X Series Accessories
 
 
 
 
The X-700 with MD-1, Power Grip II, 280PX Flash, and IR-1 Infrared Remote Set
 
 
Image Copyright Minolta 1981
 
 
The X-700 was created as the central plank of the Minolta Program System (“MPS”), and accordingly the accessories available for the camera are numerous. These accessories included items such as dedicated flash units, a motor drive and autowinder, a power grip to supplement flash batteries, a data back, a multi function back and a wireless controller. Specifics on these items are as follows:

 
 
PX Series Flash Units
 
     
 
The X-700 and X-500/570 differ from earlier Minolta cameras, in that they include TTL flash metering for the first time. This necessitated a third pin on the flash mount, and a redesign of the various flash units to accommodate the new feature. The PX series range included the 360PX, 280PX, 132PX and a completely new dedicated ring flash, the 80PX. Given that the company was also making the X-300/370 at the same time as a lower specification body without TTL, they did continue to offer the 200X, 132X and 118X dedicated non-TTL flash units, but the 320X was discontinued, replaced by the 360PX.

The PX flashes incorporate two extra pins on the flash mount. One is the automatic flash sync pin that was on the X-series flash units, which alerts the camera that the flash is fully charged, and automatically sets the camera to flash sync and activates a blinking “flash ready” signal in the viewfinder. The second pin is a TTL pin, which tells the flash to cut the output once sufficient light has emitted for correct exposure, as determined by the X-700’s off-the-film flash metering system.

 
     
 
Auto Electroflash 360PX
 
 
 
 
The 360PX flash, the top of the line flashgun manufactured by Minolta for the manual focus system. This flash was so sophisticated that even following the introduction of the Minolta 7000 autofocus camera, it still remained the best flashgun available for Minolta cameras.
 
 
The 360PX took over from it’s predecessor the 320X as the flagship of Minolta’s Auto Electroflash models. Virtually identical in appearance to the 320X it boasted a guide number of 36 in metres, had bounce and swivel capability, and used thyristor circuitry. The thyristor circuitry enabled flash use at up to 3.5 frames per second with the Motor Drive 1, albeit at very low power
 
 
 
 
Here you can see the rear of the 360PX, showing the control panel that enabled good control of the flash, even when shooting manually. This example has velcro attachments to facilitate use of flash accessories.
 
 

In addition to the TTL flash capability, the 360PX retained the three “auto” settings of the 320X, for automatic flash operation. This makes it a very flexible unit, as it can be used on all Minolta cameras with success in the auto mode, as well as the X-700 and X-500/570 in the auto and TTL modes. The 360PX also retained the adjustable power setting in manual mode from full power down to 1/16th power. This makes the 360PX a very handy tool in the home studio, as its power can be adjusted based upon flashmeter readings or calculation to get whatever lighting ratio is desired. The 360PX came with a soft leatherette case, and a clip on wide angle adapter that took its standard coverage from 35mm to 28mm (at the cost of one stop of power).

The flash also has a connector for the Cable OC (Off-Camera), enabling the flash to retain its TTL capabilities while positioned off the hotshoe (eg, for side lighting).

The 360PX is a highly sought after flash due to its capabilities, and accordingly demands a premium price. Units on Ebay will normally sell for between US$100 and US$140, depending upon condition and accessories.

 
 
As is mentioned above, Minolta manufactured a cable allowing the 360PX to be used off-camera, while still retaining full TTL capabilities. This cable, called the Cable OC, is readily available on ebay for approximately US$25.
   
   
Minolta also manufactured an off-flash sensor for the 360PX, enabling the use of the flash from a off-camera position, while retaining auto exposure calculation from the camera’s location. This cable is quite hard to find, and commands a premium on Ebay. Expect to pay US$40 to $50 if you can find one.
 
         
 
The 360PX had an accessory filter set, which included two difusers (for flash coverage down to 24mm), one concentrator (for extra flash range using telephoto lenses), a neutral density filter and 5 coloured filters for creative use. It is noted that because of their identical dimensions, the filter set for the 320X will fit the 360PX, and vice-versa. Price can vary depending on if it is advertised for the 360PX as well as the 320X. However, if advertised correctly this set is likely to sell for over US$50.
   
 
 
Auto Electroflash 280PX
 
 
 
 
Here you can see the back of the 280PX with it's simple calculator. It is easy to conclude that it was designed as an inexpensive TTL flash for beginner photographers who were seeking to use Program mode on the X-700.
 
 

The 280PX had a guide number of 28 in metres, and offered TTL flash capability, plus full manual, with a “high” and “low” setting. The 280PX incorporated thyristor circuitry enabling winder syncronisation (at “low” power), but did not incorporate any sensor for auto exposure operation, making it only useable in manual mode on any camera which does not have TTL flash capability. In TTL mode the flash incorporated a “FDC” (Flash distance checker) LED, that confirmed when the exposure had been correct.

The lack of bounce capability seriously impacts upon the capacity of the flash to provide acceptable results for anything but snapshots. Additionally, because there is no connector for the Cable OC, if you want to use the 280PX off camera you will need a Cable OC plus an Off-Camera Shoe. The off camera shoe normally sells for about $20.

These factors limit the usefulness of the 280PX, except where space is a priority, or the expense of the 360PX is out of your price range. However, when coupled with the Power Grip II the flash comes into its own, gaining bounce capability from the Power Grip. This is the set-up pictured at the top of this page.

 
 
 
     
  The 280PX came with a soft leatherette case, and a clip on wide angle adapter that took its standard coverage from 35mm to 28mm (at the cost of one stop of power). The 280PX is normally available on Ebay for under US$50  
     
 
Auto Electroflash 132PX
 
     
 
Similar in appearance and specifications to its predecessor, the 132X, the 132PX had a high guide number of 32 in metres, and incorporated a bounce (but not swivel) head. Like the 280PX, it got TTL flash capability, but at the expense of auto flash, making it only suitable for the X-700 and X-500/570 models. The big difference of the 132PX is that it lacks the thyristor circuitry that saves the unused charge in the capacitor when the flash is used at less than full power. This means it is unsuitable for motor drive use, and will use batteries faster than the other flash units in the PX range. However, for infrequent users of flash it would make a very good cost-effective choice giving the advantages of bounce flash at about half the cost of a 360PX.

The 132PX came with a soft leatherette case, and a clip on wide angle adapter that took its standard coverage from 35mm to 28mm (at the cost of one stop of power). The unit is relatively rare compared to the 360PX and 280PX, and would normally demand a price around US$50-$60.

 
 
 
Auto Electroflash Macro 80PX Set
 
 
 
 

The Auto Electroflash 80PX mounted on a X-700 with Auto Bellows 3 and 100mm f/4 Auto Bellows Macro lens. Photo courtesy Nathaniel Gilliam

   
 

A completely new design for the Minolta Program System, the 80PX is a ring flash unit which comprises a lightweight flash head that mounts on adaptor fitted to the filter thread of a macro lens, which is connected by a cable to a control unit (similar in size and appearance to the 280PX) which mounts on the hot shoe. The flash has a guide number of 8 in metres, and is designed to work in TTL mode with either the X-700 or the X-500/570. It has no auto mode.

The flash head contains 4 separate flash heads, all of which can be switched on or off for controllable lighting effects. All four flash tubes can be fired for uniform lighting, and turning off one or more emphasises texture and reduces reflections from shiny objects. The flash also has four focus lamps that can be switched on from the control unit to illuminate the subject for easier focusing.

 
 
 
   

X-700 with 100mm f/3.5 MD Macro Rokkor-X and Auto Electroflash Macro 80PX - camera set to aperture priority

   
  The 80PX came in a custom designed box, and incorporated the flash unit plus adaptors for both 49mm and 55mm filter threads. It is seen reasonably often on ebay, and normally sells for between US$200 and $250 depending upon condition and accessories.   
 
Power Grip II
 
 
 
   
The Power Grip II with X-700 and Motor Drive 1, and Auto Electroflash 360PX. Note the Cable MD which connects the shutter release in the grip to the camera, and activates the viewfinder information as well as firing the shutter.
   
 
The Power Grip II supplements the batteries of the 360PX or 280PX, enabling flash sequences at up to 3.5 frames per second with the Motor Drive 1. The grip can be mounted on either the left or right side of the camera body, and incorporates a shutter release button which can be used for either the Motor Drive 1 (Cable MD) or Autowinder G (Cable AW).

The Power Grip II also includes a bounce and swivel head, enabling the use of the 280PX in bounce mode if preferred. Additionally, the removal of the flash to the side of the camera does reduce the occurance of red-eye. The camera’s TTL controls are connected to the Power Grip II through the use of the Cable OC, ensuring correct flash exposures. The grip features a power saving feature that turns the flash and grip off after two minutes of inactivity, requiring only a simple press of the reactivation switch to turn it on again. The Power Grip II can also be used in interval photography with the X-700 and Multi-Function Back, where the Cable FB (from the Multi-Function Back) reactivates the flash prior to the required exposure, allowing time for the flash to fully charge prior to the programmed exposure moment.

 
     
     
 

The Power Grip II can be a bulky and difficult tool to use. The inability to stand the camera on it’s base (due to the protruding battery pack) means that it is difficult to set down, and the lack of any connection points for a neck strap means that enormous pressure is placed upon the tripod mount of the camera if you choose to fit a strap to the camera itself. I resolved this problem by forgoing the strap, and affixing a small digicam flexible tripod to the end of the camera bracket. This allows the camera to be stood on its base, and provides a second point to comfortably hold the camera during shooting sessions.

The Power Grip II is available regularly on ebay for around US$150-$170, normally including the Cable OC but no other cables. Don't forget, you will require the Cable MD or Cable AW if you wish to use the shutter release on the grip. These can generally be purchased for around US$25.

 
 
Motor Drive 1
 
 
 
   
The Motor Drive 1, detached from the camera. Note the plug at the base of the grip for attaching the Cable MD (connects to Power Grip II)
   
 

The Motor Drive 1 is specifically designed for the X-700, X-500/570, X-300/370 and XGM cameras, and provides motorised film advance at 3.5 frames per second (fps), 2 fps or single frame mode. The drive is easily fitted using a simple screw, and incorporates a front grip with shutter release, as well as a vertical shutter release for use with portrait oriented photos.

 
 
 
   
A rear view of the Motor Drive 1 showing the film rewind release button (back) and vertical shutter release button (lower right side). This button can be locked in the "off" position to avoid accidental shutter release.
   
 

In the opinion of many users, the Motor Drive 1 is a compulsory accessory when using the X-700 or X-500/570. The grip with its 8 AA batteries provides a feeling of solidity and sturdiness to a camera which otherwise can feel a little "plasticky". Additionally, the finger hold totally transforms the ergonomics of the camera, making it very easy to hold loose in one hand while waiting for the photo opportunity.

The light weight of the X-700 can make it feel a little out of balance with some heavier lenses, particularly the longer telephotos, or some of the earlier MC lenses which incorporated a lot of metal into their construction. By using the Motor Drive 1 this issue is completely resolved, and in fact for hand-held telephoto use you can't go past the X-700 or X-500/570 with the Motor Drive 1. The Motor Drive 1 is readily available on ebay but due to the understandable high demand still attracts a good price of US$130-$150.

 
     
 
Auto Winder G
 
 
 
   
The Auto Winder G is a very cost effective way of achieving motorised film transport for X-Series cameras.
   
 
The Auto Winder G advances film either singly, or continuously at a rate of up to 2 frames per second, stopping automatically at the end of each cartridge. The auto winder takes 4 “AA” size batteries, and will advance up to 70 rolls from a set of alkaline batteries. Unlike the Auto Winder D, the G model cannot be used for motor driven multiple exposure sequences, due to the lack of a capacity in the X-700 for multiple exposures. The Auto Winder G can be used with the X-700, X-500/570, X-300 and any XG series camera. Expect the unit to cost around US$50 on ebay.
 
 
Auto Winder GP
 
     
 
Slightly different from the Auto Winder G, the GP model includes a pole which is inserted directly into the battery compartment of an X-Series camera. Naturally, the battery cover is removed to enable this fitting, and once installed the camera is powered from the AA batteries in the winder. One of the big advantages of this accessory is that it enables much longer time exposures with the X-700 than would normally be possible. As the X-700 requires battery power to hold up its mirror, the maximum exposure time possible with the camera is about two hours on a fresh set of batteries (less in cold weather). The Auto Winder GP addresses this problem, enabling extremely long time exposures due to the capacity of its four AA cells. Unlike the Auto Winder D, the GP model cannot be used for motor driven multiple exposure sequences, due to the lack of a capacity in the X-700 for multiple exposures. The Auto Winder GP normally attracts a slight premium to the Auto Winder G due to its additional feature - expect to pay around US$50-$70
 
 
Quartz Data Back 1
 
 
The Quartz Data Back 1 is designed for the X-Series bodies, and when activated, records either the time / date (in any of three combinations), code number (up to 999999) or sequential frame numbers of the film. It is simply attached through replacing the rear door, and connects via the contacts inside the rear door of the X-700 and X-500/570. While useful for some circumstances (research, recording etc.) the placing of the data on the film frame is less optimal for general photography.
 
 
Multi-Function Back
 
 
 
   
The Multi-Function Back attached to a X-700. Photo courtesy Nathaniel Gilliam.
   
 
The Multi-Function Back features a built-in quartz clock and microcomputer and can be used to record either the time / date (in any of three combinations), code number (any six digit number) or sequential frame numbers up to 999999. Additionally, the Multi-function back offers unmanned camera control. Interval shooting can be selected in any time segment from 1 second to 60 hours, when using the Motor Drive 1 or Auto Winder G, and long exposures can be programmed. These features can all be used in conjunction if required.
 
 

Photo courtesy Nathaniel Gilliam

 
This profile view of the Multi-function back demonstrates the depth of the unit, and as a result it is easy to see how this would impact adversely upon the ergonomics of the camera. I personally choose to leave my Multi-Function Back off my camera for this very reason, unless shooting a subject that requires use of the back.
 
 
 
   
The keypad for the unit is hidden behind a panel, ensuring that the multi-funtion back is not activated by accident. Note the knob in the top left cormer of the unit. This covers a cable connection point for the “Cable FB”, which when used enables the MFB to switch on a dedicated flash to allow it to fully charge prior to programmed interval photograpy. Photo courtesy Nathaniel Gilliam
   
 

A much more useful tool that the Quartz Databack 1, the Multi-Function Back’s camera control features are particularly useful for nature photographers recording the progressive growth of plants or astronomers seeking control of long exposures. Changing light conditions associated with interval photography of flowers or plants (eg as the sun rises) can be easily addressed by the placing of the X-700 in program mode, enabling programmed shifting of shutter speed and aperture as required to ensure correct exposure. The Multi-Function Back generally sells for US$100-$120 on ebay.

 
 
Wireless Controller IR-1 Set
 
 
 
   
The Wireless Controller IR-1 Set comprising transmitter, receiver and bracket, together with the IR-1(a) cable for cameras with a cable release socket.
   
 
The Wireless Controller IR-1 set allows cordless remote control photography from up to 60 metres away for any Minolta camera with an electromagnetic shutter release and a cable socket. When connected on the X-700 the controller can be set for continuous or single frame operation, and when it senses the infrared pulses emitted from the transmitter it sends a signal to trigger the shutter release.

Particularly useful for nature photographers, the remote release enables the X-700 to be set up very close to the subject (ie. a bird’s nest), prefocused and then triggered from a distance.

As an extra bonus for X-700 users, when the camera is set to "B" the unit can be set up so the first press of the trigger opens the shutter, and the second closes it. This is a great feature when the photographer is 'painting with light" using multiple flash bursts on a distant object (eg. a building), and accordingly would prefer to trigger the long exposure from a distance.

I personally like to use the IR-1 Set at weddings, setting one body up with the set and a wide angle lens overlooking the chapel (eg from an alcove or even behind the altar). That way I can unobtrusively take pictures of the entire room while still focusing my own attention on the couple.

The IR-1 Set comes in various guises, my version is the IR-1 (n) set, which was released shortly after the introduction of the Minolta 7000 Autofocus camera. Accordingly it includes both the IR-1(a) cable (for those cameras with standard cable release socket) and the IR-1(c) cable (for use with the autofocus bodies). There was also a IR-1(b) cable that was specifically for use with the XK Motor camera. The IR-1 Set in its various guises normally sells for US$110-$125 on ebay, but make sure the set has the cable you require! Often they are sold without cables, and finding replacement IR-1(a) cables is near impossible, and very expensive (around US$50).

 
 
 
 
XD Series Accessories
 
 
Other Accessories
 
 
The X-700 Camera
 
 
The X-570 Camera
 
 
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