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After months of research, scrimping and saving up my pennies, I decided to get the Dynax 7 by Minolta. This is a 35mm AF SLR. So far, in 4 months, I have managed to shoot about 20 rolls of film through it without a hitch. I like the ergonomics (switches and dials), the bright viewfinder, nifty LCD screen which displays every little bit of information on the camera settings and exposure, and the 14 segment evaluative metering, coupled with the LCD display to show exactly what the exposure distribution of the scene. The autofocus seems to be fast and reliable and the depth-of-field preview has come in handy. The LCD display of the 14 segment exposure reading of the scene is very handy as this gives instant feedback on the effect of exposure compensation (-3 to +3 1/2 stops or -2 to +2 in 1/3 stops). It's a godsend when mounted on a tripod. The autofocus has been flawless, especially with fast prime lenses. The selectable focus (9 focus areas) is great mounted on a tripod or when taking quick snapshots. The depth of focus preview is a nice feature. You can even change aperture with it engaged. For better handling, I got the VC-7 vertical control grip. It also allows the use of 4 AA cells for dual power supply. It also increases the heft of the camera so that I seem to be able to shoot more steadily. It was a very useful accessary for shooting my sister's wedding. It's of immense help when taking vertical format shots as it replicates the shutter, the two control wheels, exposure and focus lock buttons. Criticisms? It does seem a bit plasticky, but I guess that's a tradeoff I'm willing to make for less weight hanging around my neck. It's not as rugged as the Dynax 9 but most cameras aren't. Unless you are going to mountain climb, trek over deserts or cover war zones, then that kind of ruggedisation isn't really necessary most of the time. I wish Minolta would introduce vibration reduction or image stabi
lisation into some of their lenses, but we can only cross our fingers and wait. The DoF preview button is awkwardly placed and hard to activate using my pinky, at least in the horizontal format mode. It's much easier to activate when the vertical grip is being used. Being left eye dominant, my forehead tends to hit the focus selector button when using the VC-7. All in all, I find that the Dynax 7 is a very good camera to use. The innovations have not just been gimmicks but are useful in taking pictures. I can wholeheartedly recommend the Dynax 7. Compared to what the other major manufacturers offer, the Dynax 7 gives tremendous "useful" features for how much it costs. It is a joy to use.
When I got bitten by the photography bug about 4 years ago I bought into the Minolta range of cameras, my first being a Dynax 505si (reviewed elsewhere on this very site). Having used it for two years or more I felt I'd pretty much pushed it to it's limit. This, combined with my insatiable urge for new gadgets, saw me glancing longingly at the Dynax 9 in Jessops. But £1000 was too much for me to justify on a camera body, so I just kept on looking at it. Some while later, on one of my relatively frequent visits to Jessops, I spied what looked like a 'baby' Dynax-9. What was this? It was cheaper (£600), smaller and boasted a whoe new range of features. I had to take a look. Testing the new Dynax-7 out, on the spot, in the store had me hooked. So after a period of frantic saving I returned and bought what, I am happy to say, is my primary camera. The Dynax 505si still has a place in the camera bag, usually loaded with a different film to the Dynax-7 just in case, but the '7' is always first out. So why is the Dynax 7 preferred to the 505si? The list of fairly extensive so bear with me... From the front the Dynax 7 looks incredibly similar to the Dynax 9, black with a rubberised grip and the usual array of dials and buttons. It's when you look at the back that you notice it's not quite the same. A sizeable LCD screen graces the back-plate, displaying all the exposure information you could comfortably wish for. With an eerie green/blue backlight and changing the display format to either horizontal or vertical (depending on which way you are holding the camera), the display is easily the biggest single differentiator between the Dynax 7 and any other SLR on the market. Not only does it display exposure information, it can also display the calculated exposure for each of the cameras 14 'honeycomb' metering segments, giving an exceptionally good idea of how a picture will come out. The screen also comes in
handy when you are setting any of the cameras 35 custom functions, showing clearly what options are available for each and which is currently set. The display is not the only thing on the back of the camera. There are switches to select the metering mode, auto-focus sensors and exposure lock as well as a 'thumb-pad' that can be used to individually select any of the 9 auto-focus points and thumb operated 'clutch' that allows rapid switching between auto and manual focus. All of these controls fall within easy reach of your fingers and finding them, even with the camera held to your eye, is no trouble. Finally there is a flap on the back-plate which covers the less frequently used buttons, primarily those used to change the custom settings. These buttons are fiddly and best operated using the point of a pencil or similar, but I have only used them on the very rare occassion that I want to change a custom setting so it's not a big problem. The rest of the controls are in the form of dials, which are familiar across the Minolta range. The biggest difference between the 505 and the 7 in this respect is that on the top-plate of the 7, there are two dials; one each side of the camera. The left-side dial is used for setting exposure compensation in either half or third stops. It's much quicker and far more intuitive to use than the exposure compensation controls on the 505. The dial on the right-hand side of the camera controls film transport (multiple exposure, continuous advance, single frame, timer etc) and the program mode (one of either Aperture or shutter priority, fully manual or fully automatic). Unlike the 505, there are no subject specific modes (e.g. Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Macro) which affect the way the camera reaches an exposure value, so simple point-and-shoot operation leads to poorer results with the Dynax-7 than the 505. I consider the lack of subject-specific program modes to be a plus point as it leads to co
nsideration of the shot. As a result, I usually find myself working in either Aperture or Shutter priority mode depending on the nature of the subject. There are two remaining dials, one situated under the index finger of your right hand, the other on the back of the camera under your right-thumb. Between them, these are used to control the Aperture/Shutter speed settings, exactly which of the two does what can be defined under the custom functions. All that remains on the top plate is the shutter release button and a small LCD screen which displays some basic exposure information (no back-light this time). On the front of the camera there is the focusing mode selector which can be switched between single-shot, continuous, automatic and manual. I find the manual setting is rarely used as it is far easier to simple engage the autofocus clutch tith your thumb. Of the other settings, it all depends on your subject matter as to whether you use single-shot or continuous focus. Either way, the Dynax-7 has the FASTEST autofocus I have ever come across! With a standard 50mm prime lens, focus is locked on before you realise it. In continuous frame advance (at about 4 frames per second), this can lead to a roll of film being consumed at an alarming rate! Also on the front of the camera is the Depth-of-Field preview button, something that was woefully lacking from the Dynax-505. When shooting with an aperture smaller than maximum, this button stops down the aperture of the lens to allow you to see what is in (and out) of focus. The only problem with this is just how dark the viewfinder can get when you are stopping down to a particularly low aperture. But depth of field is where the Dynax-7 offers something new for the laziest of photographers. When used in conjunction with the new Minolta 'D' series lenses, the camera calculates the depth of field and graphically displays it on the rear LCD screen. While this may not impress folks used to using a len
s with a hyperfocal scale, it is certainly something new over the Dynax 505. The viewfinder itself is clear and bright in normal operation, it offers a larger field of view than the 505. Manual focusing still lacks aids such as split-field and fresnel screens and so I find it a bit hit and miss, especially in dim light conditions. Built in to the camera is a GN-12 flash which can cover a 24mm lens, a marked improvement over the built-in flash of the 505si. There is no auto-popup of the built-in flash on the Dynax-7, which took a bit of getting used to after having used the 505 (with it's pop-up flash exposign itself at the slightest opportunity) for a num There is also a Minolta hot-shoe for the attachment of a second flash. It's worth pointing out that the hotshoe has a plastic cover to keep it free of dirt. On the side of the camera is a remote-release socket, into which you can plug a 'digital' remote release device. This was something that was sadly missing from the 505si that I bought, although I believe it was added to later models. These are Minolta specific units and NOT cheap considering they are basically a switch and a bit of wire! But having said that, they are useful and do the job admirably. Finally, the camera itself stores the exposure data for the last 7 rolls of film (be they 24 or 36 shots), so provided you number your films, you can recall the exposure data for any particular shot! No more need for the notebook to record this sort of thing, just number the film and then recall the info from the camera when you get the shots back. As you can probably tell from the above, I'm more than happy with it. It takes a fair bit of getting used to, having got so familiar with the Dynax 505, but it has improved the quality of my photographs (although not necessarily my choice of subject). On the down-side, it goes through batteries at a frantic pace (compared to the 505). I also had a
problem with my Sigma 70-300mm lens in that it simply refused to work. I have since found out that the lens itself will need a chip upgrade in order to get it working with the Dynax-7, something that Sigma will carry out free of charge provided I can prove I actually bought the Dynax-7 (but I'll have to cover the postage). Costing anywhere between £500 and £650 for the body alone, I would say it's probably not a camera for beginners. If you're not dead-set on photography as a hobby it's a lot to get to grips with for a first camera. Combined with the lack of subject program modes makes for a very steep learning curve if it's your first SLR. For someone who is used to a 'lower-spec' SLR that wants to take the next step, it's an ideal choice.
So before I left on my huge OS adventure I felt there was something missing from my suitcase....hmm let me think.....YIKES I almost forgot my camera ! Out I trotted to get me a camera that would take wondeful memorable shots.I came across a Minolta Dynax AF 35-80mm/4-5.6 (between you and me, excluding all the photographic buffs) I am not 100% clear of what all that means exactly...just being honest !! I wasn't looking for a lightweight camera that I could fit into even the smallest bags..no I wanted a great big chunky thing that at least looked like I knew what I was doing! The Minolta Dynax comes with it's own little instruction book which is very handy, I am still however on my training wheels and all the arpature and exposure talk can get a little confusing so bear with me. It has a wide range of features ranging from: *Auto and Manual focus-pick and choose which way you like to take your shots, leave it up to the camera or add your own touch to it. *It's own built in flash that pops up when the camera sences it needs it, there is also a flash cancel button if you do not want it ! *A red eye reduction feature if you don't particulary want to look like someone who has escaped the set of Children of the Corn, again you can either have this feature on or off, you choose. *Auto and manual rewind, the instructions explain how to do this manually. *A self timer is a neccessity for when there is no-one around to take those goofy shots, set it up aim and hit the self timer button. *Continuous advanced mode-enables you to take multiple shots of the same item, for example if you are wanting to take a series of shots of someone surfing a wave, you want to catch the whole range of movements not just one. *Multiple exposure-enables you to expose 2 or more images on the same shot, for example you could take one photo a sunset, then take a photo of another item an
d the end result will come out almost eerie with the two shots visable as if not really there. The camera has a feature button that lets you select according to what type of picture you are taking, for example: *Portrait mode-has its greatest impact when a shallow depth of fielf is used to separate the subject from the background. *Landscape mode-this type of photo requires a large depth of field to make sure everything is in focus. In Landscape mode, the camera is set to obtain the greatest depth of fielf possible, while maintaining a shutter speed fast enough to prevent blur from the camera shaking. *Close up mode-is used when photographing small objects like flowers, jewellry and other small items you do not want to get lost in a shot. *Sports mode-is great for its fast shutter speed, which is needed to stop action shots mid movement, without the blur of a movement. *Night portrait mode-requires the camera's flash exposure to be balanced with the back ground exposure. *Night scenes-cancel the flash to photograph night scenes for example over looking a city at night. Overall I have found this camera to be great, better than your old disposable camera. I still have alot of understanding yet to learn about the Minolta Dynax. Although alot of the features on this camera are auto/manual if you are looking for a camera that does everything but turn itself on this is probably not the best or easiest one to use. If you are up for a challenge and enjoy your photography I would recommend it.I cannot comment on the price as I purchased this particular item in Australia and I have seen varied prices of it here in the UK. I hope this has been helpful enough for you to want to buy one, good for travelling although it does take up abit of room and does not come with its own carry case....smile !! cha ching........