On the first day of the FPP Walking Workshop, each person received a ticket to be part of a camera giveaway. Everyone had a chance to browse through several tables of cameras, select one, and enter to win that specific camera. I’ve been fascinated with old rangefinder cameras lately, so I put my ticket in the cup next to a Minolta Hi-Matic 7s. Because there were so many cameras, I was the only person that entered to win this 7s, and by default, I won! Along with the camera came a printed instruction manual, a contact sheet displaying the test images from the camera, and a letter entitled, “To the new owner,” along with details and specific information about the camera. Again, thank you FPP listener and contributor Johnny Brain in Iowa for this outstanding camera!
The Minolta Hi-Matic 7s rangefinder was manufactured in 1966. The 7s is one model in the popular line of Hi-Matic’s made from 1962 to 1984. Some other notable 35mm rangefinder cameras made during this time are the Canon Canonet and the Yashica Electro 35 series. The 7s has a very sharp, and wide, 45mm f/1.8 Rokkor lens. The aperture on the leaf shutter lens goes from f/1.8 all the way to f/22! Shutter speeds range from bulb, 4/sec up to 500/sec, ISO 25 to 800, and includes an automatic mode for both shutter and aperture settings. The 7s has a Contrast Light Compensation (CLC) metering system. This was an original feature Minolta borrowed from their SR-T SLR line of cameras and used for the Hi-Matic’s. The meter sensor is positioned at the top of the lens and the visible needle can be seen through the bright, clear, viewfinder. The meter is battery-powered and originally required a mercury battery. This 7s has an updated battery and uses an adapter with a diode to step-down the power for correct metering.
On the second day of the workshop, I sat outside in the warm morning sun and read through the 7s manual. Like a kid with a new toy, I really wanted to use this camera. I put some Kodak Ektar 100 in the 7s and used it to capture various moments throughout the second day. Aside from some poor compositions and getting used to the rangefinder, I’m really impressed with this camera. While walking around the workshop, several people commented on what a great camera it is. Yes, I’ve made a few easy mistakes with this camera. For example, because it’s a rangefinder, I’ve forgotten to remove the lens cap on two occasions. And as Leslie Lazenby points out on Episode #122 of the Film Photography Podcast, this camera also has the longest throw for advancing the film, 220 degrees! Because of this, I cranked the film right off the end of the roll! I won’t misjudge the film advance on this camera, or any other, ever again. I’m really impressed with this camera. I enjoy this camera so much that it was one of the five I selected to take to the Oregon coast a few weeks ago. If you’re looking for a solid rangefinder with sharp glass, make sure to check out the Hi-Matic’s. If you’re buying used, I recommend examining the leaf shutter for missing or broken aperture blades/leafs. If you’re concerned about using the meter, check into an updated battery or simply use the Sunny 16 Rule.
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