Minolta Dynax 9 SLR perched on a wall outside Tintern Abbey

Minolta Dynax 9 – The 24 Year Wait for a Camera I had Put to the Back of my Mind

This is perhaps a familiar story to photographers over the age of 40. I started taking pictures in the pre-digital era. The first camera that was my own was a Canon Snappy 20* – a delight of 1980s industrial design in bright red and grey plastic. I loved that camera, I took it everywhere. Later on, when my parents decided to move up to the exciting world of autofocus (a Pentax SFXn), their Pentax Spotmatic F came to me. It’s not exactly the family silver, but I’ll never part with it.

I invested into the M42 system and put together a good selection of lenses.  I was very happy with my set up until round 1996 when I was swayed by advertising and bought a Canon EOS 50e with “eye tracking”, which was’t as magical as it was made out to be, but I digress.

Then in 1999 the Minolta Dynax 9 was released and I wanted one. I wanted one A LOT.

There was just one small problem: It’s 1999, I’m a student on a LEA grant and the retail price of £1299 is more money that I could possibly imagine ever having; but that body, those lenses and the top shutter speed of 1/12,000th of a second (a mechanical feat of engineering not yet surpassed other than with electronic shutters) was too much to handle. The GAS was real.

Amateur Photographer advert from 1999
All the money in the world.

I had to put it to the back of my mind, and so I soldiered on with my Canon. I traded the 50e for a EOS 5, then in 2008 I traded it all again for an EOS 350D. I’d gone digital. I was all-in; no more film, no more processing, no more darkrooms… this was the future and it was magnificent.

Skip forward a decade and a half and I’m back into buying film cameras and at the top of the shopping list was the Minolta I could never afford. In the same way we used to use the internet to escape the real world, I’m finding time spent in the real world a lot more preferable to scrolling, scrolling, scrolling on whatever app is popular at the moment. Coming back to film with its slow process and no instant gratification has been a revelation and relaxing. 

I found a body only with a manual on eBay for £175. Much more reasonable. Paired with the a short zoom and a 50mm prime, I finally had the set up I’d wanted all those years ago and it absolutely does not disappoint. The build quality is excellent (perhaps to its detriment; after years of using plastic Canon DSLRs then a Panasonic GX80 m/43 compact, this thing weights a tonne**) The weight doesn’t bother me too much, it adds to the sense of purpose to the experience. 

Everything works exactly as it should. The only gripe I have is the speed / aperture read-out in the viewfinder is incredibly dim, essentially invisible in anything other than darkness. According to several forums this is a known issue. Up until the early 2000s you could send it in and it would be repaired, however now Minolta is naught but a name in the history books that’s no longer possible. It’s not all bad news, the same data can be read on the LCD on the top plate of the camera. It’s a bit of a faff, but better than nothing.

I’ve read that the material the grip is made of has a tendency to degrade and turn into a sticky mess as is the way with ageing plastics. Thankfully the one I have shows no signs of that yet.

The first roll I put thought it was some Kentmere 400. I was astounded by the speed and accuracy of the auto-focus. I’ve never had this thing hunt for focus. It’s quick, it’s precise. It’s not Canon USM whisper quiet… but you can’t have everything. The frames all came out exposed correctly. The 14 segment metering does an impressive job even in awkward scenarios. I have yet to put that maximum top speed to any meaningful test, but it’s nice to know it’s there, should the need arise.

A young birch sappling off centre.
Autofocus test with AF 50mm 1.7

I took it out on a day trip to Tintern Abbey, loaded with some very expired (2009) Ilford HP5+ which I pushed to ISO 1600. The exposures were good, the processing and scanning… well that’s debatable and that’s on me.

Tintern Abbey

I’ve had the Dynax 9 for about a year now and I’m very glad I finally have one. Is it my go-to for taking everywhere? No, it’s too heavy for an every day sling it in a pocket camera – for that I have a nice little Yashica point and shoot I found in a charity shop for a tenner. I’m very much enjoying being back with film and the camera I wanted.

It’s likely probably on borrowed time as these things weren’t designed to last this long. I’m sure Minolta back in it’s heyday saw this as a stepping stone into a professional line of digital cameras which where never truly realised before being acquired by Sony – who apparently went on to do quite well for themselves. 

Thanks for reading and if you would like to see more pictures, not necessarily taken with the Dynax and not necessarily taken on film (I’m also a Fujifilm fanboy) you can find me on Instagram @not_necessarily_analog

*I wish I still had it, but it was lost to time.

**Actually it’s just shy of 1Kg without a lens.

You can find a detailed review of the Dynax 9 here on 35mmc

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19 thoughts on “Minolta Dynax 9 – The 24 Year Wait for a Camera I had Put to the Back of my Mind”

  1. Lovely. Do you know if yours is able to use SSM (in lens motor) lenses? There was a modified board that could be fitted as a service procedure – a lot had the mod done, but not all…

    1. NotNecessarilyAnalogue

      Sadly not… I believe the way to tell is there’s an extra option in one of the custom functions, which mine doesn’t have. Plain old AF lenses for me, which are fine (if a little noisy).

  2. I had a loan one twenty years ago. An absolute beast, Beautiful in the hand and paired with simple prime lenses produced superb crisp slides.
    I one shot some tungsten balance film with the 50mm….. I wonder if I still have the results…. Still got a Minolta hot shoe adapter too..

    1. NotNecessarilyAnalogue

      That 50mm 1.7 is a really nice lens… the f4 constant 35-70 I have isn’t brilliant, but that’s 1990s zooms for you. I’m on the lookout for something wider. They did make a 35mm but that appears to be quite rare and wildly expensive!

      1. If you want something wider, the AF 2.8/24mm is decent and very compact and the AF 2.8/20mm is really good. I still have it and used it adapted on digital Sony A7II, it’s very usable there, unlike most older (ultra-)wide angle lenses. It must be really great on film, but I did not use mine on my Dynax 60 until now.
        Minolta AF lenses are dirt cheap at the moment, nobody want’s this system (the Dynax 7 and Dynax 9 are the only exceptions), so get your set of lenses now.

      2. There’s a 35mm f2 and a f1.4 – both are still quite rare and pricey. I have the 1.4 as a Sony Version (same optical formula and no sum) and it’s a fantastic lens but quite big and heavy. There are some very interesting Sony and Zeiss branded lenses for the A mount which work fine on the analog dynaxes.

  3. I fully understand and identify your story. I too dreamed of owning this camera. It was one I used to press my nose against the camera shop window and lust after, it really did look like the future. I haven’t bought a copy, and I don’t think I will, on account that I’ve bought so many other cameras I used to lust after. I hope it carries on working for you, just keep using it, as ‘It’s better to burn out, than fade away.’

    1. NotNecessarilyAnalogue

      Rust never sleeps…

      There used to be a camera shop in Bath (haven’t been to Bath for more than 20 years now, so no idea if it’s still there) that specialised in new and used Leicas… I’d often stare in wonder at those M series and extraordinary named lenses… of course now, they’re even more unaffordable now than they were then.

  4. I you ever have the problem of a sticky plastic surface (e.g. your Minolta) here’s a tip: wipe it with a cloth dipped in isopropyl alcohol, it will become as smooth as before.

    1. I picked up the Japanese version (the Alpha 9) cheap here in Japan a few months ago. Unfortunately, the grip on mine was beyond help. The grip began crumbling away in my hands within a few weeks. I couldn’t find replacement grips online and 3D-printed options were expensive. So, I had to rebuild the grip with Sugru (moldable glue). It gets the job done.

  5. Thanks for the post and enjoyed it and the photographs!
    I have the Dynax 7 (and 7D) – though I’ve always wanted a 9 but haven’t bought it as I have had the Sony A900 and couldn’t handle the weight!

    1. NotNecessarilyAnalogue

      There’s no doubting it, the 9 is a weighty beast, but feels like you could pound nails with it and it would be absolutely fine.

  6. I’ve got the Minolta 800si which I think is the generation before the Dynax 9 and love it, I already had a selection of Minolta A mount lenses as I have a Sony A77ii that uses the same mount inherited when they took over Minolta’s camera business, the Minolta AF lenses work a treat but the Sony SSM lenses are manual focus only. The 800si doesn’t have the features of the Dynax 7 or 9 but is a lot lighter which is a nice compromise and they’re much cheaper on eBay.

    1. NotNecessarilyAnalogue

      Indeed. I bought a Dynax 404si purely for the lens it was being sold with it. Paid £5! Sold the camera body for £10.

  7. Minolta did great with their last generation of Dynax/Maxxum/Alpha Cameras.
    I have the 9, 7 and 5 and all of them are fantastic cameras.
    I am about to sell the 9 because it’s to clunky for me and I feel awkward shooting it. With the grip attached it’s almost heavier and bigger than most medium format cameras.

    The 7 is the perfect camera for me. All the features I could wish for and a fantastic feel.
    The 5 is best bang for the buck though (I picked mine up for 20€). Super small with a lot of the features of the bigger siblings. Feels a bit cheap, but that’s what it actually is.. This has become my day to day shooter because it’s so small and light. Feels like a point and shoot on steroids. Very underrated imho..

  8. I know what you mean about ‘wanting’ a camera. For decades I listed after the Minolta XK Motordrive. Hey wait…I still do. Good luck finding one now and if I do, it ain’t gonna be cheap, BUT, I have do many cameras now that if I get another one my wife will kill me and then divorce me…in that order. If I’m very quiet and careful, I might just sneak another one in. Shhhhh

  9. Exactly the same vibes here, except the camera I lusted after was a Nikon F4s. I finally got one ~20years ago. Like the Minolta it’s built like a tank and is a lovely piece of engineering that is not just backwards compatible but can also use the latest Nikon g-series lenses!
    It also won’t last forever, I’ve already had to buy another F4 to act as a parts donor as the plastic becomes brittle and breaks.

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