I bought my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s rangefinder camera in January, when I decided to get back into film photography. It’s a big yet stylish piece of mid-century industrial design, everything about it shouts “Camera!” I’ve used it a lot over the past six months, getting familiar with its functions, its quirks. Six months later, I still love this camera.
You may find this love a bit “funny” if you’ve been following along, since in that six months a total of five other cameras have passed through my hands, three of those I still have. If I loved this camera that much, why the hell would I toy around with so many others? And why do I go through the trouble of finding a perfect “shoulderable” camera for on-bike use (first my Konica C35 EF, now my Ricoh 35 ZF) when I already have the Minolta?
Well, trying out different cameras is fun, and there’s something unique and different to all those other cameras. And the quest for the “shoulderable” camera is more about size than anything else: the Hi-Matic 7s is closer to two pounds than one. I want something light for bike duty. But for walking around? The Minolta is great for that.
The Hi-Matic 7s is the camera that taught (and is teaching) me the mechanics of photography. Before it, f-stops and shutter speeds were a mystery, now I’m getting the hang of it. The Hi-Matic 7s can switch between auto-exposure and manual, and the meter works in both. And the meter gives Exposure Value (EV), so with the EV indicator on the lens barrel I can put together a correct shutter and aperture combination while getting to choose the depth-of-field I want.
And that lens. Minolta’s Rokkor lenses were noted for their sharpness, and the 45mm/1.8 lens on my Hi-Matic 7s delivers. It delivers crisp shots and can give a nice shallow depth-of-field. While the 40mm/2.8 Rikkenon lens on my Ricoh 35 ZF comes close, it’s not the same.
While a fixed-lens rangefinder lacks the versatility of an SLR, I’m in no hurry to get one. I know I’ll get an SLR at some point, but for now I can do a lot with my circa 1966 Minolta Hi-Matic 7s. It may be a wee bit too bulky as my daily camera, but I still pull it out plenty. And I envision many happy years with this camera. It’s not the sexiest rangefinder (the smaller Hi-Matic 7s II definitely beats it in that department), but it works. And that’s all I need.