Thrift Store Score: Minolta Hi-Matic 7s

Minolta Hi-Matic 7s (c.1966)

Occasionally, I’ll drop into a specific thrift store that’s just off the freeway on my way home from work. I try to listen to my inner camera hunter and only go in when alarms are sounding that something cool is in there waiting for me. So far I’ve found an Olympus XA2 (that my buddy Chris is enjoying), an Olympus Stylus Epic DLX (which is loaded with film and in my man-bag right now), a Polaroid Land 100 (which I hacked to use modern batteries and it produces beautiful images, thank you very much), and now this same thrift store has given me a Minolta Hi-Matic 7s.

It wasn’t obvious as it sat in the display case—it was inside a newer camera case—but I spotted the Minolta’s vintage black leather case poking out and, honestly, my heart began to pound a little. Just a little…I mean, I’m not a freak. Wait, yes I am. Who am I kidding? This is what the hunt is about, man! The guy behind the counter plopped the pile of camera cases on the counter and my mind raced when I pulled the vintage case out and saw “Minolta” on its front. I quickly opened the vintage case and it was love at first sight. This 7s is in outstanding condition; someone took really good care of it. Makes me wonder what happened that led to it being donated to the local thrift store.

After some on-the-spot checks to see if everything was working, I dropped a twenty and took my new 7s home. After some tin foil mastery and a fresh SR44 silver cell, I was able to get the meter to come to life and it appears to be very accurate (with an adjustment to the ISO setting due to the increased voltage from the SR44 cell).

I shot one roll over this past weekend, but I was shooting without a meter (this was pre tin foil mastery) and many of the shots in trickier lighting came a bit crap. I think it’s me, though. I think I’m bad at the Sunny 16 rule when I’m not in sun or open shade. Despite it being difficult to over expose print neg film, I managed to do just that on a majority of the images snapped in interior lighting situations. Then there were the shots I actually metered with a hand held meter (a Quantum Calcu-Light XP) that came out crap because (and I learned this after the fact) I was reading the meter wrong. D’OH!

So, first roll was mostly a bust, with a few pics that came out fine (see gallery below), but I’ve got another roll in there now and I think I’ve got things sorted this time. The coolest thing about this little camera is that the meter works when the camera is in manual mode; something unusual for a camera from this era. The needle system inside the viewfinder points to an EV value that you then match up on the side of the lens barrel, and that’s your shutter/aperture combo. So very cool. This was the factor that really made me decide to keep this little gem for my own collection.


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