There's a switch for almost everything...we said almost everything
It's no secret that we here at Pop Photo like our cameras with lots of dials and levers-not as a matter of aes-thetics (although they do look impressive), but because they provide faster access to more controls than a menu system. Konica Minolta's Maxxum 7D is that camera, squared: Among the numerous external controls is a dedicated dial for white balance, an exposure-compensation dial calibrated in both 1⁄2- and 1⁄3-EV steps, plus a flash-compensation dial. And all the settings you make are displayed in one place: the huge, very readable, 2.5-inch LCD. But the 7D's extensive control options aren't limited to the levers and dials.
Documentation report: While it occasionally lapses into unintentional hilarity ("Always keep the camera strap around your neck in the event that you drop the camera"), the Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D's instruction manual is one of the better ones. It's logically organized, clearly written, well illustrated, with important reference points highlighted in the appropriate places. Given this, and the 7D's out-in-the-open controls, the camera doesn't have any real deep secrets…but quite a few subtleties that you may have missed.
1. Spot the difference: Want to know how an evaluative or centerweighted meter reading differs from the spot reading of a specific tone? In manual or any autoexposure mode, press the autoexposure lock (AEL) button to lock the exposure of a scene. Now, the 7D's spotmeter stays live as long as you maintain slight pressure on the shutter button, and both exposure scales (in the viewfinder and on the rear control panel) show a second index point corresponding to the spot reading.
2. Manual speed shifter: Once you've set a manual exposure to your liking, pressing and holding the AEL button allows you to twirl either front or back input dials and shift to an equivalent exposure-sort of like EV lock. Are the dual-finger gymnastics too much? We think so. Go into Custom Menu 1, scroll to AEL button, and change the setting to "Toggle." Now you need only press and release AEL to couple shutter and aperture. (Just remember to hit the button again to release the locked exposure.)
3. The smoothie setting: You know that slightly ratchety feel you get when you use manual focus with Konica Minolta autofocus lenses? Want to get rid of it? You may have missed this trick buried way in the back of the manual: Set the AF switch on the camera to "M" for manual. Now press the lens-lock button simultaneously with the center button of the AF jog dial. Release the lens lock first, then the jog-dial button. (The sequence is critical; if you do it out of order, it doesn't work.) This disengages the AF mechanism entirely and makes the focusing ring noticeably smoother. Switching back to autofocus cancels it.
4. Get in the zone: The interesting function called "zone matching" is given a rather perfunctory des-cription in the 7D's manual. Zone matching works something like automatic exposure and contrast compensation for shooting high-key or low-key pictures. (High keys have a predominance of light tones close together; low keys are made up of closely spaced dark tones.) If this is the look you want, go to Custom Menu 4, under ISO button set. Switch from default to Zone Matching. Now, the ISO button on the back of the camera allows you to select High Key or Low Key as your effect. Simply take the picture at a normal meter setting, in any exposure mode, and the camera will bunch up tones at the high or low end accordingly.