"Retro Vintage Cool and Pro Level Camera"
The Maxxum 9000, first released in 1985, still holds a spot in many Minoltians' hearts. In fact, due to its rugged construction, features and tip of the hat styling to previous generations of Minolta cameras, it maintains a cult like following amongst users today.
The first thing you'll notice about the 9000 is its vintage style. When Minolta designed the world's first generation of autofocus SLR's, the Maxxum 5000 and 7000 were a complete departure from the previous Minolta lineage. They were very modern looking, with digital LCD displays, boxy but sleek body contours, and plenty of buttons. This new style was a risky proposition, but Minolta felt that a completely new concept of camera should have a brand new look. The Minolta 5000, and especially the 7000 with its extra control features, were a complete hit and forced Canon and Nikon to quickly play catch up and engineer AF cameras of their own.
The Maxxum 9000 adopted a more conservative look for the day. Minolta was concerned that the target buyer of the 9000, the "prosumer" and the professional photographer would not find this new modern style appealing. I guess Minolta designers figured this demographic to be too conservative and stodgy to accept a "new" look, nevermind new AF technology and autometering. As a result, Minolta modeled the style of the 9000 along the line of the older X-Series cameras. I think this was one of those decisions that was made for all the wrong reasons, but more than two decades later holds up retrospectively as a design coup. In this age when "vintage" is all the rage, the 9000 is right at home; even cool and coveted, 20 years after its introduction.
A quick glance at the 9000's exterior exudes X-Series familiarity. The two knobs on the top deck stayed. The "old fashioned" back release mechanism was retained, and so were several features including manual depth of field preview, manual film advance and manual rewind. The film advance and rewind could be upgraded with the 9000 specific MD-90/BP-90 Motor Winder to advance film at up to 5 fps, and includes a fast rewind. Both are pretty much state of the art even today. Several other rare conveniences were built in to the body, including a diopter adjustment and viewfinder shutter for bulb exposures. The electronic remote port was covered with a built in slider rather than a cap as seen in the 5000/7000 (and lost when removed!). Other 9000 specific aftermarket upgrades included a data back 90, program back 90 and super program back 90 for date and time stamping of images, intervalometry and additional exposure flexibility. The CG-1000 made portrait photography a snap.
The retro look of the 9000 hid the fact that underneath that primitive but bulletproof skin, a technological monster was lurking. Incorporated into one of those top deck knobs was the LCD that displayed exposure information and controlled Priority Shooting Modes and Manual Control.
The film back release knob doubled as the multifunction exposure controller dial. A top 1/4000th shutter speed (same as the 7D today), self-timer, Multiple Exposure, advanced AF and Exposure features were standard in the 9000. All exposure data, as well as focus and flash information were replicated in the digital viewfinder display. Incidentally, speaking of the new 7D, you can certainly see some design similarities in Minolta's pro DSLR. The apple doesn't fall very far from the tree.
Adding to the styling and technology inside is the heavy duty build of a metal alloy body and the extreme reliability of this rugged camera. It's no wonder the Maxxum 9000 was such a successful entry into the Pro AF market, and remains a popular Minolta film camera even today. In fact, I find the camera's vintage styling and reliability to be the premier components of the cachet the camera still holds.
A few known issues with the Maxxum 9000 include:
- The "bleed" in the top LCD, a manufacturing defect by a 3rd party contractor. The blackened dead areas of the display are usually isolated to a corner or edge of the LCD, but some have less than others and rarely proceed to obscure the entire exposure data area. At least 9 out of 10 bodies have this cosmetic defect.
- "Blinking ISO" indicates the film speed has been reset to ISO 100 after a battery change, or back to the auto DX ISO. If pressing the "ISO" button will not reset to normal operation, there is something seriously wrong with the camera.
- As with the Maxxum 5000 and 7000, the aperture control lever can malfunction giving incorrectly exposed pictures.
- Jammed manual film advance lever - too expensive to repair.
Other than the "bleed" issue which is cosmetic, if the camera exhibits any of the other faults, the repair cost is likely going to exceed the cost of a "new" 9000 that can be purchased on Ebay. It's really a shame when a beautiful and rugged camera like the 9000 gives up the ghost, but it happens. You can strip it down and save the focusing screen, the back, and the battery holder for your new body, or offer it for parts on ebay.
But thanks to Ebay, a replacement Maxxum 9000 at a great price is just a click or two away. For further information on the Maxxum 9000, a good website to check out is 9000.org for much more on this great little camera. If you are invested in Minolta AF gear and are looking to replace or add a second body, or just add to your camera collection, I'd highly recommend the Maxxum 9000. Every time one comes across my desk, I think twice before listing it. Of all Minolta cameras, I think this one has the potential to be very collectible.
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