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Why did you go Minolta/Sony?

Peter Mc Convill , Oct 18, 2006; 06:25 p.m.

First - this isnt really a technical question so if you dont like discussions on general topics I apologise but this forum seems to be realllllly slow lately and I thought I'd like to see some discussion.

Secondly - my post is pretty long, if you like short and sharp stuff, again, I apologise in advance.

Why am I a Minolta man? - ok so its Sony now but that doesnt roll off the tongue as nicely.

I have been taking more and more photos, really enjoying the process from capturing the image, playing with it and then going back to review and pass around the photos - which is really like reviewing and passing around bits of my life. So I decided to upgrade from my very simple, three and a bit year old point and shoot to a DSLR. A review of the finances, ability and the market reduced me to three possible contenders, Canon 400D, Nikon D80, and Sony A100.

After reading a single article I found myself gravitating towards the Sony for two reasons ? in body image stabilisation and the Minolta connection. The stabilisation issue is purely technical and self evident but I wanted to talk briefly about why the Minolta connection attracted me.

First ? and this was first ? there was no reason not to be. After poring through many reviews, carefully picking through sample images, trying out the contenders I came to the conclusion that there really arent too many bad DSLRs, no matter which brand you pick you arent going to get a dud (and conversely no matter which one you pick you arent going to get one that blows the others out of the water). Also, a constant theme in a lot of articles is that a DSLR shouldn?t be considered as an end in itself ? merely an entrée into a whole system of lens, filters, flashes, etc. So when thinking about the Minolta (now Sony) the question is will the system support what I want? What do I want, decent quality lenses that go from around 18mm to 400mm that cost less than $1000 a throw, decent flashes, filters and thats about it. Minolta has that in spades and now its been bought by Sony its reasonable to assume that in ten years there will still be lenses, flashes and bodies to buy so its viable.

That explains why I didnt run from Minolta, but not why it attracted me. What attracted me were the other Minolta Men (and the odd Minolta Maam). When I read articles such as the one on this site talking about how to build a DSLR system I was struck by the arrogance of the Canon/Nikon crowd. The blanket assumption that their system is the only one to consider, that their lens choices are the only ones to buy, that their way of taking photos is the only way to take photos. When Canon and Nikon users are asked what lenses I might need on their forums they were quick to tell me, firstly without bothering to ask what I wanted to do with those lenses and secondly without any question of what I could spend.

The Minolta crowd was very different. Firstly almost no one wanted to recommend a lens until Id described how I wanted to use the camera. Secondly, no one has tried on any forum Ive visited to tell me I should take different photos (though I have received advice how to take the photos I want to take better). Finally, Im not being told the only solution is to buy US$1500 brand new lenses, instead Ive been inundated by suggestions as to how I can get good quality lenses cheaply from a range of old Minolta systems. As a guy who has - mostly - built a replica of a mid 70s Lancia rally car because it was cool instead of just another turbo AWD this really really appealed to me.

So there you are, having stripped away all the technical issues I found that really most of the camera systems were good enough ? the issue became solely which group of users most matched the way I look at my hobby.

Responses


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Bill Polley , Oct 18, 2006; 06:49 p.m.

I bought my parents a Minolta 5000i in 1989 as a "thank you" Christmas present. I had just graduated college and wanted to spend some money on something nice that they would never get themselves.

I used their camera on occasion when I needed to, but when we had our first child, I bought a 600si (which I still own). The 600si was delivered from B&H at 3PM and my son was born that evening, about 6 hours later. I have the pics to prove it!!!

Last winter I bought a "like new" Maxxum 7 with the grip. It's the best camera I have ever handled or used (and I have used a few!) I have never contemplated changing brands. I have a couple 50mm f/1.7s, a 28mm f/2, a 28mm f/2.8, a 100mm f/2.8 macro RS, a 70-210 f/4, a couple 5400HS flashes and other accessories like the long release cord. The bodies and lenses are flawless, so I see no need to scrap them.

I do, however, need a new film scanner! My Minolta Scan Elite 5400II broke and could not be repaired after only a few months of very careful use. I AM looking to switch to a Nikon scanner.

Bill

Ilich Zuniga , Oct 18, 2006; 08:03 p.m.

I guess I'm from a small number of users i this forum that think, that no photographer/enthusiast should ever consider or knowingly hold themselves down to any one camera system but the one that works for you.

Last year, I very excitedly went from a point and shooter, to a Canon Eos 300d. I went for it because it was all that affordable for me at the time, given that I found a really good price for on the *bay.

I still have the camera and like/d using it very much. I used many accessories and took it to my big trip to the Grand Canyon with me. Howerver, I found some things lacking, like spot metering, and I knew taht I would NEVER be able to afford any of the stabalized lenses available to the mass market.

So this year as I acquired a small sum of money, I decided to wait for the Xti, needless to say I was very much dissapointed with the incremental changes Canon decided to make to the camera. Furthermore, the small form factor of the camera made it a pain for me to hand-hold in the store.

So, I eventually came to the conclusion to ditch Canon, and try the new Sony Alpha, which everyone by now surely knows is a glorified (Konica Minolta). It has all good features I wanted in the XTi, at the same price of the XTi!

I'm not married to any system, I go for what's good, what's within my price range, but most importantly what's best for my style of photography and for me it's the new Sony Alpha; and by the way, my bird photos with the in body stabalization are as sharp as a tack at 300mm.I couldn't be any happier. :)

Marc Van Lommel , Oct 18, 2006; 10:48 p.m.

At the end of the eighties I needed a new camera and at that moment the Dynax 7000i was just out and had all features I wanted for the right price ... I came from Pentax ... than my two Minolta bodies and all other gear got stolen from the car trunk ... I had to buy new and bought two Dynax 8000i bodies with lenses ... this year May I decided to go digital ... because of the lenses I bought the Sony Alpha and am still happy about ...

Andrew Kaiser , Oct 19, 2006; 02:52 a.m.

Like Bill above me I still own both a Minolta 600si and a Maxxum 7 SLR. I also have a Minolta X-700 which is still the student camera I tend to recomend to people. I love these cameras and see no reason to ever buy another film SLR provided both of these cameras continue to work.

I've always felt Minolta designed excellent cameras and in many ways were far more pleasing to hold and use then anything from the Nikon and Canon camp. I know a big part of it is what you're used to, but hey, Minolta worked for me and I've never complained.

Bill Thorlin , Oct 19, 2006; 06:53 a.m.

It seems somehow appropriate that what is probably my last ever posting on this website should be a valediction to my favourite cameras.

My first Minolta was an SRT101 bought in Nairobi in 1969 with a Christmas bonus. I did my research and the specs seemed as good as, if not better than, anything else available. I tried out the cameras and the ergonomics for me were far superior. This camera has been 16,000 foot up mountains, in deserts, on beaches, frozen, baked, covered in salt spray and sand and volcanic dust and rain - heck it has even survived two of my children learning their photography on it.

I am just about to go and get the results from the latest roll put through it - it is damn nigh indestructible.

I upgraded ( if that is the word ) to a 7000 in the mid-80s again having done my research. Great camera for almost all the same reasons. There have followed a variety of numbers of 7000i - 3xi - 404si - 800si and 7s (just got another one at a bargain price ).

After the first 2 cameras I gave up all the research and trusted Minolta to get it right and they have barely ever let me down.

Unless Sony come up with a full-frame offering I doubt I will need to buy any more ( and in this case I will be doing my research ! ). I have thought about a 9 but really the only good reason I can come up with is that I can say I own a 9.

Do not forget the lenses - the particular stars amongst MANY range from a Rokkor 58mm f1.4 and in AF a good old 50mm and a 70-210 ( actually a 75-210 in practise ) beercan and a 100mm f2.8 macro ( stunning ). Who could ask for better.

There are some odds and ends around as well, including ( shhhh ) a little P&S digital.

It has been a great ride and I hope that Sony are good enough to pick up the baton and take things forward up to the Minolta standards.

Kwaherini.

Kirk Keyes , Oct 19, 2006; 12:09 p.m.

With the birth of my first child this year, I decided it was time to move into a DSLR. I went with the Sony for pretty much the same reasoning as you.

I was a long time Minolta user - I bought my only 35 mm camera - an X-700 in 1982(?) when they came out. My father had a XD-11, and the X-700 was a really good and cost effective way to get into 35 mm, especially since I could use my dad's lenses.

I normally shoot 4x5 for serious photos, but for less demanding shots, I bought a Nikon N990 digital point-n-shoot, which I really enjoyed. But trying to catch the baby fleeting expressions with the N990 was near impossible with the shutter lag of what seems like about 1.5 seconds, I started looking for a DSLR.

Coincidentally, the Sony was coming out and I liked the idea of the Minolta heritage, the large backlog of used Minolta AF lenses, and the antishake in the body, I decided to they the a100. I ordered it the first week B&H listed them, and I've had is since the end of July. I'm up to about 1000 shots so far, and very happy with it. I took it to a vintage/historic car race and it did much better than I could have ever hoped with action shots than I would have with the X-700.

The only thing I miss is the ability to get really wide angle lenses. I thought about getting a Canon 5D for a while, but the price was too much at this time for ne. So when/if Sony comes out with a full frame DSLR, I'm going to really thin seriously about upgrading for that feature only.

Anyway - really happy with the Sony!

By the way - do you have any shots of your Beta Coupe rally car? I see you also had a Fiat Spyder - I had a 1970 124 Spyder for several years in the late-80s. Never ran reliably, and then one day, the rubber donut on the end of the gearbox going to the drive shaft failed. And when I say failed, I mean that in a big way. The drive shaft started to flop around, really fast. Fortunately I had the support bar installed under it to keel the car from pole-vaulting on the loose driveshaft. It hit the end of the 5-speed gearbox, breaking off the end of the housing with the shift lever, and leaving a gaping hole in the top of the gearbox. I was going down a hill at the time, had just gently downshifted, and I hear this loud bang, and I noticed the windshield got obscured and my right leg was getting hot - from the oil flying out of the gearbox onto it!! As I got over the shock of all this happening, I hit the brakes, and nothing happened... The brake line had been ripped out by the spinning drive shaft. So I grapped the emergency brake, and that worked, and I got the car to stop. AS I'm sitting there in the driver looking over the mess and laughing at what a mess it was, I heard the gentle noise of what sounded like water pouring onto the ground under the car. I opened the car, and without getting out of the seat, leaned out of the car and looked underneath. Not only had the brake line been ripped out, but the fuel line was gone as well... and all 10 gallons of gas that I had just put in the car was slowly pouring onto the ground under the car. I grabbed my important tools and stuff from the car, got out quickly, and walked away... I eventually rebuilt the gearbox and got the car running again, and promptly gave it to a friend. (He had a 124 Sport Coupe that we have alots of disaster stories from...)

Sorry for the off-topic story. Kirk

Aaron Meyer , Oct 19, 2006; 04:43 p.m.

I had an Olympus C-8080 that I liked a lot, but it was lost in a rental vehicle and never returned to me. I decided to get an "entry-level" DSLR as the replacement because some of the C-8080's limitations were bugging me (slow RAW write time, noise above ISO 100).

Looking at them all, I decided much the same thing as the OP; that there aren't any real "dud" cameras out there. I ruled out cameras using SD cards because I already had an investment in Compact Flash from the Olympus and didn't want to spend the money on media again. That left me with the A100, the E-500, E-330 and the Rebel XTi (400D). Despite my previous Olympus experience, I didn't want to get into the 4/3 system, the crop factor would be too much since I use my wider lenses too often. The 1.5/1.6 FOV crop of the Sony and Canon is already an annoyance, but it's less bad than the 2x of the Olympus and a full frame was out of my desired price range. Besides, I have my film camera for that.

I've shot film with Contax for a long time and almost went with the Canon so that I could use my Zeiss glass, but the Rebel just didn't feel right in my hands. I didn't like it. When I heard that Sony would be partnering with Zeiss on a line of Zeiss glass to fit the camera it made a big difference. But what put me firmly in the Sony camp was how the camera fit my hand. It just worked for me. The steady-shot works better than I anticipated, allowing about a 4 stop improvement for me when I concentrate, which is about a 5 stop improvement from "textbook" as I have a pretty steady grip. I have gotten pictures at 300mm (450mm equivalent in 35mm film) with a shutter speed of 1/13 second that have no visible camera shake.

Overall, I found that, for me, the Sony represented the best choice for an amateur/enthusiast DSLR. If I want the ultimate, I have my Contax with slide film and I intend to continue using that as well.

David W. Griffin , Oct 19, 2006; 06:06 p.m.

I started with a Konica I, went to a SR-T-101, an XE-5, an XK, and then the 7000, 8000i, and finally the 600si. Minolta has always targetted the advanced amateur with good designs and good glass at a reasonable price. It's sad to see them get out of the biz.

I recently bought a Konica Minolta 5D to experiment with digital and I'm impressed what it can do with 6.1MP. But I'm reluctant to go with Sony even though I'm attracted by the Zeiss glass (I also use Kyocera Contax SLRs) because I'm not sure what kind of a committment Sony has to photography. And they don't have the greatest reputation for servicing their products. The Alpha is essentially the 5D with a 10MP sensor and judging from my performance, I'm sure the Alpha takes great pictures.

I am looking for a possibly higher end digital and I'm leaning toward the Canon 5D because I really want that full sized sensor so that I don't have the lens crop factor. And just try finding a 35mm lens to act as a "normal" lens on your 5D, 7D or Alpha 100. That said I think you couldn't really go wrong with an alpha.

Dan Dukro , Oct 20, 2006; 04:25 p.m.

Hello, I guess I will put my "two cents worth" in as well. I am also a Minoltian (with Maxxums 7000, 7, 600Si, 650Si), but I also shoot Nikon, Chinon, Yashica, Zeiss Ikon, Pentax, Exakta, and some others. The statement that the Nikon and Canon crowd tend to be snobbish is correct. People who shoot Minolta are less so because we know our equipment is equal to the others in everyway and tends to be at a better price. I think we tend to also have a better grasp of the fact that good photography depends on three basic things. 1) quality of equipment, 2) personal skill level, and 3) opportunities given and taken for taking memorable pictures If you remember these three things then you will go far. You can't go wrong with the quality of Minolta equipment and service. The most fundimental advice I can give you on choosing a camera system is that: The best camera you can buy is simply the camera that IS BEST FOR YOU. If it happens to be Minolta, great! If it isn't, great! What you want to be sure of first is, what sort of pictures make me happy, and what equipment will help me take pics like those. I began writing a book a while ago on how people can go about choosing the best camera for themselves, and maybe I should finish it, because I address issues that most people wouldn't even think of but that can affect their photography and their enjoyment of the hobby (such as button controls vs. knobs, etc.) I hope whatever system you pick leads to a lifetime of many happy captured memories.


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