The Minolta Hi-Matic 7SII was a fixed lens 35mm rangefinder produced in 1977. It's a super compact metal body camera, equipped with the sharp and pretty fast Rokkor 40mm f/1.7 lens and a Copal shutter up to 1/500. This was a time when Leitz and Minolta were working in cooperation with each other, manufacturing Leica products out of the Minolta factory in Japan. This is when the Leica CL series and the Minolta CLE were manufactured. I am a firm believer that the quality of the lens on this 7SII is largely attributed to that. But more of that to come.
I think little vintage rangefinders are pretty cool, and try to keep an eye out for them when I cruise around Craigslist. However, the price and quality of this 7SII stood out. The seller was only asking $40 for it, and it looked amazing. Plus these are fairly rare in the US. When i met up with the seller, he explained that the rewind lever would stick on occasion between shots - otherwise it works fine. Seems like it would be easy enough to fix. When I got home, I wound and shot the camera several dozen times. After giving the winder lever a good workout, it stopped sticking. Problem solved! I love easy fixes.
This camera is metered, but unfortunately it only works in shutter priority. Meaning you set the shutter and the camera chooses the aperature. So if you are in full manual, you are on your own. I mean I don't even use shutter priority on my DSLR, and prefer to use film in full manual. Despite this shortcoming, I was still excited to run some test rolls through the camera and see how the lens and meter fairs.
The rangefinder patch on this camera is fairly easy to use, though not as clear or defined as the one on my Leica M6. My Leica is the only rangefinder I have worked extensively with, so I am not sure that is such a fair comparison. The focus throw is not super big, so fine-tuning the focus was sometimes difficult. And the minimum focal distance is pretty far, but that is typical of this focal length. Also, it came with the bottom half of a full leather case, but not the top. And there is not a shutter lock. So if you toss it in a bag, the shutter button can easily be accidentally pressed. This happened a couple of times, resulting in blank exposures. And sadly, there is not shutter advance only (for double exposures) to fix this when it happens.
The first roll I ran through it was some pretty old Kodak Tri-X 400 that was given to me. I shot it at 400ISO, and in hindsight i should have shot it at around 200. A couple of shots came out, but the majority of the shots were far too dark. Whoops.
The second roll i put through it was a color roll of Fuji Superia 200, pulled from the depths of my freezer. I took this roll on a few random trips to Eastern Oregon, Kansas City, and finished the roll on a week-long trip to Utah. After I got these shots back, I was impressed with the results. I shot most of the roll in Auto mode to test out the metering. Nearly all the shots I took were perfectly exposed. Even the ones with questionable backlighting or ones I shot on the fly. The half-shutter-press exposure lock was fairly handy, and was used several times when shooting in the shadows. The focus was pretty spot on. The color rendering and contrast looked pretty nice, even in low-light scenarios.
Super impressed. I got this camera with the though of being able to flip it and make a profit. Now after a couple of test rolls, I think I may keep it in my camera rotation. Despite the lack of full manual metering, it's a fun little camera to use and is light and compact enough to throw in a bag and have it with me.
Photos except for the camera itself was taking on the Minolta 7SII on either Fuji Superia 200 (color) or Kodak Tri-X 400 (B&W). First photo take on a Canon 5D mkIII