In a moment of curiosity, I wondered “Who made the first auto focus SLR?”
A quick internet search popped up the Minolta Maxxum 7000.
There are those would would argue the Nikon, Pentax, and Chinon beat them to it, but these three were oddities, overpriced, and very limited in lens selection. Minolta was the first to market with a commercially viable product, in my humble opinion.
But if I were to concede to those who disagree, I’ll win the argument that the Maxxum 7000 was the first SLR to market with Auto Focus AND built-in film advance.
It also offers multiple auto exposure modes, DX metering, and auto film load…so much camera in a very 80s looking package, which is fitting since it came out in 1985.
FUN FACT: There is a telling clue in the photo above that lets you know this isn’t one of the very first Maxxum 7000s released. The first run had a logo with the two XXs overlapping which prompted Exxon to sue for logo infringement…and Minolta lost. Can you imagine the cost to Minolta to not only remake bodies, but also straps, posters, boxes, manuals, sunglasses, umbrellas, coffee mugs, and … well … I could go on, but you get the idea. I’m disappointed that neither of mine have the original logo.
And it’s Only 30 Smackers
But after more research, here is the real story: You can buy one for 30 bucks. Yep, do a quick eBay search and you’ll see them all over for that, and less. Maybe a few a little more, but I’ll just say this is a $30 camera because it’s a good target and it rolls off the tongue.
I bought one on eBay. I spent a little more than $30 since I found one that came with a 50mm 1.7 lens, a 28-80 zoom lens, and an 80-200 zoom. And a flash. And the manuals. Yes, I spent a WHOPPING $63.49, plus shipping, for the lot.
That’s right, lenses are cheap, too!
For me to find similar features in a Nikon, I’d be looking at the Nikon 2020 and with similar lenses, you’ll spend at least twice that…a lot more for the better Nikon brand lenses. Still not THAT expensive, but not $30.
Recently I was planning a trip to Europe, and it was going to be one of those quick ones where I’m in seven cities in seven days. I wanted to pack light, so decided I would take only one camera. A long list of options whizzed through my head over a few days, until I settled on taking the second Maxxum 7000 I purchased from a lady for, you guessed it, $30, including a wide angle lens.
I loaded the recently purchased Maxxum with fresh batteries and it fired right up. Boom. The only remaining question for me was which lens.
While in Overland Photo Supply getting some film, I moseyed over to the used camera case and noticed a bevy of used Maxxum lenses. They had a Tamron 28-200 zoom, not very fast, but for $29.95 I knew I had the camera for this trip.
With lens attached, the camera fit perfectly in my backpack and allowed me to stay light.
I still haven’t settled on a color film I like, but Mark Sanderson keeps pushing the Kodak Portra 400.
“Fine, Mark…I’ll take the Portra 400 with me!” I screamed at him one day over the phone as he kept pushing his agenda on me.
Author’s note: The previous paragraph is not true in any way, shape, or form.
On the Road With the Maxxum
My trip started in Oslo, Norway, where I had some time to walk around and get some shots. I used my iPhone a lot, but also the Maxxum. I noticed right away how cheaply made the Tamron feels, with the zoom very sticky and hard to adjust. I found it worked for me to zoom in all the way first, then back off vs. just going from where it was and out. Not pleased, but it was a $30 lens.
Since I was lazy and didn’t read the manual for the Maxxum, I decided to just leave it on auto and take safe shots in daylight. I didn’t pack a flash, and my only lens is a 3.8-5.6 aperture, so no inside shots. I had good weather, so no problem.
I have to say that I like this camera. I like how quickly it loads, how prompt the film advances and isn’t too noisy, I LOVE DX metering because I’m a dope and always forget what ASA film is loaded, and the autofocus was actually quite responsive.
While in Germany I had some time to shoot in Vilseck and Nuremberg. I shot in Zurich, Nyon, and Geneva Switzerland and around Luxembourg, Luxembourg.
I liked how simple the basic controls are to find and adjust. Four buttons on the left, labeled for their function, cover some of the basics. The other buttons are a little obscure in their use, but while sitting by Lake Geneva one afternoon in the sun, enjoying some local wine, I futzed with them enough to get the idea.
Just to make sure I’m clear, this is no Nikon F4. There is a reason those are still bringing bigger bucks. Yes, this is autofocus, and it’s responsive, but I’m just having fun. If I were really needing to capture something, I would want something more exact. The Maxxum does well, but it focuses based on vertical lines, and fails if you’re shooting something with horizontal lines. I also found that it likes lots of contrast.
I shot some water towers at an old munitions factory outside of Kansas City and I had to switch to manual focus to get it to work. It was close. It tried. I could hear the robotics chirping away…but they just couldn’t nail it. This isn’t often, but it does happen.
There is a toggle on the left side of the lens to switch from AF to MF in such situations. I didn’t have to do it on my trip through Europe, but have had to on other shots. You can see in the above shot that the sky is gray and the towers are gray. But there SHOULD be enough contrast for the Maxxum to be able to focus. I’d bet money the Nikon could, but I have no way of knowing for sure.
Yep…this is a GREAT camera for someone just getting started with film. Have I mentioned the price?
I think I’ll keep them. I like the weight, the grip, and they work well. I now have three. I bought the one on eBay with the extra lenses, the one from the lady on Facebook Marketplace for $30, and one came in a box full of camera stuff I bought awhile back. Digging through it this afternoon I found a Maxxum 7000 that is very dirty. I put fresh batteries in it and BOOM…works like it’s supposed to. It has one flaw to look for when buying one: the LED screen on top sometimes “bleeds” and has black covering portions of it. This one isn’t bad.
Of the three I have, two take AAA batteries and the third takes AAs. For traveling, the latter makes sense as AAs are easier to get along the way. The battery case is wider, making for a bigger grip, but other than that it’s identical to the other two.
As much as I like it, I don’t need three. I’ll pick the one I like, and the lenses I want to use, and sell the rest. Why should I have all the fun.
Here is a gallery of shots taken with the first two Maxxum 7000s I acquired.