After exclusively shooting my Sony A7R2 & Leica Q the last 3 years for personal and client work, I decided it was time to get out of my comfort zone and purchase a film camera to start working with. I was influenced by the fact that several pro photog friends of mine started shooting film again for both personal and client work, so thought I might try the same. I had been resisting the urge to get into the whole film shooting thing for a while… but I finally gave in.
I did what anyone looking for a low-cost film camera does. I logged on to Craigslist & searched for something local in my area. A friend had suggested something simple & proven like a Canon AE1. I found one within minutes for a very reasonable $45. I met up with the seller and bought the camera with no idea what the history was and it even worked. I soon found out it had the dreaded shutter squeak and was in need of a serious CLA. I knew at that point I didn’t want to dump a bunch of cash into a camera I just got and didn’t know the history of.
I decided at that point to head down to my local camera shop to see if they had an interest in letting me trade in AE1 toward another working film camera. Since the AE1 is a desirable student model camera they were happy to give me some trade-in value toward another working unit. I asked if they had anything new that had come in that was reasonably priced. The salesman went to a back shelf and pulled out this beast of a Minolta camera complete with battery grip. He proceeded to tell me just received this in as they had bought a whole collection of mint condition film cameras from a local dentist. He told me it was a Minolta Maxxum 9 from the late ’90s and was in perfect working order. As he ran through a quick list of impressive pro features along with the obvious professional build quality… I was sold.
History & Specs
Some consider the Minolta Maxxum 9 (a.k.a. Alpha 9 or Dynax 9) to arguably be one of the finest professional-grade 35mm SLR cameras ever made. It just screams of toughness and quality. It is one of those cameras that you pick up & instantly know that it’s ready to put in a hard days work.
The Minolta Maxxum 9 was released in 1998 and was to be Minolta’s last true professional film body. This exceptionally full-featured camera offers a maximum shutter speed capability from 30 seconds to 1/12000 of a second, carbon-fibre reinforced shutter blades, and a pack leading maximum frame rate of 5.5 frames/second which was one of the highest fps at the time. This beast of a camera was obviously built to last. The feel & heft of the camera is evidence that quality was imperative when this camera was designed by the Minolta engineers. It has a 14 segment multi-mode active autofocus area meter as well as data memory when paired with a DM-9 Data Memory Back.
The recorded data includes: Film Number, Frame Number, Shutter Speed, Aperture, Focal Length, Lens Focal Length & Aperture, EV Compensation, Metering Mode, Exposure Mode, Flash EV Compensation, Frame Date/Time, AF mode, Drive mode, Flash Sync Mode, Flash EV Compensation, Flash Metering Mode & Frame ISO. Data collected by the DM-9 can be displayed on the camera and downloaded and embedded into scanned images using Meta 35.
The Minolta Maxxum 9 also features a whopping 21 programmable custom function settings, which can be set on the camera body itself. When Sony acquired Konica Minolta‘s camera technologies in 2006 they chose the “α” brand name (already in use by Minolta in Asia) for their new “Sony α” digital SLR system. The Dynax/Maxxum/α lens mount (which was retained from the old cameras) is now officially part of the “α mount system”
The Minolta Maxxum 9 14 point TTL Auto Focus capabilities of the Maxxum 9 are outstanding for a camera of this era. I can honestly say that I have not had one image come back out of focus that was a camera autofocus error… only user error or a subject moving while shooting a slow shutter speed.
Real World Shooting
Over the two weeks following my purchase, I put my newly acquired Minolta Maxxum 9 into action on two separate portrait shoots. The bright 100% frame coverage viewfinder and amazingly accurate autofocus made my first portrait 35mm film shooting experience a solid one. Because the Minolta Maxxum 9 design was the basis for all future Sony Alpha based models, the comfortable ergonomics and familiar control layout made this camera feel like an old friend compared to my Sony A7R2.
The super high shutter speed capability makes it easy to obtain a shallow DOF even while shooting it harsh or bright light. My 9 came with the stock 50mm f/1.7 which for the $$ it’s a really solid lens. Although the bokeh won’t win any awards wide open, it’s plenty sharp for portrait work and has a nice tight look at f/2.8 or above. The Maxxum 85mm f/1.8 gets rave reviews as a portrait lens… I’ll definitely pick one of those up as soon as I find one at a reasonable price.
After a solid year and a half of shooting with the Minolta Maxxum 9, I can definitely say it’s a keeper. I’ve put over 25 rolls through it in every condition imaginable and it has performed flawlessly in every situation. Even though this professional SLR camera is fully capable of capturing any experience. I feel this camera is definitely geared towards portrait, fashion, journalism or sports photography. It’s just a tad too heavy & bulky for lugging around on street shoots or landscape adventures.
Check my YouTube channel soon for my video review of the Minolta Maxxum 9 for more of my thoughts and fine details on the Minolta Maxxum 9 / Dynax 9 / Alpha 9
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