speed is 1/2000 (less than the Maxxum 5). It retains subject modes, TTL flash and 14-segment metering, and selectable focus points. It also won the EISA camera award for 2004-2005. After Minolta was sold to Sony in 2006, production ceased.

Inspection and Appearance
The diminutive Maxxum 70 is not flashy, sporting a textured black surface, it is appropriately described as unassuming. Since KEH places items in simple plastic zip-locked bags, there was no unboxing moment. I knew what I was getting. KEH graded it as excellent, and it was—looking barely used.

I was surprised by its small size and light weight. It’s plastic, of course, and the pop-up flash feels somewhat flimsy. I have used the flash only a few times in five years, so I cannot comment further other than it worked as expected. One quickly notices the 70 has few dials. Minolta packed a lot into those dials, bringing back more than a touch of the earlier modal interface feel. However, unlike the 7xi and earlier models, the dials and features are clearly marked.

Function and Handling
Weighing about 14 ounces without batteries, the 70 feels feather-light compared to earlier Minolta cameras. That light weight makes a huge difference when out wandering around.

On the right, one finds the exposure mode button, which also turns the camera off and on. Here, one selects Exposure Modes (Program, Shutter, Aperture, or Manual) and Subject Mode (Portrait, Landscape, Macro, Night, Sports Action). Next to it is the shutter release and the top LCD. On the left, the FUNC button and Function Dial allow access to advanced features. Using the Function Dial, one can choose red-eye reduction with flash, AF mode (single shot, continuous, or automatic), multiple exposures, ISO, self-timer, and other features.

The Maxxum 70 has 14 built-in functions that adjust the camera’s behavior, the most useful of which is a function that leaves the film leader out after rewinding—good for those developing at home. Accessing the 14 built-in functions is a two-step process: press the FUNC button at the center of the function dial and turn the front control wheel. It’s a little cumbersome, but the functions are not the type one is likely to set more than once.

Three useful buttons appear on the back: Auto Exposure Lock (AEL), Autofocus (AF), and Focus Mode (FM). AEL allows one to determine exposure without activating autofocus. The AF button selects spot focusing or another focus point when turning the front control dial. The FM button allows one to go to manual focus quickly.

Here, one finds the front control dial on the left and to the right of the lens mount, the exposure compensation and flash mode controls. Both are set using the front control dial.

The modal-ness of the 70 is apparent when compared to the Maxxum 7. Exposure compensation on the 7 is done by turning a dial with the values written on it, while the 70 requires pressing a button, turning a dial, and selecting the desired value when it appears in the viewfinder or LCD. It’s a little more cumbersome, but one doesn’t buy a 70 to do fancy metering (at least not quickly).

Overall, I found the 70 just right for typical shooting. However, when I wanted advanced features, such as EC, they were not too hard to access. When I want to be picky about metering, I use the Maxxum 7. I like having a function to leave the film leader out; it makes loading film onto developing reels much easier.

The viewfinder is clear and reasonably bright, with 90% coverage. Most Maxxum cameras have higher coverage, so sometimes there is more in the frame of a 70 shot than with other Maxxums. It’s something one adjusts to after a few rolls.

Metering is accurate; I tried many lighting situations, almost always in aperture priority mode, and the shots have been properly exposed. I rarely use the AEL button, but the AF button and spot focus always come in handy. My hands are large, and sometimes using the AF button feels cramped. Even still, it is nice to have.

AF speed is quite good, and the camera locks focus quickly. I use spot metering for shots 90% of the time, so I set the metering mode (using the function dial) to spot.

The light weight of the Maxxum 70 shines when it comes to shooting. Add a 35-70mm lens, and the combo is unobtrusive and capable without being heavy. Of course, if you attach a beercan lens, the camera feels off balance. Although one can use large lenses with the Maxxum 70, it just feels awkward.

The Maxxum 70 has been with me for five years and has performed well. These images are mostly Kodak Ultramax and Ultrafine 400, 100 and XP2.


The Maxxum 70 strikes me as a combination of an SLR and P&S. One can turn it on, set it to “P,” and never look back. It is designed to make life easy for the user, yet has many advanced features for those who want to dig in further. Unlike the 600si, which assumes one wants to master the principles of photography, the Maxxum 70 assumes the user wants to make memorable photos while having fun.

I don’t like modal interfaces, but I do like the Maxxum 70, probably because the modal behavior is hidden away unless one goes looking for it. Overall, it and the Maxxum 5 are ideal travel cameras. Both are simple, capable, and light-weight. I’ve never had a bad exposure or missed focus with either, that I can recall. Paired with a 28, 35, or 50mm prime, the Maxxum 70 is an excellent photographic tool that will yield pleasing results. Attach a 35-70mm zoom, load 400 iSO film, and there is little one cannot photograph.

Those experienced with SLRs or who love the bulk and weight of professional gear will find the Maxxum 70 feels like a toy. However, those moving up from a smartphone or P&S will find the Maxxum 70 a friendly introduction to SLRs. They were only made for two years, so finding a working one may take time. But, if you do, it will become a beloved companion.  I’m sad that Minolta no longer exists, but the Maxxum 70 was a nice way to say goodbye.


  1. Seems that some photographic bloggers have trouble finding working Minolta cameras on eBay. I know Jim Gray couldn’t find a Maxxum 5 that worked. So I found one for him since I seemed to have the touch mostly.

    1. Author

      When I started in 2019, I did fairly well. The Maxxum 70 being one of the bad apples. But lately, within the last 18 months, I seem to have had a couple of duds for each working camera or lens. Fortunately, there is little left for me to buy.

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