At first glance I was immediately awestruck, standing mouth agape as I stared for an uncomfortable amount of time at the Minolta 3000i with its 50mm f1.8 lens before me – eyes roaming over its glossy black plastic shell. My mind had checked out – I’d been transported to 1989 and submerged completely in its strange retro future vibe. Once I clawed my way back to reality I decided to take a closer look at it. I do love a good late ’80s camera as long as it’s low risk, never depend on it to shoot something ‘once in a lifetime’, and it must be a low financial investment. They are the first hybrids, the bridge between manual and electronic tech, very exciting for their time, auto and manual functions laid out together in the least intuitive ways possible.
I’ll admit when I first discovered it only has ‘P’ mode I felt a little let down. Then I shifted my thinking, perhaps I could treat it like a point and shoot, considering lately I’ve fallen out of love with the P&S photo aesthetic, perhaps this would have the ease of using a P&S (which I do appreciate at times) without the flat wide angle of a P&S. I could just relax and focus solely on composition. This thinking took me back to my early days of photography, a simpler time, when I shot everything on aperture priority.
I enjoyed how much this camera sounds like what you’d expect a film camera from 1989 to sound like – which isn’t great if you’re trying to shoot in incognito mode, but if you’re just playing around as you would with a P&S, and secrecy isn’t paramount, the aggressive electronic sounds can be quite enjoyable.
I have to say once I got the photos back from Rocket Repro, I was beyond impressed. In an instant I went from ‘not needing another camera’ to ‘definitely needing this camera’.
I also realized that all this time I thought I was tired of shooting colour film, when in fact I suspect I just didn’t love the way my fully manual cameras/lenses and I shoot colour film together. Loving colour was always something I felt when using my newer AF cameras. Using this Minolta was reminiscent of shooting in my early 20s, back when I loved colour film, and Fuji Reala was God. Perhaps some automatic camera settings are a colour prerequisite for me.
For the age of its AF tech, the camera itself is quick to catch focus, and the 50mm f1.7 is impressively sharp. In terms of feel, the grip and shutter button placement are perfect for my hand size. I also found the camera’s viewfinder to be large and clear. When giving recommendations I tend to shy away from 80s/early 90s electronic cameras, warning everyone of dodgy electronics, however the price point on this one isn’t too extravagant so I feel it’s worth the risk just for fun. The only thing I ended up not liking about this camera is the battery it takes – a 2CR5, but that’ s not a big deal, at least its not double or triple A’s! In conclusion, I might just keep it on loan for a few more rolls. If you find yourself interested in trying out this vibe you can go with the Minolta 3000i, or try another one of the cameras I feel are ‘ too weird to live, too rare to die’,. A few others I like are the Minolta Maxxum 7000, Minolta Maxxum 5000, Canon T70, and the Pentax A3.