review: Minolta X-700 camera

m. werneburg, 2002

A fun and versatile camera from the 80's

The 80's was the period in camera technology when all-metal construction gave way to plastic bodies and electronics. An early example of this was the award-winning Minolta X-700, a camera that stayed on the market for nearly twenty years. That's a long life for an electronics product, and there's a reason. The X-700 was an inexpensive and useful camera that encourages photography.

Summary

Easy to use

An X-700 allows newcomers to put the camera and lens in "P" mode and let the camera do everything else. This extends to compatible flash systems as well. In short, this camera allows you to automate everything but the focus and the film advance.

The controls are all very much self-evident with this camera, as well. There's no menu system on an LCD and no tricky button combinations. It's all manual and all laid out very well—very much the opposite of today's DSLR's (which typically have a user interface more reminiscent of a photocopier).

The viewfinder is a big bright one with a lot of information laid out in a logical fashion. This camera spoils the user.

Versatile

The X-700 also has the standard aperture-priority and manual exposure modes, as well as a flash sync speed and bulb. It's got two exposure override features (a lock and a manual adjustment of +2/-2). It takes a wide range of film speeds. And it supports an enormous collection of lenses and other peripherals. It was designed as a "camera system" rather than a standalone camera and many of the peripherals can still be found (cheaper than ever, in some cases).

So once you've outgrown simple "P" mode automation, you'll find yourself able to take yourself a lot further with this versatile tool.

Dependable

I've had only one problem with my two X-700 bodies over the years. This is a well-made camera (don't let the made-in-China label on later models give you pause, Minolta was known for excellent camera manufacture and they kept the standards the same at the Chinese assembly line). The one problem I encountered was both a simple and cheap fix—in part because Minolta sold so many of these cameras that the parts and repair expertise are not uncommon.

good things

construction

I have used both Minolta and Pentax bodies and feel that this model was the best-built and most dependable despite the many features.

versatility

This inexpensive camera has not only the exposure overrides mentioned above, but a depth-of-field preview, timer and a cable release socket. Again, there are plenty of extensions available such as grips, motors, data backs, flashes, etc.

handy "P" mode

The program mode is great for beginners.

dependability

I've used this camera on mountain hikes; in the Australian outback; in the south Pacific; in rain forests; on long cycle trips; for portraiture; with infra-red film (for which it is really suited); with reverse-mounted lenses; in the rain; in sub-zero weather (for which I will admit that its battery-dependence is not well suited); and in terrible snowstorms. I took it on the road for a 19-month journey. I found that this camera not only stood up to all of it but came to feel like an extension of my hand—it's an easy camera to appreciate because all of its functions just work.

weaknesses

The meter

The meter in this camera seems a bit limited. As my understanding of exposure grew I came to understand that the camera was giving me inconsistent results. I put this down to the meter, though I never entirely figured out where it was going wrong. I lay the blame with the meter, however, when I started to use the Minolta XD (with the same films, lenses, flash, etc).

It seems to me that the X-700 tends to underexpose, and the results get less predictable under low-light situations. To avoid this, I suggest two things:

One note: I've used a variety of infra-red films with three film bodies and found the X-700 to yield the most consistent and appealing results.

the looks

The camera's external body is largely constructed of plastic, and doesn't look like the dependable and versatile tool that it really is. If you care what people think of your gear, this isn't the camera you want to carry around.

You can by replacement leather for it, though—I found that replacing the default faux leather helps considerably, as below.

Minolta X-700 plus griptac leather
Minolta X-700 plus griptac leather
Minolta X-700 in blue replacement leather
Minolta X-700 in blue replacement leather

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reader comments

I moved house recently after 30 years in one place, and I have just unearthed my X-700 from way back when, and am about to put a film through it. It all seems to be working fine so far. Results will tell. And I found its predecessor, an XG-M, which also works after cleaning up the battery contacts, so a film will be going through that as well. I have four Minolta lenses for them - 55mm f2, 35-70mm f3.5, 100mm f3.5 and 250mm f5.6 mirror lens, and two others - a Soligor 35mm f2.8 and a Vivitar 24mm f2. Should have some fun with all that.

Mike Gwynne
2013.08.02

I've found that I keep coming back to film, and to my X-700 bodies, time and again. It brings back a lot of the simply joy of photography.

I have a 35-70mm f/3.5 as well. And I've always enjoyed my 24mm lens on the X-700, such a nice balance to hold in addition to great results.

-Michael

Hello I've just purchased one of these models in "Mint" Condition £35.00 on EBay. I also Purchased a 9000 AF a couple of weeks ago. Love the feel and looks of both. Bit of a Minolta geek! Collector wise. Interested in your Review and experiences. Roy Haworth (Manchester UK).

Roy Haworth
2013.03.29

Thanks for leaving a note, Roy. Good-quality used X-700 bodies abound, I've never had a problem buying excellent bodies for peanuts*. I hope it brings you years of delightful photography. I've got one of X-700 bodies with me this weekend.

*From the manual focus age, I've found Minolta's bodies as good as anything I've used. I'm not sure that the lenses where equal to the market leaders but I find Minolta's bodies very well designed and reasonably reliable despite their age.

-Michael

Hello, I am using a minolta x-700, with a vivitar MC tele-converter, and a sigma uc zoom 70-210. is this a good set-up with this camera. thanks paul

paul durda
2012.09.09

Thanks for leaving a note! I'm glad there are others out there still using this stuff.

-Michael

rand()m quote

(In which I leave the final word to someone else.)

Success has a thousand fathers, failure is an orphan.

--Old proverb

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