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Review: Minolta XD

Minolta XD film camera review. Minolta XD-7 and XD-11 are here too.

This material about one of the famous cameras by Minolta is simple enough, based on my personal and little experience with the film photography, and doesn’t pretend to be a revelation – there are many other people who can tell about XD in hundreds of times more, you can see this amazing review of XD11 by Antony Hands for example. So, this particular article is mostly ‘blog’ than a ‘research’. There is a lot of data on the internet, so, if you need more – search for something like ‘Minolta XD’ and tons of materials will appear.

With thanks to Andrea Apra` for the verification of the facts and correcting information in the article

Period of production – 1977-1984.

Firstly I want to repeat a few well-known facts about this camera, briefly.

The naming:

  • Minolta XD – Japanese territory
  • Minolta XD11 – for North America (the USA and Canada)
  • Minolta XD7 – for Europe and the rest of the world (for example in Australia was sold the XD-7)

All these three models are the same or, better to say, the one camera just with the changed engraving of the name – there is no technical difference.

Additionally, Minolta produced three other cameras based on original XD/XD7/XD11.

  • XDs
  • XDs Medical
  • XD5

All three are very similar to the main XD, but not identical. XDs got the diopter adjusting ability for the viewfinder, XDs Medical lost exposure meter and shutter speed settings – only 1/100 speed is available because of sync with flashes, and XD5 is a little simplified model because of absent in the viewfinder the information about the aperture in A mode and shutter speed information in S mode. But, at the same time, the XD5 has been built using composite materials instead of a simple metal in top cover at least. There are two possibilities – the first is a cost reduction: XD-5 arrived in 1979 also the XDs arrived in 1979 but it has a metal top cover. XDs Medical arrived in 1980 with the metal top cover too. The second – the newer camera, the modern technologies – that was an experiment with new materials on the not-from-top model. I like this version more.

As you can see, we have totally just four cameras: XD/XD7/XD11, XDs, XDs Medical, XD5.

Before to continue with XD cameras let me publish the quote by one of the famous experts in Minolta history- Andrea Aprà. That’s the brilliant information about dividing of markets via Japan industry’s view:

The Minolta world market (in those years) is divided into 4 macro regions:
– Japanese territory market
– USA and Canada markets (North America)
– Europe market
– the so-called “third area” (i.e. all the rest of the world other than the areas already mentioned)
So the Asia definition isn’t correct, because it’s too much generic. Asia includes Japan and a part of the “third area” that is all the rest of Asia, excluding Japan.
The reason why it is called “third area” and not fourth area as it would seem more logical is that the Japanese consider:
– Japan
– the rest of the world, export market. So the first area is North America, the second area Europe and the rest of the world in the third area.
In the details of the names of the various cameras, Europe and the third area are “always” connected.
So ultimately the names are 3:
– Japanese territory
– North America
– Europe and third area

The SR-T 101 is sold on all areas without difference of names.

Then follow, in numerical and not chronological order:
– Japan: SR-T Super, SR 101, SR 505. Then it exists in the lists also the “SR 101s” and “SR 505s”, but they weren’t produced in series. There are only some top cover distributed to service facilities before to abort of the production.
– North America: SR-T 100, SR-T 102, SR-T 200, SR-T 201, SR-T 202.
– Europe and third area: SR-T 100 (also here), SR-T 100b, SR-T 100x, SR-T 101b, SR-T 303, SR-T 303b.

The numbering is mysterious, but some details are highlighted:
– in Japan except the first one, the letter “T” is missing (SR and not SR-T), use of the number “5” (it was used only here).
– North America: intensive use of the number “2”.
– Europe and third area: use of low numbers 100 and 101, use of the number “3” and of the suffix “b”.
– The Japanese market is poor in models. There is always only the basic and the most sophisticated model. There are no economic models or sub-variants so common in other markets. This is quite normal. We know that Minolta is a company that heavily segmented the market by covering every possible customer budget with a model specifically calculated for that budget. This wasn’t a feature for Japanese consumers who evidently didn’t require this. So the possible alternatives for the domestic market were much smaller.

Since the loss of the MLU is common on all markets, the use of the suffix “b” cannot be linked to the loss of the MLU, there isn’t any SR-T 201b. It is clear, however, that “b” always refers to a later model than one without “b”. It seems that the purpose of “b” is to be associated with the concept of “second” and not so much of quality model “b”. However, this does not justify the fact that “b” wasn’t used in other markets.
The motivation must be found in the game of numbers: in the market where the “b” was used, it was a market that couldn’t use the number “2” because this number was reserved for the North American market and therefore given that in North America it was possible to pass from 102 to 200 to 201 and 202, this wasn’t possible for the European market and third area, so the use of “b” is exactly the substitute of 2. One may wonder why only 1, 2, 3 and 5 do not already even 4, 6 or other major numbers (in fact XE-7 and XD-7 existed). This obviously remains in the mystery of Japanese numerology.

For more details on the models, see the table with all the features

Well, let’s go deeper into the model XD/XD7/XD11.

  • It may be marked as XD/XD7/XD11
  • It may be black or silver
  • Some rare copies may have additional engraving because of some events or anniversaries
  • The camera may have old Minolta classic logo or new logo (“The Rising Sun”)
  • It may be covered by two different skin materials – soft and hard
  • In rare cases, it may have an unusual color of the skin
  • The film memory holder on the back may be marked in ASA/DIN or ISO

– but independently of any of these points the camera still continues to be Minolta XD.

I’m sorry, but this is not the end of differences. During the years of production, the camera got a few minor changes. I don’t feel that these changes can be called improvements because of my personal experience with the earliest and latest modifications shown to me that there is no difference in the operation with the cameras.

Collectors are selecting 5 modifications. (Note: previously listed differences don’t affect the number of modifications.) Here the list of possible changes:

  • The color of 125 on the shutter speed dial can be white or green
  • The position of the exposure compensation lever can be directed to the front corner of the body or to the prism side.
  • The exposure compensation lever can be metal or covered by black plastic
  • Self-timer lever can has notches or holes
  • Film door (or back door) can have or hasn’t film guide

The combination of these signs determines the modification of the camera.

Andrea Apra and Jan Koning (two representatives of the collector’s society – there are enough mentions of them on this site) –  are working on the Minolta XD cameras survey. The process isn’t finished for today (for the time of this article) but the result is already amazing and based on it I can select the diapason of some of the most attractive for collectors XD cameras “earliest recorded SN – latest recorded SN” (2019-06-21):

  • silver XD: 1006595 – 3080322
  • black XD: 1036519 – 3315149
  • silver XD7: 1008607 – 2246085
  • black XD7: 2011100 – 2240713
  • silver XD11: 1012046 – 1229170
  • black XD11: 1002564 – 1228182
  • black XD 50th: 3020944 – 3039985
  • black XD7 50th: 2025274 – 2025783
  • black XD11 50th: 1100677 – 1101381
  • black XDs: 3037135 – 3312045
  • silver XD5: 4007388 – 4201710

One note – please, don’t imagine that if you get, for example, silver XD with SN 1006595 (it would be the earliest known) it makes your collection unique because with 99% probability someone another will get silver XD with SN like 1006594 after a few weeks.

During a whole month, I was a proud owner of the XD “50 anniversary” with the earliest known serial, right until the moment when I met another the earliest on Ebay. I sent the new serial to collector’s files and lost my crown, but still, don’t sure that lucky buyer who will get it – will realize what it is.


Camera specifications:

This is an updated and enhanced version based on Wikipedia:

  • Exposure range of EV 1 to EV 18 (ISO 100 and f1.4).
  • Exposure correction from -2 to +2 EV.
  • Minolta SR lens mount
  • Flash sync at hot shoe or terminal at 1/100s.
  • Electronic vertical-travel metal shutter with the electromagnetic release. This is the Seiko MFC (Metal Focal Plane Shutter) – further development of the CLS (Copal Leitz Shutter) used on the Leica R3 and on the Minolta XE series.
  • Two mechanical shutter speeds are available at 1/100s and B (bulb)
  • Shutter speeds of 1s to 1/1000s plus bulb setting.
  • Multi Mode exposure: control of shutter speeds in aperture-priority auto-exposure mode, control of diaphragm values in shutter-priority auto-exposure mode and manual exposure.
  • TTL center-weighted metering (silicon diode).
  • 94% viewfinder coverage.
  • Acute Matte focusing screen with split-image bi-prism surrounded by microprisms. Four screens available, replaced by a technician.
  • 0.87x viewfinder magnification.
  • Viewfinder information depends on operating mode:
    • In aperture priority, shutter speed is indicated by LEDs.
    • In shutter priority, the aperture is indicated by LEDs.
    • In manual mode, the recommended shutter speed is indicated by LEDs. The chosen shutter speed is shown in a separate window.
    • With Minolta X-type flashes, flash-ready is signaled by blinking over-range LED.
    • Aperture setting is shown in all modes.
  • Battery: 2x LR44; 2x SR44 or equivalents; or one CR1/3N.
  • Mechanical self-timer.
  • Depth of field preview.
  • Film memo holder.
  • Safe-load signal indicating film present and correctly spooled.
  • Film advance release allowing multiple exposures.
  • Motorized film advance possible with Minolta Auto Winder D.

By the way, it’s strange that the article in Wikipedia is under header ‘Minolta-XD7’, I mean – instead of ‘XD’ which would be most logical or ‘XD/XD7/XD11’ or something like that.

About the focusing screen:

The PM is the standard: ground-glass screen with central horizontal split-image rangefinder and microprism ring surrounding), optional are:

  • “AP” ground-glass screen with central diagonal split-image rangefinder
  • “M” ground-glass screen with central circular microprism disk
  • “G” ground-glass screen with a central circular more fine ground disk.

I’ve seen on a some site this sentence – “Minolta XD doesn’t work without battery. Absolutely doesn’t.” –  It’s not true. In two positions: “O”(1/100) and “bulb-mode” – these cameras are able to work without cells.


The viewfinder:

The shutter speed selection window at the bottom is visible for M and S modes and isn’t visible for A.

viewfinder_XD50th_ext_190514_193105.jpg

This view looks the same for all models except XD5 and “Medical”.

  • The XD-5 doesn’t have a speed selection and aperture windows.
  • The XDs MEDICAL has both the windows but they are blind in the viewfinder (i.e. there is the shutter speed window to illuminate the values and there is the aperture window to read the values on the lens but both data aren’t visible in the viewfinder. They used a standard top cover for XDs but inside there aren’t the others part).

By the way, about the leather – most of the cameras have been covered by leather which is dried and became smaller with time. Today, a few companies sell replacements, but all of that looks like replacements, not as original skins – too accurate for a 40 years old camera even if it is in ‘like new’ condition. It isn’t a problem if camera using for real photography, but if you are going to save the camera as an element of a collection, then you need to think twice because the look can become not authentic.

One exception of course – if a camera arrived with separated leather. This case even can excuse a few little experiments with the exterior:

XD11_custom_01005XD11_custom_990XD11_custom_01011

Minolta later realized that the soft leatherette was subject to shrink and replaced it in the later models with a thinner and stiffer type without this problem, but less beautiful than the previous one.

In Japan, it was possible to request that the leatherette be replaced. The colors “lizard skin” and “red wine” were officially available.


Enough about theory. What about reviewed XD?

One time I’ve got the collector’s disease and bought a few film cameras.

G.A.S – ‘gear acquisition syndrome’

Lucky, that time I tended to collect not of each possible XD modification what I’ve seen, but followed the idea that my collection should be interesting from a collectors point of view. I’m glad that I’ve found the power to stop the farming of auctions because XD is a very interesting object for collection, but I have to remember about the beer and probably about a food. The compromise was a simple – amount and the quality of cameras should be enough for a good article. So, here you can see the result.

Minolta XD7 SN:1020727

The #1 or earliest modification of XD/XD7/XD11 with enough earlier serial number. This copy is going to my shelf because of a combination of great and fully working condition and rareness state. I promise every three months – to insert cells, make a few test clicks, remove cells and put the camera back on the shelf. I believe that this camera is the rarest among others of my collection.

Minolta XD7 SN:1067789

The first modification of the original XD/XD7/XD11 – the plastic cover for the exposure compensation lever has been added.

This particular copy arrived with the damaged focusing screen, I’ve bought one another screen on the local market, replaced and… started to afraid about focusing accuracy. I feared in vain – this camera hasn’t any issues. It becomes my main film-body for today, to be honest – right after the one X-700 and one X-500. In any way, I use the camera with real collection value in real photography – it helps me to think that I’m cool (actually, not).

Minolta XD11 SN:1229170

This is something like a collector’s pride – the serial of this copy is the latest recorded in collectors files, for the moment of the writing this article of course. This XD11 has got every possible modification except one – ‘New Logo’, but ‘New Logo’ never used with XD11, only with XD, XD7, and XDs.

Minolta XD SN:3028542

’50 Anniversary’ labeled camera should be a very interesting object for everyone who collects photo-gear. And it always stayed in the “must-have” category for me personally. More info can be found here.

It is interesting that earlier sources told about 1500 of the total amount of “50th” cameras. But from the file “Minolta XD cameras survey” it can be calculated something like about 500 of XD7, 700 of XD11 and about 3000 – 4000 of XD. It looks really so because I’ve seen XD7 and XD11 on auctions just about twice, but XD is available at any time. My idea is that a first wave was something like 500+500+500 of each model, but later Minolta made a decision to enhance of amount on the local Japan market and add a few XD11 too.

This is the end of the story about my little collection of Minolta XD line cameras – I’ve finished with XD-line, it’s enough. A bit later I’ll add another one little article about a few popular accessories.

I’ll publish a few demo-photos in a separate article. But, anyway, I can’t realize the idea of the demo photos, because film cameras don’t influence for a rendering of pictures as it happens with digital cameras.

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6 Comments »

  1. Cool review! I think the XD might be my favorite Minolta camera. I have a silver first generation XD11 (with new skin), but I really want one in black, and if it needs new skin I’ll splurge and get stingray leather…

    By the by, the back is apparently interchangeable with that of a Leica R4. I like it better myself, I’m considering hunting one down.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Tony! Great review and collection of XDs! Frankly speaking, I was waiting for one from you)) I’m in love with this camera, it looks so great and vintage with MC 55mm 1.7 or 35mm 2.8 and quite pocketable with MD 45mm. For me it is most beautiful(and, in the same time, technically advanced vintage camera.
    During the past year I’ve recovered about 10 cameras for my friends and for sale here in Russia! Repair manual helped a lot! Unlike Contax cameras, Minoltas are much more simple mechanically, but have weak electronics (and very sensible flex boards to solder). Those dead bodies with “One shutter speed at all settings” is my pain (( Only once in such body I was able to find the weak point with my Volt/Ohm tester. Fun fact – first and latest series of a camera have better electronics, I mean main PCB/processor. But other times, more often it is about dirt inside, leather shrinking, seals and so on… such a pleasure to revive them! These cameras shout – SAVE ME! I’m a beauty!
    Also, for collectors it is very simple to change serial. That top flash plate with serial can be easily removed, so you may switch it front dead body to the working (as well as dials and so on), so I don’t truly believe in any collectors value… To check it you have to see main PCB and other little changes (happened during production cycle) inside body.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Egor. It is a pleasure to see you here. I know that you are a very famous person in Russian Minolta’s community.
    What about the changing of top-covers with SN, I think it isn’t a reason to worry: if other elements on camera are matching with SN – then such operation can be considered as a very deep repair ))

    Like

  4. Hi Tony, this is an amazing article. I have a couple of XD7 that need a bit of CLA to work again.
    But I was wondering: how can I find these printed leather you have here?

    Liked by 1 person

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