Minolta XD series

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Multifunction automation

In 1977, Minolta was the first manufacturer to combine both TTL aperture-priority and shutter-priority automation in one SLR camera body, this was the Minolta XD-7 / XD-11. These cameras were on the market from their introduction until 1984. The mode switch next to the shutter-speed dial has three positions: "M" (manual), "Auto - A" and "Auto - S". The "A" indicates Aperture-priority mode and the "S" Shutter-priority mode. There is also a hidden Program-mode, securing correct exposure whenever the available aperture-range is insufficient, in which case the shutter speed is adjusted. In fact, this function is always active, checking the exposure immediately before the shutter is fired, by measuring light intensity after the lens aperture is set automatically. Based on this reading, shutter speed is adjusted as required. To obtain full advantage of the shutter-priority mode, the lens must be set to its minimum aperture. On the new MD-range of lenses, this setting can be locked by a small switch. Failing to do this limits the range of apertures available in automatic mode. There is a "Green line" assisting the correct use of the shutter priority mode, comprising green symbols on the aperture ring and lock, the "S" mode switch position, and the 1/125 sec. on the shutter speed dial. However the green 1/125 sec. is just a suggestion, not mandatory.


The viewfinder

The interchangeable Minolta Acute-Matte focusing screen is exceptionally bright and combines the central split image rangefinder with a micro prism collar which indicates in-focus very accurately. In a special version, this Minolta Acute-Matte screen was also made available for Hasselblad. The finder covers 94% of the actual image and has 0.87 magnification using a 50mm standard lens. The finder window may be closed by flipping a small lever next to it, preventing stray light entering the exposure meter in automatic mode using a remote release. The viewfinder provides comprehensive information without unduly disturbing the image view. At the bottom centre is the actual aperture ring setting visible. Next to it, to the right, is the shutter speed dial setting visible. Along the right side is a vertical column of eleven red LEDs next to a scale of either 11 f-numbers, from 1.4 through 32 in S-mode, or 11 shutter speeds, from 1 through 1000 in A- and M-mode. The scale shown depends on the position of the mode-switch next to the shutter speed dial. One of these LEDs brightens up when the shutter release is depressed slightly, either pointing at the automatically selected value in automatic mode, or the recommended one in the manual mode.

The meter

The camera TTL exposure meter is very accurate and covers light levels from EV 1 through EV 18, with off-the-film metering for precise measurement of the amount of light striking the film during exposure. This metering system was quite sophisticated at the time of the camera's release.

The shutter

The XD series features the vertically traveling Seiko MFC shutter, which has metal blades and is particularly quiet. The shutter has a 1/100s mechanical governed speed and a B setting that operates independently of battery power (O).

The body and its controls

On the right-hand side of the camera top are the wind-on lever, the shutter speed dial, and next to it, the mode switch. The release button is located within the shutter speed dial; it accepts a standard screw-in cable release as well as an electric remote release switch. Next to the wind-on lever is the frame counter, and behind it on the camera back, a film "safe load" indicator. On the left-hand side is the film rewind knob on top of the film speed dial. It is lifted to open the back. To set the film speed, a small release button next to the dial must be depressed. A lever at the edge of the dial allows from +2 to -2 exposure compensation. Over the course of the camera's production, the lever was relocated from the front left to front right on the dial. An eyepiece shutter, preventing stray light disturbing exposure reading when the finder is not covered by the eye, is operated by a small lever at the back. A dedicated hot-shoe is on top of the prism housing. The lens release button, the PC socket, and the depth-of-field (DOF) preview button are all located at the left-hand side of the mirror housing. The self-timer on the right-hand camera front, is only released mechanically. The film rewind release-button, which also permits multiple exposures, as well as the winder coupling, the 3-volt battery compartment, and the ¼-inch tripod socket are located on the bottom.

Accessories

The camera accepts Minolta's AutoWinder D, permitting automatic frame advance of up to 2 frames per second. The camera does not, however, accept the Motor Winder MD-1, which provides up to 3.5 frames per second, a vertical shutter release button, and a noticeable improvement in ergonomics and handling to the XG and X series of camera. A full range of flashguns was available, including the top-of-the-line 320X which featured swivel/bounce and thyristor circuitry, down to the ultra-compact 118x. Other accessories included the Angle Finder V and a Quartz Data Back.

Finishes

The XD was the last of Minolta's all metal bodied cameras. It was available in both chrome and black finishes. The black finish was a special anodized process licensed from Leitz, thus it holds up better than black paint. Fewer black models were made, and they typically command a higher price on the used market today. The camera was normally covered in black leatherette. Earlier models had leatherette that was subject to shrinkage, a problem that was resolved with later models. A 50th anniversary edition, available only in black, had optional brown lizard skin leather.

Leica tie-in

The Leica R4 is based on this camera body. Minolta introduced the Rokkor MD lenses for the XD range of cameras, some of these were also made available and sold by Leica, like the 35-70mm/3.5 zoom.

Development

Over its lifespan, The XD series underwent continuing development focusing on improving the precision and reliability of its electronics and operating systems. Outwardly this development is reflected in other small changes, and five successive generations of XD's are distinguishable.

Easiest way to recognize these versions are through a few small detail changes:

  • the first generation has the exposure compensation tab (under the ASA dial) located outboard (pointing towards the front corner of the camera body) and this tab is chrome finished.
  • the second generation has this outboard-pointing tab covered in black plastic.
  • the third generation also has this tab in the outboard location, but the '125' number on the shutter speed dial is in green colour (on earlier versions it is in white).
  • the fourth generation has the exposure compensation tab moved inboard (pointing towards the lens).
  • the fifth generationion has the new Minolta logo engraved on its front nameplate, which is a separate part from the top cover.

Models

  • the top model was the XD (named XD-7 or XD-11 in different markets, see Versions)
  • an export model XD-5 that lacks the pre-set aperture and pre-set shutter speed information in the viewfinder and also the eyepiece shutter.
  • the Japanese Domestic Market XD-s which is an XD, where the eyepiece shutter is swapped for a diopter adjustment.

Versions

  • different versions by market: the primary models named XD in the Japanese Domestic Market for Japan and the far east, XD-11 in USA and Canada and XD-7 in Europe and elsewhere. All version were available in chrome and black finish.

Variants

  • a Medical model of XD and XD-s were available as a specialized body for scientific and medical applications. This camera is laid out for flash use on a microscope or alike. The shutter speed ring is fixed to its only engraving "X", the mode selector is fixed to "M" (not denoted), and there's no ASA setting wheel or exposure compensation and no finder readout, too.


Special Editions

  • A special 50th anniversary of the XD was offered on the Japanese Domestic market, for the 50th anniversary the company, in 1978. These camera are easily distinguished by a 50 anniversary engraving on the right hand side of the camera. These XD were offered to the public, and are not to be confused with the limited edition XD-7 and XD-11.
  • A limited 50th anniversary edition of the XD-7 and of the XD-11 was also offered. These are not to be confused with the XD described above: while the "50th anniversary" XD was offered to the public, the "50th anniversary" XD-7 and XD-11 were made in very limited quantities and presented as gift to a limited number of retailers and partners in Europe and in the USA.
  • The XD was also offered with special leatherette coverings:
    • a Wine leatherette (plain maroon)
    • a Lizard leatherette (snake-like leatherette)

These XD with special leatherette were only offered in the domestic market, and only with the black paint finish.

  • A special 20th Japan Camera Show edition of the domestic XD was offered in 1979. These cameras have a black paint finish, a snake-like leatherette, gold-painted "XD" and "Minolta" engravings, and also a specific badge on the right hand side of the camera.



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