Thursday, May 23, 2013

Review: Minolta XG-1 35mm SLR

Minolta XG-1
I love old film cameras. I like the way they look and feel. I like the look of silver film. Each time the shutter is opened there is a literal cost when using film, so the photographer is more careful about each image. I find that I capture far fewer frames with film, yet have a much higher success rate than with digital cameras.
Morning Rooster - Surprise, Arizona
Fuji Velvia 100
The XG-1, alternatively called the XG 1 and XG-1(n), is a 35mm single-lens reflex camera built by Minolta between 1979 and 1982. The XG-E (manufactured between 1977 and 1978) and the XG-SE (manufactured in 1983) are very, very close siblings to the XG-1, with only extremely minor differences.
Small Lifesaver - Surprise, Arizona
Fuji Velvia 100
While the XG-1 was considered a "budget" camera, it was just as capable as Minolta's more advanced line (the XD series). This camera has two modes: "Aperture Priority" and fully manual. Aperture Priority is where you choose the f-stop and the camera chooses the shutter speed. There is a "+ or -" two-stop exposure compensation control for Aperture Priority mode. I personally like using Aperture Priority whenever practical, so this camera is an excellent fit for me.
Thornless Cactus - Surprise, Arizona
Ilford Delta 400
The XG-1 has a center-weighted CdS metering system, which is par-for-the-course for this era, but it is certainly not the best metering system (it works, but it is important to understand its limitations). A handheld light meter might be worth having around (or a light meter "app" for your smart phone). Interestingly, the light meter only works in Aperture Priority mode.
Boy With Drink - Surprise, Arizona
Ilford Delta 400
This camera is a manual film camera, which means you must load the 35mm film by hand and rewind by hand when you are done. There is no auto-focus since auto-focus hadn't been invented yet. The only automatic feature is Aperture Priority mode, in which the camera will choose the shutter speed for you. Beyond that, everything is manual. Minolta called it "electronically easy pictures" in their advertisements--times sure do change!
Color Palette Abstract - Surprise, Arizona
Fuji Velvia 100
What doesn't change is image quality. The XG-1, with a good roll of film and a good lens, is capable of producing exceptional image quality that beats almost every digital camera on the market today. Cameras are devolving, so this old relic isn't obsolete.
Forever Young - Surprise, Arizona
Fuji Velvia 100
Other features of the XG-1 are the self-timer, battery check, hot shoe for external flash, x-sync terminal and cable shutter release socket. Basically, everything you need and nothing that you don't. Sometimes simplicity is better.
Palm Branch - Surprise, Arizona
Ilford Delta 400
The Minolta XG-1 is a good SLR that works just as well today as the day is was made. If you can find it for a good price (and you should be able to find it for a good price), it is a quality camera that produce quality images.
Hibiscus - Surprise, Arizona
Ilford Delta 400
For fun, here is an old advertisement for the XG-1:


10 comments:

  1. Thanks for the blog post. I recently picked up the XG-1 with a 45 mm F2 lens and was curious of two things:

    1 - What lens were you using for these shots? These photos look super sharp!

    2 - I'm looking to shoot some black-and-white film at an event indoors in the near future and I don't exactly know what I should pick up. The camera only goes to ISO 1600 but there really isn't much that high except for the Delta 3200.

    Any help would be appreciated.

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    1. Thanks for your comment. The 50mm lens in the top photograph was used for these images. I have used Ilford Delta 3200 film in the camera. Set it to ISO 1600, and realize that the meter will try to overexpose by one f-stop. Fuji Neopan comes in ISO 1600 if you can find it. You could also get a lower ISO film and push in processing.

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  3. Hey there. I found one xg-1 but I'm not sure if it's working. I'm assuming it has no battery. I winded the camera's film advance knob but it doesn't release the shutter when I press the shutter button. The shutter button is near the speed dial right? I'm hoping the camera works.

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    1. If I remember correctly, the shutter won't work without batteries, but I'm not 100% sure about that. Yes, the shutter release button is found near the shutter speed dial. Good luck!

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  4. Does the camera download to a laptop

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  5. Hi! I'm from Portugal! I've found a Minolta xg1 on my fathers garage... with lots of lenses and dust... I have a regular compact zoom canon sx240hs but I want to start hobby photography. I was thinking on buying a new camera, but if I could clean this Minolta's sensor and lenses from humidity and dust I could use it! Can you give some advices in how to use an old camera and can I clean it before usage? Best regards and continue the good work with your blog

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  6. Bruno,
    Thanks for sharing your story. The Minolta XG-1 you found is likely still in good condition, just needs to be dusted. Carefully clean the glass (eyeglass wipes work well for this). There is no sensor to clean since this is a 35mm film camera.
    I would recommend trying some black and white 35mm film to start with (Kodak Tri-X 400 or Kodak TMAX 400), because there is plenty of leway for mistakes. You'll have to find a lab that can develop the film, and there are a bunch that will do it by mail.
    Good luck! --Ritchie

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    1. Tanks for your quick response! What about the lenses? I see some humidity (I think) inside them... :( what can I do about them?

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    2. If there is something (moisture, fungus, dust, etc) on the inside of the lens, there are places that can take the lens apart and clean it. But two things: the lens might still be perfectly fine even with whatever is inside of it and even if it's so bad that the lens isn't useable you can buy used lenses for probably less than the cost of cleaning it. There are probably tutorials on the web for taking the lens apart and cleaning it yourself, but that is an involved process and a risk.

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