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Camera review: Me and my Minolta Hi-Matic AF by Aditya W

In this article, I will be reviewing the 1979 Hi-Matic AF released in 1979. It is an automatic 35mm film camera with an Auto Focus capability. The Minolta Hi-Matic series was first introduced in 1962 and was updated several times over the course of its life.

This review is solely based on my experience using this camera and not meant to be a replacement for the published user’s manual! Here’s what’s covered in this article:

 

 

Getting to know the Minolta Hi-Matic AF

Minolta Hi-Matic AF - The front of the camera

Minolta Hi-Matic AF – The front of the camera

Minolta Hi-Matic - The top of the camera showing the Hi-Matic AF version, release shutter and film advance lever

Minolta Hi-Matic – The top of the camera showing the Hi-Matic AF version, release shutter and film advance lever

Minolta Hi-Matic - The back of the camera has the guidelines for the flash range given the ISO/film speed, and focusing distances

Minolta Hi-Matic – The back of the camera has the guidelines for the flash range given the ISO/film speed, and focusing distances

The camera comes with a fixed 38mm f/2.8 Minolta Rokkor lens. There is no setting to adjust the aperture; and both the aperture and shutter speed are set automatically. All you need to do is compose your subject in the viewfinder, and when you half press the shutter button the camera will calculate the correct exposure for you or tell you if you need to use the built-in flash.

There is a focus lock function but I’ll discuss that a bit later.

Film speed is set by way of a dial/ring on the lens, which ranges from ISO 25-400. Set in the bottom of the outer ring of the lens is the camera’s Cadmium Sulphide/CdS meter.

The camera is operated by two AA batteries; a standard size that you can find at a grocery or convenience store. The camera will not operate if there are no batteries or the batteries are too weak.

Minolta Hi-Matic AF 1979 - Battery compartment at the bottom of the camera

Minolta Hi-Matic AF 1979 – Battery compartment at the bottom of the camera

The easiest way to check if you still enough battery power is by popping up the flash and look in the viewfinder. If the flash-ready signal takes more than 30 seconds to start blinking, it’s a good indication that you need to replace the batteries.

Minolta Hi-Matic - Flash-ready blinking light

Minolta Hi-Matic – Flash-ready blinking light

Loading the film is quite easy if you are familiar with 35 mm film cameras. You open the back door, pull out the film rewind knob, and insert the film in to the left compartment.

Insert the film leader into one of the slots in the take-up spool on the right hand side. Make sure that you engage the film sprocket with the ‘teeth’ on both edges of the film. Also, ensure that the film is aligned horizontally. Using the film advance lever, advance the film to check that the take-up spool does indeed pull the film from its canister.

Minolta Hi-Matic - Film compartment

Minolta Hi-Matic – Film compartment

Close the back door, and advance the film (you may need to press the shutter release a couple of times) until you see no.1 on the film counter on the top of the camera next to the film advance lever.

An orange signal should be displayed in the Safe Load window (upper right above the film door hinge). This indicates that the film is properly loaded and you are now ready to take pictures!

 

Taking pictures with the camera

As mentioned earlier, this is an auto-focus automatic point and shoot camera. Set the film speed using the ISO adjustment ring on the front of the camera. Make sure the number aligns properly. As you look in the viewfinder, you will see different parts, as follows:

 

The distance symbols

These symbols are the same as the symbols printed on the back of the camera.

Minolta Hi-Matic - Distance symbols

Minolta Hi-Matic – Distance symbols

 

The auto focus zone

The square in the center is used to frame the spot in your scene you focus to land on.

Minolta Hi-Matic - Auto-focus area

Minolta Hi-Matic – Auto-focus area

 

The framing guide

Everything that is inside this framing guide will be in the photo.

Minolta Hi-Matic - Minolta Hi-Matic - Framing window

Minolta Hi-Matic – Minolta Hi-Matic – Framing window

 

Distance signal light

When the light appears above a distance scale symbol, it means the focusing is at the distance represented by the symbol. In this example, the lens is focused at 4 ft (1.2 m).

Minolta Hi-Matic - Distance signal light

Minolta Hi-Matic – Distance signal light

 

Focus lock switch

Sometimes you want to focus on a certain subject and then recompose without losing the previously set. In this situation, you can use the Focus Lock switch right below the shutter release button. When you activate this switch, focusing cannot be canceled until after you
release the shutter and the picture is taken.

Minolta Hi-Matic - Focus lock

Minolta Hi-Matic – Focus lock

 

Low-light indicator

If you see the low-light indicator in the viewfinder, it means the camera speed has fallen below 1/45 sec and you will either need to use the built-in flash or a tripod to avoid blurred photos.

All you need to do is press the Flash On button, and wait until the flash-ready light starts to blink. Make sure that your subject is within the distance as indicated on the table printed on the back of the camera.

Note – you can also use the flash to illuminate your subject, for example when the background is very bright.
The camera is also equipped with a self-timer release switch which gives you a delay for about 10 seconds.

There is no exposure compensation on this camera.

 

Overall impression and Sample Photos

At 350g (without batteries), the camera is very lightweight and easy to operate, making it fun for travel photos. It will not fit in your pants pocket but you can certainly put it in your coat pocket.

Focusing is relatively easy; you need to pay attention to the distance symbols in the viewfinder. I have used this camera for both outdoor and indoor shoots with very good results. Below are some sample photos:

Minolta Hi-Matic - Outdoor - Ilford XP2 Super

Minolta Hi-Matic – Outdoor – Ilford XP2 Super

Minolta Hi-Matic - Indoor with built-in flash - Ilford XP2 Super

Minolta Hi-Matic – Indoor with built-in flash – Ilford XP2 Super

Minolta Hi-Matic - Outdoor, low-light, no flash - Kodak Portra 400

Minolta Hi-Matic – Outdoor, low-light, no flash – Kodak Portra 400

Minolta Hi-Matic - Indoor, ambient light, no flash - Kodak Portra 400. Lego Robot Hero at Mall of America, Minnesota, USA

Minolta Hi-Matic – Indoor, ambient light, no flash – Kodak Portra 400. Lego Robot Hero at Mall of America, Minnesota, USA

Minolta Hi-Matic - Indoor, with flash - Kodak Portra 400. Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America, Minnesota, USA

Minolta Hi-Matic – Indoor, with flash – Kodak Portra 400. Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America, Minnesota, USA

Thanks for reading!

~  Aditya W

 

 

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About The Author

Adi W

Aditya/Adi is a hobbyist who enjoys shooting with film. Some of his favorite cameras are the Leica M6, Bessa R2a, Canon EOS 3 and Fuji GA645. Recently he started exploring the world of pinhole photography using the Diana Multi-Pinhole Operator camera. His favorite films are Ilford XP2 Super 400 and HP5 Plus, Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100 and Pro 400H, and Kodak Tri-X 400, Portra 160NC and Ektar 100. Adi is based in Minneapolis, MN with frequent travels to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago. His professional career is in Information Technology, and in his spare time he enjoys playing piano and working out (he has finished 50 half marathons in the US). His photography work has received Honorable Mentions from Curious Camera Competition and Photographer's Forum Spring Photo Contests.

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