When Digital Dies – My Fleeting Affair With A Konica Minolta Dynax 5D

As you know, I’m a big fan of older digital cameras.

Those digital classics that are usually overlooked and abandoned in someone’s drawer, having since been superceded half a dozen times by a series of later and supposedly greater new models.

Being electronic, there’s the likelihood that with each passing year – and indeed with every blink of the shutter – they’re closer to capturing their last image.

And unlike old mechanical film cameras that can usually be repaired by someone who possesses the skills and patience, electronic cameras (film, and especially digital) are usually good for nothing once they do give in.

So buying any older digital camera has its risks and pitfalls.

This blunt reality has dictated my spending on such devices in recent times.

I’m not going to pay hundreds for something that I might make only a dozen photographs with before it fails.

Most of the digital classics I’ve bought this year have cost under £20.

Even my two current favourite cameras, the Pentax DLSR siblings the K100D and K-m only cost me £26 and £30 respectively, so whilst I’d be disappointed if they packed up, I wouldn’t be devastated, and already I’ve made hundreds of pictures with each that have made them excellent investments in my eyes.

My most recent acquisition is a camera that’s been on my unofficial wish list for a couple of years (despite me knowing the dangers of a wish list!), the Konica Minolta Dynax 5D.

49105556971_681dd1a895_b

The origin of my interest is that this is the camera (along with the 7D) that Sony used as the DNA of their first DSLR range, when they bought Konica Minolta’s camera operations in 2006.

Previously I’ve had a Sony a100, which had much going for it, not least of all a lovely 10MP CCD sensor.

Ultimately I moved on to early Pentax DLSRs (also equipped with Sony CCD sensors it turns out, including both the K100D and K-m mentioned above), but the a100 laid the foundations for the kind of digital images I didn’t know were possible when shooting film.

So the Konica Minolta cameras that the first Sonys evolved from held considerable interest for me, especially the much praised 5D with its 6MP CCD sensor.

This particular example had come up before on eBay, with the standard 18-70mm kit zoom and a 70-210mm tele zoom.

The kit zoom I had little interest in, the tele zoom even less, so the starting bid seemed much too high for what for me would be just the camera.

I forgot to mention that during my experiences with the Sony a100, I tried a few old Minolta lenses.

Minolta’s AF mount was developed in the mid 80s, and any lens since then is compatible with any Minolta AF SLR, Konica Minolta DSLR, and the Sony A mount DSLRs.

Indeed, I understand that many of the Sony A mount range of lenses are simply rebadged old Minolta designs.

I had three lenses – the 50/1.7, 50/2.8 Macro and 35-70/4 Macro Zoom.

The standard fifty was a very decent performer, all I could ask for from a 50mm AF lens.

The Macro was stunning, and remains possibly the most impressive lens I’ve ever used. And that’s been quite a few!

Finally, perhaps best of all was the 35-70mm f/4 Macro.

SONY DSC

With the a100’s APS-C crop sensor this equated to a field of view from 52.5-105mm, very sweet territory for me with a DSLR, where I generally shoot closer and with a shallower depth of field than with a compact camera.

Even better, the Macro function was genuinely decent, unlike many cameras with macro emblazoned on them as a marketing tactic but disappointingly lacking in capability for close up photography.

I loved this lens, and for a zoom it was pleasingly compact too.

Once I decided to switch back to Pentax, my main regret was not being able to use these three lenses any longer, despite Pentax having plenty of their own gems.

So my plan was to find a cheap Minolta 5D body, then buy another of the 35-70/4 zooms, to see how this set up compared with my Pentax K100D and Pentax-F 35-70mm zoom.

Cutting the story short, the Minolta went for more than I wanted to pay, but then was relisted as apparently the buyer thought they were “getting 2019 DSLR technology for £60”.

So I approached the seller with an offer and we settled on £50 for the camera and two lenses.

All of my first impressions of the 5D were good.

The camera felt as intuitive as my Pentax favourites, and actually the handling was even better, because the grip is slightly squared off on the front face, unlike the continuously rounded Pentaxes.

This is of course perfectly logical, as our fingers had three joints, which wrap around the 5D like a glove.

The quality and feel of the rubber on the front grip, and the rear thumb rest, is as good as on any camera I’ve used, which sounds a minor detail, but made for an instant bond and confidence between photographer and camera.

Like when you embraced your partner for the first time, and you just fitted together, it felt right.

I had a minor concern over the camera needing a Compact Flash (CF) card rather than SD, but since it came with an 8MB CF card, and my USB card reader accesses these just as easily as SDs, it was a non-issue.

My initial few photowalks with the Minolta were very pleasing too.

The colour JPEGs straight out of camera were pretty good, and whilst I wasn’t thinking I was about to ditch my Pentax duo, my thoughts turned to the next step of my plan, that 35-70/4 Macro Zoom lens.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

But then, the problems began.

On the next trip, the 5D let me take half a dozen shots, then on the next one, the screen stayed blank and the red read light by the CF card stayed on longer than usual.

An image was recorded, with all the EXIF data, but appeared all black.

Switching it on and off seemed to shake the issue.

But then a few shots on it happened again.

On and off with the power again, and now the problem was worse. I got a black screen, and the red read light stayed on, until I cut the power again.

And this has been the state ever since, despite charging the battery, trying different CF cards, and leaving the camera in a warm place for a day (that fateful photo walk was a cold day!)

So what next?

The camera is unusable in this state, and the lenses are worth very little, so I donated the whole kit to a charity shop (it also had the obligatory charger, bag, strap etc) for someone to use what they could for a bargain price.

It is a real shame as the 5D was very enjoyable to hold and use, and the colour JPEGs were good.

With black and white there wasn’t quite enough in camera control, so I reverted to my favoured Snapseed b/w treatment. As I have a number of cameras that do deliver b/w straight out of camera, this would make the 5D a colour only camera.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

And whilst the colour output was among the best I’ve seen from a DSLR, my two Pentax CCDs are even better.

So I won’t be rushing out to get another Minolta DSLR. 

Historically, it’s been a frustrating brand for me.

Some of their lenses are stunning, both the older manual SR mount (MC/MD) lenses, and the AF mount, as I spoke about above.

But when I settled on the excellent little X-300 as my favourite film body, I went through three in as many weeks and all failed me. So I went back to Pentax and Contax.

And it’s been a similar story with this Dynax 5D.

On the upside, at least I got to try it for a while.

And I know overall it didn’t tick as many boxes as my Pentax DLSRs, and meant adopting another lens mount/system I didn’t really need.

So it’s been a satisfactory outcome overall.

Plus, with all the electronic cameras (film and digital) I have picked up for peanuts over the years and have worked perfectly, I was due a dud!

How has your luck been with digital cameras? What brands have served you most loyally? Have there been any you loved but let you down with their unreliability? 

Please let us know in the comments below (and don’t forget to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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15 thoughts on “When Digital Dies – My Fleeting Affair With A Konica Minolta Dynax 5D”

  1. I have to admit to feeling a certain sense of need to “use up” the Kodak V1003 before it quits entirely. It’s started making noises now.
    As I recall, Minolta and Konica film SLRs had a poor quality reputation in comparison to Canon, Nikon, and Pentax. My Dad had a lot of cheap digitals in his junk, many of which did not function at all but some were still going despite being old <5MP units that took AA batteries instead of lithium and/or used non-standard (for today) memory cards. These were cameras of a simple nature though, and the unbreakable rule of engineering is that the more complex something is the more likely it is to fail. Thus I am always leery of older DSLRs, especially as they can't be had for bargain prices in this corner of the world.

    1. I had a few Konica SLRs which always worked ok as I recall, but Minolta I didn’t have so much luck with. They were separate companies back there then of course. I don’t think I had any Minolta which didn’t have or develop some fault, except the simple all mechanical SR-1s… I had a few SRTs that worked fine mechanically, but not the metering.

      This reminds me of one camera whose demise was recorded on film. A Smena 8M I had started coming apart inside, and the last few frames of film I shot with it had various silhouettes of springs, screws and washers visible!

  2. I came across a 5D on one of my many thrift store camera hunts but took a pass because they had it priced way too high. This turned out to be fortuitous as a Sony a35 showed up a couple of weeks later, priced very nicely.

    I did feel like I was rolling the dice since I had purchased two other Sony digital cameras, both with bad shutters. Seems like the earlier Sony mirrorless cameras had a real issue with their shutters. The a35 has proven reliable thus far and my Minolta AF glass works beautifully on it.

    The a35 is also very compact and lightweight, which is a slight disadvantage if I mount one of my Minolta “beercans” to it.

      1. I do not have that one, although I have been interested in picking one up. I found one at a thrift shop in great cosmetic condition but it had oily iris blades, so I passed on it.

      2. Oily blades doesn’t bother me with old manual lenses – my Helios 44-2 has loads on it, as has virtually every old Helios and Jupiter I’ve had – but with an auto aperture, auto focus lens yes like you I’d probably pass on it.

      3. I’ve cleaned up glass and blades on a few primes that I’ve come across (working on a fujinon 55mm f1.6 M42 with slow blades now) but I’m not brave enough to crack open a zoom or an autofocus lens.

        One of my local camera stores happens to have that lens for $19.50 at the moment. Might have to grab it. The 28-85mm beercan weighs more than the a35, but balances beautifully on my Maxxum bodies and takes pictures that rival anything I’ve shot on digital, especially on my alpha 7 (Dynax 7 on your side of the pond)

      4. Rob, I loved my 35-70, not least of all for how close it focused compared with a standard zoom. I would say if it’s fully working, $19.50 sounds a steal.

  3. Pentax has been good to me, thank God.
    I thought it was funny that you got the 5D though – didn’t you just recently write a post about getting over Gear Acquisition Syndrome?… lol

  4. In recent years I bought a three old compact digital camera’s and only one was a dud. The first one was an olympus xz1 because of the ccd sensor everyone was raving about. Sadly some of the buttens won’t work some of the times. You can still shoot with it just not very fast and missing a shot is a real probability. After I sent it off to repair I really missed the small factor and bought another compact. This time it was one you recommended, the lumix lx3 which is really a dream and still working great. But the Olympus xz-1 was a little more advanced and I miss the reach and built in ND filter. So a few months ago I bought a little pentax Q. So tiny and adorable, with the prime and standard zoom. Together with the prime it’s a nice pakkage but I dream of the 06 lens. The tele lens with a constant f2.8, too bad it still fetches a premiun. My other cameras are mirrorless or film. Someday I would like to add an older digital SLR, maybe a cheap-ish pentax.

    1. Hi Anna, thanks for your thoughts. Great to hear you tried and enjoyed the LX3. In fact I just returned to mine last week and plan to use it far more again in the coming weeks. They are fantastic cameras.

      Ah the Pentax Q, what a little marvel. I’m not sure how long you’ve been reading 35hunter, but I’ve probably written more posts about my Q than any other single camera!

      https://35hunter.blog/tag/pentax-q/

      Most of the time I use the standard 47/1.9 01 prime, which is quite amazing for its size. The only shortcoming I’ve found for my kind of photography is lack of close focus, so mine has a x2 close up filter permanently attached to the front of it, or sometimes I switch to a x4 if I want to go even closer. I also have the standard 02 zoom, which is pretty good, but I mostly use at 6mm which I think equates to 33mm field of view in 35mm terms. It’s clearly not the same level optically as the 01 prime, as you’d usually expect when comparing a prime with a zoom, but ok most of the time, when I want wider than the 01 prime.

      Oh and I also have the 07 mount shield lens which I use when I want the ultimate compact point and shoot experience. Fixed aperture, fixed focus, just compose and shoot! I also use this with a close up filter quite often but as it has no filter thread I use plastic Holga filters and blu tac!

      I wrote about that combo here last year – https://35hunter.blog/2018/06/20/lo-fi-in-your-eye-up-close-with-the-pentax-q-with-07-lens/

      If you’re looking at older Pentax DSLRs I would heartily recommend the K100D and K-m, both very compact with lovely CCD sensors – 6MP on the K100D and 10MP on the K-m, though in practice there’s virtually no discernible difference in the images. They both excel at colour photos straight out of camera, with the Bright JPEG setting, in my opinion. The K-m also has an on board b/w mode, and a digital filter to increase contrast (the menus are very similar to the Q) meaning this is my go to DSLR if I know I’m shooting b/w.

  5. Nice article Dan. Your opening sentence reminded me how a widow from church handed me her late husbands Pentax Optio e90, still with the original stickers on it. It seems this camera wasn’t marketed as it should have been. Though, as soon as I saw the CCD sensor I was sold. Now I’m off to read your article on the 100D, as you may recall the K10D is still my workhorse.

    1. Frank, that does amuse me, when most people buy a new consumer camera – which typically have three or four stickers on shouting about the specs – and they leave all the stickers on! I can’t stand them, and strip any camera that has them as soon as I get it! I’ve had the K10D, and loved it, but ultimately the weight and bulk I found a burden over time. The K-m I believe has the same 10MP Sony sensor, but is far smaller and lighter. And yes the K100D is still pretty much all I need in a DSLR, especially for shooting colour JPEGs straight out of camera.

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