Saturday, September 06, 2008

Minolta X-700 MPS Manual Focus SLR (1981)

A blast to the past ... Look what I found, my dad's trusty Minolta X-700 MPS.

The Minolta X-700 is a 35 mm single-lens reflex camera introduced by Minolta in 1981. It was the top model of their final manual-focus SLR series before the introduction of the auto-focus Minolta Maxxum 7000.
It used the basic body of the XG-M but added full program autoexposure in addition to the XG-M's aperture priority and metered manual modes. It also introduced through-the-lens (TTL) flash metering, and added exposure lock and interchangeable focusing screens to the XG-M's features.
Based on the X-700 chassis, Minolta later launched the cheaper models X-300 and X-500. The X-500 lacked the X-700's program exposure mode, but featured a fill-in flash mode. The X-300 was the basic model of the late X-series. It lacked TTL flash metering and program exposure mode, it did not show the f-stop-setting of the lens in the viewfinder and it did not have a depth-of-field control button. Basic parts of all three cameras, i.e. shutter, viewfinder, mirror system, and light metering system were identical.

This was the camera I started using when I became more serious about photography, back in 1989 :-)

The build quality and care taken of this camera has been quite astonishing ... it's now past 20 years old! Wonder if the Nikon D80 50mm F1.8 I used to shoot thse shot would still be around in the year 2026 !?

Found a great local website, Malaysian Internet Resources which documents the X-700 in quite some detail!

The mid price SLR market place were getting a little muddy during the first segment of the '80. Primarily the multimode automation used in SLR camera design kicked started by both Minolta and Canon was excessively being emphasized and followed by competition; many potential SLR consumers were getting a little lost and strangely, automation has not actually benefit the industry as a whole; it has also created a confusing state even for many seasoned photographers.
Basically, I felt those bodies have not been designed as user friendly as previous simple-to-operate SLR cameras anymore. Many potential buyers, have in fact turned to alternative of point and shoot cameras rather than getting started to learn how to operate a complicated-to-understand fully auto SLR camera.

However, in 1981 - Minolta released a midrange SLR camera which had many industry observers' eyebrows raised because the camera came with an entirely different concept and has reverted back to basic where priority set on user friendliness and ease of operation, it was an instant success.
Minolta marketed the camera under a "MPS" tag line which stands for "Minolta Program System". Commercially, it was a tremendous success for Minolta and it also signified the rebirth of another dominant force in 35mm market place as Minolta continued to spring surprises years that followed. Among them, it has provided another major leap in 35mm SLR development by introducing the world first body integrated autofocus SLR camera a few years later in 1985 with the revolutionary Minolta AF Maxxum 7000.

On the other hand, Minolta X-700 featured here, has always been remembered as a camera that has added a new lease of life to the dull photographic hardware market during that confusing state of the early '80. It also proved to be a trend setting camera with its simple, friendly and no frills design. Most importantly, the camera has brought some fun back to photography with a simple three basic exposure control modes in Program AE ("P"), Aperture Priority AE ("A") and Manual exposure control modes. Further, TTL OTF flash exposure control was also featured when artificial illumination is required. In particular with the Minolta X-700's Minolta Program System (MPS), it provides a simple focus-and-shoot simplicity of programmed auto-exposure (AE) control: where both aperture and shutter speed are automatically set over a wide range by the camera, with continuous viewfinder LED readout of speeds being set.

The program is designed to maintain fastest practicable speeds as light dims, then give audible beeps, if desired, to guard against blur from subject/camera-movement, making the X-700 ideal if you're starting out in photography or if you want full program automation for ease of use or fast-breaking action.

Although Program AE has been made available in some other cameras, but it took a X-700 to realize its potential to be a decisive marketing elements in SLR cameras as compared to sheer convenience of P&S cameras. Personally, I was even more surprised by Minolta decision to adopt a Aperture Priority AE instead of Shutter Priority AE as virtually, among the big five camera manufacturing players in Japan, only Canon's FD and Minolta's MD lenses were able to provide Shutter Priority AE.

Anyway, whatever the reasons, it was a winning marketing formula to X-700. stainless steel bayonet mount of Minolta has a 54 degree rotating angle; it couples with appropriate lenses for full-aperture metering, finder display input, and automatic diaphragm control; with the MD lenses, it provides programmed AE or aperture-priority AE, older MC lenses can only provide aperture-priority AE operation; stop-down meter readings is possible other than MC or MD lenses.

The clever adoption of Aperture Priority AE over Shutter Priority AE to tailored for requirement of majority of users. Minolta X-700's aperture-priority AE mode lets you control the depth of field but still maintain AE control of stepless shutter speeds fine-tuned for proper exposure with light metered up to the instant of exposure. This mode is excellent for AE photography with the wide range of Minolta SLR system lenses and accessories available, including mirror lenses and close-up bellows - not possible with shutter-priority AE systems. Lastly, for full creative flexibility which may demand for absolute control over selection of aperture values and shutter speeds, the camera can be set independently in any combination in the X-700's metered/full-manual mode.

Other handy features of your X-700 include: touch-switch metering that keeps the LEDs on for 15 seconds after you first touch the operating button; a convenient AE lock for holding adjusted-framing meter readings; +/- 2EV stops' exposure adjustment with LED indicator in finder; self-timer with triple-rate visual/audible indications; flash-ready and Flash Distance Checker (FDC) indications in finder; split-image microprism spot and Acute Matte focusing screen; integral front and back grips for surer holding; Safe Load Signal; and a new easy-load take-up spool. A programmed auto flash, multifunction back, and quartz data back complete the Minolta Program System; also available are a new wireless controller, a moderately high speed motor drive and a slower auto winder, and a broad range of other SLR system accessories which include many Macro/Close-up accessories readily in the system.

Before using your camera for the first time, study this manual carefully all the way through - or at least all the sections covering your photographic needs. As you read, attach a lens, load batteries, turn the main switch on, and handle your X-700 to acquaint yourself with its parts and features. Then load it with film and proceed to actual picture taking. In this way you can take good photos and begin to realize the broad potential of your X-700.

The Minolta X-700 was, once the longest serving manual focus program auto SLR camera which seen its service lasting close to almost TWO decades. The camera has evolved into a few simpler versions, among them the Minolta X-370, a cheaper virtual X-700 version minus the Program AUTO function was very popular in the west. The production was once shifted to my country in Malaysia during early '90 and later the assembling line was moved to China at its later years of service.

Lastly, as the development of influential Minolta MAXXUM class of AF SLR cameras were largely based on initial foundation laid by the Minolta X-700, so this site, may not be the best Minolta X-700 website available, but content has been carefully compiled to avoid replicating similar resources on the network which serves more to its true objective to serve rather than compete. Along with many other classic cameras featured in this website, this website aims to inspire current owners, support potential future users, and also take the opportunity to chronicle another manual focus photographic legend of modern times.


Jon said...

Thanks for the info on the Minolta. Didn't Sony buy them out?
I am trying to decide if a DSLR camera is worth it. I know the quality of pictures is obviously higher, but still not sure if cost is worth it. This site seems to indicate a DSLR is worth it and prices are coming down, but I read conflicting things, so not really sure. Thoughts? Thanks

Julian Si said...

Digi SLRs are really cheap now, but beware of LENS costs. If you go with the KIT lens that comes with 'base' models such as the Nikon D80 or Canon EOS400, there'll be a lot of quality sacrifice... but it's still a HUGE step up from point and shoots.

The other 'problem' with SLRs is the BULK .. aka the size. Think abt whether you are willing to lug the fella around!

I move between 3 cams ... A small Canon Ixus 55, a mid-size Canon G9 and my occassional use Nikon D80.


ps - Some research on Wikipedia uncovered the following ...

On January 19, 2006 the company announced that it was quitting the camera business due to high financial losses. SLR camera service operations were handed over to Sony starting on March 31, 2006 and Sony has continued development of cameras that are compatible with Minolta autofocus lenses. Konica Minolta withdrew from the photo business on September 30, 2006.

Lianne said...

oohhh .. J has something that looked like this in his old drawers. He said its an SLR but not digital, thought can use but aiya .. not digital, how to delete lol

Julian Si said...

Yes, we certainly take things for granted such as deleting, and not having to wait a week for the "Photo Shop" to print the photos and then you find out that you had the wrong ISO setting, slow shutter speed, off-focus problems blah blah ... Times have certainly moved on!

Have a good day!