If you can recall, when I reviewed the Leica R3, I mentioned that it would be better to get a Minolta XE. Well here we are right near the end and sure enough, I picked a Minolta XE-7 to review as a contrast to the R3. And honestly, if you take a look at the two cameras side by each, you know they both come from the same foundations, at least at the forty yard test. Thankfully there are plenty of differences beyond just the prism shape. The XE-7 is thankfully a Minolta camera, not a Leica camera with a Minolta brand slapped on it.
Model: XE-7, Alternately XE (Japan) or XE-1 (Europe)
Type: Single Lens Reflex
Format: 135 (35mm), 24x36mm
Lens: Interchangeable, Minolta MC-Mount
Year of Manufacture: 1974-1977
The first thing any photographer will recognize with the camera is the weight. In fact, it reminds me of the Nikon F2, same weight and nearly the same balance. And it feels good no matter what lens you slap onto the front of it. Overall the camera is well laid out, smooth operation of all the knobs and levers that drive the camera. In operation, everything is smooth, nothing hangs up or is stiff, from adjusting the aperture, the film speed, shutter speed and most of all the film advance lever. The advance is short and smooth as silk. The viewfinder is clean and shows everything in a familiar way. A window shows your aperture and a needle shows your shutter speed. Running in manual allows for a match needle system. And while the camera requires a battery to operate the on/off switch in a clear and open spot gives you to option to turn it off and thus save your batteries. Generally, the camera is a pleasure to use, and it uses a standard Minolta Mount so all that Rokkor glass you have, can be put to good use.
There are a couple issues I do have with the camera. The first is age, these are cameras from the late 1970s and are electronic, so they are starting to get old and can fail. Thankfully they can be fixed, and have been fixed. But they did have a limited run, only three years, so parts will eventually become scarce. But they are a solid camera, well built from the ground up, even the one I have worked perfectly from the start. The second issue is weight, these aren’t light cameras like the later X-Series cameras from Minolta, but that’s because the XE-7 is a metal camera, not one that’s partly plastic. But don’t let the weight bother you, it just means you have a camera that can take a beating and still get amazing images. The final issue I have, and it’s more a minor one is when you’re running the camera in manual, your shutter speed indicator is a bit out of frame in the viewfinder when looking through, and while the needle which indicates the optimal shutter speed is clear in the frame, you have to sort of adjust your angle of view to get what your current speed is set at.
Despite its short run, you can pick up an XE-7 for a lot less than you can an R3, and you don’t have to get special three-cam lenses to get it to work properly either, any MD mount lens works perfectly in manual and in automatic. The lenses also cost way less than the Leica R-Mount ones, even the two-cam lenses. As I mentioned in my review of the R3, the XE-7 is certainly a better option if you want a camera with the foundations of the R3 but the ease of a Minolta. Oddly enough, despite their limited three-year run, they don’t cost much on the used market, most can be had for between 100-200 dollars and that often is with a lens. Without a lens, 100 or less. If you can’t find an XE, try the XD released at the XE’s replacement and again built around the same foundations as the Leica R4.
All Photos Taken in the Distillery District, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Minolta XE-7 – Minolta MD W.Rokkor-X 28mm 1:2.8 – Kodak TMax 400 @ ASA-400
Kodak D-76 (Stock) 7:30 @ 20C