The Minolta XE7 from a Nikon Loyalist’s Perspective

The Minolta XE7 from a Nikon Loyalist’s Perspective

2200 1238 Echo Lens Photography

I’ve owned dozens of 35mm film cameras from nearly as many brands – Pentax, Vivitar, Olympus, and my make of choice, Nikon. The last camera that I had before becoming a staunch Nikonist was the Minolta X-700; a wonderful camera, and though it was not as sturdy as I wished, it did introduce me to the wonderful world of Minolta cameras.

Earlier this year, a year which I’ve described as my Year of Large Format, I decided to take a break to shoot some 35mm. It was during this brief interlude that I discovered a camera that seems overlooked by most film shooters today, the Minolta XE7.

The Minolta XE7 is a machine that was quite a bit ahead of its contemporaries when it was released. It even offered features that weren’t found on the pro SLRs of the day, the mighty Nikon F2 included.

Allow me to set the stage.

It’s the early 1970s. Nikon rests firmly atop the pro photography landscape. Olympus has just released the OM-1, a miniature full frame SLR that forever changes the design pursuits of all Japanese camera makers; smaller is better! And the race to create ever-more electronic cameras is on.

Minolta forms a partnership with Leitz and the two begin developing cameras with their shared knowledge and design ethos, eventually resulting in some well- known and highly regarded cameras, such as the CL, the Leica R3 through R7, and more.

But the very first camera born from this partnership is the Minolta XE7. And it’s among the first in the world to offer aperture-priority semi-auto exposure.


The Minolta XE7’s design is pure. The camera is made with only one thing in mind – making great photographs.

There’s no style for style’s sake here. It’s minimalism, top to bottom, and this is not only visually satisfying but satisfying from an operating perspective as well. Everything on the camera is placed very strategically. This creates an intuitive feeling while out in the field exposing frames.

The top plate has a shutter release button and a shutter speed dial, both placed where they’re supposed to be placed. The film rewind lever actuates with a smoothness that’s unbeaten in 35mm SLRs. The aperture is controlled by the aperture ring on the lens, the depth of field may be previewed with a simple lever on the front, and there’s a self-timer and, notably, multiple exposure lever as well.

If this sounds simple, it’s because it is. But it’s also perfect for just getting down to the business of taking pictures.

Now for everyone’s favorite topic – the internal workings of a 35mm SLR.

Minolta certainly benefited from having Leica’s partnership – the XE7 is proof of that. Leica, known for their flagship M line of rangefinders, are known for their precise moving parts, smooth operation, and for having possibly the faintest shutter sound of any system. In the case of the XE7, the hint of Leica’s satisfying click that is synonymous with their mechanical quality can be experienced.

The metering system implemented in the camera is similarly brilliant. Two overlapping CdS photocells occupy the prism, which means that the camera can accurately meter even in high contrast situations.

The viewfinder is a wonderful place to view your composition. The meter reading is displayed through a match needle system that we use to either manually set exposure or down shift the camera into aperture priority.

Two small windows are available in the viewfinder that display aperture and shutter speed, although you will only see a red “A” in aperture priority.

In Comparison to the Nikon EL2

I mentioned earlier that I’m a Nikon fan. Naturally, my time with and opinion of the XE7 is colored by my experience. For this reason, I’d like to compare the XE7 with Nikon’s EL2 specifically, since the EL2 was the direct competitor to the XE7.

With the XE7, Minolta was aiming for the prosumer market a little earlier in the decade than Nikon. Where the XE7 was released in 1974, Nikon released the EL2 in 1977 (coincidentally 1977 was the final year of production for the XE7).

Both machines are neck and neck, and the differences between the two end up being minor.

The Minolta has the more simplistic on and off switch, but the Nikon has two on and off switches, letting the user choose which one will save from unwanted exposures. Both cameras use match needle systems in the viewfinders as well as having a 1/90th second shutter speed when battery power depletes.

Aperture priority, self-timer, and superb build quality are all things the Minolta and the Nikon share.

They’re both well-built, robust, heavy, and classically styled.

Both cameras offer an incredible lineup of lenses (Nikon’s Nikkors and Minolta’s Rokkors), the only real difference being that Minolta lenses may be a bit less expensive on the used market.

Both cameras slotted into their respective lineups just below the professional offerings. Nikon’s EL2 sat below the F2, while Minolta XE7 sat below their big, honkin’ XK.

Heck, even both cameras are named similarly – two letters and a number!

Is the Minolta XE7 Worth It?

The short answer to this question is unequivocally, yes. The Minolta XE7 without a doubt is worth every penny.

The Nikon EL2 was my first Nikon film camera, after which I was completely sold on Nikon’s build quality as well as Nikkor glass. When the XE7 clicked into my life, it failed to knock me over with the shooting experience, solely because the Nikon EL2 had already done that.

The camera that inspired me to document more everyday with amazing features such as aperture-priority AE, a match needle in the viewfinder, a bright focusing prism, and a shutter sound that brings a smile to all those within an earshot is the camera that Nikon only made for a single year. It was the EL2. But it just as easily could have been the XE7, if only I’d experienced the Minolta first.

Final Thoughts

James raved about the Minolta XE7 when Casual Photophile was in its infancy – and for good reason. The build quality, the robustness of the camera, the almost too-easy-to-operate metering system were all highly praised in James’ review. While he makes some great points, and while I agree with some of them whole-heartedly, the Minolta XE7 arrived in my life just a bit too late. When I feel the need to shoot 35mm, I’ll reach for my Nikon every time.

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Echo Lens Photography

My name is Echo Lens Photography, at least that is my photographic pen name. My photographic interest began seven years ago when I bought a Sony A6000 for my birthday. Seven years later, I am fully analog with Nikon as my 35mm system of choice and photograph across all formats from 35mm to Super 8. I currently reside in Fort Worth, TX where I am a proud member of Fort Worth Photo Club alongside many talented photographers and wonderful people. I’m very excited to share my thoughts, knowledge, and experience with everyone!

All stories by:Echo Lens Photography
  • I loved my XE7, but I had to go through three before finding one that worked correctly. Even though the sellers claimed they were fine. Smoothest film advance ever!

  • Good luck finding one in working condition.

    • Bought an XE-5 (the stripper version of the XE-7) from a popular photography website in “As-is” condition for around $25. Just needed new light seals and was good to go. I’ve run several rolls of film through it since, without issue. As the saying goes, “your mileage may vary.”

  • The XE7 and EL2 may be roughly equivalent in terms of build quality, features, and shooting experience. But per the norm, the Minolta is a bit less expensive to find. Current Ebay sold listings show most EL2 sell for around $100, whereas the XE7 can be found for less, usually $50-80. Compared to many cameras reviewed here, or on other film photography blogs, either of these cameras seem to be a good value as long as you can find one in good working condition.

  • Same here! Despite Nikon dominating my film gear, my XE7 is easily my favourite film camera. The shutter and winding are SO smooth, even better than my FM2. And I like that it was made before compact SLRs became the norm, the larger cameras are so much more ergonomic. Good tip of you like half cases is that the red leather case from the Leica R3 fits quite well.

  • I agree that the XE-7 is exceptionally smooth, especially the film advance. I have purchased many vintage SLR’s just trying to find one that feels better than the F2 my father gave me. The only one close is the “sexy XE” as I call it!

  • Hello and thank you for the write-up! I am a Nikon diehard these days because of their impressive reliability. Reliability (or the lack thereof) is what eventually dissuaded me from the XE-7. A pleasure to hold in the hands, quite solid, and a very good meter, but that on/off switch was a pain. I would call it the Achilles of cameras, and the power switch is Achilles’ Heel. Two of them have failed on me. After that, I cut my losses. Nowadays my Minolta of choice is the SRT-101. As for Nikons I use the original F, and the lovely FM. That camera and its sibling the FE have, in my opinion, a superior power switch to the XE. It is integrated with the film advance lever. Not everyone likes it as much as I do, but my reasons are shaped from experience. C’est la vie. If we were unwilling to negotiate the quirks of these machines, we’d be shooting digital!


  • I have an XE-5, which is sort of the more basic version. Same internals, minus a few non-essentials (aperture display in viewfinder, multiple exposure button). It’s one of my favorite cameras. And that’s saying a lot, given that I’ve owned a few classics, including an OM-1, a Nikon FM, and even a Pentax LX (a very overrated camera, but that’s a story for another day). I’ve even had other great Minoltas, including a few ST-T’s, an X-570, and even the XD11, supposedly the best of the best in some quarters. This beats ’em all, as far as I’m concerned. Here are the reasons this camera works so well for me:

    1. Rock solid build quality. The collaboration with Leica really shows here. All the materials are first rate. The film advance is maybe the best in the business. The Leitz-Copal shutter is a work of art.
    2. Size: Sure, it’s a brick, but one that actually feels pretty good in big hands. Some of the later “compact” SLR designs are actually a bit awkward, from my perspective.
    3. Beautiful viewfinder with great eye relief for a glasses wearer, and a very simple and easy to read “swinging needle” mete readout.
    4. CLC metering won’t let you down.
    5. Minolta glass: Superb quality at very good prices.

    So why didn’t the XE series become “cult cameras?” I offer a few theories:
    1. Shorter production run. As mentioned, this is a brick. A pretty manageable, elegant brick at that. But it still has more in common with the SR-T design ethos than the later “compact” SLRs that took the world by storm – Your OM-1 & 2’s, Nikon FM & FE’s, Pentax ME and MX’s. When the XE series came out (1974), Olympus had already changed the game with the OM-1, with the electro mechanical OM-2 soon to follow in ’75. Everyone, including Minolta was playing catch-up. The XD series was probably already on the drawing board when these came out.
    2. Bias against electro-mechanical SLR’s. Let’s face it, the bias in favor of mechanical SLR’s continues with collectors. Whether mechanical is really better is highly debatable. An electronically controlled camera like this might very well light up and shoot dead-on accurate photos with as little as a new battery. Mechanical cameras will always need periodic CLA to remain accurate.
    3. Brand recognition. For someone who grew up in the “Mind of Minolta” era, it’s almost inconceivable. But the fact remains, ever since the Minolta name bit the dust these cameras don’t get the attention your Nikons, Canons, and even Pentax’s do. Ah well, more cheap cameras for me I guess!

  • I still have to replace the light seals on the one I have, otherwise it seems in great condition. I am a fan of the compact SLRs though, love my XD7 (maybe because it was my first manual focus camera?), but use these days mostly the X570. Should use more the SRT, and yes, try out the XE7. Maybe I’ll like the more bulky ones now more, after using a while the Pentax 645n…

  • I feel the need to break up this comment sections positivity and praise for the XE-7. As a young Minolta fan (recently turned 19), I have come to dislike the XE-1 (XE-1 in my possession), in favour of the older style SRT series, or the big brother X1/XM/XK. The silver body looks aren’t quite on par, as if they were attempting to steal looks from Nikon’s leatherettes on their prism housings. My examples stop down lever is also a bit temperamental. And the fiddly on off switch tops it off. The SRT series of which I have owned plenty, have a greater resistance in mechanically advancing the film, which in my eyes is nice; smooth but slightly resistant. Furthermore, like many here, I have come to own cameras which people would consider to be their “dream” camera. I’ve offloaded AE-1 Programs, holding on to an A1 in favour of it, then onto the F1. I sold a XE-1, to get the Minolta X1. FM2’s, to chase F3’s. As a camera which doesn’t have a lot of following, and can be paired with any good 50mm f1.7 rokkor lens, a lot can be had, that’s for sure. Happy shooting from Australia.

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Echo Lens Photography

My name is Echo Lens Photography, at least that is my photographic pen name. My photographic interest began seven years ago when I bought a Sony A6000 for my birthday. Seven years later, I am fully analog with Nikon as my 35mm system of choice and photograph across all formats from 35mm to Super 8. I currently reside in Fort Worth, TX where I am a proud member of Fort Worth Photo Club alongside many talented photographers and wonderful people. I’m very excited to share my thoughts, knowledge, and experience with everyone!

All stories by:Echo Lens Photography