VMLP 9: Minolta Maxxum 8000i — “i” Is for Intelligence!

The 8000i was close to the last Maxxum I bought. When I initially decided to purchase multiple Minolta cameras (before I conceived of the VMLP), I chose to focus on the “Sevens” (7000, 7000i, 7xi, 700si, 7, and 70). The 8000i entered the picture with the VMLP. Even then, I debated getting one. There are few reviews, and all of them say it’s only a minor upgrade from the 7000i. Having used the 8000i, I’m afraid I have to disagree. 

It took a while to find an 8000i. Until recently, they did not show up often for sale, at least not in working order. My copy came from eBay. I found a seller offering a lot that consisted of a 7000i, an 8000i, a few nondescript lenses, a set of 49mm filters, and a set of 55mm filters. He wanted around 50.00 for the lot. Since I already had a 7000i and plenty of 55mm filters, I offered 25.00 for the 8000i and the 49mm filters. Initially, he refused, but then a few days later sent an email via eBay asking if the offer was still good. 

Historical Perspective 
Introduced in 1990, two years after the 7000i, the 8000i boasted a faster shutter speed of 1/8000 and faster flash sync of 1/200 as its most readily noticed improvements over the 7000i. However, what others may consider minor improvements— exposure compensation is easier to use and focus hold is more reliable—for me, greatly enhance the shooting experience. The 8000i has three autofocus sensors and an automatic focus mode. There are two lateral vertical sensors and a central horizontal sensor. A function button is used to select between the central sensor and wide area. These were significant focus innovations when introduced with the 7000i. A version of the 8000i, a limited edition pearl white kit, was released in 1990 to honor the first Japanese citizen’s visit to the Mir space station.  

Inspection and Appearance
I did not care for the boxiness of the Maxxum 7000; it was too angular and cold. However, I still found it pleasant to use. My reaction to the 8000i is similar. The jury is still out on the 8000i design. In terms of appearance, I’m not sure I like it—acceptance would be a more apt description of my reaction. I do very much like the ergonomics of the machine, though. That grip fits my hand perfectly. Another design change from the 7000 found in both the 7000i and 8000i is the backward tilted LCD panel. I wish that design feature had remained in later Maxxum models.  

The LCD has buttons to change the focus area, metering mode, and exposure mode, which, paired with the “Function” and “Mode” buttons, provide access to most camera features. The front control dial allows for control of shutter speed, aperture, exposure compensation, and other functions. Focus Hold and Spot buttons are on the back of the camera. The focus hold button on the 8000i locks focus even if a new subject comes into the frame closer to the camera than the intended subject—the 7000i does not have this ability. The Spot button enables spot metering for a single frame. Exposure compensation is simpler with the 8000i. One chooses exposure adjustment using a “+/- “button on the front of the camera next to the lens mount, pressing the “+/-“button while moving the front control dial increments EC in 0.5 units between +4 and -4.  

Creative cards are inserted in a panel accessed via a small door on the camera’s right side (camera facing away from you). Aside from inserting and activating cards, one can set the ISO and timer with small buttons on the back of the door. The buttons are a little too small for my hands. The AF/Manual switch is on the right front of the camera. The mirror compartment, shutter, take-up spools, and light seals looked fine.  

Unlike many cameras of the second generation of Maxxum cameras, the rubber grip on my 8000i is intact—not even a crack. There are scratches and scrapes on the body, but nothing major. As with many 8000is, there is a bleed in the viewfinder. On this copy, part of the aperture info is blotted out. The LCD panel has no scratches or bleeds.  

Function and Handling
I like the weight and grip of the 8000i. At 400gm, It is well-balanced and not too heavy. Everyone seems to lament the plastic cameras of the 90s, but this body feels sturdy and solid. The 8000i offers more features than the 7000/9000 and has a more involved interface. It took a while before I became familiar with knowing when to press the Function or the Mode button. While the interface is easy to learn, whenever I pick up a Maxxum from the 7000i up to the 800si, it takes a few minutes to figure out how everything works.   

Loading film is simple. Pop in a roll, pull the film leader over to the take-up spool, and close the door. The ISO is read automatically (to change to a different one, you have to use the button on the side panel door). Once loaded, I immediately pressed the Mode button to switch to aperture priority. In AP mode, one changes the aperture with the “up-down control, “which, oddly, only moves side-to-side.  

The camera’s right side has a Spot button to invoke spot metering for a single frame. The 8000i has predictive autofocus. Point the central focus area at the subject while in automatic mode, and the cameras will maintain focus as the subject moves. This works better in theory than in practice, so I keep it turned off. If I had a pet or a toddler, I would try it, though. It is not sophisticated enough for bees or hummingbirds.  

Shooting
The 8000i viewfinder is bright and pleasant to use. The bleed over the f-stop reading was annoying but not really a hindrance. The up/down control is easy to use to change settings, so I rarely took my eyes off the viewfinder when shooting. Autofocus was fast enough and accurate for stationary objects.  

Exposure compensation using the “+/-” button and the up/down control is so much better than the 7000i that, very likely, the days of my 7000i camera are numbered. The viewfinder shows the amount of EC, allowing one to adjust on the fly. Manual mode has focus confirmation, which I sometimes use when doing macro shots or in low light.  

The function button switches between metering mode, focus area, and single/continuous shooting. I tend to use spot metering and the central focus area 80-90% of the time because my subjects are rarely moving, so the Function button is only used at start-up.   

I did notice one odd quirk. After using the camera in manual mode, I couldn’t return to autofocus mode using the buttons on the camera. I tried the AF/MF switch and pressing the Program button, neither worked. Ultimately, I had to remove the lens and put it back on, which worked.

Creative Cards allow for a range of additional functions such as bracketing, low-key, and high-key shooting. I have many of these cards but used only the Custom Functions card with the 8000i, which allowed me to set the camera to leave the film leader out. This feature makes loading the film on the developing spool much easier. Overall, the 8000i is a capable and easy-to-use camera. 

Impression  
Having used the Maxxum 7000 and 9000, and the 7000i, a few things stand out. Autofocus seems slightly faster than with the 7000 and 9000. The 8000i is not going to win any beauty contests. It looks okay, but nothing to get excited about. I guess the word I would use would be “functional.” It performs well, and I have no problem recommending it.   

I very much like the grip, weight, and balance. It feels right. If an 8000i is available, I suggest buying it over a 7000i. The upgraded exposure compensation and focus hold capabilities make the 8000i the better choice. The interface is easy to learn—after an hour or so, muscle memory will kick in, and using it will become second nature. 

These days, many are available on eBay or from ShopGoodwill. The price for one with a lens or two will usually be in the 35-50.00 range, which I think is quite reasonable and about the same as a 7000i. I am not aware of any exceptional problems with the 8000i aside from the viewfinder bleeds, so before buying, ask about the viewfinder (if possible, get a picture). With those caveats in mind, buy one and enjoy it. It does what it was designed to do quite well.

7 Comments

  1. Thanks for the post. I obtained an 8000i a few months ago. Haven’t shot a roll of film through it yet, but I agree regarding the feel of the camera. It fits better in my hands than the 7000, 7000i, 9000. I’m a long time Minolta fan. Thanks again. BTW, great job on the Uncle Jonesies Podcast.

    1. Glad you liked the post and the podcast! I put off buying an 8000i because some many comments dismissed it as a minor upgrade. But for serious shooters, the difference between the 7000i and 8000i are significant.

  2. Wonderful review, Jerome. I enjoy all your posts a great deal, both gardening and photography ones.
    I also have and enjoy my Maxxum 8000i. It came with a custom card but no instructions. I’d like to program my camera to leave the film leader out when rewinding, but have no idea which of the numbers do what. Can you provide any help in this matter?

    1. It is rare that someone likes both the gardening and photography posts, so thanks!!! I tried to find a PDF of the instructions, but failed. Try this sequence.

      Using Custom Card
      1. Insert card (For orientation, see picture on door)
      2. The word “CARD” will appear with black background in LCD Panel
      3. Press “CARD ADJ.” button on door panel
      4. “CUST” will appear in LCD panel with a number to its right. That number is the number of a custom function that you can set. At this point, the word “CARD” will be flashing in the LCD, and there will be a flashing number directly above it. The flashing number is the current option for the CUST function number at the top of the LCD panel.
      5. Press the CARD button on the TOP of the camera until the LCD screen reads “CUST 3” (“Film tip” is function 3)
      6. Finally, slide the up/down control until the flashing number is “2” (“Leave film tip out” setting is option 2)
      7. Now, press the “CARD ADJ” button, and the LCD panel should revert to normal
      8. Eject the card using the slider on the door.
      Done!

      Hope this helps

      1. Thank you for your help. I will be posting some photos of my garden from this camera on flickr once I finish my planting. It has been a rather cold spring here and temps are just getting close to normal.
        Thanks again for your help AND for your wonderful website.

        1. Spring here has been beautiful. It seems that summer is about to start, temps are supposed to be in the 80s and 90s coming up, and regular rains will not return until September–water bill is about to jump!

          I looked at your Flickr account, I like your choice of subjects. I notice you use Kentmere for B&W. It seems like Ultrafine Xtreme 400. After having used Ultrafine, Tri-X, and HP5, I find HP5 to be my favorite for image rendering and scanning ease. Tri-X looks good, but is a pain to scan. Now that I do color dev at home, XP2 is nice too. How did you find my blog?

          1. I found your blog through Jim Grey’s list.

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