Minolta XD Series title
The XD11 in black chrome
The magnificent XD11 in black chrome finish. This finish used a special anodizing process that was licensed from Leitz, which results in a harder-wearing finish than black paint. This particular camera has the original soft leatherette, which is inclined to shrink and peel, although on this example the leatherette is still in very good condition.
The Minolta XD11 is a magnificent manual focus camera, and a tribute to what engineers were able to create prior to the start of the “disposable plastic” era. The camera was released as the XD11 in the North American market, but as with many of the Minolta models it had different designations in other markets, being known as the XD7 in Europe and the XD in Japan.

The camera was developed by Minolta in conjunction with Leica, and the body became the basis for the Leica R4, and later, as the chassis for the the Leica R5, R6 and R7. Leica introduced a more advanced metering system into the body (including spot metering), but most of the other features of the camera are evident in both bodies.

When the XD11 was released in 1977 it was the top of the line Minolta camera of its era, with the exception of the XK Motor, a motorised version of the 1972 XK camera. The XK Motor was a professional model released in 1976, and was only sold in very small numbers. The XD11 was highly praised by critics of the time, and is still regarded by many to be the best manual focus body made by Minolta.

  The XD7 in silver  
    The XD11 (or in this case XD7) with original black leatherette is still a very attractive looking camera, and can be purchased for between US$70 and $150 on ebay, depending upon condition. From a camera store, expect to pay a little more.    
So why was the XD11 so applauded? Well here's the reason - the XD11 was the world's first camera with aperture priority and shutter priority, as well as a fully metered manual mode. The availability of both aperture and shutter priority gives the photographer unprecedented creative control, as well as ease and convenience of operation.
  Brochure on the XD7 metering modes  
Picture Copyright Minolta

But that is not all, some of the other features of the XD11 are as follows:

  • Electronically controlled stepless shutter speeds from 1/1000 to 1 second for automatic modes plus stepped speeds from 1/1000 to 1 second plus “B” in metered manual mode. “X” sync setting for 1/100 sec, plus fully mechanical operation at “O” (1/100 sec) and “B”.
  • Completely electronic automatic aperture control in shutter priority mode.
  • Final check metering system (after stopping the lens down the camera performs a final check to ensure that the exposure will be correct). This was later also used in the Minolta X-700.
  • Very bright acute-matte viewfinder screen with details of selected aperture and shutter speed, so no need to take the eye from the viewfinder, even in metered manual mode.
  • A range of interchangeable screens was available (see here).
  • Vertical traverse metal blade focus plane shutter for quiet operation, and also enabling a fast 1/100 sec flash sync speed. This sync was the fastest of the Minolta Manual focus bodies, and was nearly twice as fast as the later X-700.
  • Silicon photocell TTL centre weighted meter, measuring at full aperture for display then at taking aperture for exposure. Automatic exposure range EV1 to EV18.
  • Can be used without batteries in fully mechanical mode at B for long exposures, or at “O” for 1/100 sec. This feature was included because photographers had traditionally been used to mechanical cameras, and there was still some hesitation at relying on a battery. What it means now is that for extremely long exposures the battery can be removed, resulting in zero current drain. Later models, such as the X-700 had a maximum long exposure time of about 2 hours, due to the fact that battery power was required to keep the mirror up.
  • Remote shutter release that will accept both electronic and manual shutter releases.
  • Unlike later cameras like the X-700, the XD7 uses a full metal body construction.
  • Can be used with the Autowinder D for motor driven sequences of up to 2 frames per second.
  • Exposure adjustment lever for up to two stops over or under exposure from the metered setting.
  • Depth of field preview button.
  • Built-in eyepiece shutter for tripod use (won't mess up your metering).
  • PC connection for studio flash use.
  • Film “safe-load” indicator.
  • Self timer (adjustable from 2 to 10 seconds).

As can be seen, the XD11 has all of the features you would expect from a pro camera, and in fact has some advantages over later minolta cameras like the X-700. For example, the XD11 has a sturdier body, and the shutter priority mode is considered by many Minolta enthusiasts to be far superior to the X-700's program mode. Also, the XD11 has a facility for the taking of multiple exposures, which is very difficult to do with the X-700.

  Minolta XD-s  
    Minolta XD-s with Autowinder D    
The XD11 came in two basic types, the silver and black models. The black model was more expensive new, and accordingly there were fewer sold, making them much more desireable, and accordingly expensive, today. In addition to the basic XD11/XD7/XD, Minolta also released a later model, the XD-s. Available only in Japan, and in the black body type, it came with an adjustable diopter for eyeglass wearers in place of the viewfinder shutter.
  XD-s diopter control In the picture at left you can see the diopter which replaced the standard shutter blind in the XD-s. The XD-s came with a plastic shutter blind attached to the strap, similar to the later X-700.  
The Minolta XD5
The Minolta XD5, the little brother to the XD7/11
In 1979 Minolta released a second model in the XD Range, called the XD5. This camera had all of the features that made the XD7/11 so good, with the exception of the aperture readout in the viewfinder, the viewfinder blind, and the film safe load indicator. Given that these are only minor changes, and the mechanical and electronic components of the cameras are identical, the XD5 makes a great selection if you are unable to find a XD7/11.
Several changes were made to the XD Series bodies during the course of production. The first models came with an outward facing exposure adjustment lever, made of bare metal. This lever was later given a black plastic tip, and in the last period of production, this lever was moved to point inward. Also, part of the way through the production of the XD Series, Minolta started painting the 125 number on the shutter scale green. This was designed to assist with the use of the shutter priority exposure control for inexperienced users, as if all settings were set at “green” (ie. minimum aperture, “S” on mode setting and 1/125 of a second), good shots should result. It is noted that the shutter priority setting on the XD11 is quite advanced, and that if the selected speed is insufficient at the widest aperture, it will reduce the speed until a correct exposure ensues.
In the pictures at right you can see the early positioning of the exposure adjustment lever (left) and the later position (right). I find the earlier design easier to use, particularly when adjusting exposure while looking through the viewfinder.
XD11 exposure adjustment lever  
  XD11 shutter speed dial variants
In these images you can see the early shutter speed dial (right) and the later version (left). It is important to remember that the green 125 is NOT the flash sync speed position. For flash photography with non-dedicated flash units the shutter speed dial should be set to the red “X” which gives a speed of 1/100 sec.
Other changes introduced by Minolta during the life of the body included changing the leatherette from a soft feel finish to a harder leatherette. It is noted that this early softer leatherette is subject to shrinkage, so this change may have resulted from feedback received from users. Minolta also changed the shutter blades at some stage during production, putting dimples on the later models to avoid sticking if the blades were slightly covered in oil (albeit the likelihood of this occuring must have been remote). Finally, very late in production the old style minolta logo on the front of the pentaprism was changed to the new Minolta logo. There were additionally other less obvious changes implemented throughout the model lfe, but these were generally unnoticeable except to service technicians (different screw types etc.).
XD7 in red lizardskin
This XD-7 had leatherette which had suffered badly from shrinkage. The leatherette has been replaced with this lovely and tactile black and red lizardskin from www.cameraleather.com
Basically, for creative photography, you can't go past the XD11. The XD11 was more expensive than the X-700 when both were available from Minolta, a fact which is attributable to the higher quality and better construction of the camera. In fact, the XD11 is now recognised by many to be the best manual focus camera made by Minolta, a tribute to quality before the start of the “disposable plastic” era.
XD7 brochure
The XD7 from a Minolta brochure very late in the model's life. Note the new-style Minolta logo. It is interesting to note that Minolta obviously considered this a superior camera to the X-700, as in this brochure (which also included the X-700, X-500 and X-300) it was pitched as the premium camera. This was further supported by the fact that it was the XD7, not the X-700, that was photographed with the 50mm f/1.2
Copyright Minolta
Thanks to Andrew Duncan for providing the scans from the Minolta brochure included in the above review.
Link to 50th Anniversary XD7
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