PhotoNet Classic Content

Founded in 1993, photo.net is the internet's original photo community

Minolta 600si

by J Greely, 1998


[Update: apparently the 600si has recently been discontinued by Minolta,leaving a gap in their line between the XTsi and 800si. The XTsi is easier touse, but the 800si is better suited to the advanced amateur (at nearly twice theprice). With luck this gap will be filled soon.]

After I discovered the limitations of my first Maxxum, the 450si, I carefullycompared the features of the more advanced models, which at that time includedthe 600si, 700si, and 9xi. There was nothing especially compelling about the 9xi,and theres really not much functional difference between the other two. I chosethe 600si for exactly two reasons: the user interface to the controls, and theadjustable diopter.

Big dials and switches

The 600si does not have a reset button, to return it to a known state. This isbecause it doesnt need one. Want to know if youre in shutter priority mode withauto-bracketing, continuous narrow autofocus, spot metering, and +1 stop exposurecompensation? Look at the camera. Want to reset it to the defaults? Turn thedials and switches until the white mark on them is either horizontal or vertical.Want to know what mode the camera is in when its not turned on? Look at it.

This is not quite the same as an old manual SLR, where the shutterspeed and aperture are on direct, physical controls. In fact, those are almostthe only settings that arent visible when a 600si is turned off, beingcontrolled by a fairly standard pair of wheels conveniently placed under thethumb and forefinger of the right hand.

The only control I actively dislike is the ISO override switch, which is atiny little pushbutton on the back of the camera, designed to be pressed with afingernail or ballpoint pen. This is especially annoying since the camera insistson using the DX-coding on your film, requiring you to override for every roll ifyou arent shooting straight.

You can have any flavor, as long as you want vanilla

You get all of the features to be expected from an advanced-amateur camera,with the exception of mirror lock-up, something Minolta simply doesnt do. Whatyou dont get is the variety of customizations possible with competing cameras.No leader-out on rewind, no creative expansion cards, no release-priorityautofocus, etc. Well, actually, there are a few custom features, such asthe ability to change the exposure-lock button into a toggle, but nothing likethe variety present on many other cameras.

There is no program shift mode. There are no cute-and-fluffy special programmodes ("sports", "portrait", "landscape"). However, you do get2-frames-per-second continuous drive, 3-shot auto-bracketing (at a fixed +/- 0.5stop), and simple, flexible multiple exposures (up to nine per frame without anytrouble, infinite if you really want to). If youre feeling really adventurous,you can even combine multiple exposures with either the auto-bracketing or thecontinuous drive, although I cant think of a reason why.

I can see clearly now

The viewfinder data display is clean and sensible, and easily visible whilewearing glasses. Much of the display is reserved for the exposure scale thatshows you how close the current manual settings are to the metered exposure (plusor minus three stops, in half-stop increments). In Program, Aperture-priority,and Shutter-priority modes, it only comes on if you activate exposure lock, inwhich case it shows you how far off the current meter reading is from the lockedone. Combining the exposure lock button with spot metering gives you a quick wayto evaluate the contrast of a scene.

Metering

Ambient metering is one of Minoltas real strengths. The 14-segment matrixmeter is extremely clever, and comes up with reasonable solutions under almostall conditions. TTL/OTF flash metering, on the other hand, is a pretty basicsingle centerweighted sensor, and lacks the bells and whistles of some otherbrands; still, it does a pretty good job, apparently due to incorporating someinformation from the ambient meter reading.

Centerweighted and spot metering are available, and convenient exposurecompensation dials are available for both the ambient and flash exposures. Thekey to the relationship between these two dials is that the camera will bydefault always try to balance the ambient and flash exposures in a 1:1 ratio,for the primary subject. Adjusting the ambient exposure dial affects theflash exposure as well; adjusting the flash exposure dial just changes the ratiobetween the two. Theres some hidden complexity here that I plan to write upsoon, but the bottom line is that no matter what you do with the flashcompensation dial, the primary subject should end up receiving a correctexposure.

There are two things that Minolta really does right when it comes to flash:wireless sync and high-speed sync. Want to take the flash off the camera forhigher quality light? Flip the switch on the body to "wireless", remove the flash(3500xi, 5200xi, or 5400HS) from the hot shoe, and raise the built-in flash. Aslong as the sensor on the external flash can see the light from the built-in, itwill fire in TTL mode, with a maximum sync speed of 1/60.

Want to shoot at f2.8 at high noon with fill flash? Put a 5400HS in the hotshoe, switch to aperture priority mode, and fire away. The 600si will sync at upto 1/4000 with this flash, although the range gets really, really short (with ISO100 film, the guide number at 1/4000 drops from 177 feet to 15.7 feet).

Construction

Mostly plastic, with metal in all the obvious places (tripod mount, lensmount, film guides). It feels nice and solid in the hand, though, especially withthe optional vertical grip that adds a second set of controls, a studio syncsocket, and the option of using 4 AA batteries instead of a single 2CR5. A nicetouch is that the vertical grip has its own on/off switch, to keep you frombumping the extra buttons when youre shooting horizontally.

The viewfinder is definitely friendly to those of us with less than perfectvision; a removable rubber eyepiece cup protects your glasses from scratches, andan adjustable diopter allows you to do without them completely if you prefer.

Bottom line

I have a dislike for push-this-twist-that user interfaces. Some are betterthan others (in the Maxxum world, the new XTsi is far more sensible than the500si it replaces, and dont even get me started on Nikons), but best of all is acontrol that has direct visual feedback, so you know at a glance what its set toand what changing it will do.

Neglecting the vertical grip and the battery compartment door, the 600si hastwenty separate buttons, switches, and dials, and all but one of them either hasan obvious function or is labeled in a way that makes its correct use clear. Theexception is the depth-of-field preview button, which some people might overlookcompletely if they dont happen to trip it with the tip of their ring finger andwonder why the viewfinder went dark and they heard a funny noise.

This is a no-nonsense, hands-on camera, one of the few on the market thatgives easy access to all its functionality. There are features it lacks, butnothing crippling. Theres a Nikon N90S sitting about ten feet away from me as Iwrite this, with a nice trio of pro lenses and an SB-26, but I havent found anyreason to switch.


Text Copyright © 1998 J Greely.

Article created 1998

Readers Comments




Teng-Cheong Khoo , September 13, 1998; 04:46 A.M.

I agree with the comments posted. I have both the 800SI and the 600SI. As to be expected, the 800 is faster, smoother and quieter, but parts of the user interface can be maddening. Luckily, the 3-setting quick recall memory function helps in this regard.

The 600SI is really a no-nonsense, functionally complete mid range with what is in my opinion, the best user interface around town, bar-none. Except for a lack of program shift, one could not ask for anything more.

Performance wise, there is little to choose between the 2 in practical terms. But what I find myself doing is picking up the 600SI for functions where I really need to manipulate the camera actively. The 800SI, though I use the 3 recall settings judiciously, sometimes would not let me set up a shot quickly enuff.

So if one does not really need all the top end bells and whistles, the 600SI is about as close to a camera mecca for those who really use the camera. With the new 505SI/XTSI/HTSI, Minolta has moved more towards the Canon approach. I guess this is a sign of things to come. IMHO, for their future models, including the top of the range ones,if they stick with the 600SI user interface, and maybe placed some strategic rocker switchers like the Fuji DL mini-zoom for the other functions, then we would have an interesting proposition.

Tom Hunscher , October 04, 1999; 09:50 P.M.

Except for family occasions and when on vacation, I do nothing but girls, and I do so as a business. My main camera is the 600si, to which I graduated from the 7000i I had previously used (and still own and use). I think the 600si comes pretty close to being "the perfect camera." I havent seen the Nikon I would switch to.

The discontinuing of the 600si is puzzling to me because of the gap it leaves in the Minolta line. The 9 is way overkill. I dont do sports or combat photography, so the ruggedness of the body isnt that important. My 600si is rugged enough and has even survived a 3-foot fall onto a carpeted floor with no obvious ill effects.

As stated, the controls are very obvious, although I do have a complaint about them: the dials are a bit too easy to move and I sometimes find them in in-between positions, though this has never resulted in a bad shot, so perhaps even this complaint is nit-picky.

I dont miss the control cards since I never used them even when I relied mainly on the 7000i.

As hinted elsewhere, the flash system is a real advantage. Anyone who does photography halfway seriously soon realizes that photos taken primarily with on-camera flash have an amateurish snapshot look. One can buy slaves which will operate off camera, triggered by your onboard flash, of course, but Minolta took things much further with its proprietary flash system.

The 3500xi and 5400HS flash units operate both on and off the camera, and whether on or off are controlled by the cameras TTL metering system. These flashes also have zoom capabilities (based on the focal length of your lens) which operate off camera as well as on.

But wait: it gets better! If youre picturing these off-camera flash units being controlled by my on-camera flash, they can also be controlled through an infrared controller that I can affix on top of my camera. The camera can control any number of flash units, so the lighting possibilities are basically endless.

Im not done, either. Two more interesting features need to be revealed: (1) both flash models are capable of working in 2:1 and 1:2 ratio as long as at least one of them is a 5400HS. If there is a mix of 3500xis and 5400HSs, the 3500xi will always be the dominant, stronger unit (Im not a Minolta engineer, so I cant say why). (2) This is such a seemingly minor and feature that its possible to overlook its utility. Every one of these flash units comes with a molded plastic base with a top thats shaped just like the top of the camera, so the flash slides right onto it and locks in place. Once this is done, the flash units can be set on any reasonably flat and firm surface. Doing a recent shoot in a kitchen, I opened up one of the cupboard doors and put a flash on the top shelf, a place which would have been unreachable almost any other way.

I guess this has turned into a review of the flash system almost more than the 600si, but I would even recommend buying a used 600si in order to obtain the advantages of the Minolta flash system. I dont think any other Minolta camera is better suited to partner up with it.

Ali thegr8one , February 22, 2000; 09:21 P.M.

Although the 600si is dicontinued, there is another body just released in the 3rd quarter of 99. The STsi. This camera basicaly is the same as the XTsi but adds WL Flash, metal tripod mount, all the programmed exposure and manual over ride. It is a good camera for the advanced beginner as well as being very light. Other features include 1fps frame advance, bracketed and multi exposure(2 default, more possible). I have one that I took to the Caribeans and ended up buying a flash unit in St. Marteen. The 28-80 lens that I picked up to qualify for the package discount is not very good. I also bought a 50mm f1.4 before leaving. The pictures with the 50 are excellent w/ or w/o flash. The results with the zoom are only good during bright daylight or more flash hence my purchase of the flash. Again, I like the camera, I also too an olympus epic zoom 80QD as a p/s but ended up taking 20 rools with the Minolta and only rolls with the Epic.

-Ali-

Jim Hobson , April 20, 2000; 11:47 P.M.

I also have a Minolta 600si. In fact I have two. I love the camea and use it professionally. I just wish the CPU would stop failing. It has been replaced 3 times in 4 years. The second 600si has never had anything fail.

Andersen Chong , February 23, 2002; 12:56 P.M.

First, My english is very, very Bad, Hope reader can understand my English.

I am not own Minolta Dynax 600si, but I own my Minolta Dynax 700si, i am here not insult other model advantages. Just wish to tell all of Minolta fans. All model have their own advancetages.

I had used Minolta Dynax 700si since 1993 until today 2002. This Camera is great and wonderful.

I had get 16 gold & silver for the Photopgraphy competition. It not because of the Camera by Minolta. it come with skills.

Any where Minolta dynax 700si, for me is perfect & fexible. Easy using. full of multi function.

Below is my camera info:

* Minolta Dynax 700si (body) * Zenith MF 58mm f2 * Tokina AF 28-70mm f2.8 * Tokina AF 28-200mm f3.5-5.6 * Jupiter-9 85mm f2 * Reflex 1000mm f10 * 2X Tele Converter II APO

* Program Flash 5400HS * Vertical Control Grip VC-700 * Multiple Exposure Card * Highlight/Shadow Control Card * Multi-Spot Memory Card

P/s: If someone have Minolta Creative expansion card, Minolta lens or Minolta Dynax 700si parts to sell, please kindly contact me by my email andersen@myself.com

Thanks you.

Miguel Rodriguez , March 22, 2004; 10:17 A.M.

I must thank you for the review since it convinced me of buying a second hand 600si. I love the interface, in fact I would strongly recommend this camera to anyone moving from a Manual Focus camera since its interface is very easy to understand. ALl the other cameras have menus and hidden custom functions. I actually think that this is the camera I was looking for. If it had program-shift it would be the best camera ever built by Minolta, IMHO. Id rate this camera at 10/10 in value for money.