The Hi-Matic 7s, where to start on this sweet fixed lens rangefinder. It truely is the underdog when it comes to the rangefinder explosion of the 1960s and today is barely seen with everyone clamoring for Yashica Electros, Canonet QL17 GIIIs, and Olympus 35SP, and while these are all great cameras the Hi-Matic 7s is a true sleeper. The slightly upgraded version of the Hi-Matic 7 (the second camera in the Hi-Matic line) features the same meter as Minolta’s SrT line of single lens reflex cameras, a hotshoe, and the Safe Loading System (SLS). This also happens to be the very first camera that I ever got as my own camera. That junky 110 camera I got from McDonalds doesn’t count.
Model: Hi-Matic 7s
Type: 35mm Rangefinder
Lens: Fixed, Rokkor-PF f=45mm 1:1.7
Year of Manufacture: 1969
Being really an outlyer camera in the fixed lens rangefinder market the cost of these cameras is relatively low while the more cult classics fetch large prices, this will give you solid performance without breaking the bank. It’s also a fully mechanical camera, so that pesky battery only powers the meter, so you can use the camera on the fly with the Sunny-16 rule, or use a shoe mounted meter or just your smartphone. Speaking of the shoe the camera has both a hotshoe and a PC socket and with a leaf shutter you can sync the flash at any shutter speed. And then there’s the optics, the Rokkor glass is super sharp, and with a nice wide f/1.7 aperture you can use this camera easily in low light. The camera also has a bright viewfinder with good focus assist and bright composition lines, because like all rangefinders the viewfinder is offset from the lens.
The weak point for this camera is the battery, like many camera of its age the Hi-Matic 7s takes a mercury cell so many times if you can find one the battery may already be removed and you cannot purchase these cells anymore. However you do have a couple options if you want to power the meter. The first is of course just placing an alkaline or silver oxide cell in camera that will power it but there is a voltage difference of .2 which doesn’t really equate to much but may throw off the metering or blow a circuit somewhere. Next option is a Wyne cell, but they don’t last long and require you to drill a hole in the battery cover. The final, and best option in my view is C.R.I.S Camera Repair which sells adapter units that will step down the voltage of modern batteries. Then there’s the weight, the Hi-Matic 7s is not a light camera, it has a good heft to it, and has a fairly large presence. But don’t let that slow you down, I guess i was just really feeling it after several hours doing musket drill with a bayonet fixed.
The Low Down
This is a great camera to pick up to get into using rangefinders, inexpensive and good quality results. Plus it can seriously take a beating and still work. Mine wears a dent where I dropped it, the back stayed closed, even the lens avoided damage, just this one ding up at the top. As a learner camera I wouldn’t say it’s a top one to get, the meter, if you use it, is only in Exposure Values (EV) so I didn’t really learn anything about exposure, mostly because I used the meter well until the battery died. But for a first camera, it was great to figure everything out even if I left it in auto.
Fort York National Historic Site in Toronto, Ontario
Minolta Hi-Matic 7s – Rokkor-PF f=45mm 1:1.7 – Ilford FP4+ @ ASA-125 – Ilford Perceptol (1+1) 15:00 @ 20C