We'll be cover as many aspects of the camera as I can reasonably handle in the limitations of my time and technical knowledge. The 800si is the most complex camera Minolta has ever made, and there is a LOT of ground to cover. I will handle this as though you no familiarity with AF cameras in general, and Minoltas' Maxxum SLR line in particular.
1) Intro a) purpose b) scope 2) General Handling Characteristics a) tactile b) eye-start c) viewfinder 1) area 2) diopter 3) relief d) LCD e) door 3) Film Handling a) loading b) advance modes c) rewind fast/slow 4) AF System a) description a) controls b) ability 5) Metering a) points b) sensitivity c) modes d) compensation 6) Custom Functions a) global b) memorizable 7) Flash a) built in b) accessory c) High Speed Sync 8) PIC Modes
b) eye-start/Grip Sensor
Well, what can one say about Eye-Start. For me, the best thing that can be said about it is that it's easy to defeat. A bit of explanation is in order here.
Eye start is a system whereby the camera is brought to readiness very quickly. What happens is this; Take a look at the front of the cameras' right hand grip. You see those two lines going down the face of the grip? Those are the grip sensors. When you grip the camera with eyestart on, the camera senses your hand on the grip and turns on metering. Now look at the eyepiece. You see those two little windows directly underneath it? There is an infrared transmitter and detector beneath them. When you bring the camera to your eye, the camera senses the proximity of your face and begins autofocusing. Pretty neat,
This is one of those things in life you either love or hate. If you have dry hands like I do, the grip sensor does not reliably detect your hand. This was bad news on cameras like the 9xi where, if you pressed the shutter release partway to start the meter, in spite of the grip sensor, it would lock focus. The 800si does it better in that you can select focus modes. this means that if you select continuous focus and partially press the shutter, you are in continuous focus.
The eye sensor also will not reliably detect your eye if you are wearing glasses.
A lot of Maxxum users swear by this system. I was never able to get used to its idiosyncrasies, so in this case I'm glad to be able to turn it off.
I was reading about the bright screens you can buy for other cameras, made by such folks as Beattie and Intenscreen. The reason they gave for not supplying them for Minolta cameras was that the Minolta screen was so bright, they could not usefully increase it. Minolta users have long known that this camera has one of the brightest finders in the industry.
There is a lot of information displayed in the finder. It shows the AF area, aperture/shutter settings, flash status (including wireless) and an exposure index. Previously Minolta had been putting the exposure index in the view area with an LCD overlay which could be hard to see at times. Now it's a lit LED display at the bottom of the finder. The display also shows a countdown for the last 9 frames of film. Very nice.
The door on the handgrip has controls for AF mode, motor drive mode, flash mode, ISO adjustment. You will also find controls for setting the custom functions like release priority, film tip out on rewind, frame counter count up/down, etc. You also set the three memories here, and access the film data memory (up to 9 rolls of 36 exposures).
b) advance modes
You have two advance modes available to you; single frame advance where the camera advances the film one frame with each shutter release, and continuous where the camera advances and fires as long as you hold the shutter down, at up to 3 frames per second. This varies, especially if the camera is in focus priority. If the camera is focusing it won't fire the shutter, so the film doesn't advance.
c) rewind fast/slow
The camera will rewind a film quietly in about 8 seconds. Faster rewind is obtainable by pressing the rewind button twice (for a one time speedup), or by setting a custom function (rewinds fast all the time). The film rewinds in half the time, but the noise level is higher.
On the other hand, the Minolta's AF is extremely usable, quick and precise. Minolta has added a bit of controllability missing from the top-end cameras (the 9xi and 700si) but oddly available in the 600/650si. More below.
There is on the front of the camera, below the lens mount a button to place the 800si in manual focus mode. On previous models, focus mode would change back to AF whenever the camera power was cycled, or a new lens was mounted. With the 800si the camera remains in manual focus mode.
In addition, the focus system is more controllable than previous cameras, excepting the 600/650si. The user can now select which focus mode the camera will use instead of leaving the selection up to the camera. As on the 6xx cameras you can select Single Shot AF wherein the camera focuses and locks, Continuous AF where the camera tracks motion, or Auto AF the camera decides which mode to use, and changes modes if necessary. Thank you, Minolta. This was one of my biggest problems with the 9xi, and has been solved here.
The Minolta AF system is typical Minolta. That is excellent. The predictive AF tracks moving subjects extremely well, predicting where the subject will be after the mirror has flipped up and the shutter fires. AF works down to a lighting level of EV -1, and if the lighting is too dim or if contrast is insufficient for the camera to find lock a built in illuminator places a pattern of bars on the subject to provide the AF system with a target.
Metering range is from EV-1 to EV19
The 800si has 4 metering modes; Program, Aperture Priority AE, Shutter Priority AE, and Manual.
Exposure compensation on the 800si runs from -3 to +3 stops.
With the exception of most of the Custom Functions, these programs can be assigned to the recall-able setups. For the most part, the Custom Functions (Up/down count, leader out on rewind, etc.) are universal - once set, they remain regardless of memorized setup. Only release priority can be assigned to a memorized setup.
The Data Memory can remember exposure information for up to 9 rolls of 36 exposures. Exposure information is read back from the LCD.
Accessory flashes which will work with the 800si are any i, xi or HS flashes. These include the 3200i, 5200i, 3500xi, 5400xi and the 5400HS units. The previous AF series flashes will work using the FS1100 adapter.
Any aftermarket flash which can be controlled via the PC terminal can also be used. There are a number of aftermarket makers such as Metz, Sigma, Sunpak and Vivitar who make compatible flashes for the Maxxum system.
The 800si can wirelessly TTL control using its built-in flash the 3500xi, 5400xi or the 5400HS flashes.
c) High Speed Sync
Using the 5400HS, any shutter speed up to the maximum of 1/8000th can be used in flash photography. This lets you do tricks like fill-flash in bright sun and with a wide aperture to limit DOF.
There are 5 of them:
Lenses; While optically superb - particularly the G series - Minolta has lagged behind in several areas. Canon has its USM and image stabilizing lenses, while Nikon has their Silent Wave lenses. Both makers have a larger selection of lenses than does Minolta, although Minolta is playing catch-up.
The 800si is seemingly aimed for the advanced amateur rather than the professional.
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