Minolta Mirror Lenses

The Minolta Hi-Matic line has been a popular and long-running series of 35mm rangefinder cameras since first being introduced in 1962. The 7S was introduced in 1966 and was a slightly improved version of the Model 7 and used a CdS cell instead of the a selenium meter including a faster 45mm Rokkor-PF f/1.8 lens. One of the new features that made it attractive to creative photographers was the option of setting manual exposure, an option not available with the original Hi-Matic. Minolta literature touted the 7S as 'IT'S A CAMERA THAT THINKS...AND A THINKING MAN'S CAMERA' and had three operational modes, automatic, semi-automatic and manual. The 7S may not have been the finest rangefinder Minolta ever built, but the nearly all-metal build quality is exceptional and in my opinion, truly under appreciated. It feels and handles like a full-blown 35mm SLR camera...not a 'point and shooter.'

Ten years later the Hi-Matic 7SII was introduced in 1977 featuring a slightly faster Rokkor 40mm f1.7 lens. This 'little brother' model was more compact and lighter than the 7S, a design trend that was a sign of the times with camera companies keeping manufacturing costs low while vying for a top spot in the consumer market. Shutter priority automatic exposure in addition to manual controls made this compact package very attractive to the basic consumer as well as the professional photographer alike. Minolta promoted the 7SII as 'THE SMALL FAMILY CAMERA VERSATILE ENOUGH FOR A PRO.'

Product boxes with color pictures was an early marketing ploy by Minolta and became a favorite among collectors. What better way to keep costs down than to use identical box cutting dies and just change the printing. Eventually Minolta had to abandon 4-color product packaging and go to monochromatic color schemes due to increased costs and competition.

One of the features that Minolta did not carry through to the compact 7SII was the film 'safety loading signal' window located at the back upper right-hand corner top plate of the 7S. This 'film safe' window design feature was incorporated in the XE and XD series camera bodies which were introduced in 1974 and 1977 respectively.

One of the most common problems I find with these rangefinders is a hazed over viewfinder optical path for the tinted rangefinder and 'Automatic Parallax Correction' system. One of the selling points of the rangefinder camera was it's 'bright frame' viewfinder. The top plate must be removed and professional cleaning and adjustment performed to restore the viewfinder to original 'bright' condition.

Another consideration is whether the light meter is working and is it reasonably accurate. First install the proper voltage battery after cleaning the contacts. You should see some needle deflection while moving the camera lens towards a bright light source. Once you determine the meter is functioning try some test exposures using the 'sunny 16' rule or compare exposures with light meter readings if you have one available. No doubt you will be relying on your photographic experience and a light meter if the built-in meter is dead.

While we are at the back side of the camera one thing you should be aware of is that unless the body has been recently serviced plan on replacing the light seals. The resulting 'goo' and sticky residue from age deterioration is something you do not want floating around inside the camera body gumming up internal mechanisms as well as adhering to film and optics.

One final important consideration of these rangefinder designs is the fixed or built-in camera lens. Problems won't be readily noticeable since this is not a through-the-lens viewfinder. The camera lens will require independent inspection by opening the camera back. Now open up the aperture fully to (1.7/1.8), set the shutter speed to 'B' (bulb), cock the shutter, hold the shutter release button down while shinning a small light through the lens. A few very small internal particles are not going to affect light transmission or image contrast, but the lens should be free of haze, fungus, and excessive dust.

Minolta 7S 7SII Camera Cases

Not only was the 7S built like a battleship, but it's case was constructed of stitched heavy gauge leather (real cowhide) roughly 2.3mm to 2.5mm in thickness. The finish was a classic hi-gloss black. Unlike the 7S, the case for the 7SII was constructed out of a synthetic leather or leatherette with a fabric backing. I liken the finish to a grained Morocco surface that is given to a material by passing it between suitably embossed rollers. Again, for the 7SII this was a cost cutting move in a competitive global market.

MINOLTA 7S 7SII Camera Body

The 7S incorporated a SEIKO-LA fully automatic programmed shutter with manual control. The battery compartment was slightly larger to accommodate a PX-625 1.35V Mercury-Oxide battery. You can purchase the WEIN MRB625 1.35V Zinc-Air replacement battery on-line. It is the same 1.35V button-shape battery used in the Minolta SRT series. The pin hole(s) in the battery chamber cover on these two models allows the Zinc-Air battery to "breath" for proper function.

The 7SII incorporates the Copal mechanical type shutter with settings of 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500 plus B with safety lock. This model was powered by a PX-675 1.3V Mercury battery. You can purchase the Weincell MRB675 1.35V Zinc-Air replacement battery on-line as well. I see a lot of these with a common 1.5V alkaline cell installed, but don't rely on the built-in light meter to give you accurate readings or exposures without constant re-calibration . Most of the older camera manufacturers omitted any voltage compensation in their meter circuits, and simply used the battery itself as a voltage reference. This is a good reason not to use alkaline batteries as their voltage fall-off curve is more gradual. What this means is that as an alkaline battery ages it is not necessarily suppling the light meter with the correct voltage. Zinc-Air battery voltage is flatter over its life cycle. End of life voltage drop-off is more steep and becomes readily apparent that the battery needs replacement once it is spent. Any device that relies on a power supply i.e. battery to supply a specific voltage for calibration must be routinely checked and verified. Always replace the batteries in your camera and/or light meters before a critical shoot especially if they have been in use for a longer than a month. When in doubt and you don't have a volt meter handy just replace them. Batteries are cheap...don't lose the shot because of battery failure and always carry spares. Use those old batteries to power non-critical devices such as kitchen timers or calculators, etc. Note: Mercuric Oxide cells that were commonly used in these cameras are now banned because of toxicity and environmental fears.

Minolta 7S 7SII Flash
The Auto Electroflash 25 and Electroflash 20 were the two flash units advertised for the Minolta 7SII. The Electroflash 20 was specifically designed for Hi-matic cameras, a compact and efficient electronic flash with a Guide number of 20. The Electroflash 14 with it's lower Guide number and similar profile was also acceptable for use on the Hi-matics but with a lower vertical (50°) coverage than the Electroflash 20 (60°) coverage. The Auto Electroflash 25 was a more powerful, lightweight, compact option with a Guide number of 25.

At first glance the flash shoe may appear weak or flimsy, but removing the accessory clip spring/cover reveals three mounting screws underneath. The clip spring/cover applies tension to the flash foot for stability and positive electrical contact. This is really not a stress issue for the lighter Auto 14, Auto 20, Auto 25 units or off-camera flash user. The 3-screw accessory shoe mounting is a nice 'hidden' build feature for the average camera user who wanted to mount a heavy powerful flash unit like an Electroflash 320 without over stressing the top cover.

On a rare occasion you may run into a 7SII silver/chrome body coming out of Asia that has been over-painted black. This really doesn't add any intrinsic value to the camera other than for it's cosmetic appearance. The black model has an all-black film advance lever, but you can easily paint the silver/chrome lever. It is easy to distinguish if it has been over-painted black because they generally don't take the time and effort to paint the end of the lens barrel black and still has a bright chrome finish.
The Minolta 7SII in the current market tends to be the more popular rangefinder model when it comes to camera collectors and Minoltaphiles. Part of the attraction may be that it 'only resembles' it's distant rangefinder cousins like the Leitz-Minolta CL or the Minolta CLE and can be had for a more affordable price. The 7SII has a slightly wider angle of view (57°/52°) and faster (f1.7/f1.8) lens, but the optical performance of both cameras is very good. Some say the 7SII is optically better than the 7S, but that conclusion is based on too many variables. Pricing will depend on model (black or chrome), condition, and included accessories. All I will say in closing is not to discount the vintage 7S as a collectable. They really don't make 'em like that anymore.

7S Technical Specifications

Automatic 35mm rangefinder camera with CdS electric eye
Lens: Rokkor PF 45mm f/1.8
Construction: 6 elements in 5 groups
Angle of View: 52°
Diaphragm: Click stops at engraved aperture scale: f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/11, f/16, f/22 (on manual operation)
Filter Mount: 55mm, screw-in
Lens Shade Mount: 57mm, slip-on
Shutter: SEIKO-LA fully automatic programmed shutter with manual control.
Automatic Operation: EV 5.7 (f/1.8 at 1/15 sec.) to EV 17 (f/22 at 1/250 sec.)
Manual Operation: B, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250 and 1/500 sec. in engraved click stops.
Synchro Contact: X contact (M class bulb synchronizes at 1/30 sec., electronic flash at all speeds)
Self-Timer: About 10 seconds delay on manual control.
Film Winding: Lever type, quick wind automatically cocks, advances film and film counter and prevents double exposure.
Winding Method: Single full stroke or multiple short strokes.
Winding Distance: 220°
Film Counter: Automatic resetting counter shows number of frames exposed.
Film Rewinding: Rapid rewind crank
Frame Size: 36mm x 24mm
Film: Standard 35mm film, 24 or 36 exposure magazine
Finder: Tinted bright frame viewfinder with automatic parallax correction.
Meter Needle: Needle in the viewfinder shows the proper EV number, over/under exposure warning.
Focusing: Direct helicoid focusing coupled to super-imposed rangefinder.
Minimum Focusing Distance: 3ft. (0.9m)
Exposure Meter: Built in CLC (Contrast Light Compensator) exposure meter in the lens barrel coupled to programmed shutter, automatically compensates for filters or lens attachments.
Film Speed Range: ASA 25-800, DIN 15-30
Working Range: EV 5.7 (F/1.8 at 1/15 sec.) to EV 17 (f/22 at 1/250 sec.) with any film.
Battery: 1.35V, button-shape mercury battery (now replaced by zinc-air) for photographic applications.

Other Features: SLS (Safety Loading Signal) shows proper film load and transport.
Easy loading with specially designed multiple-slot take-up spool.
Cordless and cord flash contact.

Height: 3-1/4"(82mm), Width: 5-1/2"(140mm)
Depth: Front to back including lens: 2-7/8"(47mm)
Weight: 25.4 oz. (720g)

7SII Technical Specifications

Compact 35mm camera with automatic exposure control
Lens: Rokkor 40mm f/1.7, 6 elements in 4 groups, 57° angle of view; 49mm screw-in lens-shade and filter mount
Shutter: Copal mechanical type with settings of 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500 plus B with safety lock.
EE System: CdS cell coupled to aperture mechanism for fully automatic exposure control; shutter speed priority system; exposure range of EV 4.5 to EV 17 with film speed range of ASA 25 to 800; automatic compensation when filters are used; powered by one 1.3V mercury cell, Eveready EPX-675 or equivalent (now replaced by 1.35V zinc-air); aperture settings of f/1.7 through f/16 possible in manual operation.
Flash: "Hot-shoe" operation; circuit for X synchronization; electronic flash at all speeds; M-class bulbs synchronizes at 1/30 or slower.
Focusing: Direct helicoid type; with coupled superimposed image range-finder; minimum focusing distance 0.9m (2.7 ft.)
Viewfinder: Bright-frame type with parallax correction mark; f-number setting and under/over exposure warning indicated on scale by needle.
Film advance: Lever type with 130° stroke after 30° unengaged play; automatic resetting frame counter shows number of frames exposed.
Self-Timer: Approx. 10 sec. delay
Frame Size: 24mm x 36mm standard 35mm film
Size: 72mm (2-13/16 in.) high x 115mm (4-1/2 in.) wide x 59mm (2-5/16 in.) over-all depth
Weight: 460g (16-1/4 oz.)
Accessories: Lens shade, filters UV, Y48, ND, 80B, 1A


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