The Light Slide

fun with photography

Minolta 7D on a southwest roadtrip

You ever hear the term "displacement activity"? It's like a pressure release valve behavior that doesn't fit your current situation, but somehow helps express and relieve the warring choices in your mind. Like scratching your head when you're stumped.

The Minolta 7D was a displacement purchase for me. I wanted to buy an Epson R-D1, but knew I shouldn't; instead of buying nothing, I bought another, much cheaper camera that is rumored to have the same sensor.

And am I ever glad I did! It's a wonderful old beast. It feels like something from the 1970s, all chunky and skeuomorphic. There's a knob or dial or switch for every little thing. More than anything, it reminds me of my Nikon F4.

It also does beautiful things with colors, especially in desert light.

I knew this, yet the 7D had been languishing its little storage cube in my Kallax bookcase, unused, because I am nothing if not prey to Shiny Object Syndrome. But recently I resolved to change this.

Come along with me as I tote my 7D and vintage Schneider Kreuznach Curtagon 28mm f/4 (DKL mount) through New Mexico, Utah, Colorado and Arizona.

These photos and more are viewable in my Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D Flickr album.

Arches National Park

Arches sunset
Arches sunset
Dynamic range & contrast
Exposure 2 - less
This is my version of "shooting street" 
Arches National Park
Arches light & shadow
Dynamic range
Handheld long exposure (antishake)
Color & contrast


Our first morning trip to Canyonlands had simply terrible light… poor planning. Our next morning visit was extremely early and our goal was to visit Mesa Arch for sunrise, an extremely high-dynamic-range type of thing so I left the 7D in the truck.


Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona

New Mexico
Shiprock, NM
Shiprock, NM
Somewhere in Colorado
New Mexico: Raw

What did I learn?

A lot! Using a camera pretty extensively over a week of intense travel — and intense sunlight and shadow — and you'll learn a lot, too.

First of all, it's a joy to handle and hold.

Secondly, it does TTL metering with manual adapted lenses! Score!! Although you'll need to monitor it, of course, it's a CCD that is very prone to blowing highlights.

I've also learned that the 7D is prone to color shifts, that its jpegs are green, and that shadow recovery and anti-shake work remarkably well considering its age.

More below…


This sensor does better than I'd expect with dynamic range — just see the shots above. And you can recover shadows surprisingly well — for its age. (I'm certainly not saying "it's good, period.")

But it blows highlights easily. And when they blow, they blow ugly.

Here are some examples…

When it partly blows out…
When it fully blows out…

Color shifts

The 7D is prone to wild color shifts at times, something I'm unused to from my other cameras (other than the Sigma Merrill foveons).

Temperature can shift from under- or over- exposure, even when it's slight enough to not harm the image.

But sometimes things just come out… yellow-green, or blue. Like this one.

Straight out of camera. For no apparent reason!

Easy enough to fix…


Shadow recovery

As is the trend for this camera… better than I'd expect for its age! The end result won't always be usable, depending on the subject, but in this case, I rather like the drama.

Oops! Shadow recovery


The anti-shake on the 7D works shockingly well. I shot exclusively hand-held the entire trip. I shot frequently out the window of a moving car, and also took several static hand-held shots down to 1/10th or so with zero evidence of shake. (By the rule of 1 over focal length, I shouldn't have shot lower than 1/50th.)

This shot below was a test, exposed at 1/4th — it's usable, if it were of something or someone important!

1/4s handheld with antishake

Jpeg vs Raw

You might like the jpeg output from the 7D, but I don't. It always ends up too green.

New Mexico: Raw
New Mexico: Jpeg


I paid $139 plus shipping for my Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D, and that was absolutely worth it.

The vintage 6mp CCD has a special kind of magic, and the camera itself is an ergonomic delight. It can use the whole selection of A-mount lenses, including the incredibly cheap and incredibly good Minolta 35-70mm f/4 and 70-210mm f/4.

Plus it can adapt a lot of lenses, including m42, Nikon, and of course Kodak Retina (DKL). It's a great one for vintage manual glass, because it does TTL.

I shot it alongside its newer cousin, the Sony a350, and the Pentax QS-1 on this trip, and while the 7D can't compete in resolution or dynamic range, it brings a special flavor to the photos I took with it.

Overall, it has far fewer "keepers" than the newer cameras… but it still has that 6-megapixel CCD je ne sais quoi, so it's worth learning to handle the quirks so I can improve that ratio.

I will absolutely be using it more in the future. And trying it with different lenses.