I purchased this Minolta Hi-Matic 7s from a second-hand goods store in Christchurch for a very reasonable price. It is in excellent condition apart from a slightly loose film winding lever. The most impressive feature of this camera for me is the top-quality Minolta Rokkor PF 45mm f1.8 lens. It is one of the sharpest lenses you will find on any of these old Japanese rangefinder cameras.
One thing you will notice straight away with the Minolta 7s is that it has a fair bit of bulk to it. At 720g it is also quite heavy. An advantage of a larger rangefinder camera is that you generally get a large bright viewfinder. The Minolta 7s is no exception. The frame is big and the yellow bright lines are very sharp and clear. I have no trouble at all focusing on this camera. However, this is not what you could call either small or compact.
It comes with a high-quality black leather “ever-ready” case which is very well made and affords the Minolta good protection however it makes the camera seem even bigger still! Many of these old rangefinder cameras have been kept in their leather cases since they were new. Those that have been looked after in this way are spared the usual bumps and scratches and often look almost brand new. You can read about a quick and simple fix to rejuvenate the leather case of the Minolta 7s here.
The only differences between the Minolta 7 and the later 7s are that the later model has a hot shoe for flash use and the light meter has been improved. I found the light meter to work very well indeed. The meter seems to be consistently accurate over a wide range of conditions. I am often tempted to use my Nikon 801s as a meter when determining the correct exposure with these old cameras. Not so with the Minolta 7s.
Sometimes with old cameras, you will get a roll of film back only to find the images just don’t quite look right. With slides, they will be either too dark or too light. With negative film, there is a greater margin for error during the developing process. This means your pictures still come out OK even when the camera exposure wasn’t quite right. However, when pushed too far the negatives don’t look right and there is often considerable loss of shadow detail. So getting the exposure right really does matter!
These old rangefinders all fit into one of two types: those that will only function properly with a battery-powered exposure system such as the Yashica Electro; and those that will also operate in full manual mode even without a battery. In full manual mode, you can still take pictures with the Minolta 7s by setting correct exposure with the aid of a separate light meter. Although the Yashica
The electro exposure system is surprisingly accurate. There is no way to check the exposure is correct against another camera or light meter before firing the shutter because there is no way of knowing the shutter speed it has selected. Therefore I prefer the rangefinder cameras that work in manual mode even when they do have automatic exposure. Such a camera will be quite functional even if the light meter has completely failed.
The needle in the Minolta 7s viewfinder shows EV numbers, not shutter speeds or f stops. To set the camera to “Automatic” turn both the shutter and aperture rings on the lens barrel so their “A” marks line up with the arrow mark on the outer side of the lens. The slowest speed the camera sets in automatic mode is 1/15th of a second so you would have to hold the camera still in poor light.
If there is insufficient light in auto mode the indicator needle will rise to the top of the scale and go into the red zone. You still have 1/8th and 1/4 of a second, plus the “B” setting available but will have to switch over to manual mode to use these. However the shutter does not lock when the needle goes into the red zone – so you will have to keep an eye on the needle to avoid black or blurred exposures.
The light meter still works in manual mode and can be used to set the correct exposure by use of the EV number which appears in the cut-out window on the aperture ring. This is done by selecting any shutter speed you wish. Then read the EV number indicated by the needle in the viewfinder. Finally, set that number in the window on the aperture ring cut-out by turning the aperture ring itself. You can also set the aperture opening first and then turn the shutter speed ring to get the correct EV number. I am constantly amazed at just how well this camera handles exposure settings in automatic. Simply line up the letter “A” on the two lens rings one above the other and the camera takes care of the rest for you.
At the other end of the scale, the automatic exposure system can only select 1/250th of a second maximum even if there is too much light on a very bright day. Your options if the needle does go into the red zone at the bottom of the viewfinder are either to switch over to manual in order to select 1/500th of a second, or use a filter (such as a polarizer) to block out some of the light.
I feel the travel distance of the wind-on lever is a bit extreme. At 220 degrees I got the impression that it was almost going to travel all the way around in a circle! You get used to it I guess. When you have a number of these old rangefinder cameras you tend to notice these sorts of differences more than you might if you just stuck to one camera.
I really like the Minolta 7s. It is a big and comparatively heavy camera. It is quite a bit larger than my Pentax MX SLR for example. However, as mentioned above, the Rokkor 45mm lens is fast and very sharp. The pictures it takes have something special about them you can’t quite put your finger on!
Lens: Rokkor PF 45 mm f1.8 There are 6 lens elements in 5 groups. Accepts 55mm filters. The focus is from 0.9m to infinity. Marked in both feet and metres.
Viewfinder: Viewfinder combined with range-finder. Bright frame with parallax correction. Fully automatically programmed shutter with manual control. EV scale with exposure indicator needle, and under/overexposure red warning marks. Unlike some rangefinder cameras of this vintage, the shutter will still fire even when the shutter and aperture combination is outside the range for correct exposure of the film. Diamond shape rangefinder spot in the centre of the frame.
EE Mechanism: With CLC (Contrast Light Compensator) exposure meter in the lens barrel coupled to a programmed shutter, automatically compensates for filters.
Film Speeds: ASA 25 to 800 / Adjustment by a lever on the bottom of the lens. Switching to the off position should save the battery from running down – though you then have to remember the correct speed of the film to reset it to when you turn the meter back on. Sticking a short length of masking tape to the back or bottom of the camera will give you somewhere to record the film speed in case you forget.
Battery: 1 x 1.35v mercury button cell battery (no longer available). Works with Varta 625PX Silver Oxide.
Manual Control of Aperture: Possible at any aperture by rotating the aperture ring from the A (automatic) position together with the shutter speed ring to any combination that falls within the range for correct exposure.
Shutter: SEIKO-LA. Speeds range from 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and 1/500 of a second plus B. Fully automatic programmed shutter with manual control.
Self Timer: Yes. Runs for 10 seconds.
Flash Contact: an Accessory shoe with direct contact and cable contact. Electronic flash works at all speeds.
Film Advance: Single stroke approx. 220 degrees.
Film Counter: Resets automatically.
Size: 140 x 82 x 73mm
Weight: 720g. There is also an off switch at the end of the ASA scale.