Minolta Hi-Matic 7s
5 frames with...

5 frames with a Minolta Hi-Matic 7S & Ilford HP5+ – By Steve Phillips

July 29, 2020

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet.

How often have you heard those words? And how often have you ploughed on anyway and assumed something must be right, because there it is, on the screen?

I can’t remember what set me off going down the 1960s chunky rangefinder rabbit-hole, but after a few hours spent comparing reviews of various models – the Konica Auto S2, Canonet QL17/19, Yashica Lynx and others – I spotted a Minolta Hi-Matic 7S going for a reasonable price on a well known auction site. All in good condition, might need the light seals replacing, but I am handy with a scalpel and sticky-backed foam, so my interest was triggered.

Add to that the review I found, where the main focus of the article was the fact that this camera could operate in four modes. Set both the shutter speed and aperture dials to “A” and the camera is fully automatic, picking suitable values for both depending on the light. Set the shutter speed yourself, and leave the aperture on “A” and you have a shutter priority camera. Or leave the speed on “A” and choose your aperture for aperture priority automatic. Or set them both yourself and it’s fully manual. As the author pointed out, there are very few cameras that do that, and no other rangefinders that he knew of.

So I bought it.

Except…50% of that paragraph isn’t true at all. While I was waiting for it to arrive, I tracked down the manual. It talked about the fully automatic option, (which uses a sliding scale of values from 1/15 at f/1.8 to 1/250 at f/22), and the fully manual mode, but made no mention of the two semi-automatic ways of working. Odd, I thought. Surely not an undocumented feature?

No. The manual was right. When the camera arrived, I was pleased to see that it really was in good condition, shiny in all the right places and firing correctly. A few minutes with the back open however, watching what happened in the various modes, confirmed my suspicions. Let’s say for example, with both dials set to “A”, the camera decides that the current light needs 1/125 at f/8. Now if you decide to set the shutter speed yourself to 1/500, and leave aperture on “A”, the camera still uses f/8. Change it to 1/4 of a second – still f/8. Similarly, if you put the shutter speed dial back to “A”, and choose any aperture at all, it fires at 1/125 – not as easy to confirm that, but my money is on it.

Either the author of that review never actually used the camera, or he just got very lucky when he tried those in-between modes, and picked values close to the camera’s own preferences.

Anyway, I had a camera to try out, so in went a roll of HP5, and away I went, armed with a dog and a camera, for a lockdown exercise walk around the footpaths and fields we have got to know so well.

The camera was easy to use – even without my glasses I had no problem seeing the values on the shutter speed and aperture dials. The rangefinder diamond wasn’t the biggest, but was clear enough, and all in all it felt good and solid. The light meter visible in the viewfinder gives EV values, and these in turn appear in a cut-out on the aperture dial, which changes as you alter your settings, so if you don’t trust your Sunny 16 skills, you can go with whatever the meter is suggesting.

With the results back from the processing lab, I am pretty satisfied with what it can do. I think the first three of these were taken on full auto, and the next three using Sunny 16. There is a faint scratch showing on some of the images not shown here, but whether it is the camera or the processing which has put it there will only be proved after the next film. And there will be a next film, because despite it being not quite the camera I was expecting, it has done enough to avoid the “straight back on eBay” route.

Steve Phillips

https://www.instagram.com/stevephillipsyork/

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Terry B
    July 29, 2020 at 11:26 am

    Steve, that’s a cracker of a lens on your camera, as evidenced by your wonderful woodland scenes.
    I was intrigued by your opening comments about your being led to believe that the camera had been said to have full auto, semi-auto and full manual. Having a fully programmed leaf shutter wouldn’t seem possible because of the physical way that such shutters normally set the shutter speed, and just as with the majority of focal plane shutters, setting intermediate speeds isn’t possible. But reading the user manual I discovered that indeed it was a truly programmed shutter albeit not over the full range of shutter speeds available viz, it can’t set 1/250 or 1/500 sec.
    However, Minolta are to blame in describing the camera as having a semi-auto aperture or shutter speed mode. What it does have is a form of metered manual mode, in addition to full manual, non-metered, settings. As you discovered, In the metered manual mode the camera is simply being used as an exposure meter to determine an EV number which is then set manually on the shutter, and which now permits aperture and shutter to be set independently and as long as any setting still displays the pre-determined EV number the exposure should be correct. So, not as stated in the user manual, but still a useful feature as most non-slr type cameras of the era couldn’t meter in manual mode.
    Thanks for posting your experience of what seems to be an excellent, albeit heavy and large, camera.

    • Reply
      Steve Phillips
      July 29, 2020 at 11:50 am

      Thanks Terry. Large and heavy indeed – I think if I ever heard a burglar in the house, this could be my weapon of choice.

      As you say, the manual does describe the metered manual way of working as “semi automatic”, but the blame for my belief that it would have true aperture and shutter priority modes is down to a post on a camera review site, which talks about all four modes, and leaving one of the settings at “A”.

      Still a good camera though!

  • Reply
    sebcopley
    July 29, 2020 at 1:16 pm

    A good and interesting read, I have the slightly older Hi-Matic 7 (which I reviewed on here a few years back). I don’t think there were many changes between the two models. I’ve never really trusted my camera in auto mode. Out of interest what battery do you use and do you find the light meter accurate with the slightly different battery voltage than it was designed for. I’d have the check but I use a 1.5v battery and spacer, think they were designed for a 1.3v? Of a type now discontinued.

    I do love these cameras though, often a lot cheaper than Olympus rangefinders or canonets, but they have great lenses.

    • Reply
      Steve Phillips
      July 29, 2020 at 1:44 pm

      I have just done a quick test in the garden. With a PX625A 1.5V battery (the one I used for the pictures above) the meter gave a reading of EV13. I quickly replaced it with an MR9 adapter & 1.55V battery from another camera, which delivers 1.35V, the original voltage these cameras were designed for. And the meter changed to approx EV12.5. So using the modern 1.5V battery might cause you to underexpose by half a stop.

    • Reply
      Rock
      July 29, 2020 at 2:05 pm

      Nice photos Steve. I had to double check, though, your first photo as I thought I was looking at my own poodle!

      • Reply
        Steve Phillips
        July 29, 2020 at 2:11 pm

        Thanks. That’s Alfie the Cavachon, often the only one in the house who stays still long enough to have their photo taken.

    • Reply
      CJS
      July 29, 2020 at 7:03 pm

      It definitely requires a 1.35v battery. The first roll I shot, with a 1.5v battery, came out a stop or more underexposed. I now use a Russian 1.35v battery.

  • Reply
    Lee
    July 29, 2020 at 4:26 pm

    I have one of these HiMatic 7s rangefinders and have taken some lovely photos with it. It’s great for just carrying around to get candid shots and street photos. I’ve shot both color and b&w film with it and love the contrast and color rendition of the Rokkor lens. I have not had the courage yet to try my camera in automatic mode, preferring full manual however. I do wish the ISO selector went to 1600 instead of just 800 so that when I try to push 400 speed film shot with this camera, I do not have to subtract an extra stop of exposure from the metered value given by the camera. But for the quality of the images and the joy of using the camera itself, it’s worth the tiny hassle.

  • Reply
    Eric Norris
    July 29, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    Nice photos, Steve. I found myself chasing a Hi-Matic 7 a few months ago. I just loved the way the camera looked and the quality of the images that it could create. I went through three examples, and all of them had problems with the shutter and/or exposure, so back to the sellers they went. I finally gave up on this particular camera.

    I *have* had great luck with the more recent Hi-Matic AF2 (both the original and the AF2 Motor), which consistently produces crisp, properly exposed photos. Totally automatic everything (except setting ASA), but sometimes that’s what I want.

  • Reply
    adventure!
    July 29, 2020 at 8:09 pm

    I think you and I read that same review when we were looking at the Hi-Matic 7s! And I believed it for a minute, repeating the “four modes” bit in my first review (though I’ve corrected it since then.) I think I tried the pseudo-aperture priority function once, and the photos came out OK. Perhaps that was enough to convince that particular reviewer that it was a “four mode” camera?

    In any case, despite the camera “only” doing full-auto and “semi-auto” (manual with meter still working), I love the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s. Sure, I wish it was smaller/lighter, but the rangefinders I’ve seen that are similar but more compact command high $$ on the eBay.

    My full impressions:
    https://urbanadventureleague.wordpress.com/2020/02/01/re-entering-the-world-of-film-photography-minolta-hi-matic-7s/
    https://urbanadventureleague.wordpress.com/2020/07/29/minolta-hi-matic-7s-an-appreciation-after-six-months-of-use/

    • Reply
      Steve Phillips
      July 29, 2020 at 9:56 pm

      Great to hear that you are a fan of this camera too. As you say, the more popular, smaller, rangefinders which came along a few years later are often far more expensive.

  • Reply
    Ken R
    July 30, 2020 at 1:16 am

    This was my first 35mm camera. In fact it was my first camera with a lens that could be focused in real time, adjustable shutter speeds and adjustable f stops. In short this was my first step up after box cameras. I was in heaven! Great photos from it in all conditions. If the correct voltage battery was more available I would use it more often today.

    • Reply
      Steve Phillips
      July 30, 2020 at 8:30 am

      Hi Ken, yes it’s probably an ideal first “real” camera. See the comments above about batteries – I found the 1.5v battery to be OK, but to be safe, an MR9 adapter works well.

  • Reply
    CJS
    July 30, 2020 at 4:29 am

    I have noticed that Hi-Matics seem to be prone to having nonfunctioning meters (I have a handful of those, including a 7 or 7s, a 9, and an 11, I think). Does anyone know if it is possible to repair the meters on them, or could recommend a repair person who can?

  • Reply
    Sroyon
    July 30, 2020 at 6:40 am

    I particularly like your photo of the tree bark; HP5 is so good at rendering these types of tonal variations. On a separate note, I believe the first camera to feature both aperture and shutter priority was Minolta’s own XD7, which came out in 1977.

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