My father’s 1st SLR camera was the Minolta XG-7. As a teenager, I remember being fascinated with the look and feel of the camera. It had a magical mystique to it. From the LED light meter, to the nearly indestructible metal top and bottom plates, to the gorgeous Rokkor lens. This camera was cooler than cool.
I think he sold it to a coworker, a fellow engineer, before switching to Nikon. Decades later, and pretty much a Nikon shooter myself, I wanted to get one. For nostalgia, for fun, and to experience what a Rokkor lens was all about. So I got a complete kit from KEH.com . The body, Rokkor 50mm f/1.4, motor drive, and electronic flash. After loading it up with some Tri-X, I took it out for a spin. After a couple of exposures, the curtain started remaining open. Then, the winder, normally a very smooth working lever, stuck. After powering the camera down, and back on, things freed up for a while, then, stuck again. I maybe got 18 out of 36 exposures. After calling KEH, they sent me a replacement body, no questions asked, and let me keep the faulty one for parts. Incredible. The “new” one works like a charm. I keep telling myself this is a 33-year-old film body here, and while normally bulletproof, things can happen. Sometimes, magic can-
The bokeh of the Rokkor is smooth, creamy, and dreamy. the light meter, while a bit sluggish getting up to speed after changing aperture (using CdS, “older” technology”, is nonetheless, accurate. The shutter is crisp and snappy. The form factor is perfect- not too big, not too small. The fresnel focusing screen is the best on any SLR I have ever used, film or digital. The XG-7 was loaded with firsts. It was the first in the Minolta XG series. the world’s first camera with aperture priority. The first camera with a conductive touch sensitive light meter button, which to this day, is lightning fast.
The camera does have some flaws and compromises. Of course, there are no free rides with photography. The finder is only about 93% coverage. Manual mode, while available, turns off the light meter, forcing one to either use Aperture Priority as a guide, and then dial in the exposure manually, use an external light meter, or Sunny 16. There is no mirror lock up, or depth of field preview. The fastest shutter speed is limited to 1/1000 of a second. If your meter calls for a shutter speed, your shutter is automatically disables. In a way, a cool feature.
It was a very pricey camera for its day. Miniolta later introduced the somewhat lesser XG-1, with fewer features and performance, and brought in a pre-cosmetic surgery Bruce Jenner in as their pitchman.
The Rokkor glass is fast, sharp, contrasty, and in my opinon, without parallel for a consumer/prosumer 35mm lineup. I love my Nikkors, but have yet to achieve results like these, even with the same era counterpart Nikkor 50 f/1.4. Results are subjective, of course, but this is the kind of look I love from a 35mm SLR camera system. Rather than to go on, here are a few more sample shots from the 1st roll. These were all shot wide open-
On a related note, KEH is a joy to do business with. I cannot recommend doing business with them more highly. Their prices are reasonable, and their customer service, the best. And purchases now carry a full 6 month warranty.