Minolta Maxxum STsi
The photographic industry Is relatively young, about 170 years old, but as with other modern technologies, it updates at an increasingly fast pace. A good example is written communication, which, within two generations, had evolved from Telex into short-lived fax technology, then into email, and now instant text messages over endless platforms. The same is true of portable music. From Edison’s phonograph in 1877, it took about 45 years to see the vinyl record and reel-to-reel tape recorders. It took only 30 years to introduce the compact cassette, and it took 17 years thereafter for the CD to appear. The MP3 player showed up only 14 years later, and now music is being streamed on demand on your phone and will probably continue to progress beyond imagination.
The photographic industry had changed from cabinet-sized devices holding silver oxide emulsion-coated plates into smaller folding models with crude mechanical parts. Then to hand-held compacts with busy springs, cogs and levers. It kept shrinking in size while offering more features till the film camera concept vanished within a decade. All that was carried forward was polished glass.
This means that the highly advanced industry rooted in the post-war years endured a diminishing number of players, from hundreds in the 1950s to dozens in the 1980s to a handful today.
Such has happened to Minolta. Established in 1928 as a photographic equipment maker, it had survived the war years to position itself at the industry’s front line. When technology and market appetite changed from folder to monoblock, they remained among the leaders. They kept going strong when market taste progressed into SLRs.
But, like almost all camera makers that lasted till the end of the 20th century, they could not keep pace with digital. They tried, but with a three-generation legacy of precision mechanics, they didn’t have the vision and ability of the digital wizards. A 2003 merger with an equally troubled giant that created Konica-Minolta did not carry enough weight, so they sold the camera-making side of the joint company to Sony. Sony had nothing to do with photography but had much to do with digitizing stuff.
On my database, Minolta shows just under 500 camera models. A remarkable number, but the actual figure is less impressive considering that late-generation models were sold under two or three names for different markets.
The Minolta last line before the digital revolution was the Maxxum / Dynax; a can-do-it-all camera with any thinkable feature. The camera’s abilities were made possible by the ever-advancing brain. Older cameras, till the 1960s, were entirely mechanical. With electronic controllers gradually introduced, the moving parts were still heavily mechanical. Finally, miniature servo motors replaced the complex mechanical parts when the camera became fully electronic.
In the mechanical era, making a new model involved a whole new parts production line. In the electronic era, the envelope, shutter, and lens were carried forward, with a fresh set of commands programmed into the controlling chips. So, when manufacturer X makes a new feature available, it is copied immediately by all others using just minor program changes within the existing modules.
This would explain why so many models had the same name and same body, with a plethora of suffix letters. Further, before the electronic era, makers introduced a new model in intervals measured by years. In the 1990s, “new” models appeared within months of each other.
Considering this, only a handful of manufacturers would cross into the digital zone. It was the stalwarts as Nikon, Canon, Olympus and Pentax, with Fuji riding a dark horse from behind. Sony and Panasonic, never associated with photography, are now at the cutting edge.
The 1999 Maxxum STsi, also sold as Dynax 404si, was one of the last SLR models made by Minolta. The first Minolta SLR was made in 1958, and the last in 2004. As stated above, the twilight models within the Maxxum and Dynax lines were very similar, different only in the margins.
The STsi is a do-it-all camera, reminding earlier attempts such as the Minolta Maxxum / Dynax 7000 AF. The 7000 was decked with controls galore and a modest LCD. Here, the camera does much more with fewer physical controls, and the LCD does the heavy lifting. The camera has it all, from autofocus and integral flash to an auto winder able to sequentially shoot, auto, manual, program, shutter or aperture priority, etc. All this in a feather-light body and price to match.
The camera does not excel in any of the features, but considering the target market, it is acceptable. It is now widely available as a value camera for first-time shooters.
It does not really fit on this site, but as I already have it, it was added.
|Maxxum ST si
|Dynax 404si, Alpha Sweet S
|Auto, Program, Manual, shutter or aperture
|370 gr, Body only
|Class average weight
|600 gr, Body only
|Focal plane vertical metal
|Fixed eye-level prism
|Service / repair links