First steps back to film photography after a long hiatus: my first impressions of the Minolta X570

Published Apr 2, 2018 | Maxime Siegler

 Left: Fuji X100T (with 23 mm f/2), Center: Minolta X570 (with Rokkor 50mm f/1.7), Right: Canon 5DIV (with Tamron 45mm f/1.8)

Left: Fuji X100T (with 23 mm f/2), Center: Minolta X570 (with Rokkor 50mm f/1.7), Right: Canon 5DIV (with Tamron 45mm f/1.8)

The last time I shot film was in 2001 with a Konica Autoreflex T3, and that was in Houston, TX.  Since then, I exclusively shot digital:

former gear:  Nikon D70 > D200 > D300s > Sony a850 + a900 > Sony a99
current gear: Canon 6D and 5DIV, Fuji X100T

Quite recently, I have got my hands on the Minolta X570 + Rokkor 50 mm f/1.7 (both in great conditions), and quite frankly, I could not be happier with this choice.  The camera was designed and sold in 1983, and was a “downgraded” version of the more famous Minolta X700 model.  However, the X570 is all a photographer could wish for an analog camera.  Herein are my first impressions:

  • The camera package is both light and small without compromising some important camera features.  Overall, its portability makes a great asset for street photography.  The dimensions (without the lens) are comparable to those of the Fuji X100 series (see picture above).  The built quality is excellent, and albeit being mostly made of (good quality) plastic, the camera feels durable and sturdy. In contrast, the bottom part of the camera is made of metal.  The ergonomics are great too and the camera fits well in my hands.  The button/dial layout makes sense, and once you set the ISO to the desired value, the camera settings and operations can be controlled with just the right hand.
  • The viewfinder is bright and HUGE!  It has 95% coverage and has a 0.9x effective magnification (seriously!), a real pleasure to look through it, though beware for those of you wearing glasses as it might be difficult to see the whole frame (so move your eye around the frame).  No modern full frame dSLRs have such large viewfinders.  As today, the largest dSLR viewfinder (for Full Frame cameras) has just 0.76x effective magnification (with 100% coverage though), which is unfortunate.
  • The best asset of the X570 is its Aperture priority mode (A), from which responsiveness is significantly enhanced comparatively to any fully manual cameras.  If you are into photojournalism, aperture priority mode is a must have feature!  Focus manually, select the aperture you want, then the camera will select the correct shutter speed (max shutter speed 1/1000s, so if you shoot with fast lenses at f/1.2-1.4, make sure to choose low sensitivity speed films, ISO 64 or lower) based on your targeted subject.  Then, you are ready to capture the frame.   This mode works efficiently as the camera is equipped with a very accurate center-weighted light metering system.   I recently shot my first roll (Portra 400, which is very forgiving as the film has great latitude), all 36 exposures turned out to be well exposed.  None were overexposed or underexposed.  Truly excellent, and that’s a big selling point as far as I am concerned.   Unlike the X700, the camera has no P mode (Program), which is not necessarily a big loss.
  • In Manual mode (M), the X570 is actually smarter than the X700 as the viewfinder indicates both the current shutter speed (one LED) and the suggested shutter speed (another LED).   The X700 just shows you the suggested shutter speed, so you must be sure to look at the shutter speed dial before clicking the shutter button (which means you must look away from the viewfinder, hence it is less efficient).   With the X570, you can match both current and suggested shutter speeds without having to get your sight away from the viewfinder. That's called efficiency!
  • The camera is also equipped with a dedicated depth of field preview (located on the bottom front left side of the camera) and an automatic exposure lock buttons (AEL, located on the front side of the camera).  While I barely use the former (it can be useful though), the latter is very useful for reframing your subject right after the camera calculates the correct exposure (i.e., shutter speed in A mode).  While activated, the AEL button will lock the exposure to your initial target (e.g., useful to expose faces under certain light conditions).
  • The camera tackles ISO 12-3200 film speeds, i.e., the light meter will know which exposure to choose based on the specified ISO setting.
  • One issue some people may have is the camera does not work without battery.   In other words, the shutter is electronically controlled, so it is probably best to have a spare battery (2 x S76/LR44/SR44/EPX-76 1.5v or 1x CR-1/3N 3v).   Just turn off your camera when you are not using it, and you will be fine. One benefit though is when the camera is off, there is no way you can accidently push the shutter button. 

A follow-up article will be published soon, and will be mostly concerned with some scans from roll #1 (Portra 400).  To be continued...