I can completely understand why you’d think a Dynax 7000 is an irrational choice of camera. Even when it launched, photographers were wary of all the complex electronics that could cause problems. Whether that was a valid concern at the time is debatable, but it’s definitely something to think about 30 years later. A nice metal-bodied manual-focus SLR from the 1970s will be with you as long as you want it to be – if it breaks it can be repaired, and if you decide to sell, it will be worth more than you paid for it. This camera is none of those things.
Even worse, the autofocus is first generation so it’s slow and doesn’t always do what you want it do. Instead of a wheel to control aperture or shutter speed, there are buttons, which aren’t a total usability fail, but they are more fiddly. The top LCD display is always-on, which usefully shows the film counter even when the camera is off (or as off as it gets), but this drains the batteries even while not being used. The design is very angular and has sharp edges. It looks great to my eyes but isn’t what you’d call ergonomic. Once, I put the eyecup to my eye too quickly and missed, hitting my brow with a sharp chunk of solid plastic around the pentaprism. Ouch!
Despite all this, the Dynax 7000 is still my all-time favourite camera. I’m an 80’s kid, which makes me a sucker for things like grey velour car seats with red piping. I like cars and bikes to have big writing on the side which shouts about the technology within. Angular, statement-making designs are just fine with me. And this camera is unmistakably that.
When my Dad decided to get a proper camera back in the 80’s, he asked my uncle for advice. My uncle was a real photographer and used Olympus kit. He was well aware of the new Minolta though, and while it wasn’t for him, he recommended it to my Dad who was more of an amateur. Sound logic, and the Dynax was soon purchased, which meant I got lots of opportunity to play with it. I’d just point at different things and half-press the shutter button to see the image snap into focus in the viewfinder. While having my own Dynax at age 11 would have been a bit ridiculous, I still lusted after it. It was so cool and high tech.
Decades later my Dad’s Dynax 7000 died, and a local camera shop advised him to get a Dynax 505si as a replacement. I still have that camera, and despite it being much newer than the 7000, it’s not as fun to use, and has aged much worse with all the blue viewfinder discolouration that blights many Minolta models from the late 90’s and early 2000s.
With that in mind, I recently picked up a lovely example of a Dynax 7000 off eBay, for very little money. The market definitely prices in the reliability concerns. While a less high-tech, manual-focus Minolta SLR can command £150 and upwards, a Dynax 7000 is only ever £20. Only prepared to pay for a scruffy one? That will be £20 please. Want a stunning pristine example as a display piece? Just keep searching a bit longer, but it will still only cost you £20.
While every Dynax 7000 is now old, and has lots of electronics, it was made in Japan in an era where I would argue the quality was higher than what came after it in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, as production transitioned to countries offering cheaper manufacturing, along with cost cutting from the threat of digital. This is what I tell myself when I want to believe my 7000 will last forever.
On a recent trip to York, it was 6 years to the day since my Dad passed away, so I put on his old Seiko digital watch and took the 7000 instead of the 700si I use more often. I shot a roll of Ektar 100 round the city, and while the success rate of the photos was lower than the 700si (quite likely my fault), there were a few decent shots.
It was an unusually warm and bright February day in the UK, and the light in the park at the side of York Minster was beautiful. The Shambles was extremely busy with tourists due to the Harry Potter connection, and challenging to photograph because the street is so narrow, with bad light at lower levels, and then a very bright sky in the middle. Most of those shots weren’t keepers!
When the 7000 hits the mark though, it makes photographs that are beautifully clear and colourful, especially with the added punch of Ektar 100. The lens used on all photos is the Minolta 50mm f1.7 – the black version which matches the 7000 body perfectly. I know about the f1.4 version but couldn’t afford it!
Hope you enjoy the pictures and please let me know what you think of them, or your experiences with this camera! The 7000 is always a pleasure to use – it feels like a privilege to use such a legendary camera from another era.