Christopher J Osborne

Minolta 9000

Minolta 9000 camera with 50mm f/1.7 lens mounted Minolta 9000 top plate right hand side Minolta 9000 top plate left hand side

In 1985 Minolta stunned the photographic world by introducing the world's first 35mm SLR with body integral auto focus. There had been several auto focus SLR's prior to the 7000, but they all had bulky and awkward focusing motors attached to the outside of a limited selection of lenses (often just one!). The 7000 was aimed at amateur enthusiasts, but later in 1985 Minolta launched an attempt to take auto focus to the professional market with the 9000 model featured here.

Unfortunately the 1st generation auto focusing system featured in the 9000 just wasn't fast enough to interest professional photographers (professional photographers had to wait until the Nikon f/4 of 1988 and the Canon EOS 1 of 1989 for focusing systems to start approaching the speeds necessary for professional photography) so the 9000 wasn't the influential success the 7000 proved to be. But it did involve a few somewhat obscure unique selling points: for example, the 9000 was the first, and indeed only, body integral auto focusing SLR camera to feature a manual film advance! The 9000 did however feature a professional 5fps accessory motor drive system.

Indeed, the 9000 was at the centre of an extraordinary range of accessories, many of which were years ahead of their time… so far ahead of their time the technology simply wasn't available to give these accessories practical user-interfaces. A good example was the Program Super Back 90, which provided multiple additional modes modes, an advanced intervalometer, and a wide range of data imprinting functions, among many other things. Unfortunately it also featured rubber buttons with text that easily rubbed off… and once that happened even a PhD in computer science wasn't enough to help you actually operate the thing!

Both the 7000 and 9000 also had still video backs which turned these cameras into primitive digital cameras… 0.38 megapixels maybe difficult to get exciting about today, but in the mid 1980s this was like science fiction come to life!!

Design details

Minolta 9000 shutter speed rocker switchThe Minolta 9000 had a lot of interesting design touches. When Canon gave the electronic command dial to an unsuspecting photographic world with the launch of the T90 in 1986, brilliantly combining the feel and tactile feedback of the old fashions dials with the flexibility of a multi-modal electronic control, it instantly seemed inconceivable that anyone would consider any other solution. Minolta 9000 aperture rocker switchIndeed 30+ years later in an era of digital SLRs the electronic command dial from the T90 is still the standard control interface on most cameras.

But before then manufactures were still struggling to come up with a basic control architecture for electronic SLRs. Push buttons, pioneered by Pentax on the ME Super in 1979, were the most common solution, and indeed Minolta themselves tried them on the 9000's predecessor, the 7000. But push buttons lack the tactile feedback photographers like. On the 9000 Minolta tried these rocker switches, near the shutter buttons for shutter speed, and a 2nd on the lens mount for apertures.Minolta 9000 mode dial and LCD display They're an improvement on push buttons, but still proved to be something of a dead end in the world of camera design.

The main mode dial on the 9000 is a model of simplicity and it works very well. It surrounds the fairly small LCD display which provide visual feedback on the shutter speed and aperture you've selected with the afore mentioned rocker switches. In one corner of this panel you can see some of the bleed which is very common on LCD panels from many manufacturers in the 1980s.

Minolta 9000 rewind crankMinolta 9000 metering mode dialOne of the nicest design touches on the 9000 is the design of the rewind cranks. Of course as the only AF SLR to feature manual film advance, the 9000 was also the first and last AF SLR to feature a rewind crank, so it's fitting that the 9000 features the ultimate rewind crank! Most of the time the rewind crank functions as a metering mode dial, but lift it up and it becomes an uncommonly quick and comfortable rewind crank. The middle of the rewind crank rotates as you wind on the film and the white dot gives a very clear indication that the film and advancing properly.

Technical specification: Minolta 9000
Type:35mm single-lens reflex camera with autofocus and multi-mode exposure control
Film format:24 x 36mm
Lens mount:Minolta "A"-type bayonet, self-lubricating stainless steel
Film-to-lens-mount distance:44.6mm
Autofocus system:Minolta TTL phase detection type; working range: EV 2 to 19 at ISO 100; LED focus signals in viewfinder for both manual and automatic focusing
Shutter:Electronically controlled vertical-traverse focal-plane type. The shutter blades are made of aluminium alloy, while the actuating arms are titanium.
Shutter-speed range:In P and A modes: stepless 1/4000 to 30 sec.; in M and S modes: 1/4000 to 30 sec. in full-stop settings; "bulb" operates in M mode
Metering systems:TTL center-weighted averaging by compound silicon photocell at bottom of mirror box, or spot metering for midtone, highlight or shadow using center portion of same SPC; spot-measurement area: 5.5mm circle in center of focusing screen, approx. 2.7% of film frame; center-weighted averaging range: EV 1 to 20 with ISO 100 and 50mm f/1.4 lens (e.g. 1 sec at f/1.4 to 1/4000 sec at f/16)
Film speed settings:ISO 6 to 6400 in third-stop increments; automatic film speed setting for DX-coded films can also be set manually: manual setting for non-DX films also possible
Exposure modes:Program AE with automatic multi-program selection of wide, standard, or tele program and program-shift capability; aperture-priority AE; shutter-priority AE; metered-manual exposure
Flash exposure modes:Direct (TTL) autoflash metering by same SPC; in all modes for ISO speeds 12-1000; program AE: automatic setting of X-sync to 1/250 sec. (above EV 13 at ISO 100), 1/125 (EV 12-13), or 1/60 (below EV 12); aperture-priority AE: X-sync set to 1/250 sec.; shutter-priority AE and metered manual: 1/250 or slower speeds usable, speed automatically reset to 1/250 sec. for manually set speeds above 1/250 sec.
AE lock:Works in P, A and S modes; used in all exposure modes for highlight- and shadow-based spot metering; used for slow-shutter sync with dedicated flash
Exposure adjustment:-4 to +4 in half-stop settings
Viewfinder:Eye-level fixed pentaprism type with built-in eyepiece correction adjustable from -3 to +1 diopters; field of view: 94% of film-frame area; magnification: 0.81x with 50mm lens at infinity.
Data displays:Top panel: LCDs indicate shutter speed, aperture, film speed, exposure adjustment, "bulb" elapsed time Viewfinder: LCDs indicate exposure mode, metering mode, shutter speed, aperture, film speed, exposure adjustment, and exposure deviation in metered-manual mode.
Shutter release button:Touch switch activates metering and continuous autofocusing; meter stays on for 10 sec. after finger is lifted from button; pressing halfway holds focus; pressing all the way releases shutter
Film transport:Manual film advance: Film-advance lever has 30° offset angle with 128° movement in single or multiple strokes Film rewind: Manual by rewind crank Frame counter: Additive type; camera set to 1/4000 sec. and lens´ minimum aperture until "1" appears in frame counter.
Mirror:Semi-silvered swing-back type; secondary mirror for metering and autofocusing
Audible signals:With main switch at "on with audible signals" position, camera "beeps" when using focus hold, focusing manually, and during self-timer operation
Self-timer:Electronic with 10-second delay; operation indicated by blinking LED and audible "beeps"; cancellable
Power:Two AA-size 1.5v alkaline-manganese, carbon-zinc, or 1.2v rechargeable nickel-cadmium batteries
Preview switch:Used for checking depth of field; operates in all four exposure modes; pressing partway down stops down and locks lens diaphragm at aperture setting shown in data panel and finder; when used, "F" blinks in data panel.
Multiple-exposure button:Enables making more than one exposure on a single frame; when pushed all the way in, shutter can be recocked without advancing film; frame counter does not advance during use.
Others:Sync terminal, eyepiece shutter, remote-control terminal, film window, user-changeable focusing screen
Construction:Main body chassis, mirror box and front plate are made of die-cast aluminium-alloy. The bottom cover is stamped brass. The lens mount is stainless steel. The remaining cover panels are polycarbonate plastic. Inside, wires have been eliminated where possible by the use of over 50 gold plated pressure contacts at the edges of the circuit boards. The camera contains nine gold-plated switches. The film advance system is of hard steel, with ball bearings and bronze bushes, however the coupling between the wind gears and film drive sprocket is made of plastic.
Dimensions:53 x 92 x 139mm
Weight:645g without batteries and lens