Minolta XE 1

Description of vintage manual focus SLR camera.
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  erik fiss . photograhy . . November 8, 2014  Minolta XE 1 Lens(es)Minolta SR bayonet mount, interchangeable lenses from 8 to 800mm.ShutterVertically travelling metal focal plane shtter, speeds from 4 Sek. to1/1000 Sek., X (1/90) and B .Light meter2 CdS cells in prism, Minolta CLC system (contrast light compensation),off switch. Aperture priority AE and metered manual.FocusingNon interchangeable focusing screen with microprism ring and focusingwedge.ViewfinderDiplay of set aperture and speed plus metered speed.FlashFP and X synch, hot shoe and PC socket.FilmtransportRapid wind lever, rewind crank, self-resetting film counter, filmtransport indicator.Dimensionsca. 145/95/60 mm without lens.Battery2 !  SR76.[German version]I planned the aquisition of an XE1 for a rather long time but somehow hesitated. Userreports were favourable, but not completely enthusiastic, somehow. The ruggedness of theXE is also offered in the SR-T Series, with the addition of battery independence, albeit of course without exposure automation. THe XD, on the other hand, offers AE (including aquasi-program-AE for your occasional snapshot) and a much better finder display with anLED array, clearly a plus under dim lighting conditions.So why an XE?One day I bought one regardless and became my favourite SLR from the first day. I have ahard time figuring out why exactly, but I think the XE's features in this exact combinationfit my way of taking photgraphs.The XE (Japan), XE7 (USA) or XE1 (rest of the world) was introduced to the market in 1974and represented the middle class between the amateur SRT series and the XM/XK that wasproduced for the pro market (and in the long run rather didn't yield the succes Minoltahoped for, which is why it had now followers).It offered the CLC light metering known from the SRT and the aperture priority AE of theXM. It didn't however offer the interchangeable finders and focusing screens of the latter,nor its 1/2000 top shutter speed. But it offered a newly designed vertically travelling metalshutter developed with Leitz and Copal thatz was also built into the Leica R3 (the XD andthe later Leica Rs had a rather similar shutter by Seiko). Indeed the XE ist quite identical tothe Leica R3, with the exception of the metering system, finder and electronics. Ironically,the Minolta's electronics proved to be less prone to failure.Shutter speeds are electronically controlled from 4 seconds to 1/1000, steplessly if you useAE and in full stops in manual mode. There is a mechanical speed of 1/90(X) in case of battery failure. Set shutter speed and aperture are indcated in the finder, along with an  analog needle display of the shutter speed comuted by the metering system. So it'spossible to work with the camera without taking your eye from the finder. Finder brightnessis not quite on par with the XD, but more than sufficient at least with fast to medium speedlenses. The standard (and only) focusing screen sprts a focusing wedge and a microprismring.Gadgets included are an eyepiece shutter for tripod work and reprography and a niftydouble exposure lever that disengages the film transport when you cock the shutter. Therealso is an exposure compensation dial (+2 to -2). that's about it.Hey, I almost forgot: The XE combines automatic diaphragm and stop down metering, inthat the DOF preview button uncouples the aperture simulator. So you can fully usemetering and AE even with the DOF preview activated, contrary to most other cameras.Consequently, the DOF button is a toggle and does't return to open apertue viewing byitself. This might sound harmless, but it really is a great feature that makes depth of fieldcontrol a breeze as it is not coupled with loss of time.Handling is flawless. The XE is rather big and heavy and thus makes it easy to safelyhandhold even a little longer shutter speeds, and all controls are within your fingers' reachwhen your eye is at the shutter. The contemporary MC Rokkor lenses fit the camera best,but of course all MC and MD lenses will work (even if smaller lenses like the MD 45/2.0 dolook a little bit odd on this camera).Quirks? The self timer lever seems to be the XE's achilles heel, it is made of plasic andseems to break quite easily (although it makes a rather rugged impression on my sample).The shutter speed dial can only be turned to and from AE via the slow speeds, which issomething you can get accustomed to.I seem to step into the trap that most of the previous XE reviews have stepped in: praisingthe camera, without being able to exactly tell you why. Take my word: you have to use thiscamera to understand, and it's really worthwhile. The XE is a serious tool, and it does feellike one. And so it encourages good photography. Copyright © 2002-2010 by Erik FissErik Fiss. All rights reserved. Last modified March 16, 2010 November 8, 2014
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