Written by Taylor Blanchard
In the summer of 2021, my stepmother gave me her late father’s Minolta Maxxum 7000, complete with two zoom lenses, bag, flash, and a manual.
Unfortunately, it had been stored with batteries in it, which were badly corroded.
Once I cleaned off the battery contacts with a swab of rubbing alcohol, I loaded it with film. Then, I started reading the manual and realized this camera is more like a DSLR than many of the more limited-feature 35mm film cameras I was used to shooting.
That summer, I shot the Maxxum two times. I liked the results but could never remember how to use it. It sat in my closet.
A few months later, I decided to re-read the manual and shoot the camera again, and it’s become one of my go-to cameras. It has also re-inspired my appreciation and love for 35mm film, which I had eschewed in favor of 120 and large format. And it can often be found for under $50 which makes it a great budget-friendly film camera.
Find the Minolta Maxxum 7000 at KEH Camera or on eBay.
History of the Minolta Maxxum 7000: The First* Autofocus SLR
The Minolta Maxxum 7000 was released in 1985 and marketed for its autofocus capabilities. While not necessarily the first camera to have autofocus (that was technically the Polaroid SX-70 Sonar (find on eBay) released in 1978), it was the first SLR camera to have autofocus built into the camera body. Previously, any autofocus motor was in the lens.
With this new design, the lenses were lighter and more affordable, and the focusing was quieter.
Minolta also released a new lens mount – their “A” mount – which is compatible with the Sony-Alpha line of cameras (Sony acquired Konica Minolta in 2006). In addition to releasing the camera in 1985, Minolta offered 12 new lenses ready to sell.
While it was a huge risk to change their lens mount, the gamble paid off for Minolta. This camera took the photography world by storm. In addition to the autofocus capabilities, the Maxxum introduced a number of other features that hadn’t been previously available on one camera: auto film loading, automatic DX film speed setting, auto rewinding, and more.
According to history, Canon scrapped their existing SLR plans and went back to the drawing board to devise its EOS system. For at least a year, Minolta was the only camera with its features. Every other major camera manufacturer would follow Minolta’s SLR design.
Later in 1985, Minolta released the professional-level Maxxum 9000 (find on eBay), and then the budget-friendly 5000 (find on eBay).
The Feel of the Minolta Maxxum 7000
One of the first things you’ll notice about the Maxxum 7000 is the camera is plastic, yet feels sturdy. It has heft in the hand but is manageable to hold and not a burden to carry. The grip, which houses the batteries, is comfortable.
On the top right of the camera are the shutter release, two arrow buttons, and the camera lock/on switch. There’s a “P” button to quickly set the camera to program mode. The buttons are laid out well and mostly intuitive.
The camera offers 4 modes for shooting: program, aperture priority, shutter speed priority, and manual. I have to admit when I was shooting digital Aperture Priority was one of my favorite modes, and I missed it in my film camera line-up.
The camera has 3 drive modes: normal, self-timer, and rapid. The self-timer is easy to set up, and I’ve used it to take self-portraits.
Loading and Rewinding Film
Film is a breeze to load and generally the camera has no problems loading – I’ve only had to open the back up once or twice to adjust the film into the teeth of the camera. The camera is a bit noisy when loading.
Right after you load the film, the LCD displays the film’s ISO and sets the film count to 1. There is a window so you can see the film type, which is helpful for people like me who often load a camera and then don’t shoot the film immediately.
Rewinding the film is a bit of a clunkier process: you have to depress the R button and also slide a switch to the left. It sometimes takes me a few tries to rewind the film.
Settings, Metering, and Autofocus
It’s very easy to adjust the ISO on the Minolta Maxxum 7000, which is perfect for shooting expired film, pushing or pulling film, shooting an experimental film that might have a different DX coding, or shooting a film with a multivariable rating, like Cinestill BwXX.
The camera also has an exposure compensation button to add or subtract up to 4 stops, in half stop increments.
The Maxxum 7000 uses TTL (through the lens) center-weighted metering. I’ve found the TTL meter is reliable and accurate, except in very bright or dark settings.
While generally the autofocus works very well, it can be sluggish. The autofocus system relies on contrast to focus, so if you’re photographing something with little detail or texture, or in lower light, the camera will continue to “search” for the focus.
In these cases, I have to put the camera in manual focus mode. Unfortunately, the camera will not let you take a photo if you’re in AF and the camera can’t find a focus.
The camera focuses on a center point in the middle of the frame, so you may have to focus and then recompose the image or select the manual button on the lens.
A huge drawback to this camera is that it doesn’t offer in-camera double exposures. Also, since the camera auto-rewinds, the leader will wind all the way back into the canister, so you have to fish it out if you want to run the roll through the camera twice to make double exposures.
It’s worth noting that the camera takes AAA batteries, or AA batteries with a different grip (which you can also buy on the secondhand market), so finding batteries is a breeze. It’s reassuring to travel with the camera knowing I can easily find batteries in a drug store or bodega if the batteries die. I have several other cameras that require harder to find or more expensive batteries, so the Minolta wins out.
Related: Olympus OM-1 35mm Film Camera Review
Final Thoughts on the Maxxum 7000
The Minolta Maxxum 7000 doesn’t have the classic look of many 35mm SLRs (such as the Canon AE-1 or the Nikon F1), and over time, the plastic components may start to turn white. It won’t draw as much attention as other film cameras, which can be a good thing.
I love how easy it is to rate film at a different ISO and add or subtract exposure compensation frame to frame. Battery grips, lenses, and other accessories are readily available in the aftermarket at reasonable prices. I’ve added two prime lenses to my kit: a 50 and 85mm.
I have several cameras with manual focus and no internal light meter, so I grab the Maxxum 7000 if I’m looking for something easier to shoot.
If you’re used to shooting a DSLR and want to transition to film, you’ll appreciate many of the capabilities of the Maxxum. Given the high price that many film cameras are fetching these days, I would recommend a Maxxum to anyone looking to take the plunge, or to any film shooters looking for a well-rounded camera with more features. It’s easy to find via online platforms at a very reasonable price, and it’s a camera that many people pick up inexpensively at thrift stores or from local sellers.
Have you used the Maxxum or have any experience? Let me know in the comments!
Thank you so much, Taylor! Taylor is a regular contributor here at Shoot It With Film, and you can check out her other articles here, such as My Foray Into Large Format Photography and The World of Infrared and Red-Sensitive Black and White Film.
You can also check out Taylor’s work on Instagram.
Leave your thoughts and questions about the Minolta Maxxum 7000 below in the comments, and you can pick one up for yourself at KEH Camera or on eBay.
May 12, 2023 at 11:31 am
Nice images. I really like the colour-pop in the bowling alley and bathroom sink images. Sharp, too.
May 13, 2023 at 2:14 am
Thank you Craig! This camera handles color film very well.
May 12, 2023 at 11:55 am
Nice use of light in the accompanying photographs. The excellent Minolta AF7000 or whatever it is called in other countries won’t break the bank. However, the ludicrously over-priced colour film to feed it will.
May 13, 2023 at 2:15 am
Hi Bubbles – yes, unfortunately color film is getting more expensive everywhere. I’m definitely more conscious when I shoot it.
May 12, 2023 at 3:59 pm
Taylor, this post inspired me to break out my own Minolta Maxxum 7000 I’ve had hidden away because I thought it no longer worked! It was my grandparents’ camera, and like yours, the batteries had been left in it and badly corroded it. Per Google, I tried cleaning it with vinegar and after a really good clean, it turned on! I’m excited to test out a roll of film and add another camera to my working collection. Thanks for sharing!
May 13, 2023 at 2:17 am
Oh I can’t wait to see what you capture with it! If the battery contacts still seem corroded, you could buy another battery grip on eBay. That’s what I did – it was about $20.
Brian B Bednarek
May 12, 2023 at 6:13 pm
I agree a lot with your review … I go one a few years back and had happy results, but it is not in my current rotation of cameras… maybe I will revisit it!!!
May 13, 2023 at 2:18 am
Hi Brian – yes for some reason this camera is easy to overlook – I’ve done it myself. Hopefully you enjoy getting it out of the closet and shooting it again.
May 13, 2023 at 7:56 am
This camera was my first SLR and I loved it. My photos were always crisp and it was so easy to use. Then I loaned it to my brother and he destroyed it. Out of a sense of nostalgia, I recently picked up one on eBay, but all my photos turned out so underexposed they were useless. Because they’re still so cheap, I ended up buying another and it does the same thing! I think the light meter is bad. I’ve read that it’s an issue that isn’t worth the repair. Anyone else had this problem?
May 13, 2023 at 8:06 pm
I got the 7000 when it came out. I still have it and just bought some more film at Target! Can’t wait to see what I took on a couple of rolls I have to develop. Where is the best to get film developed?
May 14, 2023 at 2:05 am
Hi Mark – exciting about your purchase! There are a ton of places to get film developed. Depending on where you live, you still may have a shop in town. If not, I think The Darkroom is a great place to send film – it’s on the less expensive end for mail order and they’re very quick with turnaround times. They’ll also send you a mailer so all you have to do is drop your film in the mail. The Darkroom also has an app for viewing your scans as soon as they’re ready – if you’re impatient like me! If you’re looking for a lab that will spend more time on color corrections or if you have a scanner preference (Noritsu vs Frontier) then The FIND Lab or Indie Film Lab are good options. Finally, if you anticipate shooting a lot of film, Nice Film has a membership program. I especially like that with Nice Film, you can choose the image size to download once you see the scans – instead of having to select the resolution size before sending the film.
May 14, 2023 at 1:57 am
Hi MP – oh no! That stinks it happened to you two times. I’ve read about some possible issues with the aperture control magnets but I’m not sure that would affect the light meter. Were you able to shoot the camera in manual mode and get correct exposures using sunny 16 or an external light meter? That could rule out other issues.
May 14, 2023 at 4:27 am
I have a Maxxum 7 and 9. They are very good cameras. My most used and favorite lens is the 35-70 f4 (mini beer can). It is very sharp, good color rendition, and has a useful macro feature built in. I don’t use either of them a lot but when I do, the results are excellent. These two models are geared towards the professional market and are more money used. They also have that proprietary flash mount which is a bit of a pain but I managed to pickup a HS5400 for cheap and it works well and even offers HSS.
May 17, 2023 at 5:19 am
Hi John – thank you for the comment! I’m loving the two lenses that I bought from you for the 7000. So good to hear from you.