I wasn’t born when the Minolta X-500 got released. It was in April 1983. From what I’ve been told by the initial owner (my mother-in-law) and from what I’ve been reading on the Internet, the X-500 suffered from its big brother – the X-700 – success, released in 1981. Everyone remembers the X-700 for its great Program Mode, enabling everyone to shoot great photographs without a lot of knowledge necessary, but most experienced photographers have chosen the X-500 for its control over depth of field thanks to the Aperture Priority and Metered Manual Modes.
One thing I’ve loved about the Minolta compared to my other 35mm film cameras is that when looking through the viewfinder, all the information you need about the shot you’re currently taking is right there in front of your eye. Shutter speed scale and correct light metering (even while using the depth of field preview button) with over/underexposure alert.
Something else I’m ecstatic about is the quality of old Minolta glass. MC/MD lenses are some of the best on the market – the second-hand one I mean – and are also, which is an appreciable quality nowadays, quite cheap! I am currently using a Minolta 50mm f/1.7 and a Tokina 35-200mm f-3.5-4.5, both of which are amazing lenses, I have already been looking at different accessories and what not, but I must not forget I still have at least two more 35mm film cameras waiting for me back home.
I have been using the X-500 exclusively in the Aperture Priority Mode so far, trying to first get used to the body, the overall ergonomics, trying to enjoy the huge viewfinder, and of course, focusing on composition and light instead of shutter speed over depth of field. The body is rather pleasant, a little heavy but not bulky, fits comfortably in your hands, and allows you to have most of the buttons readily available when you need them. The Automatic Exposure Lock (AEL) button isn’t the easiest one to reach but I’ve frankly seen worse. You basically use the AEL button, the DOF preview button, and the shutter. You chose the Aperture manually on the lens you’re using and check the metering in the viewfinder. If everything is in order, shoot.
It sounds easy, and it is. I am of course still working on getting my shots right, the film doesn’t always advance well (see the index print below), the 50mm has some sort of a white shadow on the left side of the shot (I’m still thinking about why that could be), so on so forth. I will be more careful while advancing the film, it might help.
Digital photography enables everyone to take dozens of shots of the same subject until it looks the way you want it. When you use an 8gb card in your camera, you have hundreds of shots possible when shooting RAW, thousands when shooting JPEG. It makes everything easy, everything but the training of your eye. Composition, light, details, DOF, so on so forth. There are so many things you must think about while shooting, it’s so easy to forget basics when it’s easy to erase mistakes.
I think I’ve found the perfect way not to forget everything I’ve been learning since I started photography, since I graduated from an actual photography school. I get carried away every now and then, shoot like crazy, even with film, but it gets easier to “see” when you get used to a 24×35 frame. I will definitely use a 35mm film camera alongside my DSLR so I won’t forget the basics of photography. It’s like building up reflexes. It’s compulsory when working towards good photographs. And what a tool I have now with the Minolta X-500.