The ideal 35mm camera for beginners? If you have to believe the internet, the Canon AE Program is the perfect camera for them… Let’s say there are better devices than the AE Program, for example the Canon A1 if you really want a Canon. The best SLR for beginners? That’s the Minolta X700, the best camera in 1981 and far beyond!
Minolta? Never heard of it…
Minolta was acquired by Sony many years ago and is now mainly known for its printers and copiers in current days. However, it’ss not so long ago that Minolta was one of the most popular camera brands on the market!
Minolta was known for its advanced technology, high performance lenses and their collaborations with Leica. Unfortunately, over the years they have been snowed under by competition and poor acquisitions. The advantage of the inferior brand awareness is that you can buy some great cameras at a fraction of the price than similar better-known brands
What makes the Minolta X700 the ideal SLR?
The X700 has some features that make it suitable for photographers of all levels. Many cameras from that time focused on one particular type of photographer. You had the option to go for a camera for beginners, or one for professionals. There were only a few cameras on the market that had the necessary features to be an attractive option for both groups!
Minolta Program System, the groundbreaking technology!
Minolta was one of the first to release a program mode. Program mode means that the camera makes all the calculations to make the best settings for the picture. All you had to do was focus the camera correctly.
Many cameras from that time only had an aperature priority mode. So Minolta’s ‘MPS’ technology was a big leap forward, especially in combination with the beautiful light meter that Minolta had placed in the X700. Whilst there were a few cameras before the Minolta with some sort of program mode, the X700 was the first with a real program mode that functioned like expected. You don’t need to do quirky things or remember a complex way of doing things, just switch the camera to P mode.
A powerful built-in light meter
Light meters in analog cameras are generally good in optimal conditions. Unfortunately, it is a different story when the conditions are not ideal. The light meter in the Minolta X700 shines under all kinds of conditions. In the year that I carry this camera with me, usually in aperature priority, I have not had a single bad picture when the camera determines the settings.
Beautiful lenses at a fraction of the price!
Lower popularity of a brand has some advantages to it! Overall the prices of great Minolta glass is significantly lower than that of well-known competitors. I own a couple of lenses for my Minolta’s, 2 beautiful primes and a standard zoom lens.
All of these lenses are manual focus, so if you’re coming from digital you’ll need to get used to it. The lenses offer great image quality and color rendition. Minolta is known for some spectacular lenses that are very compact. They collaborated with Leica on camera bodies and got some knowledge regarding lens design in return. My favorite lens is the 50mm 1.7, a pancake style lens that has a big aperature and performs decently wide open.
Furthermore, the line-up of lenses is extensive and has all the focal lengths you’ll ever need.