￼Camera Geekery: Minolta XD11 Review
A guest review of a fantastic classic camera. The Minolta cameras were solid performers in their day, with an excellent array of lenses, and now many of them are cheap as chips. Come and read Jeb Inge’s review.
Camera Review: Minolta XD11 By Jeb Inge
When I made the switch to film photography, my budget led me into Minolta products. With their relatively low price point and quality Rokkor lenses, Minoltas are the best sleepers in analog. I started with an eBay-purchased SRT-101 the quality of which was, shall we say, generously described by the seller. But I was hooked after managing to force the film door closed and shoot some expired Superia on the most beat up 50mm I’ve ever seen.
After a number of rolls and a hankering for more features I dove into full Gear Acquisition Syndrome with the SRT-202, the X-570 and even the Hi-Matic AF. Wanting even more features and pedigree, it didn’t take long for my lustful eyes to land on the vaunted XD11.
Sold as the XD11 in North America, the XD in Japan and the XD7 in Europe, this manual-focus camera was the result of a 1977 partnership between Minolta and Leica, which made this camera the first SLR to combine both TTL aperture and shutter priority modes. (As well as full manual mode) Leica would go on to build its R4, R5, R6 and R7 on the chassis of the XD11.
It was called the “poor man’s Leica” but there’s nothing poor about this camera. In fact, it’s likely the best manual focusing camera Minolta ever made.
It has shutter speeds from 1/1000 to 1 second for automatic modes and stepped speeds from 1/1000 to 1 second plus bulb mode in manual. In shutter priority mode the camera has complete electronic aperture control.
The viewfinder is bright and easy to use with exposure information down the right side. You don’t need to take your eyes off of it in manual mode, though the design of the shutter control is wanting when compared to the 202. Shooters wanting different viewscreens could choose from four Acute-Matte finish options. The silicon photocell TTL meter has an automatic exposure range from EV1 to EV18.
The shutter moves vertically and is much quieter than all previous models, which along with its small size is ideal for street shots. That shutter also allowed for a 1/100 flash sync, which is almost twice as fast as that found in the future X-700.
I received my XD a little more than a month before a two-week trip to Europe. I packed four cameras, but planned on doing most of the heavy lifting with the XD. After sending it away for a CLA and getting back a test roll of Kodak Gold, I breathed a massive sigh of relief. Everything people said about it was true.
Like every great camera, the XD excelled at getting out of my way. That’s especially great when you’re in a foreign country for the first time. It’s a small camera when compared to the SRT-202 and unlike that camera’s hard shell, this one is wrapped in soft leather. The advance lever is much shorter than the 202 as well and offers exposure compensation up to +/- 2. Automation is another advantage and I’ve never had a bad exposure using its aperture priority mode. It looks most at home when paired with the outstanding 45mm f/2 pancake lens.
There are a few downsides to the XD. The limited exposure compensation will leave slide shooters wanting. The leather is prone to drying out and breaking. And that’s about it.
It’s impossible not to love this camera for its simplistic excellence. It’s Minolta’s swan song to the metal body SLR. After the XD, Minolta went on to produce its plastic manual focus workhorses the X-700 and the X-570. Both of those were great sellers for Minolta and are probably in wider use today. But none of them match the XD in terms of professional performance. In fact, Minolta continued to promote the XD as their flagship professional camera even after the cheaper X-700 hit shelves.
Like most things related to Minolta, the XD seems like a sleeper despite its quality and pedigree. One in good quality can often be found on the internet for between $75 and $150, which is half the cost of a Leica R7.
With a price like that, its outstanding quality and the Rokkor lens system, the Minolta XD is a manual-focus SLR slam dunk.
You can read more about the glorious Minolta cameras at www.rokkorfiles.com Easily the best resource for all things Minolta.
You can see Jeb’s work at www.jebinge.com
I’m so with you, the XD is my all time favorite SLR. I’m lucky enough to have some great cameras, a Canon T90 and EOS 1V, Nikon FM3A and F6, but the camera I reach for more than any other is my XD7. My only gripe is the shutter lag due to the second reading that it takes once the lens is stopped down. Makes photographing kids a little tricky. But other than that, it’s an absolute gem.
Agree on all points, including the lag. Such a fun jewel of a camera. If the leather’s cracking up, replace it with something colorful from Aki-Asahi. And Rokkor glass we know can be an excellent value.
The XD11 is wonderful, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the XE7.
Jeb- Thank you for this review. My Dad put one of these in my hand when I was in 6th grade, beginning my journey into photography. It became an extension of my hand- I know every control, mode, and most importantly- I understand the results I’m going to get out of the camera as I shoot with it.
This camera is such a joy to use, and as you said, it gets out of the way. There is no better used SLR for the price because of the lens and body quality, as you mentioned.
For me personally, it is the last 35mm film camera I own. I got rid of my M6, F3, M4-2, and FM. Not because those cameras are bad in any way- just because I know what I’m getting each and every time I use this camera, and I love the results.
Thanks again for the great write up.
The minolta XD-11 was my dad’s favorite camera out of all the ones he had (I only thought he had the one sadly until he passed away 16 years ago and suddenly found boxes of old cameras from box, twin lens which I love my yashica mat 124G, the adorable Kodak vest pocket, a bell and Howell filmo 70A key wind movie camera, and so much more!) I also inherited a Ricoh XR 7 from my grandpa after he passed away. I have had to do a lot of research on these over the years and it’s something I wish he had shared with me since I very much love taking pictures. His xd11 ended up with one of my siblings so i recently was lucky enough to buy my own, I remember the wonderful pictures he took with that camera and I look forward to using my own.
Excellent review Jeb and an interesting read to boot! Took a peek at your website… nice looking portfolio.
Brent, in mine a lag was caused by the mirror buffer (or so I’ve been told by the service guy) piston being dirty. I do not notice it after cleaning, so this might also be your case.
I haven’t noticed any lag on mine, but I also sent it out for a CLA right after buying it.
The only thing I really forgot to add in my review (a sort-of negative) is the leather. Mine has great leather, but I’m not sure how long it will last when I’m shooting in the summers of the American South. Obviously the leather makes it a nicer camera, but when I’m sweaty I’d almost prefer the hard shell of the SRT-202.
Thanks for all the feedback everyone!
The XD11 is by far one of my favorite cameras ever. I own the all black model and it just bleeds with elegance and quality. How these cameras don’t sell for big bucks is beyond me.
A friend has been collecting Minolta since he startrd in photography so long ago. I always admired the exposure meters. He cold trust them while I always needed a LunaPro meter with my Nikon F3’s. The Xd is sweet and compact yet not too small as he clims his XGM is. Nice review. You cold say more about the 45mm and lenses you like to use with XD11.
Agreed. Especially the wind action on the XE7. Smoothest I’ve ever used, on any camera.
Actually the XD11 and the XE7 were both great cameras. The XD11 is much lighter and I feel superior ergonomically. The XE7 is built like a tank. Those are the two best Minolta film SLRs ever (apologies to XK fans, but the XK lacked the clean ergonomics of these two).
The XD11 is probably my favorite manual SLR with the XE/XE-7/XE-1 coming in at a close 2nd place (although I’m also partial to the Canon F1 and the Nikon F3HP). I’m fortunate to have a beautiful black XD11 and a wonderful chrome-top XE, but I find myself grabbing the XD11 the most. There are no faults with it in my eyes, except for the shrinking leatherette; the short lag right before the shutter trips could be irritating but the fact that it’s because of the second real-time meter reading is one of the features that I really appreciate about this camera. The XE is probably the smoothest camera in operation (that buttery film advance and shutter release are legendary!), but the XD11 is pretty smooth itself. I am always confident that my pictures will be metered perfectly, and I love that so much capability is packed into such a compact and elegant body.
Thanks for a great review of a great camera!
I have bought an XD from Japan and after recovering it, because the leather had shrunk, and renewing the light seals I really am pleased with it. I have an XE-1 which I prefer for landscapes and an x500 which is lighter, but with a MD 35-70 f3.5 ( the macro version) attached you couldn’t find a better all round film camera than the XD.
In my top three of my Minolta collection. Right behind the A-9 & XE. Great review.
I recently picked up a beautiful XD for not a lot of money. Visual condition (especially considering the age of the camera) is amazing.
I just took it for a walk in the park and it functions perfectly. Probably my favorite 35mm manual focus camera ever.
I’m in need of the Shutter Speeds Governor for my almost mint XD-11.
Can anyone out there help me? Part doesn’t have to be new, just in working condition.
I’ve tried in the US but I’ve been told that this part is no longer available.
I’m in the US.
The XD11 is a very different camera from its rivals. It was designed mostly to compete with the Canon AE1 and then the A1. The XD look was to simplify knobs and options. One of its greatest charms, vs. the X series and its rivals is that it would automatically compensate for extremes beyond its aperture range. So you could use S mode and never worry about the camera hot taking a photo if you needed a faster aperture. It would adjust the shutter for you. The viewfinder brightness was also much better than its rivals. I bought one in 1977, still have it. It must have taken 100k images. You could get it in black, with a winder and a case to hold both. Looked very cool, but never as “pro” as a Nikon F fully kitted.
When the motor drive is on it, the lag vanishes.