The X-700 with Motor Drive 1. The addition of the motor drive dramatically improves the handling of the camera, particularly with longer lenses.    
The Minolta X-700 was the last high specification manual focus body manufactured by the company before the introduction of its revolutionary autofocus body the 7000. Beginning in 1981, the X-700 was launched as a state of the art SLR camera, boasting an enormous array of accessories which together comprised the “Minolta Program System”. Undoubtedly the most successful Minolta camera since the SRT era, the X-700 was awarded “European Camera of the Year” in 1981. While production did switch from Japan to China during the 1990’s the camera was still available new from Minolta as late as 1999 (albeit with a significantly reduced range of lenses and accessories available).

Given its phenomenal worldwide success and recent discontinuation, it is probably an excellent choice for a new Minolta user as parts will be available for many years to come, and there is probably not a single commercial camera technician in the world who has not worked on one before at some stage, so service should always be readily attainable. So why was the X-700 so popular to beginners and advanced amateurs alike? Well the main reason was undoubtedly it’s “program” mode. In addition to metered manual and aperture priority exposure modes the X-700 sported a new program mode, enabling completely automatic control of both aperture and shutter speed. For the first time, here was a sophisticated SLR camera which could be used by a person who knew absolutely nothing about photography whatsoever. Program mode made it the ultimate “point n’ shoot” camera.

The introduction of program mode revolutionised SLR photography and opened up the door for inexperienced photographers looking for better results.
Picture Copyright Minolta

The X-700 was marketed as a professional tool, and indeed it incorporated features one would expect from a professional camera of the era, including TTL flash, exposure lock, and interchangeable screens. However it did lack the high sync speed that professional cameras normally have to meet the common professional requirement for daytime fill flash. This was probably due to Minolta's decision to implement a cloth shutter as opposed to a metal shutter such as was used in the XK, XE and XD Series bodies. The decision can most likely be attributed to a desire to minimise production costs so as to improve the affordability of the camera. By the time the X-700 was released I believe Minolta had abandoned hope of capturing a large part of the professional market, and instead had focused upon meeting the needs of the amateur, from the new beginner to dedicated enthusiast.

Just as the program mode held real appeal to beginning photographers, the enthusiast market saw the introduction of the new range of accessories for the X-700 as a real selling point. The introduction of the direct autoflash metering system also made macro photography easier than ever before.

The introduction of the direct autoflash metering system made a huge difference to photomacrogaphy, as photographers could now use flash without the need for painstaking manual calculations
Picture Copyright Minolta

Features incorporated into the X-700 include:

  • Completely electronic automatic control of aperture and shutter speed in program mode.
  • Electronically controlled stepless shutter speeds from 1/1000 to 4 seconds for aperture priority mode or program mode, and 1/1000 to 1 second plus “B” for metered manual mode.
  • Touch-switch meter activation without having to depress the shutter release.
  • Final check metering system (after stopping the lens down the camera performs a final check to ensure that the exposure will be correct).
  • Very bright acute-matte viewfinder screen with details of selected aperture, camera mode (“M”, “P” or “A”) and camera recommended/selected shutter speed. Unlike the earlier XD11, the camera does not show the selected shutter speed in manual mode, only the recommended speed. This is surprising, as the model below the X-700 (the X-500 or X-570 in some markets) did show the selected speed. This is the principal cause of complaint for experienced Minolta users with the X-700 body.
  • A range of interchangeable screens was available (see here).
  • Automatic exposure lock button.
  • Remote shutter release that will accept both electronic and manual shutter releases.
  • Audible and visual slow speed alert when required shutter speed will be 1/30 second or less.
  • Silicon photocell TTL centre weighted meter, measured at full aperture for normal display, then at taking aperture for automatic exposure calculation, with a second meter for measuring off the film during TTL flash operation. Automatic exposure range EV1 to EV18.
  • Horizontal traverse silk shutter, enabling maximum sync speed of 1/60 sec.
  • Plastic body construction, encased in light metal, then painted black.
  • Can be used with the Auto Winder G for motor driven sequences of up to 2 frames per second, or with the Motor Drive 1 for exposure sequences at up to an amazing 3.5 frames per second.
  • Exposure adjustment lever for up to two stops over or under exposure from the metered setting.
  • Depth of field preview button.
  • Plastic shutter blind attached to strap for tripod use.
  • PC connection for studio flash use.
  • Film “safe-load” indicator.
  • Audible and visible self timer (LED). Audible alert can be disengaged.
    In this view you can see the vertical shutter release button incorporated into the MD-1    

While the Program mode of the X-700 was a huge advance in the popularisation of the SLR, it was not really a useful feature for experienced photographers. The utilisation of program mode means that the photographer no longer has complete control over the aperture, which means that depth of field decisions are being left to the camera.

Additionally, many users bemoan the lack of a full information viewfinder in metered manual mode. In manual, the viewfinder shows the recommended shutter speed, but not the manually set speed. To check this the photographer needs to glance away from the viewfinder to the shutter speed dial. As a result, many photographers prefer the X-570 (released in Europe and Asia as the X-500) which was the second model behind the flagship X-700. The X-570 includes both the set and recommended speed in the viewfinder in metered manual mode, and additionally allows slow sync flash at speeds slower than 1/60th second. It still takes the MD-1, and while you lose the Program mode and +/- exposure adjustment, these other features make it a preferable body for the experienced photographer. For more details, visit the X-570 page.

If the slow-sync capacity of the X-570 is attractive, but you already have an X-700, then don't despair - there is a solution. You, or your local camera technician can easily modify the X-700 to accomodate a slow-sync feature. How do you do it? Well the answer is here:

In addition to the black X-700 there was a less common chrome version, which was exactly the same (albeit with chrome parts) with the exception that it did not have an exposure lock capacity. The chrome model was sold in Japan for a short period of time for a lower price than the black model, before being completely phased out. As a result, it is quite rare

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 detailed in the page on Minolta X Series Accessories.


A page from the last Minolta manual focus brochure, released in 1997.

Picture Copyright Minolta 1997

Thanks to Andrew Duncan for providing the scans from the Minolta brochure included in the above review.