1990 Minolta Dynax 8000i or Maxxum 8000i
White model – 35mm AF SLR selected to board the Soviet Union’s space station ‘Mir’.
1990 Minolta Riva or Freedom Zoom 105i
AKA the Brick – 35mm AF leaf shutter camera with Auto Programmed Zoom function which automatically sets shooting magnification. Editor’s note: this camera has viewfinder image scale recognition which attempts to frame subjects for you. It works quite well, we have one still in operation. The 35-105mm f/4-6.7 lens is exceptionally sharp and results from this camera are comparable to an SLR. Note the Japanese name on this white version, Apex 105.
1990 Minolta Prod 20′s
Fully auto 35mm leaf shutter AF camera with 1920s concept design.
1991 Minolta Riva Panorama or Freedom Vista
World’s first 35mm AF leaf shutter camera exclusively for panorama use.
1991 Minolta Dynax or Maxxum 7xi
35mm AF SLR with LCD viewfinder and eye sensor. Won ‘European Camera of the Year ’91′ Award. Editor’s note: ‘LCD viewfinder’ means viewfinder screen with an LCD overlay, not a finder forming an image using LCD technology. The LCD information is limited, and to obtain a grid Type L screen for example it was still necessary to replace the focusing screen with a different one.
1991 Minolta Dynax or Maxxum 3xi
35mm AF SLR with built-in ‘compact and light’ flash.
1992 Minolta Dynax or Maxxum 5xi
35mm AF SLR with built-in Zoom Flash.
1992 Minolta Dynax or Maxxum 9xi
35mm AF SLR camera with a 1/12,000th sec shutter, LCD viewfinder and eye sensor. Won ‘European Camera of the Year 92-93′ Award. See note on 7xi reference the ‘LCD viewfinder’ wording of the poster text. Editor’s note: this camera probably has the best industrial design of all the AF SLR series, combining an unusual streamlined profile with very good balance. The design is in striking contrast with the directions taken by Canon and Nikon at this time. There was no built-in flash, and it was this factor rather than any prejudice against the innovative styling which cost the 9xi sales.
1993 Minolta Dynax or Maxxum 700si
35mm AF SLR with built-in multi-predictive focus control (won the ‘European Camera of the Year 94-95′, TIPA ‘Best SLR Camera in Europe 94-95′ and ‘Camera Grand Prix 95′ Awards). Note Japanese model number – Alpha 707si. Editor’s note: with the ‘si’ series, Minolta said goodbye to the Creative Expansion Card concept signalled in the ‘xi’ of the previous series of camera names. Along with this, other features such as the auto-zooming of Power Zoom lenses (‘xi’ lenses) were quietly discontinued. The Power Zooms remained compatible with all later AF system bodies, as the extra lens mount contacts to provide the power and zoom control were left in place. Eventually, these extra contacts would be developed into the ‘D’ specification. Powered zoom ‘xi’ lenses can be used with the Sony Alpha range.
1994 Minolta Dynax 500si, Maxxum 400si or Alpha 303si
35mm AF SLR camera with Subject Program Selection.
1994 Minolta Riva Zoom 135EX/Freedom Zoom 135EX
35mm AF leaf shutter camera with 38-135mm zoom lens.
1995 Minolta Dynax 600si Classic/Maxxum 600si
35mm AF SLR camera with a dial lever (that’s what the caption says on the poster!) won TIPA Best SLR Camera in Europe 95-96 Award. Editor’s note: the 600si was best regarded for returning to a dial and switch method of operation, similar to traditional SLRs, in place of button presses. It laid the foundation for the design of the later 9 and 7 models, and the 7D in turn. Note the Japanese model number Alpha 507si.
1995 Minolta Riva Zoom 70W/Freedom Zoom Explorer
Capsule-type 35mm AF leaf shutter camera with built in 28-70mm 2.5X wide angle zoom.
1996 Minolta TC-1
The world’s smallest 35mm AF leaf-shutter camera with titanium body, won ‘Camera Grand Prix 96′ Awarsd. Editor’s note: the TC-1 was slightly more than ‘smallest’, it cost over £1,000 and the G-Rokkor 28mm f/3.5 lens was designated G series because its outstanding performance matched SLR G-series lenses. It consisted of only four elements, using Minolta’s aspherical lens technology which was already successfully reducing 2X zooms in compact cameras to four elements.
1996 Minolta Vectis 25
Advanced Photo System leaf-shutter camera. Capsule-type design with built in AF 2.5X zoom. Editor’s note: the Advanced Photo System, also known as APS, was introduced by Kodak in 1995. The basic frame size was a semi-panoramic 30.2 x 16.8mm, with letterbox and classic squarer shape options. Every camera took the full image size, and the film itself was on a different type of transparent base, with a magnetic coating capable of recording frame-by-frame erasable and reprogrammable data (IX, or Information Xchange, format). This allowed print formats, actual print orders, orientation of image for slide shows through a digital video based player, etc, to be included for every shot. APS might have been today’s standard format for everyday photography had it not been for the arrival of good quality digital imaging at low prices.
1996 Minolta Vectis S-1 Advanced Photo System SLR Camera
World’s first APS AF SLR. Used a side viewfinder – a mirror prism system similar to the Olympus Pen F models many years before. Further notes: the S-1 was an exceptional camera and the range of Vectis S lenses launched to go with it were said to have resolutions twice as high as the models for 35mm film, accompanied by accuracy of assembly and mount registration to match. In theory the Vectis lens range would have been perfectly suited to digital capture. After the poster was produced, the Vectis RD-3000 digital SLR was made. It is not included in this series of 70 years of Minolta products.
1997 Minolta Vectis GX-4
Advanced Photo System leaf shutter camera with unique design, water resistant. Ed: Three other GX models, each individually styles, were launched as GX-1, 2 and 3 for different lifestyle marketing concepts. The poor quality of the camera within the housing, a basic point and shoot with limited low light capabilities or action stopping, made a nonsense of selling the cameras for water sport, mountain biking, clubbing holidays and similar target users. Our GX-4 jammed underwater in Barbados and overlapped the frames of its only film, losing all the shots.
1997 Minolta Dynax or Maxxum 800si (Alpha 807si)
World’s first 35mm AF SLR camera with a guide number 20 built-in flash. Ed: GN 20 is over twice as powerful as the usual GN11 or 12 common in current cameras. The 800si was also very fast in terms of focusing speed, and well built. It was sufficiently bulky and top-heavy to appeal to those who preferred the Canon and Nikon designs of that era. It was an astute move on Minolta’s part after making such beautiful cameras as the Dynax 7000i, 8000i or 9xi, but it’s a pig-ugly camera by comparison.
1997 Minolta Vectis Weathermatic
World’s first Advanced Photo System leaf-shutter camera with underwater zoom and underwater AF.
1998 Minolta Vectis 300
Advanced Photo System leaf shutter 3X zoom camera with compact full-metal body. Ed: the full metal body was a world first because of the systerm of stainless steel forming used to create it, a Minolta innovation. This method of pressing stainless shells has transformed consumer product design since this camera’s introduction – it was the first example of a technique now widely used in Japan, China and other producing countries. See also the final entry, for the Dynax 9.
1998 Minolta Dynax 505si Super, Maxxum XTsi, or Alpha Sweet
World’s smallest 35mm AF SLR with built-in flash when launched.
1998 Minolta Dynax, Maxxum or Alpha 9
The world’s highest level power spec. 35mm AF SLR camera for professional use.
Editor’s note: that’s the exact wording of the poster – nothing if not minimal. The Dynax 9 introduced stainless steel body shell moulding using similar techniques to the Vectis 300, producing a [private]kind of exoskeleton work-hardened to provide extreme strength on its corners. This was later extended to making a titanium shell for the Ti version. It also introduced a true 100 per cent viewfinder, a shutter speeded to 1/12,000th and X flash synchronization at 1/300th, then the fastest available of any system made. Some aspects of the 9′s functions were to be upstaged by the Dynax 7 little more than a year later, and bodies had to be converted free by Minolta to make them compatible with the new generation of SSM sonic motor equipped lenses.
With this seminal professional SLR, the last truly new professional film SLR design from any maker, the 70th Anniversary poster produced by Minolta at the close of 1998 ends, covering 113 products which may or may not appear to represent the best of that long history. I will, as time permits, add further notes to these captions as the poster was bare-bones only. If you have owned, or still own, any of the unusual and rare cameras shown here and have interesting points to make about them we will do our best to include them for you, and the benefit of future visitors. Please do not complain that this article omits your camera model, or does not continue from 1998 to 2006, the final closure of Konica Minolta. I have used only the original images and basic texts from the 70th Anniversary Poster. [/private]
- David Kilpatrick