The Minolta Hi-Matic E, a Short Review

The Minolta Hi-Matic E is an advanced consumer, fixed lens rangefinder camera from the early 1970s. When it was  introduced in 1971 it featured, what was then, some fairly high end technology. While being a fixed lens rangefinder, a form factor that was common to the period, it features a rather good 40mm f/1.7 lens constructed of six elements in four groups that offers reasonably good quality though it is somewhat subject to flare and chromatic aberration. It has a Seiko leaf shutter with speeds from 2 – 1/1000 seconds and manually set ASA/ISO from 25-500. The aforementioned 40mm f/1.7 lens has has a focal range of 2.6’ to infinity. The camera has a coupled rangefinder with parallax correction and frame lines to match the lens’s 40mm focal length. The rangefinder patch in my example is somewhat age faded and I am certain it was easier to see when new. 

My HI-Matic E. – all dressed up and no place to go.

It was not a budget camera when introduced which, was reflected in its price at the time of about $900.00 USD in today’s money. Today you can find these cameras used for anywhere from $40.00 USD to around $100.00 USD dependent on condition. 

I paid around $50.00, including shipping, for mine about two years ago.

The competition in its time would have been cameras like the Canon QL17 and Yashica Electro 35 GSN, just to give you an idea of its position in the market.

Realistically, however, in retrospect, this camera, like the others mentioned above, is really an early point and shoot that offers none of the simplicity or convenience of point and shoot cameras from the 1980s and 1990s and none of the creative control of more advanced cameras from its time. 

Then there’s the batteries. This is one of those cameras that was designed to work with the now banned PX640, 1.35 volt mercury cells. Which makes powering the camera a little bit of a hassle, and since there are no manual functions, the camera is completely bricked without power, the film advance lever wont even work. Battery options include using 640 alkaline equivalents or buying an adapter online to use LR44 type alkaline batteries. There are also some things online to show you how can “jury rig” a couple of LR44/A76 type batteries to work which is what I did (and breaking a tiny nub off of the plastic battery compartment door in the process – which is now held in place with electrical tape). Yes these are all slightly higher voltage options, but don’t worry it really doesn’t effect things enough to worry about considering the exposure latitude of both color a and B&W film. Trust me.

I don’t know if I missed focus or had some camera shake in this one.

For some reason, I developed an interest, or more accurately, curiosity about this general type of camera a couple of years ago which for me is odd because I am an SLR person through and through. I purchased this camera from an online auction site and received it in the condition it’s in (minus the lens hood and red soft release) and have just given it nothing more than a general surface cleaning. After shooting it I am pleased that it has no light leaks and the exposure seems accurate so far, but then I’ve only run two rolls through it.

This back yard shot is more indicative of the lens’s quality and the cameras abilities.

This is a difficult review to write. I understand completely where it fit into the market when released, but today this camera serves no purpose in my collection other than a typical example of a higher end consumer camera from the era.

Ergonomics weren’t much of a consideration when this camera was designed so, its shape is basic with little thought to fit. Haptics are so-so, and the overall shooting experience is kind of boring. Battery issues can be frustrating.

While this general type of camera has experienced quite a bit of popularity in the last few years, I honestly don’t get it. On the other hand, if you are interested in these older fixed lens rangefinders, I suppose this is as good as most. Maybe a little better in some respects (like the lens).

So that, of course begs the question; Who is this camera for? Well, for me that’s difficult to answer. One area that I can see that it would be useful is for street photography. There are some things that would be advantageous to a street photographer. Being a manual focus camera, you can set it for zone focus and combined with its very quiet shutter it would, indeed, make a very stealthy camera that could be “shot from the hip” so to speak, and with practice, I would imagine you would have quite a high ratio of keepers.

Then there is the idea that working with a single camera and lens combo will, over time, make you a better photographer. It might be useful to that end as well.

Lastly, it could just be a curiosity that’s fun to run a roll through from time to time. Which is what it is for me and, ultimately, why I haven’t sold it on to someone else or tossed it in the bin.

Stay safe and see the world your own way.

Thanks for reading.