Monday, February 14, 2022

Sony Diaries: The Zen in seeing the mundane in new light

Zen is based on the belief, and the knowledge, that beauty and meaning can be found in the ordinary.

The Gallery at the PGCRL on a rare bright and sunny afternoon in February.

Sunday, February 13, 2022

First roll with a newly-acquired 1975'ish Minolta XE-7

As far as I can remember, it's been almost 20 years since I loaded 35 film on to a camera; even longer since I used B&W film. The chemically plastic smell of popping open a film canister brings back fond memories.
Shooting with film is not something that may be taken lightly. Film and processing, including scanning, is expensive. A 36-exp roll will set you back $0.60/shot. I set out to shoot no more than 2 frames per subject, budgeting to shoot up to 20 shots on this walk around Kensington Market. This is so different from shooting digital, with over 500 clicks for a similar outing.
I had to carefully choose my subject matter for suitability for B&W. The absence of colour means "focusing" on other aspects such as subject matter, textures, shapes, patterns, and the sum of all these: composition. Limiting myself to using 2 manual, prime (non-zooming) lenses: 28F2.8 and 50F1.4 meant I had to "zoom" with my feet. The fact that I only have 20 shots to use in a busy environment with lots of moving parts (this is not landscape photography)  meant that I had to be disciplined in my movement and quick to decide what was shot-worthy.
And one more thin:  I had to make an educated guess for the exposure setting, since I couldn't rely on the camera metering. The Minolta XE-7 is a manual focus camera and when it wasn't possible to bring the camera to my eye (so as not to spook the subject matter), I relied on the distance scale on the lens for focus; not an easy task when aiming for shallow depth of field.
For film, I used Ilford XP2: a chromogenic black and white film that is developed in colour C-41 chemistry. It has a wide-exposure latitude (more forgiving for exposure errors), and doesn't require traditional B&W processing. C-41 colour processing is readily available locally. I also used either a yellow or a light orange filter to increase scene contrast.
I find XP2 to be lower in contrastthan traditional B&W. My next roll will be Ilford HP5 developed with traditional B&W soups.
All things considered, it was a satisfying walk-around.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

I bought the Minolta XE-5 for its looks, I kept it for its heart

My decision to buy the XE-5 in 1977, with the first paycheques from my first job, was an easy one to make. It was the best-looking camera in the store that I could afford.

It was later on that I learned that:
It was the first SLR Minolta produced together with Leica, as a result of co-operation between Minolta and Leitz. The Leica R3 has the same basic construction, although at least the electronics, metering system and aperture mechanics are different to facilitate spot metering and the use of Leica mount lenses.
The Minolta XE is an extremely well built top quality SLR camera. Its mechanical quality exceeds everything Minolta has made ever since - including its successors, the XD-series, and IMHO also the present top model Dynax 9. Basically it is electronically controlled single lens reflex camera that offers both metered manual and aperture -priority automatic exposure controls with full aperture TTL metering. The body is all metal and designed to hard use. All controls are placed where a photographer is used to have them - there is no such individually placed controls that would require a manual to be learned, like there is in the Minoltas pro SLR, the XM. (

Monday, January 3, 2022

The Minolta XE-5

In November1977, with some cash from my first 4 paycheques working in Housekeeping at Sunnybrook Hospital, I went to Black's Cameras at the Don Mills Centre, then a nondescript strip plaza. We had arrived in Canada in early July 1977, and I landed a job at Sunnybrook 2 months later.

I can't really say what compelled me to spend most of my hard-earned cash on an advanced SLR camera. This was my first camera; no Kodak Instamatics in my past. My Dad was an inveterate photographer with his Canon Canonet QL17, and he also was a collector of other people's photographs. 

I settled on a Minolta XE-5. I would have preferred the Minolta XE-7 but that was more expensive. I hadn't done any research; I just knew that the Minolta XE-5 was a good-looking camera.

In the years since then, I have owned medium-format Hasselblads, Mamiyas, and Yashicas and Bronicas, 35mm Rolleis and Nikons, and even a Leica R3, 110 Kodaks and Rolleis, and 4x5s from Toyo, Graflex, and Nagaoka. I've had to sell gear to acquire other gear. I was never into collecting cameras and associated gear. The gear I had was the gear I used. But my heart always went back to that Minolta XE-5.

Over the years, I've looked on Kijiji and Craigslist for a well-preserved XE-5, to no avail. I don't trust eBay; if I can't feel it in my hands before purchase, I won't consider the purchase.

Recently, I came across a near-mint-for-its-age XE-5. Here it is, with an MC Rokkor-PF 58F1.4!

This is one camera I would collect!