(1972) From 1966 to 1971, the only SLR cameras that Minolta marketed were the incredible SRT101 and the more economical SR-1s & SRT100.  These cameras sold well, but Minolta knew that they had to make improvements -- and fast.  Specifically, sales of rangefinder cameras were doing extremely well, compared to SLR cameras, primarily because the rangefinder cameras offered automatic exposure control, while SLR cameras lacked this feature.  In short, the rangefinder cameras were smaller, lighter, cheaper and much easier for photographers to use.  Just as important, Minolta knew that other camera companies would soon figure out how to add TTL, automatic exposure control to their SLR cameras.   

Minolta saw an opening in the market and jumped on it.  In late 1972, they marketed the incredible XK camera.  With such a new, advanced feature as automatic exposure control, Minolta targeted the professional camera market, at that time dominated by Nikon and Canon.  The XK was the first professional SLR camera with TTL, automatic exposure control.  "Revolutionary", was what the reviewers called it at the time.  And no wonder!  The XK had through-the-lens (TTL) metering, automatic diaphragm lenses, and automatic exposure control.  But, it had a lot more than that.  Incredibly, it had shutter speeds from 16 seconds to 1/2000, with aperture-preferred, automatic exposure, metered-manual and full manual settings, as well.  The photographer now had incredible options for exposure determination.  The exposure could be set with a hand-held meter, by matching the needles in the viewfinders (like on the SRT101), or the camera could make the settings for you.  

The XK had a complete information viewfinder, but it was a big change from that of the SRT101.  In fact, it offered MORE information than the SRT101 viewfinder -- which was considered by many to be a complete information viewfinder. This was quite a challenge for Minolta given the various exposure modes of the new XK.  In the SRT101, the manually-set shutter speed appears on a scale on the bottom of the screen and two needles on the right-hand side of the screen match up by changing the f-stop or shutter speed.  With the XK, this approach wouldn't work since the shutter speed could be set manually or autoamtically-set by the camera.  So Minolta devised a new viewfinder that incorporated the two "scales".  First, the XK shows the manually selected shutter speed -- just like the SRT101 -- but they now appear on a scale on the right-hand side of the screen. The manually selected speed is indicated by a tab on the scale.  The big additiona is that the same shutter speed scale has an additional needle that points to the recommended shutter speed (in manual mode) or to the automatically-selected shutter speed (in auto mode). So the single shutter speed scale shows the meter-recommended speed and the manually selected speed on the same scale!  This made manual use of the camera so much easier, and is just one reason why so many Minolta users think that the XK -- with the AE head -- is the best automatic camera that Minolta ever made. In most of Minolta's subsequent automatic-exposure cameras, the manual and automatic exposure indicators would not appear on the same scale.

But there was another big differecne with the XK viewfinder. The XK viewfinder also shows the manually selected f-stop -- in a window on the top -- something missing in the SRT101.  

And on top of the new viewfinder (literally), the XK had interchangeable heads with several choices:

Numerous interchangeable screens were available as well.  

Plus, the XK had all the other bells and whistles available at the time -- mirror lock-up, DOF button, battery check, self-timer, and more.  A completely new, titanium shutter was used, and the camera had a Sensi-switch which turns on the camera effortlessly -- just by picking up the camera.  More than twenty-five years later, this camera has more features than most new SLR cameras.  For a comparative look at the major features of the XK models, check out MINMAN's SLR table -- the world's most complete!

This was the first Minolta SLR to sport an electronic shutter.  The good news about an electronic shutter is that is can provide speeds between the numbered speeds -- in automatic mode, anyway.  So if the exposure calls for 1/751 of a second, that's what you get.  Not 1/500 or 1/1,000. Unfortunately, since the shutter is electronic, it is dependent on the battery, and if the battery dies, you cannot take pictures -- so you better carry a spare!  This is why some people prefer the older, battery-free cameras, or at least carry a battery-free camera as a backup.  The XK with work on B and X without a battery.  It will help in an emergency, but it's not too convenient.

There were actually six versions of the XK, not including the XK Motor, depending on when and where you were.

Minolta didn't just add a new camera with the XK.  At the same time, they decided to update and upgrade their complete line of MC Rokkor lenses.  The MC Rokkor-X line of lenses was born.  In fact, the "X" in "Rokkor-X" comes from the new X-series of cameras that the XK initiated.  Not only were new focal lengths added, but lenses now had multi-coated optics, as well as better lens cosmetics.  For example, the aperture ring was changed from chrome with black numbers to black with white numbers. Minolta engineers felt that these white numbers show up better in the viewfinder readouts of f-stops -- a new feature which first appeared with the Minolta XK.  In addition, the focusing ring on these lenses was now covered with a more comfortable, reliable, non-slip, rubber waffling -- instead of the more slippery metal grooves of the earlier lenses.  

The XK was not the first Minolta SLR with automatic exposure control, as many other sources list it.  That designation went to the Minolta ER of 1961.  But the XK was the first Minolta SLR with TTL metering AND auto-expousre control. The XK sold very well, despite its high price-tag.  But Minolta realized that the XK missed the mark. Many professionals stayed away because the XK lacked a motor-drive option.  So Minolta decided to produce a motorized version -- the XK Motor -- a few years later.  Still, the XK was designed for the high-end, professional market and Minolta realized that it needed to produce a less expensive, auto-exposure 35mm SLR camera targeting the mass-market.  Other companies had already done it, like the Canon EF, the Pentax ES and the Nikkormat EL, all from 1972.  Minolta quickly re-adjusted their sights and produced the amazing XE-7 in 1974.  Better late than never, I suppose.  


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