I took the Minolta Maxxum 3xi 35mm film camera ($18 body-only) to a small town near me to test it out with a roll of 24 exposure Kodak UltraMax 400 35mm film. The city of Franklin, where I tested the camera and film, is a thriving little town just south of Indianapolis, and offers a lot of shooting opportunities within the one-block town square. Added to the camera was a Minolta 28-80mm lens that I purchased for $20, but can use on many different Minolta camera bodies. (read more by click link below ...)
-- Minolta 28-80mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens - $20
The lens was fairly quick to catch focus and for the most part I have no problem with it, which is good because the purpose of buying it was to be able to test with future Minolta AF mount film cameras for this series. I've already purchased a Minolta Maxxum 300si that came with a 35-70mm lens, but I do not like the lens, so when I test that in future weeks, it'll be with this decent little 28-80mm.
- Kodak UltraMax 400 Film Review
This is the third roll of a pack of three I purchased from Amazon for $21.00 ($7.00 per roll for 24 exp). I've come to enjoy the bright, rich colors from the UltraMax 400, and if you're looking for a grainy film, this is it! I don't mind the grain at all, and actually prefer it over the clinical digital files I've been producing for the past decade.
- Settings Buttons
Now the camera was a different case. I'll start by saying that while the camera does give the option for Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Manual (along with a 10-second delay timer), which is all nice and should be the basis for an SLR, it doesn't make those settings handy to change on the fly. With most modern cameras, it's easy to get into the habit of adjusting the settings with the camera at your eye, but this camera does not offer that luxury.
You'll have to pull the camera down, find the button to change your desired setting, change the setting, check it again by looking through the viewfinder, and repeat. It's not completely inept in that regard, you can still see within the viewfinder when you are in focus and in an acceptable exposure setting for the shutter to fire by viewing the little green light inside on the right-hand side. But you do not see the settings themselves in the viewfinder, you have keep pulling it away from your face and look down at the LCD screen on the top of the camera. It honestly didn't hinder me very much while shooting this test roll, but as a go-to film camera it would be annoying every time out.
If you put it on (P) Program mode and just go, you don't have to worry about the setting controls, and can literally use this lightweight camera with your right-hand only, freeing up your left hand, other than using the manual zoom. If you are using a prime fixed lens, and not in manual focus, then one hand is all you need to use this camera in a photowalk.
- Strange Hot Shoe
The only other negative I found for me, maybe not for you, is that the flash hotshoe is not a traditional hotshoe you'd find on most other SLR or DSLR cameras. It has a pop-up flash, which again, is nice, but if you want to mount an external flash, you're out of luck as far as I can tell. The hotshoe is a funky confection thought up by Minolta for some reason, and does not allow traditional hotshoe-mounted accessories to be added. I typically put my gopro on the film cameras via the hotshoe, but couldn't on this one. And while it does have the traditional screw mount-hole in the bottom for a tripod mount, I didn't have that accessory with me to use the gopro, so I did not get point-of-view video of my walk. No great loss, but I've never seen a camera with this sort of strange hotshoe, and certainly would not be thrilled with using this camera on a regular basis due to that.
However, if you don't plan on using an external flash, or accessories, then that won't be an issue for you.
-- Intro to Photowalk
I decided to use Shutter Priority mode for this photo-walk, even though I typically don't use this setting. I almost never use aperture priority, as I'm concerned about shutter speed being fast enough to not have cars/people/animals/etc blurred due to a slow shutter speed. Most film cameras do not offer the minimum shutter speed setting like digital cameras do, so you are completely at the mercy of the aperture setting. I'd prefer to control the shutter speed, if not use manual, which is the best way to control your entire shot.
I typically use manual mode, but with film cameras I'm not familiar with, or if I just want to shoot without much thinking, I'll go to Shutter Priority. There's nothing wrong with using these aids, or even the full automated (P) Program mode. The bottom line and goal is to get the best photo possible, no one said there's a specific right or wrong way to get there.
- Final Verdict
I wouldn't buy this camera at full price due to lack of hot shoe on top (most wouldn't have an issue with it, especially if outdoor shooting, or no need to mount a flash or accessory.