I’ve had my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s for a year. I purchased it on eBay on January 5, 2020 and received it on the 9th. It’s the first camera I got when I decided to get back into film photography. It was also the first truly manual camera I owned: focus is controlled by me, and while I could set exposure to automatic, I much prefer manual control of aperture and shutter speed.* It’s the camera that got me hooked on film and learning everything I could about this dark art.
But I was just gifted an Olympus 35 RD, another rangefinder. The lens on the 35 RD is equally as good, and also a hair faster (f/1.7 on the 35 RD vs f/1.8 on the Hi-Matic 7s). Not only that, the 35 RD is smaller and more compact. When I got the 35 RD I asked myself, “Is the Hi-Matic now redundant?” I wasn’t interested in amassing a large camera collection, and I didn’t see myself needing two rangefinders. The idea that I may give up the Hi-Matic 7s motivated me into getting a Minolta SRT-101: If I was going to get rid of the Hi-Matic, I still wanted something with nice Minolta glass. And now I’d have an SLR to boot, a niche that could be filled.
I dropped off the Olympus 35 RD at Advance Camera in September to get a CLA. In the meantime I shot more with the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s to see how I felt about it. I even shot a bunch in color, as I had been shooting only black and white on it since February. I liked the shots I got. And since I know a bit more about how to shoot with the camera, the results were definitely better than what I got with my first four rolls last winter.
I got the Olympus 35 RD back from the shop at the end of November. I immediately put a couple rolls through it. I enjoyed shooting with the camera, and the results I got back were also superb. It can take the place of the Hi-Matic, no doubt.
Yet while it makes perfect sense to sell the Hi-Matic 7s, I’m keeping it, at least for now.
Why is that? Well, I still like my Minolta Hi-Matic 7s. It’s a great shooting, great feeling camera. And while the general size and heft of it is a point not in its favor, there are things that the 7s has going for it:
- I really like the sound of the shutter and the feel of the release. The shutter sound on the 35 RD is relatively dinky. They are both Seiko shutters, I wonder if shutters just sound better on bigger cameras?
- The case! Both of my Minoltas feature luxurious leather cases. Olympus was not known for making great cases, and the beaten and peeling specimen that came with the 35 RD is proof.**
- The Hi-Matic 7s is much easier to use in manual exposure mode. While the shutter and aperture rings are small, it’s nothing like the teeny and hard to move aperture ring on the 35 RD. The 35 RD almost dares you to shoot fully manual.
Deep down, I realize that I still really like the Hi-Matic 7s. I shouldn’t get rid of a camera I like, even if it makes sense in a rational or even economic sense to do so. Even if the camera is now redundant. While I’m not wealthy, I’m not strapped for cash either. I don’t want to make a rash decision and then regret it.
Perhaps the Hi-Matic 7s fills the same role in my camera stable as my Raleigh Crested Butte does for my bike stable: The slightly redundant machine that I can’t yet bear to part with. Both represent important milestones in personal journeys: the Hi-Matic for film photography, the Crested Butte for vintage mountain bikes and chunky 26″ tires. Both are functional and well-made. Both have sentimental value that’s hard to quantify. Both still make me happy. And that’s good enough reason to keep them around.
And now I’m even thinking I might get the Minolta Hi-Matic 7s CLA’d (clean, lube, adjust) at some point. It’s just like how I almost sold the Crested Butte, then within a year I did a pretty major overhaul/re-envisioning. Maybe some things are just meant to be.
For photos from the Hi-Matic 7s, see the dynamic flickr album below or click here.
*I did own a rangefinder from about 1998 to around 2004, a Honeywell Visimatic 615. I had to focus, but it was automatic exposure control.
**The XA2 was designed to not need a case, hence the clamshell design. While it’s a clever design, it could also be seen as Olympus finally admitting defeat.